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Diving in Africa

Explore diving in Africa

Africa is one of the most exciting regions in the world, both on land and underwater.

Tropical reefs, wrecks, pelagics, sharks, sardine run...safaris and even cave diving.

One can travel this place for years and never be done with exploring new areas.

Let's look at all the travel and diving you can find in Africa, as well as the best destinations and spots to do so.

The best diving in Africa

Welcome to the continent of mystery, exploration, and contrasts!

Spanning from the Mediterranean in the North to Cape Horn in the South, as well as bordering two oceans and multiple seas, diving in Africa is as versatile as it gets.

The cultures and regions you find here are so diverse that it is hard to generalize it in just one travel guide, but we will try our best.

Sunset over Serengeti, Tanzania
The Serengeti desert in Tanzania is a must-visit besides the amazing diving here.

To understand traveling and diving in Africa, it’s best to look at the different regions first, and then see which ones stand out among the others.

Just a few introductory words: If you like whale sharks, humpback whales, and sea turtles, the East and South of this amazing content are for you!

North Africa

North Africa is a place in between the “old world” in Europe and Africa. As such, it is often seen as its own thing, but we still count it in here.

From Morocco and its Atlantic coast in the West, to Egypt and the Red Sea in the East, this part of Africa is the most different from the rest.

Even international institutions like the UN and the African Union are not 100% clear on which countries to count here. It ranges from just the Maghreb states Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia (MENA) to also spanning across Egypt, Sudan, and the Western Sahara (UN), to also including Mauritania, but leaving out Sudan (African Union).

Scuba diver with lionfish
The Red Sea between Africa and Asia is one of the best dive spots in the world.

The Mediterranean coastline spans more than 7,000km/4,500mi out of which only Morrocco, Tunisia, and Egypt offer any reliable diving opportunities and political stability. Egypt as one of the best diving destinations in the world is most famous for its Red Sea which should be on every diver’s bucket list.

Sudan offers even more intact reefs and diving quality, however, is much harder to get to and can only be dived from liveaboard.

Central Arica

In the middle of Africa, we have the Atlantic coast in the East with the islands of Cap Verde, Senegal, Nigeria, Cameron, the Democratic Republic of Kongo, and the islands São Tomé and Príncipe.

Diving is rougher than on the Western shore and the diving industry is still young here. Cap Verde is your best bet for pelagics, however, Senegal and Cameroon offer some very interesting diving without the mass tourism.

In the middle of the continent lies Uganda, the only African diving destination without direct sea access, with its Lake Victoria. Unfortunately, there are very very few opportunities for divers here and only a few people get the chance to do so every year.

Whale shark underwater
Whale sharks frequent the entire East coast of Africa.

Directly to the East, however, are Kenya and Tanzania, two superb diving destinations with access to the Indian Ocean and some of the best diving in Africa.

Mafia Island and Zanzibar, both part of Tanzania, are among the best and most exclusive diving destinations in the world where you will find whale sharks and some pristine reefs.

A bit more obscure but rising is Djibouti where some dive centers have recently set up shop and which is a great diving destination at the corner between Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. Liveaboard diving is great here!

South Africa

The Southern region of Africa is a true diver’s and traveler’s dream come true and is more than just South Africa (the country).

Angola in the West is still an off-the-beaten-track diving destination which can easily be explored with a rental car and is a great starting point to drive further South the coast. Boat diving is popular here.

South Africa is one of the most well-known travel destinations in the world that awaits visitors with a sprawling local culture, safaris, beautiful national parks, a long coast line, and the famed Sardine Run for divers.

Every year around March and April millions of sardines gather here to breed and draw in just as many preditors. If you are lucky to find a bait ball, you’ll encounter some of the most awesome marine life sightings imaginable.

Woman diving through bait ball of fish
The famous Sardine Run in South Africa should be on your bucket list!

Whales, sharks, dolphins, swordfish, barracuda, seals…the list goes on. This spectacular event should definitely be on your bucket list!

To the East, Mozambique is another top travel destination for divers and anyone else, as well. Quirimbas Archipelago is the largest protected marine area in Africa and offers mangrove forests and intact reefs. Tofo further South awaits with near-guaranteed whale shark sightings and other pelagics.

Last but not least, Madagascar is an up and coming travel destination and another one for the diving in Africa bucket list.

Not only is the island alone worth a trip with exciting flora and fauna, but the waters around Madagascar are frequented by marine life big and small.

Most special for divers is probably the time between June-September when 10% of the world’s population of humpback whales migrate here.

The best diving destinations in Africa

Here are the best diving destinations in Africa you absolutely should check out for your next vacation:

Mozambique

Scuba diver with whale shark
Mozambique is a place for large pelagics!

Mozambique is a great diving destination all around, though not the cheapest. Whale sharks, manta rays, humpback whales…there is a lot to see here.

Quirimbas Archipelago is the largest protected marine area on the continent and the reefs here are perfect for diving. Mangrove forests, large coral gardens, and exciting marine life await here. Turtle lovers will enjoy the fact that 5 out of 7 sea turtle species are home here.

If you are more into even larger animals, Tofo and its famous whale shark valley offer near-guaranteed whale shark sightings.

“Neptune’s Arm” on Vamizi Island is among the best dive sites in the world and features massive schools of fish and even more whale shark sightings. Just 13 luxurious villas are available here and this is one of the most expensive diving destinations you can find.

Diving SeasonYear-round
Best time to diveJanuary – April
What to seeMegafauna. Whale sharks, manta rays, turtles.
Water Temperature24-30°C (75-86°F)
Budget$$$
Best forLarge(!) pelagics, whales, the whole line-up
DifficultyIntermediate but rough waters sometimes
Diving facts Mozambique.

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Tanzania

Zanzibar island in Tanzania
What to expect on Zanzibar Island in Tanzania.

Tanzania is one of the crown jewels of diving in Africa, and also one of the most exciting travel destinations in the world.

Zanzibar, Mafia Island, Dar-es-Salaam…experienced travelers will get a glow in their eyes just hearing these names. On land, you also have vast national parks such as the Serengeti which is worth a trip by itself.

You can also find the highest (Mt.Kilimanjaro) and lowest (Lake Tanganyika) points of the continent here, and the country is surrounded by water on all sides.

Lake Tanganyika is also a super cool freshwater lake diving spot!

Mafia Island, Zanzibar, and the coast of Tanzania offer diving with humpback whales, minke whales, whale sharks, manta rays…are you getting excited yet?

Just make sure to stick to our recommendations when to come here!

Diving SeasonYear-round
Best time to diveMarch, October – November (best conditions), December – February (Best for whale sharks)
What to seeHumpback whales, minke whales, whale sharks, manta rays
Water Temperature25-30°C (77-86°F)
Budget$$$
Best forLarge(!) pelagics, whales, manta rays
DifficultyAll levels of diving available, some drift diving though
Diving facts Tanzania.

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South Africa

Humpback whale feeding
The Sardine Run draws in lots of hungry mouths.

South Africa is probably on every travel bucket list in the world for good reasons. Vast and colorful, any kind of travel is possible here.

Of course, a safari in one of the numerous national parks is a must, just like visiting the sprawling cities of Johannesburg or Cape Town. You can easily spend three or more weeks just exploring this beautiful country.

At the same time, it offers some of the best diving in Africa.

The annual Sardine Run draws in millions of sardines, just as many other fish and predators, and is a truly unique spectacle.

Get lucky, and you might encounter a massive bait ball of thousands of sardines drawing in whales, sharks, swordfish, and anything else imaginable.

Kelp forests and nurse sharks can be found in the East, and for those who are into it, Durban and Gansbaai offer cage diving with Great Whites!

Diving SeasonYear-round
Best time to diveNovember – June (Sardine Run from March – April)
What to seeWhales, Great Whites, seals, sharks, sardines, dolphins, swordfish
Water Temperature14-27°C (57-80°F)
Budget$$-$$$
Best forSardine Run
DifficultyIntermediate to advanced
Diving facts South Africa.

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Djibouti

Coral reef in the Red Sea
Djibouti offers beautiful diving conditions.

Many divers have never heard of Djibouti and it isn’t exactly the most popular diving destination.

However, it is one of the best dive spots in Africa with beautiful and plentiful coral reefs and pretty much guaranteed whale sharks. Large schools of fish can be spotted and you’ll never have crowded dive sites. And gosh, it is cheap!

First and foremost, it is one of the best (and only) liveaboard diving destinations in Central Africa as most dive sites are super remote.

Underwater photographers and macro lovers have a chance of spotting large nudibranchs here, while the winter months bring large whale shark.

The best diving in Djibouti can be found around the Seven Brothers islands (“Sept Freres”) in the North. These remote islands mark the border between the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea and are uninhabited.

The currents here are strong(!) so only experienced divers should take the trip, although most dive sites are only between 16-18m/60ft.

Diving SeasonYear-round
Best time to diveSeptember – January for whale sharks
What to seeWhale sharks, large nudibranchs, sharks, coral gardens
Water Temperature27-29°C (80-84°F)
Budget$-$$
Best forUntouched reefs & whale sharks
DifficultyIntermediate to advanced. Strong currents
Diving facts Djibouti.

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Egypt

Scuba divers around underwater rock
Egypt is a truly amazing diving destination.

On the border between Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, Egypt is one of the most famous diving destinations in the world.

No matter what you’re looking for underwater, Egypt has it all.

Macro life, wrecks, sharks, manta rays, whale sharks, beautiful corals, and can be found in the Red Sea.

Of course, the country offers an abundance of sightseeing locations such as the world-famous pyramids, the temples in Luxor, the dam in Assuan, and you’ll never get bored here.

Diving is possible around the year and the dice industry here is among the best organized in the world.

Diving SeasonYear-round
Best time to diveMay – November
What to seeSharks, dolphins, whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, turtles. Many shipwrecks.
Water Temperature18-28°C (65-82°F)
Budget$-$$
Best forVariety of dive spots, lots to see, very affordable
DifficultyAny level of diving available
Diving facts Egypt.

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Sudan

Scuba diver photographing wreck
Wreck diving is huge in Sudan.

Sudan is an up-and-coming diving destination in Africa on the Red Sea.

Unlike its Northern neighbor Egypt, diving and travel here are still in their infancy and as such, visitors are greeted by untouched reefs and perfect conditions.

Wreck diving is amazing here and Sudan is home to the Umbria, one of the most famous shipwrecks in the world. With a maximum of 36m/110ft depth, it can be explored by most divers with at least an Advanced Open Water Diver certification, and snorkelers can even explore the upper decks.

The marine life in Sudan is similar to that in Egypt, however, the water is a bit warmer throughout the year. Sharks, manta rays, dolphins, turtles, and even humpback and pilot whales roam these waters.

Diving SeasonYear-round
Best time to diveMay – November
What to seeWhales, sharks, dolphins, whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, turtles. Many shipwrecks.
Water Temperature20-30°C (68-85°F)
Budget$$-$$$
Best forWreck diving and untouched reefs
DifficultyAny level of diving available
Diving facts Sudan.

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Madagascar

Two humpback whales underwater
Humpback whales can be spotted frequently around Madagascar.

Madagascar is the world second-largest island country (after Indonesia) and as such, you will need some time if you want to see it all. Besides that, it is also one of the poorest countries in the world.

Nosy Be has the best dive spots around the island and is perfect for beginners, underwater photographers, and all levels of diving.

Huge coral fans, four types of sea turtles, lobsters, angelfish, frogfish, and leopard sharks can be seen throughout the year. Manta rays and whale sharks visit in the summer months, making it a year-round dive site.

Pelagic hunters should pick Pointe Alebrand in the North East of Madagascar. 10% of the world’s humpback whale population migrate here every year, in addition to manta rays, barracuda, and grey sharks.

There is also a new catamaran liveaboard cruise available that’s really inexpensive!

Diving SeasonYear-round
Best time to diveYear-round
What to seeHumpack whales, grey sharks, manta rays, whale sharks, coral gardens, frogfish, angelfish
Water Temperature25-30°C (77-85°F)
Budget$-$$
Best forWhales and intact reefs
DifficultyAny level of diving available
Diving facts Sudan.

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Kenya

Whale shark surrounded by freedivers
There are almost daily whale shark sightings in Kenya.

Kenya is a super exciting travel destination that calls itself “home of the safari” and also a great diving destination in Africa for seeing whale sharks.

From the Great Rift Valley, Masai Mara Game Reserve, or the Amboseli National Park, the is a lot to discover on land alone. The coastline of the Indian Ocean offers white sandy beaches and a number of cool dive sites.

Watamu Marine Park is a protected marine area and if you are looking for green sea turtles, you’ll find them here in large numbers.

Vuma Caves 40 minutes from Kilifi Creek are an easy to dive cave that are home to large groupers, eels, snappers, and barracuda. The exit is a 10m chimney!

The South coast of Mombasa offers even more dive sites and you’ll have the best chance of seeing whale sharks at Maisha Marefu. Just 26m deep it is the biggest patch reef in Kenya and from October – February you have daily whale shark sightings here.

From August to September, you can even see humpback whales on the coast of Kenya!

Diving SeasonYear-round
Best time to diveAugust – September (humpback whales), October – February (whale sharks)
What to seeWhales sharks, humpback whales, green turtles, guitar rays, groupers, snapped, dolphins, sharks, barracuda
Water Temperature25-30°C (77-85°F)
Budget$$-$$$
Best forWhale sharks!
DifficultyAny level of diving available
Diving facts Kenya.

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How to get there

There are many airports in Africa, especially in the coastal regions. Some of them are rather small, but you can get there from all major cities around the world.

To get to some of the more remote places, several stops might be required, as well as some additional boat or jeep driving.

What to see when diving in Africa

Common marine life sightings in Africa

Where to dive in Africa

All countries in Africa

There are 59 countries & territories in Africa and we have published the following guides.

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