Zanzibar Snorkeling: The Best Places to Go

zanzibar snorkeling
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When it comes to snorkeling, there are seemingly endless opportunities that await you.

If you haven’t already, you may want to consider Zanzibar snorkeling.

We understand that it’s not easy to plan a trip to a foreign country, but we think it is ideal to go somewhere new and see exotic marine life you can’t see at home.

With that said, you should learn a bit more about Zanzibar and what it has to offer.

This way, you are more prepared for your trip, especially if you have small children.

Where Is Zanzibar?

Zanzibar is an island group (archipelago) that is part of Tanzania and has a few spots, which are accessible from the coast.

However, the islands are often the best places to go snorkeling.

There is a variety of reefs just a little bit away from the shore.

Of course, you have Pangani, Tanga, and Dar es Salaam, but you shouldn’t miss an opportunity to visit Zanzibar.

It has three main islands called Pemba, Unguja, and Mafia.

Plus, there are many unnamed reefs and islands, which are mostly uninhabited.

All three islands are 12 to 30 miles away from the Tanzania continent.

You can experience white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and beautiful coral reefs.

Therefore, they are three of the best places to go snorkeling in the area.

As with many places, the coral reefs in Zanzibar can vary on quality, so you should visit the protected areas first, including Chumbe Island Coral Park and Mnemba Island.

Here, you can see spectacular marine life and sea beds.

You’re going to see lionfish, blue surgeonfish, and clownfish, as well as giant clams, turtles, and whitetip reef sharks.

It’s also quite easy to get a tour guide, plus fishers usually organize excursions for people to see dolphins!

When Should You Consider Snorkeling?

The Zanzibar archipelago features an equatorial climate, so it is always warm and tropical.

There are two rainy seasons, usually from March to May and October to December, but can vary depending on the island you visit.

As such, it is best to go to these islands between July and September or January and February.

Keep in mind that the conditions are varied, as well.

High winds can make the islands inaccessible, which means you can’t reach them because the boats aren’t strong enough to make it to the island safely.

Water temperatures tend to be pleasant in the area.

Temps can reach up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit in February and March.

Temperatures fall from July through September or the winter months, and you can expect it to be about 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Plus, it could be very windy, so you may want to consider a rash guard.

Snorkeling is possible to do throughout the year.

Of course, you may see different species and marine life if you go outside of peak times.

Of course, this is the ocean, so there are going to be high and low tides.

Usually, the east coast of Zanzibar (any part of the archipelago) has a sea that draws back many miles during low tide.

It would help if you talked to the tour guide or ask for information when you get to the site.

The tide can easily take you by surprise if you are unprepared.

Zanzibar Snorkeling: Places to Go

1. Mnemba Island

This is one of the most popular places for snorkeling in the area.

It is possible to reach the island by a boat tour out of Nungqi, and it’s about a 1.5-hour drive from the Stone Town area.

Keep in mind that it is a privately-owned island, so you cannot gain access to the shore.

Still, you can snorkel on the coast and see coral reefs, sea stars, and zebrafish.

2. Tumbatu Island

Most tourists don’t go to Tumbatu Island, so you’re going to have a pristine location without many other people.

To get there, you have to get to Unguja Island and take a boat ride from there. It only takes about 15 minutes.

This setting is perfect for snorkeling because there are many ocean inhabitants.

You can see batfish, ribbon eels, and rare cute whip.

Do note that the locals are more traditional, so always make sure that you are respectful to the natives.

It is quite rude to go to a foreign place without checking into their traditions.

For example, Tumbatu residents practice Islam and are very conservative.

3. Prison Island

Does it sound scary? Though the name of the island makes you wonder, this is an incredible place to go for snorkeling!

From Unguja Island, you need to take a boat ride, which lasts about 30 minutes.

You’re sure to see much marine life, and that isn’t the only activity you can do while here.

You can explore the architecture on the island, go on guided tours, and more.

There are also giant tortoises all along the island.

You can say hi to them and experience these majestic creatures in their habitat.

4. Stone Town

Stone Town is a large tourist attraction, so you would find many guided snorkeling tours.

It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience because you can see shipwrecks on the ocean’s floor, and there is much wildlife to see, such as jellyfish, dolphins, and green sea turtles.

You might want to wear a rash vest to protect yourself against the jellyfish stings.

5. Chumbe Island

Another top choice for snorkeling in Zanzibar is Chumbe Island.

It’s privately-owned and is just a few kilometers from the main coast of Zanzibar.

Many people go here to see the coral reef around the land because it is very diverse; in fact, it makes up 90 percent of the coral in all of East Africa.

It’s possible to snorkel through a shallow coral refuge, making it an exciting trip, and you can see the beautiful corals, plus many ocean residents.

These can include colorful parrotfish, hawksbill turtles, batfish, and blue spotted stingrays.


Now that you have a better idea of the best locations for Zanzibar snorkeling, you are ready to plan for your trip.

You are sure to have a memorable time.

Of course, there are many options available.

We also talked about the weather and water temperatures.

That way, you can decide when the best time to go is for you and your family.

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