Zanzibar, in Tanzania, is 600 sq miles (1,554 sq km) with an estimated population of 800,000 (1994), is a jewel of an island hidden off East coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean.
I set foot in Zanzibar ready for the “Spice Experience” and wasn’t disappointed. After a 3-week trek up from Zimbabwe, I had been dreaming every night in my tent of this luxurious island, hotel rooms and finally to be able to hit the saltiness of the sea. I had saved aside a few dollars ready for a diving experience that would provide me with daydream material for years. And believe me, the power naps on the London Underground since, are far more beautiful.
After a brief visit via Stonetown, I arrived in Nungwi in the North of Zanzibar, where I had heard the best beaches and diving were. Most of the roads are hardly roads at all and a journey on a 250cc motorbike is the best way to travel around the island.
Finding “Sensation Divers” was not a hard feat at all, it was connected to the bungalows I was staying at (Aaman) and after a quick chat with someone there, I was booked in for the next day to do 3 dives. Two of which would be off Mnemba Atoll a beautiful paradise just off Zanzibar’s east coast and then a night dive, off the coast of Nungwi. I had to cram them in as I was only visiting for a few days and wanted to make the most of it.
The next morning, up bright and early, I arrived at “Sensation” ready to pack my kit; I was helped to choose my wetsuit and equipment, and before I knew it, I was sitting at the front of a boat soaking up sun and dragging my foot in the topaz sea. After about an hour on the boat we arrived at Mnebma Atoll.
This place is like a fantasy, apart from the rumours of Madonna staying here and being Eric Clapton’s holiday hideaway, this island is the stuff of dreams.
We weren’t allowed to land on the island but as we neared it, there wasn’t really any need. We were visited by a dozen Bottlenose dolphins, and jumped straight in to join them for as long as they trusted. This is supposedly a treat that happens often in these waters.
After a hustle and bustle of equipment checking, we were off:
Now, I have been diving in the Indian Ocean before, but this was different. I saw things here that I had never seen before, not even in the most remote seas and the deepest oceans. I saw turtles, large groupers, Bullhead parrotfish and Napoleonic Wrasse fish as large as a dog and the most delicate of sea urchins. After our first dive we were presented with a filling, energy giving lunch and then before we knew it we were back in, slalom style, zigzagging through the coral on the sea bed just generally having fun in these warm waters that force you to remember why we do it.
We finished the dive, had a snorkel with the dolphins, (as you do!), and headed for home. The sun was setting and the sea was warm, and as we returned to the island we watched the local kids splashing and playing in the water and felt relaxed and happy, except I had a night dive to do the same evening. I was knackered.
I had enough time for a quick drink and a lie down before I was to meet the Divemaster for the night dive. I hadn’t done a night dive for a while and I am also afraid of the dark, (should I really be admitting this?) Now before you all start to laugh, I mean pitch black, the kind of dark the sea looks like at night, so I felt that this was a dive, which would help me in the long run. The Divemaster informed us that we would not be doing a boat dive, but a beach dive, swimming off shore and descending together. The swim was long and I became really weary, nearly getting a cramp, which shows how unfit I am. My buddy was on his first night dive but seemed really confident which helped me a lot.
We descended to 15 metres with our torches and strangely, I became calmer the deeper we got. I have never seen most of the animals I saw that night – Lionfish, hermit crabs and all things sleepy. It was amazing, beautiful and enlightening, and as you probably know that the best creatures come out at night. All in all I had a spectacular time. If you’re in Zanzibar, which I would recommend to anyone, go to Sensation divers for some sensational diving.
Sensation Divers website:
Zanzibar link: www.zanzibar.net