This is Part 2 of our trip to Tanzania in 2018. Part 1 was all about our African safari—truly one of the best experiences of our lives (here’s our post). But we weren’t done with our adventures yet, and this post is all about scuba diving in the Indian Ocean! Flying from Arusha (Northern Tanzania) over to the island of Zanzibar is a quick trip. There are actually multiple islands that make up the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar, so technically we were on the island of Unguja, but I never heard it called that (Pemba is the other main island of Zanzibar).
Zanzibar is known for a couple of things—it has a wonderful spice market in Stone Town, the historic center of the region, and it was the center of the Arab slave trade in East Africa.
In the 1960s, the Zanzibar region became independent, then merged with Tanganyika on the mainland, to form the new country of Tanzania. Zanzibar retains much autonomy, and most of its citizens are Muslim. We had a chance to tour Stone Town and learn about the history of the region. Of particular significance was the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral that was built in 1879 on the sight of the former slave market, built by former slaves after they gained their freedom in 1873.
The rest of our time in this area was spent diving. The Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa contains many of the same species that we see when diving the tropical Pacific. But we were thrilled to encounter a number of new species we had never seen before. Diving was definitely the place to be, as it was extremely hot here in February, and we quickly wilted whenever we were away from the water.
Here are a few highlights from our four days of diving here: Off the little island of Mnemba (yes, the water really was this color), we encountered a Broadhead Flathead, Blackspotted Sweetlips, Geometric Moray Eel, Giant Clams, Skunk Anemonefish, and Twobar Anemonefish (Nemo’s cousins).
We also saw beautiful nudibranchs (can you believe they’re related to slugs?), and some new (to us) species of butterflyfish – Yellow-backed Butterflyfish, Zanzibar Butterflyfish, plus a Blackspotted Puffer, and a juvenile Oriental Sweetlips.
Diving off our island (Unguja) what blew our minds the most were the amazing scorpionfish and frogfish we saw here, the most unique fish we have ever seen! Leaf scorpionfish, weedy scorpionfish, devil scorpionfish, tasseled scorpionfish, and giant frogfish were completely fascinating to watch. They don’t even look like they’re swimming. They kind of walk/waddle on their pectoral fins, and some look more like plants than animals (which helps them catch prey).
Two mating Spanish Dancers, giant species of nudibranchs, were another great treat, along with a day octopus (man, those are hard to get good pictures of). Nemo’s friend Dory (Palette Tang or Surgeonfish), Longfin Bannerfish (always beautiful), some kind of pipefish, and a large school of Moorish Idols were also terrific to watch.
Indian Lionfish (slightly different from other lionfish we’ve seen), roundbelly cowfish, blue-spotted stingray, and many more angelfish and butterflyfish rounded out our lovely time diving here. The water was beautifully clear and warm, and it was a total treat to see healthy, vibrant coral reefs in this part of the world.
As I said before, I would go back to do another African safari in a second, if we ever get past this virus. That’s true for the diving as well. It was excellent! If you want to relax into some soothing music and enjoy this underwater world even more, check out Hank’s 6 1/2 minute Zanzibar Diving Video.