Africa is bordered by a myriad of seas, and holds fantastic freshwater locales unlike any in the world. You can see the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean from this continent, making for some serious traveling with unbounded rewards. From swimming with great white sharks in South Africa to partaking in epic drift dives in Egypt, scuba diving in Africa is diverse, abundant, and certainly not to be missed. Ready to dive into the African continent? Here are 12 of the best African scuba diving destinations to add to your must-dive list.

Chinhoyi cave Zimbabwe best cave dives in the world. Best African scuba diving destinations

12. Zimbabwe

When thinking about the best African scuba diving destinations, landlocked Zimbabwe might not immediately spring to mind. However, Zimbabwe offers some incredible cave and freshwater diving opportunities. Bordered by South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Mozambique, Zimbabwe is perhaps most famous for Victoria Falls, one of the largest and most impressive waterfalls in the world.

Zimbabwe’s unique topography and climatic conditions have, over millions of years, resulted in spectacular waterfalls and cavern systems. The most iconic of Zimbabwe’s cave and cavern systems are the Chinhoyi Caves in the Chinhoyi National Park (a government protected area). These freshwater caves offer year-round warm water and phenomenal visibility.

The Chinhoyi cavern system is composed of limestone and dolomite, offering a series of stunning, cathedral-like chambers that are connected and accessed by a number of submarine channels and tunnels. The main chamber is known as the Sleeping Pool or Chirorodziva (“Pool of the Fallen”). Other chambers include Bat Cave, Dark Cave, and Blind Cave. The Chinhoyi cavern system is popular with both cavern divers and technical divers alike.

Note: Because the caves are protected, diving here is regulated and divers must dive with a Zimbabwean registered dive operator or club.

a whale shark in tanzania

11. Tanzania

Also on our list of the best African scuba diving destinations is Tanzania! Fantastic Tanzania, one of the best African scuba diving destinations, has gorgeous dives to take in, from the massive Lake Tanganyika to the islands that dot out into the warm Indian Ocean, where some of the world’s best diving can be found.

Two favorites are Pemba and Mafia Islands. Pemba Island is the northernmost island in Tanzania. Here, you can find splendid coral formations and sea fans, where sharks make their rounds, keeping an eye out for fantastically colored fish.

On Mafia Island, you can swim with whale sharks – a dream come true. To do so, plan your trip during October to March, catching the largest fish on the planet on their annual migration.

Tanzania has more to offer than just cerulean seas. Inland, you can climb Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, then scuba dive in the second deepest lake in the world, Lake Tanganyika, one of the world’s best freshwater dives. With species found here that are nowhere else in the world, Tanganyika has surprising diversity. The colors and clarity below the water’s surface will blow you away.

An oceanic white tip shark in sudan

10. Sudan

Want to see hammerhead sharks? Look no further than Sudan. Home to Jacques Cousteau’s shark observation cage, the Sha’ab Rumi region is an especially great spot to grab a gander. The outstanding visibility lets you see the sharks before they even see you.

Go on a liveaboard cruise to get the most out of diving in Sudan. There are fantastic wrecks to see in the Sharm El Sheikh area, especially the Umbria and Toyota. The Red Sea is riddled with wrecks, and checking them out in a non-touristy locale, like Sudan, just can’t be beat. Depart out of Port Sudan for a seven-night cruise.

Sudan has a web of small roads and highways that go all throughout the south and east part of the country. The western interior is serious desert and is best explored by camelback.

Underwater world of Lake Malawi - Malawi, Africa

9. Malawi

Although Malawi is landlocked by Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique, it is often cited as offering some of the best freshwater diving on the planet. Virtually every freshwater dive that takes place in Malawi, occurs in Lake Malawi, which is the fifth largest lake in the world by volume and among the deepest lakes on Earth. 

Lake Malawi is tideless with no swell or currents, and it offers phenomenal visibility and year-round balmy water temperatures. The lake’s calm conditions make it ideal for beginners and those who are learning to dive. Boat dives are necessary to access some dive sites, or you can choose to take it easy and shore dive. There are some incredible dive sites that are literally just a step off the beach!

Lake Malawi’s underwater topography is definitely one of the highlights of diving here. A vast array of mesmerizing rock and boulder formations are strewn across the lake’s floor, creating stunning ‘statues’, tunnels, and swim throughs. There is also a wreck that’s worth exploring and can be penetrated. Lake Malawi is a protected National Park due to the diversity of freshwater life that resides in its waters. The lake is home to hundreds of species of fish, most of which are endemic to the lake. Lake Malawi, similar to the Galápagos Islands, is the subject of significant scientific interest.

Dardanus calidus is a species of hermit crab from the East Atlantic (Portugal to Senegal) and Mediterranean Sea

8. Senegal

The hidden islands off of Senegal are pristine, tropical paradises, unsullied by the grasp of massive resorts and tourist traps. Authentic and filled with heart, these islands are a treasure trove for divers who crave adventure.

Several of the most highly renowned are N’Gor Island, the Madeleine Islands, and Goreé Island. You can dive on untouched reefs around the Madeleine Islands and head to N’Gor for glimpses of rare, endangered creatures.

Goreé is bliss for wreck divers. A ship graveyard lies on the seafloor with hundreds of hulls and masts, all a jumble. Don’t miss out on the Tacoma Wreck, where large marine life is often encountered. You can see tuna, as well as other big creatures, their looming shadows surreal and humbling.

Senegal’s public transportation can get you where you need to go within the interior, but taxis and minibuses fill up quickly. The offshore islands are reached via boat, of course. Many places offer tours from Dakar to reach these rocky gems.

baby sea turtle on beach in Kenya

7. Kenya

Kenya offers intrepid explorers and adventurers a truly diverse African experience. From the hustle and bustle of Nairobi, the country’s capital, through to safaris and hiking excursions for those who like more active holidays, Kenya does not disappoint – and neither does the scuba diving!

Diving in Kenya is available all year round, making it one of the best African scuba diving destinations. However peak tourist season in Kenya is during July and August when the Great Annual Migration is taking place on the Masai Mara Plains. 

Underwater, Kenya offers world class coral reefs, wrecks, and cave diving. One of the highlights (and the reason many divers choose to visit Kenya) is the chance to see whale sharks. The best time to visit for whale shark sightings is from mid-October through to March.

Other sharks and rays spotted on Kenya’s reefs include:

  • Rays: Manta rays, guitar rays, eagle rays
  • Sharks: Reef sharks, silky sharks, mako sharks, tiger sharks, scalloped hammerhead sharks

Aside from sharks and rays, Kenya’s reefs are packed with a plethora of colorful reef fish, turtles, invertebrates, crustaceans, and cephalopods.

most epic dive trips botswana crocodile diving

6. Botswana

It’s time to face your fears, folks. Landlocked Botswana offers courageous divers the experience of a lifetime: diving with Nile crocodiles. The Okavango Delta is one of the world’s largest inland deltas, giving life to thousands of creatures. Nile crocodiles relax in the warm water, waiting for unsuspecting prey to come crashing into the water.

In June, a scuba diving tour makes its way out into the Delta. During this special time of year, the heavy rains that cascade through the region have rinsed the murky silt from the river, making the water warm and clear. Courageous divers travel from far and wide during this time of year for the chance to dive with and photograph the local crocodiles.

To get to the Okavango, you can fly into the town of Maun, right on the edge of the Delta. If you plan to bebop within the interior, taxis are found mostly in major towns, but you can take combis and buses to smaller villages.

Trending Scuba Diving Destinations 2019 Mozambique

5. Mozambique

Mozambique is home to huge creatures, from whale sharks to soaring manta rays. Humpback whales cruise through the region, and scuba diving from May to October when they are around is an adventure that is not to be missed. The plankton-rich waters bring an abundance of creatures, both great and small.

The largest Marine Protected Area in Africa can be found here, sheltering the Quirimbas Archipelago to the north. To the south, five species of sea turtles rely on the Maputo Protection Area for survival. Come and watch them nest, then spot the newly hatched young as they fight their way to the sea.

Swim with whale sharks in “whale shark alley,” or Praia del Tofo. No matter the time of year, whale sharks and manta rays can be spotted here, feeding and relaxing in the warm waves.

Speaking of epic animals, shark diving here is hugely popular. The Pemba Gap is an excellent spot to see large species in addition to the wild dives around Medjumbe Island. The “Edge of Reason” is an intimidating drop off with caverns and bizarre creatures to discover.

Getting from here to there within Mozambique is made simple by the network of taxis and chapas that skitter around the country. Chapas are fixed price, and longer routes usually leave early in the day.

unique dive sites egypt

4. Egypt

Experience the wild wonders of the Red Sea via ancient Egypt. Dive the Ras Mohamed reef system from the Sinai Peninsula, which carves its way through this region. Egypt’s first designated National Park, the Ras Mohamed is a gorgeous coral reef with abundant marine life. You can expect to see creatures both large and small during a dive. Drift diving here is excellent, especially along the Yolanda Reef.

Head to the Dahab Blue Hole, a notorious yet spectacular dive. To many, this is one of the most rewarding dives in the world. Plus, many freedivers try their hand in these waters, bravely stretching their limits.

In addition, the Straits of Tiran are an enticing site at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, where sharks, barracudas, and moray eels all make appearances. The coral formations here are beyond belief, and currents meander through, making for exciting drift dives.

Further south, Hurghada and Marsa Alam offer pristine coral reefs as well as the chance to dive with impressive sharks, like oceanic white tips, as well as wild dolphins and dugongs.

Book a liveaboard to see multiple diving areas in the Red Sea on a single trip.

Cuttle fish are just one type of marine life for Brits to see in top dive travel destinations throughout Europe

3. Tunisia

Don’t let North Africa slip you by. Bordering the Mediterranean, Tunisia has some incredible dives that are available year round. The temperature of the Mediterranean remains around 60 – 77°F (16 – 25°C) throughout the year, warm and protected.

The Island of Djerba is a fantastic getaway. Visit Octopus Reef, a reef with plenty of crevices for octopus to hide. The crystalline inlets house coral gardens, frequented by parrotfish and vibrant fish. Djerba makes for an especially nice place for beginners, as the water is shallow and clear.

Furthermore, Hammamet is a great place for wreck divers. The wreck of a German WWII ship remains fairly intact beneath the surface. The vessel still holds its cargo, a jeep strapped to the deck. Large pelagics haunt the ship, and pilot whales are often seen, as well as dolphins.

Tunisia is a fairly small county, and getting around isn’t difficult. You will probably fly into Tunis International, from there you can get taxis from point A to point B. Road qualities are generally good in the country, so biking is a wonderful option for those who are so inclined.

sao tome and principe

2. São Tomé and Príncipe

São Tomé and Príncipe don’t get the hype that most other dive sites in Africa receive. Visiting here feels like you’re a part of a well-kept secret, with awesome dives and unforgettable vistas. Found off the coast of West Africa, right on the Equator, the twin islands are a haven for wildlife.

Pedra a Dalho are a highlight dive, found off the coast of Principe. A duo of pinnacles, the formations rise up out of the water from the sea floor, a home for many large creatures of the deep. Nurse sharks and barracuda await divers, keeping an eye on you from below.

In addition, Bone de Jockey, a massive boulder a short ways from São Tomé, makes for a stellar day trip. The rocks and reefs are a treat to explore, and large, intimidating grouper glare from afar, beckoning you out into the deeper blue. Bring a picnic lunch and eat on the beach, exploring the boulder between dives.

Making your way to the islands is best done by plane, and flights arrive from Lisbon or Luanda as well as from Douala and Cape Verde. Once on the islands, you can get around on buses or by boat. Renting a car is recommended on São Tomé, and guides are available to help you on your way.


1. South Africa

South Africa tops the list when we talk about the best African scuba diving destinations – and for good reasons! Diverse marine life and incredible reefs bring divers face to face with some of the most fascinating creatures of the deep.

The sardine run, the annual migration of millions upon millions of flickering sardines, brings successively larger wildlife to the show. Species of all types work together to corral the fish, some attacking from the air while others push upward from below. Little by little, tuna, dolphins, sea birds, sharks, and even whales close in, forcing the sardines into a small “bait ball.” Relentless, the predators are so aggressive that they can decimate a school of thousands, picking them off until none remain. Luckily, there are millions more to spare.

Great white sharks can also be seen in the area of Gansbaai. Cage diving with these tremendous creatures is an adrenaline overload. You can also expect to see sharks of other varieties join the party. They don’t call this region “Shark Alley” for nothing.

Cape Town is also a great jumping off point for journeys to outlying islands, like Seal Island, among others. The kelp forests around the city make a great destinations for freedivers.

Getting to and through South Africa is no big thing. There are dozens of international airlines that make their way into the country. Upon arrival, you can either rent a car or take public transportation within the cities. You have plenty of options to choose from.

Discover The Best African Scuba Diving Destinations

There’s just so much to see. Africa’s waters offer assorted treasures to scuba divers, from those who are just getting started to those who are taking their diving to the next level. Some spots are secluded and pristine, untouched. Others are hugely popular, guaranteeing new dive buddies and friends. Take in each country’s rich history, soaking in your surroundings both below the water and above.

This blog was originally written by Bridget Pearson and published on the Diviac Magazine.

Share This

Related Posts