While I was living on the island of Mayotte a few years ago, I finally had the opportunity to set foot on the African continent, in this country which is almost unknown for many. In this article, I’ll tell you about one of the very nice things I was lucky enough to do: diving in Mozambique.
The country is indeed world famous for being one of the best spots to observe the great underwater fauna, in particular manta rays and whale sharks, depending on the season.
I personally only had enough time to spend a wonderful week on the island of Ibo, north of the city of Pemba, in the Quirimbas archipelago. I was able to do some superb dives there and to have a small insight of the country. Recently, I had the pleasure to welcome a friend I met in Mayotte, who is currently living in Chile, more precisely in La Serena, north of Santiago. Marie-Laure has opened a bed and breakfast there, which I recommend to you with my eyes closed.
You may wonder why am I telling you this, right? Well, meeting again with Marie-Laure, here in French Polynesia, where I live at the time of writing this article, inspired me to write about diving in Mozambique. She knows the country very well, having dived in all the most famous spots of the country. So, it is with her help and collaboration that I offer you this article, which I hope will motivate you to go and discover this country. Of course, there is actually much more to see in Mozambique than diving, but this will be the subject of another article.
Let’s just tell things as they are. Very few people actually know where Mozambique is located on a map, and even less in Africa. The country is located on the east coast of Africa, between Tanzania (to the north), South Africa (to the south) and Zimbabwe/Zambia and Malawi, to the west. The country has over 2,000 km of coastline on the Indian Ocean, stretching from the country’s capital, Maputo (in the south), to the city of Mocimbo da Praia, in the north.
In recent years, Mozambique has become one of the most popular destinations for a dive trip in Africa. Those who have heard about it are already dreaming of whale sharks and giant manta rays, in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
For a diving trip, it depends of course on your departure airport, as flights to Mozambique are not common. I advise you to look at the Skyscanner website to compare flight prices and find the cheapest flights from your home.
I’ll add some last practical points that can be interesting, especially for those who wish to organize their dives in Mozambique on their own. If you arrive in Maputo, it will be necessary to use other means of transportation to get to the different dive sites of the country.
- Internal flights are not cheap and vary according to the cities. As an example, for a one-way flight: less than 70€ for a Beira – Maputo flight, or 150€ for a Maputo – Vilanculos flight. You can use this flight comparator to find the cheapest domestic flights,
- It is often necessary to go through Maputo to reach other cities (for example, there is no connection between Vilanculos and Pemba…),
- The local or tourist buses remain the cheapest way to travel in the country. It is difficult to find exact prices for buses in the country. Count 1000 mtc for a trip Maputo – Vilanculos (50€, 10h). You can look at this link of bus transportation by the Lonely Planet. Please note that trips are long and uncomfortable, and fares can increase depending on the luggage you have (e.g., diving equipment).
A diving trip in Mozambique is an extraordinary experience, according to what I have seen and what Marie-Laure showed me. Here are the main dive sites as well as the points to remember about each one. There are other ones along the coast, of course.
The sites are presented from the South to the North of the country, knowing that the majority of people arrive mainly from Maputo. The country has beautiful diving sites, and you will have the opportunity to admire superb coral reefs and an underwater world of exceptional diversity. Clearly, scuba diving in Mozambique has nothing to envy to the ones in the Red Sea, Thailand or some Pacific sites. Here are then the most famous sites of the country, from South to North.
Located in the extreme South of Mozambique, the site is particularly protected and mainly visited by South Africans. Like Zavora, further north, the site is known for its calm, its still-preserved authenticity, and of course its mega-pelagic fauna. A must-see if you are in the area.
About 2 hours drive south of Tofo is the famous site of Zavora. Less known than those of Tofo and Vilcanculos, this area shelters a good number of diving sites, which will surely delight the amateurs of big fish (and in particular of sharks!). The site is indeed known for its great biodiversity of sharks! An even more preserved site to discover.
Also known as Praia de Tofo (Tofo beach in Portuguese), the spot is located not far from the city of Inhambane, in the south-east of the country, on the peninsula of Ponta da Barra. This site is famous for its very sportive dives, since it is impossible to embark directly from a pontoon. Overall, it is rather a site reserved for experienced divers since the reefs start quite deep (15/20m), and very few sites are suitable for beginners. There are many square dives on this kind of site.
The area is home to whale sharks and giant manta rays, as in many others in Mozambique. Among the most famous sites in the area are: Manta Reef (reef on 27m depth, with manta ray cleaning station), but also Amazon reef, Crocodile Rock, The Salon or Krakatoa, Giants, Office.
To get there, it takes about 6 hours driving north of Maputo, and about 5 hours from the diving site of Vilanculos. The nearest airport is Inhambane, easily accessible from Johannesburg.
About 5 hours north of Tofo, the site of Vilanculos is part of the Bazaruto Archipelago, which became a national park in 1971. The park shelters an incredible variety of fauna and flora, including humpback whales, giant manta rays, dugongs, leatherback turtles, and many others.
It is more suitable for beginners, even if everyone will be able to fully enjoy no matter the level of experience. The site is accessible by road from Tofo, or directly from Vilanculos airport.
This peninsula is home to the famous Nuarro Marine Reserve, a still very much off-the-beaten-track area, compared to the other dive spots of the country. The site is accessible to both beginners and experienced divers.
The area hosts about ten diving sites, still largely preserved from the classic diving circuits in the country. If you want to spend a week in a dream setting, away from the crowds, so this is a place to seriously consider!
The archipelago, located on the border of Tanzania, is breathtakingly beautiful, even on land. I had the opportunity to spend a full week there, on and under water, and I keep such an unforgettable memory of it.
The archipelago is especially famous for the diversity of its corals and underwater world in crystal clear water. There are generally less “big fish” than in the other sites listed above. It is accessible from the city of Pemba, in the North of the country.
The site “The Gap”, off the town of Pemba, is particularly well known in the region for its huge drop-off, a feeding area for big fish!
You can also dive in Pemba, the sites are close to what you can see in Mayotte: beautiful corals, turtles and few big fish. Accessible to all levels.
I had the opportunity to dive on the island of Ibo, and Marie-Laure on other parts of the country. Here are some recommendations. Marie-Laure tells us:
As you said, the dives were quite sportive there, with the departure of the boat from the beach, a lot of waves and after a strong sea, feet in the foot-straps, and hands also hooked! And what to say about the return, with our boat launched at full speed directly on the sand!
I have dived with the Peri-Peri club, run by English people, serious and well equipped. There were three possible dives per day, 2 in the morning and one in the afternoon. In October, two whales were seen from the boat on each outing, sometimes dolphins, and very often we can hear whales singing underwater (I’ve even seen once 2 whales and a calf when diving!).
Accommodation: Baia Sonambula, above the beach. From the terrace where breakfast was taken, hundreds of humpback whales, blowing and jumping, can be seen: what a show!!! Average prices.
Many other accommodation options exist, at all prices. It is also easy to find something to eat.
Clearly, tourism in Tofo is mainly a tourism of divers (and surfers). I do not remember other diving clubs but there are agencies that organize diving trips, like Terra Profunda Diving & Safaris.
Easier, these diving are done in the archipelago of Bazaruto, a 2 miles reef site – but beware of strong currents sometimes!
Cleaning station for mobula rays (small manta), reef sharks, turtles, rich and healthy corals, and sometimes, on the way, dolphins and dugong!
I recommend the Odyssea Dive club, run by two French persons, Denis and Sabrina, and a Spaniard, Hugo, who joined them as an instructor and recently opened a kite surfing school in the same place. In a few words: a very good club, well equipped, they work with Mozambicans, very serious, concerned about security and divers are pampered (home-made sandwiches at lunch time, snack at the end of the dive…), all in an excellent atmosphere!
Accommodation: I highly recommend Casa Babi, on the same site as the Odyssea Dive club, as they are the same owners! Wonderful place, comfortable, with an amazing view on the beach and on the islands… Everyone is lovely!
Staying at Casa Babi gives you a 10% discount on the activities offered by Odyssea Dive.
Other activities are proposed to non-divers, on land (horse riding, city tour, quad bike tours…) and on sea (dhow rides, traditional boats, whale watching, canoeing, paddle, snorkeling…).
Here again, there are several possibilities of accommodation for all budgets.
I dived with Pieter from CI Divers, a quiet and easy dive. There were beautiful corals, turtles, no big ones. I stayed at Pieter’s place, same owner, a nice place although simple, and Pieter is friendly and accommodating.
The country has a southern tropical climate, so seasons are reversed with Europe. Two seasons are quite distinct in the country. The dry season extends from May to October and has the coolest temperatures. It is the most pleasant season to visit the country, even if the evenings and nights can be quite cool.
The wet season extends from November to March. Temperatures are much warmer (from 27° to 31°). The further north you go, towards the equator, the hotter it gets. Rains are more frequent during this season, especially from November to March/April, depending on the area of the country.
The water temperature varies from 22° (in winter July/August) to about 25° the rest of the year.
Everybody agrees that the best period for diving in the country is between October and November, with a preference for October, or rather November, which is very often mentioned in the forums.
It is also the ideal period to meet the two monsters of the area: humpback whales (June-October) and whale sharks (October to May).
Diving in Mozambique is certainly famous for the “big”, but there is a great local diversity of corals and fish in the country. Its location, in the Mozambique Channel, protected from the island of Madagascar, gives it an impressive fauna and flora. From what I have seen (and from Marie-Laure’s pictures), it is really very beautiful and rich.
Most of people coming to Mozambique want to see big sharks, especially the whale shark, which is only present during a certain season. The rest of the time, you will still see a great diversity of sharks in Mozambique (black tips, white tips, leopards, bulldogs, etc.).
Of course, it is impossible to talk about diving in Mozambique without mentioning the giant manta rays, encountered in particular on the “cleaning station” of Manta Reef, on the Tofo site.
Many sites are famous for their huge shoals of tropical fish. You are also sure to meet the great classics: tunas, barracudas, marlins, etc.
Macro enthusiasts will not be outdone with, depending on the site, a great diversity of nudibranchs, leaf fish, Spanish dancers, shrimps, etc.
In any case, you will surely not be disappointed when coming to dive in Mozambique.
Last point of the article, a short thought about the possibilities of discovering the country for diving. You have two choices: either to organize the trip to Mozambique by yourself or to choose an organization offering all-inclusive vacations in the country. To each their own!
Nevertheless, some points are important to know according to me:
- Mozambique is not really a touristic country and it will not be so easy to find all the information you need on the spot to organize your stay, your trips, hotels etc. For people who are not used to doing things by their own, it is certainly not the easiest destination to start with – knowing that the majority of the population does not speak English,
- You will need to plan about 2500-3000€ to spend 10 days diving in Mozambique in all inclusive. That’s a lot of money. I didn’t do the calculation to know if it was more profitable than organizing it alone,
- Deciding to travel to Mozambique on your own is not impossible in itself. It will also certainly be an opportunity to meet local people and to immerse yourself much more in the local life and culture. I really enjoyed my week spent in Pemba and the Quirimbas archipelago, and we had decided to organize the trip by ourselves. This obviously implies waiting for a hypothetical bus (which will come) at 4am on the edge of a big intersection, spending 10 hours of transport in a minibus, packed like sardines with everything you can find inside, waiting a few hours for a local boat to take me to Ibo, etc. I admit that taking a flight from Pemba to Ibo would have been much faster, but also much different. Marie-Laure, on her side, had the opportunity to take the plane. She tells us about her experience and the superb discovery of the islands by plane!
“With the plane, you see another facet of the Quirimbas: all the private islands welcoming rich Europeans, most often on honeymoon, tiny islands that have overall only a luxury hotel, heavenly beaches and often a diving club … with, of course, a small runway for the plane to land. This is what I took to go to Ibo and, if on the way there he dropped me off first, on the way back we went around all these small islands to leave the people and bring me back to Pemba last “
Here I am at the end of this article about diving in Mozambique. From what I could see, you can really enjoy a diving trip in this country. If I still lived in the area, I would have returned with great pleasure to discover all the dive sites I couldn’t do at that time and that Marie-Laure happily told me about.
If you like the African atmosphere, you should have a look at the things to do on the island of Mayotte, a pearl of the Indian Ocean.
I wish you a good trip,