While Africa is perhaps best known for safari holidays and incredible wildlife experiences on land, the oceans around its shores offer equally remarkable encounters. Whether you want to find Nemo or take lessons from an octopus, we’ve compiled a list of Africa’s best diving spots, and some of the lodges that offer completely immersive marine experiences. If you’re an experienced diver, you’ll enjoy discovering entirely new species and undersea landscapes, while novices can safely learn to dive in warm, clear water.

Manta Resort, Tanzania

Located to the north of Zanzibar, Pemba Island is not as well known as its larger neighbor – unless you happen to be into diving. In which case, you’ll probably know of Pemba’s reputation as having some of the Indian Ocean’s most pristine coral reefs – reefs that abound in colorful, busy fish and invertebrate life. Manta Resort provides a barefoot luxury option that matches the abundance of the marine life below, and with over a dozen dive spots to choose from, you can choose between coral gardens and blue water drop-offs. The resort features a 5-star PADI diving school and even has a spectacular underwater guest room that lets you – quite literally – sleep with the fishes.


The many different islands that make up Seychelles are scattered across a large swathe of the Indian Ocean. While each differs in character, they have one thing in common: they all look just how you imagine a tropical island should, and the reality never disappoints. The waters off Seychelles are some of the clearest in the world, which makes reef diving there even more enjoyable and rewarding. In fact, a number of luxury lodges have ‘house reefs’ that can be accessed directly from the beach. Some, in fact, are so close that snorkeling is an option for anyone who doesn’t dive. Seychelles is rightly renowned as a honeymoon destination, so if you’ve recently taken the plunge, these islands are the perfect place to celebrate. Choosing a favorite island is like being asked which of you kids you love most, but we particularly loved the laid-back ambiance and tranquility of the remote Alphonse Island Resort.

Lake Malawi, Malawi

Lake Malawi is unique among the dive sites on our list, as it’s not at all salty. Lake Malawi is one of the chains of freshwater Rift Valley Lakes that run the length of Africa, and it’s home to unique species of cichlid fish found nowhere else. They’re known for their colorful appearance and curious mating behavior, making diving here especially fascinating. Lake Malawi is known as the ‘lake of stars’ – at night, local fishermen use lamps to attract their catch, and the reflections in the water mirror the African sky above. While the lakeshore has more of a backpacker vibe, we would recommend staying at either Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island or Mumbo Island, further to the south.

Mnemba Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Staying in Tanzania – or rather just offshore – we arrive at the remarkable Mnemba Atoll. Located just off Zanzibar, this gorgeous resort provides the perfect counterpoint to the charming hustle of the main island. Azure waters and curves of white sand create the desert island vibe your soul has been craving, and you can happily while away time strolling on the beach, following the sunset on a traditional dhow cruise, or enjoying massage and spa treatments. Then there’s the world beneath the waves: the warm waters of the Mnemba Atoll attract a great many dolphins, plus turtles in season (they also nest on the island’s beaches).

Benguerra Island, Mozambique

The lovely Benguerra Atoll in the Bazaruto Archipelago is Mozambique’s marine jewel – indeed, the area has been set aside as a National Park due to the richness of its underwater life. The deliciously warm waters of Africa’s East Coast feature prolific shoals of fish, and migrating whale sharks are known to pass through this area at certain times of the year. These gentle giants dwarf anything else you will see, but the smaller species are equally fascinating. You’ll also be spoiled for choice in terms of luxury accommodation: Azura Benguerra was hand-built by local artisans using organic materials for an entirely authentic feel, while Benguerra Island Lodge features a fully equipped PADI dive center and a beachside bar made from a converted dhow.

Port Elizabeth, South Africa

“PE” is also known as the ‘friendly city’ and you’re certain of a warm welcome on this stretch of South Africa’s coastline. PE is firmly on the marine wildlife map for two reasons – just offshore is the equivalent of a whale freeway, used by migrating humpback whales during the southern hemisphere winter months. In April and May, this area is the epicentre of the annual Sardine Run – a remarkable natural phenom that sees immense shoals of sardines gather to feed in the nutrient-rich waters. Packed together like, well, sardines, they attract the attention of every imaginable predator, including sharks, schools of dolphins and hungry whales, while seabirds dive in from above to snatch a snack. Experienced local dive operators can get you close to the action for unbelievable experiences.

Cape Town, South Africa

Two oceans – one warm, one cold – meet at the Cape of Good Hope, and this makes the waters off Cape Town – such as False Bay – some of the most remarkable dive sites in the world. If you watched the Oscar-winning ‘My Octopus Teacher’ on Netflix, you’ll have seen the remarkable giant kelp forests on screen – they’re much more impressive in real life. These towering fronds of seaweed form a unique habitat for the octopus, their stripey nemesis, the pyjama shark, and countless other species. During the summer months (mid-October to mid-February), you can also explore fascinating tidal pools. After a day’s diving, the excellent restaurants and vineyards of the Western Cape are the ideal way to celebrate your underwater sightings.