Thousands of miles of coastline offer breathtaking beaches, colorful coves, and magnificent marine life, all captured in our list of the top seven diving and marine destinations in Africa. The cool Atlantic merges with the warmer Indian Ocean, unveiling a dynamic underwater world.
From diving with great white sharks to swimming with dolphins and watching whales breach in a deep blue sea, the ocean and its inhabitants offer adventurers an unforgettable experience above and below the water.
Certain sites and experiences stand out when it comes to diving, snorkeling, and general marine-life wonders, and we want to share some of Africa’s gems with you.
Famous for visits by the southern right whales, Hermanus is a seaside haven perfectly positioned on the southwest coast of South Africa.
Popular from July to December, whale-watching boats dot the water as visitors wait to catch a glimpse of these magnificent beings. Glorious waters lap against a rocky wall and taking a walk down the steep steps to enter the marine tidal pool presents travelers with a stunning snorkeling experience.
Seagulls fly above bathers and if you find yourself in the right place at the right time, dolphins may surprise you as they make their way along the coastline.
Learn more: South Africa Tours and Vacations
Blending the appeal of Africa's waters, mixing magnificent corals with regular visits from giant turtles, whale sharks, and manta rays makes Watamu National Marine Park in Kenya a top attraction.
Snorkeling and dive trips are a regular addition to Kenyan coastal vacations, especially for anyone staying in the nearby beach-resort town of Malindi.
White-sand beaches merge with the inviting waters of the Indian Ocean and the option to try something new, such as kitesurfing, or take a sunset cruise on a dhow to watch out for a pod of dolphins. Marine life is rich here and well worth exploring.
Learn more: Kenya Safaris & Tours
The majority of the continent's best-known dive sites are in the Indian Ocean, offering vibrant tropical reefs and opportunities for encounters with sharks or other treasures that await discovery. Sodwana Bay in South Africa is the perfect spot to experience the eclectic wonders of the water.
Situated in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the Maputaland Marine Reserve, this part of the country’s northeast coast is said to be one of the world’s top 10 scuba-diving destinations.
With unspoiled coral reefs and over 1,000 fish species, you can even find nesting turtles and eggs that hatch on golden sand.
Learn more: South Africa Safari Tours & Vacations
Located off the coast of Mozambique, this protected lagoon is an idyllic piece of the marine reserve at the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. A diver’s paradise, the waters are home to exceptional coral reefs and some of the best dive sites in the world for experienced and non-experienced divers.
The marine life extends to a rich turtle presence and the opportunity for visitors to see the rare dugong, with snorkeling a popular activity with which to take in the incredible sea life. The flora and fauna of this marine paradise are also worth exploring in this tranquil east coast setting.
Learn more: South Africa Safaris with Mozambique
The idea of shark-cage diving has intrigued and baffled people for years, and for those who want to experience what the fuss is all about, Gansbaai on South Africa’s southeast coast is the place to do so. The day starts early, with a couple of hours spent in the cage with an eco-friendly company that has the sharks’ best interests in mind.
Uncover marvels and mysteries associated with these fierce and giant fish, and gain an opportunity to witness a great white in action as you embark on a one-of-a-kind ocean safari. The conditions in Gansbaai are perfect for this unique experience, one that will surely leave you fascinated.
Spend a couple of days diving the Mnemba Atoll, Zanzibar's premier dive destination. A collection of reef walls provide the highlight, each drifting into the depths with vivacious tones and curious residents, including whales and sharks.
Zanzibar's warm waters and eclectic appeal also make it a popular spot for a PADI scuba-diving course, with the days in the water contrasted by beautiful evenings along the beach. Snorkeling is of a high quality off Mnemba too, a coral kingdom bursting with color. During a dhow cruise, you can watch an incredible African sunset over the warm Indian Ocean.
Learn more: Zanzibar Vacation Packages
One of Africa’s great lakes, Lake Malawi is not only an eco haven bursting with color and life, but it is one of the most beautiful settings on the continent.
Water activities are very popular here, from kayaking at Butterfly Space to snorkeling and diving at Likoma Island, the waters presenting the perfect playground for activities, bathers, and paddlers alike.
Discover the rich marine life by boat or dive deep to uncover reefs brimming with coral treasures and more than a thousand species of fish, including the famous cichlids. The beaches are inviting and the scenery stunning, making Lake Malawi a special discovery.
From shark-cage diving to dolphin- or whale-watching, snorkeling to simply marveling at a marine wonderland, the beaches, bays, and open oceans of Africa’s east coast fulfill every water adventurer’s dreams. With golden sands merging with the warm Indian Ocean or the intense white beaches of an East African paradise, there is no doubt Africa delivers some of the best diving and marine reserves around.
For more information or to book your next water adventure, discover new ideas with our African safaris or African safari and beach vacations, or find new perspectives on topics like when to visit by checking out our African safari travel guide.