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Although the main island of Unguja (Zanzibar) feels untouched by the rest of the world, the nearby smaller islands of Pemba, Mafia and Mnemba offer retreats that are even more remote. Further beyond are the smaller islands of the Zanzibar archipelago including the once prison Island of Changu and Misali Island, apparently the haven for pirate Captain Kidd. It’s no surprise that the cuisine here is rich in spices, fresh fruits locally grown and seafood caught fresh daily. Whilst lingering over a long seafood lunch is rewarding, even more spectacular is the marine ecology of the area.

Pemba is a treasure trove of marine life, better suited to experienced divers due to strong currents, making most dives drift dives. Pemba’s corals are pristine. Misali Island, once a hideout of Captain Kidd is now a marine conservation area, rich in biodiversity, with over 40 different species of coral, 350 different species of fish and 5 different species of sea turtles. Out on the reefs, black snappers school around Coral Mountain, eagle rays and manta rays glide through the water with deadly grace, while lobsters and octopus peer out at inquisitive divers from coral shelves. Green turtles perch on cabbage coral and hammerhead sharks have been seen coming in with the tide.

Mafia Island became Tanzania’s first Marine Park in 1995 and the diving is here astonishingly beautiful. Most of Mafia’s best dives are at depths of less than 30 metres, making it accessible to less experienced divers. There’s over 400 different species of fish, with more to be identified. Kinasi Pass and the Pinnacle are a must if you come to Tanzania to dive, giant silvery barracuda swarm, shoals of reef fish populate the coral like colourful confetti, huge moray eels lie in wait to ambush prey and rays soar through the water. Between November and March, there’s the annual whale shark migration, giving divers and snorkellers a chance to see the world’s largest fish up close and personal. They can live to up to 100 years, growing up to 13 metres long and weighing up to 13 tonnes, it’s a test of nerves to come face to face with these huge creatures.

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