Snorkelling in Zanzibar

Mar 21st, 2008, 01:23 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 2
Snorkelling in Zanzibar

I'm planning a trip to Zanzibar and need some advice on the best place to stay. One of our top priorities is snorkelling, and as one of our group is not confident in deep water it would be ideal to be somewhere you can snorkel directly from the beach. Have considered the zamani kempinski, would this fit the bill ?
franceswilkins is offline  
Mar 21st, 2008, 06:22 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 20
Just got back a few days ago - snorkeled off Mnemba Island (N. coast) and Paje (S. coast). Mnemba is a must - fantastic snorkeling - like swimming in an aquarium. You can stay in Nungwi or much better, Kendwa Beach. From there there's boats out to the island for diving or snorkeling ($20-$40). I've dived all other the world and this was really great. Paje was nice snorkeling too but that side of the island is less nice - the beach goes away due to the tides. N. coast much nicer.
Take all the cash you need - there's no ATMs or VISA (well, some VISA but minimal).
Beach snorkeling was poor. The water at Mnemba is shallow so no problems for your friend. The blue color looks like a pool it's so clear.
commander is offline  
Mar 21st, 2008, 12:58 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 19
Commander, did you stay at Mnemba resort? We recently stayed at Matemwe retreat (on mainland across from Mnemba) and were unable to snorkel anywhere near Mnemba island. We were told by our dive/snorkel instructors that an area surrounding the island is off limits to visitors -- in essence it is "Owned" somehow by CC Africa. We snorkeled in open seas that were definitely not suitable for beginners. It was beautiful, but rough and chilly. We were bummed because the offshore snorkeling from Matemwe wasn't good as the area is so tidal, and also because we were there in early February and the weather was already starting to turn towards rainy/windy season. Not ideal for a 45 minute boat ride on open water to snorkel areas.

Frances, I would recommend talking to your TA about more sheltered beaches like Chumbe for your friend. It also depends on time of year as winds shift and you want to be on leeward side of island for best shelter.
jayne_wagner is offline  
Mar 21st, 2008, 01:24 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 266
I think you're the first person I've seen here who's stayed at Matemwe Retreat, rather than the Bungalows. Are you doing a trip report? I will be there in November and am interested to hear the impressions of someone who has actually stayed there. That is disappointing about the snorkeling, especially since according to their website "You can sail or motor out to the local reef and discover the little island of Memba Atoll - right opposite Matemwe."
hlg22 is offline  
Mar 21st, 2008, 04:41 PM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 259
The website info re Mnemba Atoll is only slightly misleading -- I know, it's shocking. You indeed can take a boat out past the reef and you can see (maybe that counts as "doscovering") Mnemba Island, but the island itself is private, and is only for people staying there.

We stayed at Matemwe Bungalows in early March 2007 and took their snorkeling trip, and it was pretty much as jayne_wagner described it, although the weather when we were there was nice. I enjoyed it, but the two ladies with me were not all that enamored. The seas were somewhat rough the afternoon we went (it's not as rough on the early morning trip), and the water was probably 15-20 feet deep in most places. Our snorkeling site was out past the local reef (which is exposed above water at low tide) and was fairly NEAR but not AT Mnembe Island. The dhow ride to the site took probably about 30 minutes, part under motor and part under sail, with a boat "captain" and a deckhand/snorkeling guide.

Mnembe Island is indeed almost directly opposite Matemwe, just a little to the north, and easily seen from Matemwe. The atoll/reef runs parallel to the Zanzibar eastern coast for quite a distance, not very far from the shore (maybe a mile at Matemwe?). The water offshore is beautiful shades of green and blue and amazingly clear, but I don't think there is much snorkeling from the Zanzibar beaches.

Don't know if this helps. If you really want to hear more from me, there is a very long trip report at

and pictures at

Zanzibar was at the end of our trip, so if you really care you can just go to the back part of the two threads.
hguy47 is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2008, 05:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 19
hlg22 -- I'd be happy to fill you in on Matemwe Retreats -- just provide your email address. I hope to do a trip report, but who knows when I'll get to it. The Retreat was like a rock star villa. I couldn't quite believe our luck in securing a reservation as there are only 3 villas. Our butler told us they are booked well into 2009.

And the snorkeling was still amazing. You definitely snorkel the atoll - but in deep, rough water. If you don't mind swimming in open waters, and don't get seasick easily, it's fine. Unfortunately, a couple of people on our dhow (including my husband) were pretty green by the time we reached shore. I did see some amazing coral and fish. A fun change from Caribbean and Hawaii. I kept telling myself I was in the Indian Ocean - a place I never thought I'd be in my lifetime.
jayne_wagner is offline  
Mar 24th, 2008, 06:39 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 266
Thanks very much! I would be very interested to hear more about your stay at Matemwe Retreat - my email address is hlg222 (note the extra "2" ) at gmail dot com.
hlg22 is offline  
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