Dive Sites of Northern Mozambique

Dive Sites of Northern Mozambique

With 2,300 km of coastline Mozambique offer world class diving. The country borders South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania- making it a great starting point to travel throughout Southern Africa – or endpoint to unwind after your safari.

The waters around Southern Africa has not seen as much over fishing as other areas in the world which means that the reefs here are teeming with marine life, both micro and macro.

Getting around in Mozambique is a bit more difficult compared to other, well-travelled destinations and thus require you to plan ahead- at least a little bit. You can make use of local transport (chappas and busses) although it is not as safe and reliable. Tourist busses and shuttles are options. It is strongly advised to travel only during daylight hours and to avoid travelling on Mozambican roads between 6PM and 6AM. Alternatively you can make use of private taxis or self-drive in a rental car. Most of the EN1 (the highway spanning Mozambique North to South) is tarred and not too bad, although a 4×4 or 2×4 is recommended for traveling through the country.

If you self-drive, ensure that you adhere to the speed limits as they are strictly enforced. The speed limit outside of towns is 100km/h, with 80/60 km/h in towns. The signs for the speed limit is not always visible and it is suggested that you go 60 km/h when uncertain to avoid a fine. When calculating arrival times use an average speed of 65 km/h and allow some extra time to get there- you are in Africa after all!

Many dive destinations can be reached by flying to a nearby airport and then either taking a taxi of have an airport pick up from your hotel or lodge. As with the roads, flights and airports work on African time so be prepared that your journey might take longer than you planned.

Mozambique is a malaria area so make sure you take precaution with anti-malaria medication, mozzie nets and spray.

Rainy season is usually between December and March and it can get quite humid during this period. During June to October the weather is pleasant with June to August being the coolest months. Winter in Mozambique is still warm with temperatures during the day in the high 20’s even reaching up to 30°C. Cyclone season is from February to May, although usually this time of the year has mostly calm weather and cyclones seldom travel to the coast of Mozambique.

With visibility up to 30m and water temperature averaging around 28°C, mixed in with white beaches and African hospitality, dive destinations in Northern Mozambique truly has so much to offer. Here are some suggestions of where to go:

The reefs around Southern Mozambique has a vast diversity of coral and fish species including tropical fish and nudi’s. It also has an abundance of megafauna, making it an ideal destination for your next dive holiday.

Nacala Bay

Where is it: Nacala is in the North of Mozambique and can be reached by driving or flight. If you make your way up thorough Mozambique via road, total driving time from Maputo to Nacala could take between 31-35 hours. Why not visit one of these amazing sites in Southern Mozambique on your way up?

Alternatively you can fly to Nampula ( about 180 km West of Nacala) where you can rent a car (preferably a 4×4) and make your way to Nacala. There are a number of flights weekly from both Johannesburg and Nairobi to Nampula. The drive from Nampula to Nacala can take between 2.5-4 hours.

What makes it special: Nacala Bay has dive sites for both novices and more experienced divers. There are abundant coral gardens, some walls and a few swim throughs. The marine life is diverse, offering the possibility to see many nudi’s, leaf fish, ribbon eels, frog fish and ghost pipe fish.

Advanced divers could have the opportunity to dive at Stables where they could encounter strong currents but also see many sea horses.

Spectacular night dives can be done from the beach and besides a variety of game fish, you might also see some Sun Fish in Nacala Bay.

Details: There are a few dive centres and lodges in the area that cater for a variety of tastes and budgets.

Dive sites vary quite a bit in depth which makes Nacala a great dive destination for divers of every experience level. Some dives are suitable for Open water divers with depths of up to 18 meters and slopes with a max depth of 24 meters. Other sites suit advanced and deep specialty divers with depths of up to 40 meters. There is even a site that goes down to 50 meters for tech divers. Although the water temperature ranges between 24°C (July to Sept) and 29.9°C (Jan to April), if there is an onshore breeze there might be tiny jellyfish in the water and a full wetsuit is recommended.

When to go: February and August are the windier months which means the visibility could be lower during these months. The best time to visit would be between May and September. 


Pemba, Mozambique (not to be mistaken for Pemba in Zanzibar) has untouched coral, diverse marine life and beautiful beaches – what more do you need from an ideal dive holiday destination?

Where is it: Pemba is located 420 km North of Nacala (driving distance). If you have the time this would be a great addition to your road trip through Mozambique. Driving time between Nacala and Pemba is around 5-7 hours. Driving time from Maputo to Pemba is around 34-37 hours (around 2500 km’s).

If road tripping isn’t your thing there are flights from Johannesburg to Pemba twice a week. Flights between Maputo and Pemba are once a week (subject to change monthly). You can also reach Pemba by flying in from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

What makes it special: Pemba has a continental shelf drop off that starts at around 15m going down to around 120m, making it good site for beginners, although you would gain more from the experience if you are a bit more advanced. Because many dive sites here are around 30m, it is the perfect playground for more advanced divers with deep experience.

Fish life around Pemba include tropical fish, a variety of coral, sharks, rays and even Black Marlin. On a dive close to the mouth of the Tari River you could see Napoleon Wrasse, reef sharks and Snowflake Soap fish. Diving the shelf in Pemba could have you spotting some devil rays or even sunfish!

Details: Accommodation ranges from 5-star hotels to, holiday resorts and self-catering units. Pemba is becoming one of the best places for diving in Mozambique with a number of dive operators to choose from. Reefs are good for divers from every lever, with clear, calm seas (usually).

Water temperature could reach up to 30°C between January and April and as low as 24°C between July and September. It is advisable to check with your dive operator which exposure protection they recommend before you leave for your trip.

When to go: February and August are the windier months which means the visibility could be lower during these months. The best time to visit would be between May and September.

Quirimbas Archipelago

With 27 islands in the largest Marine Protected area on the African continent, the Quirimbas Archipelago offer amazing diving. The area is still very much unexplored and thus the coral and marine life is pristine. Between Pemba and Tanzania, this area is truly off the beaten track and has much to offer the adventurous diver.

Where is it: The Quirimbas islands lay 60km North of Pemba as the crow flies. Most accommodation providers can assist you with transport from Pemba to the Quirimbas islands. There are some direct flights from Dar es Salaam to the islands and there are talks underway of a direct route from Tanzania opening soon.

What makes it special: There are an abundance of game fish, manta rays, whale sharks and at least 8 species of shark in the area. You might likely also see pods of dolphins, schools of barracuda and king fish, as well as migrating humpback whales.

There five of the ocean’s seven turtle species in the Quirimbas Archipelago and you might just get a chance to see some of them lay eggs on the beach in season (usually the last few months of the year leading into March as the peak nesting season). Check with your dive operator for peak nesting times in their location.

As if all of this was not enough to satisfy your diving dreams there is a wreck of a 19th century coal steamer to explore close to Matemo Island

The beaches and islands in Northern Mozambique is a diver’s dream with a variety of tropical and game fish, healthy coral and some of the most elusive marine life. Have you packed your bags yet?

Details: With dive sites ranging from 14 meters max depth to 80, the Quirimbas Archipelago truly has something for everyone. There are a number of dive operators and hotels and lodges on many of the islands, allowing you to tailor make your ideal dive holiday. Water temperature could range from around 30°C in January to April to about 24°C in June to September. Speak to your dive operator about the best exposure protection for your visit.

When to go: During the winter months (June to August) the weather is drier with mild temperatures and low winds combined with more marine animal sightings. The average winter air temperatures range from 15°C to 26°C. Rainy season is between mid-November and April.

A diving adventure to the North of Mozambique combines world class diving, exquisite beaches and clear, calm water with some African hospitality for a once in a lifetime diving trip!

* A version of this article first appeared at www.scubadiverlife.com

Juanita Pienaar

Juanita Pienaar is a citizen of the world, recently settled back down in her home country, South Africa, after spending time traveling and living in Asia and Africa. She has a passionate love affair with the ocean and loves to share that passion by teaching scuba diving. She is a yoga teacher and fully believe in finding the balance in life. She has recently discovered the joy and freedom of wearing yoga pants ‘out-and-about’. Juanita loses herself in the written and spoken word.

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