Sunday, November 19, 2006

Diving in Tanzania and the Zanzibar Archipelago

by Ian Williamson

The warm clear waters along the Tanzanian coast offer superb and varied diving; with, some of the most spectacular sites in the gulf between Zanzibar and Pemba. Here the rough waters and strong currents are home to manta rays, white sharks, hammerheads and an abundance of pelagic life.

The best diving on Zanzibar Island is at Mnemba Atoll. The reef around this tiny East Africa Island offers a range of good inner and outer wall dives, as well as some beautiful coral gardens. Being located on the deepwater side of Zanzibar, this site is also a good place to catch sight of both whale-sharks and humpbacks during the migration. If you are going to restrict diving to Zanzibar Island only, then the most part of your trip should be centered around Matemwe and Mnemba Island.

The cluster of islands around Mafia island, which is south of Zanzibar, offers excellent locations for diving, holidays. The main island of Mafia has a hotel that offers diving trips within the marine park. Not many divers visit these sites yet, even though they are sheltered, relatively shallow and teaming with life. You can also dive in the unsheltered Indian Ocean side of Mafia which promises classic reef formation, walls, pinnacles, an abundance of tiger sharks and coral gardens, However, diving here is more difficult due to the swells, even when the waters are calm, The warm Indian Ocean waters surrounding Pemba Island are home to thousands of species of tropical fish and exotic marine life. The shallows around the numerous islands of Pemba offer stunning, snorkeling in aquamarine waters, lush coral gardens which stretch far ahead and then suddenly plunge into the dark blue depths of Pemba's incredible drop offs.

The small villages in this out of the way Island of Pemba have had little impact on the surrounding reefs; Pemba is relatively unknown and tourism is limited. These factors have helped to preserve the reefs and they remain in pristine condition. These exciting reefs stretch out as far as the eye can see. Large pelagic fish swim and hunt amongst the thousands of small, brightly colored reef fish that play around the plunging drop-offs and in the turquoise waters of the shallows - an underwater naturalist's dream. Pemba is renowned for its pristine and un-spoilt coral reefs but also for its vertical coral cliffs which plummet to depths of more than eight hundred meters. Underwater visibility often reaches forty meters or more. Looking over the precipice of some of the outer walls can be a mind blowing experience! Watch out for the Vertigo!

Pemba also has a stunning wreck dive in the South of Pemba Island at Panza populated by large groupers and Napoleon wrasse.

Mesali Island is famous as Pemba's only marine sanctuary. A visit to this beautiful reef is a must for all - beach lovers, snorkellers and divers alike. A perfect spot for a picnic and with delightful walks through the interior bush, you can spend the day relaxing on the white beach or snorkeling and diving on the numerous reefs around the island. The Mesali beaches are especially important as sea turtle nesting beaches.

Diving in Tanzania and in the islands off the coast offers some of the best diving the world has to offer. A driving vacation after a safari makes for a holiday of a life time. When you book please try to ensure you use operators, lodges that pay fair wages and help the communities on which they rely.

About the author
For further information Bethel Adventure on Tanzania, Kilimanjaro and the islands of Zanzibar. uses tourism to fund community initiatives focused on the education of the young and the medical care for the whole family.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Best Beaches for Beach Bums

by RoadTravel

South Africa is renowned to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And now it's not only just the locals testifying to this. Recently 23 South African beaches were awarded Blue Flag status.

Blue Flag status is awarded to beaches that meet excellence in the areas of safety, amenities, cleanliness and environmental standards.

The beaches may not be the traditional palm-lined, coconut strewn beaches of some of the more famous tropical islands. What make South African beaches so popular, besides the beautiful white sand are the people.

Year Round Beach Bums

Not only are the beaches beautiful, but the people on the beaches considered to be gorgeous too! Visitors flock from far and wide to the beautiful beaches of Cape Town during the hottest part of the summer every year from December to March. The sea around Cape Town is cold and refreshing during the often sweltering temperatures.

Clifton and Camps bay are Cape Town's most popular beaches and the hangout of models and the who's who of Cape Town.

If swimming with birds of a different feather is your cup of tea, try Boulders Beach where for a small entry fee, you would be allowed to frolic with the Penguins. Should you be interested in spotting larger sea life, we recommend that you head to the coastal town of Hermanus.

From Cape Town you will pass the wine-route on the way to Hermanus and can stock up on some of the great wines from this region and explore the scenic wine estates. Hermanus has been made famous by the whales that frequent in large numbers every year. Visitors flock to the area to see how many different whale species they can spot. The town even has a festival that coincides with the coming of the whales each year, which is usually around August.

If you're not one for cold water, head further up towards the KwaZulu Natal coast towards Durban. The waters are comfortable for swimming and dolphins can often be seen playing in the surf.

Sea Adventure

Durban is also home to one of South Africa's first Aquarium theme park where visitors (that are brave enough) may swim with the sharks (in separate tanks divided by a sheet of glass) and also learn more about the fascinating life within the South African seas.

If you'd rather be having adventure above the ocean than below, grab a surfboard and head for Jeffrey's Bay, or J-Bay as the local surfers call it which is considered to be the surfing Mecca of South Africa.

Heading back down the coast towards the southern most seas of Africa, Cape Aghulas, the experience mentioned above is pretty tame compared to shark cage diving with the colossal Great White's.

Road Trips

Experiencing South Africa by road, especially if you have a well planned route is probably one of the best ways to experience the beauty of this country.

Blue Flag beaches to include for your road trip from Cape Town to Durban:

* Clifton 4 th beach, Cape Town
* Bikini beach, Gordon's Bay
* Grotto beach, Hermanus
* Dolphin bach, Jeffery's Bay
* King's beach, Port Elizabeth
* Gonubie beach, East London
* Lucien beach, KZN South Coast
* South Beach, Durban
* Umhlanga Rocks Main beach

South Africa truly is a holiday destination that has so much to offer visitors. For a beach vacation, the experiences are so vast; it's hard to believe that it's all in one country!

About the Author
RoadTravel is an accredited and well established tour operator specialising in tailor-made road trips in South Africa. Their vision is to share the magic that is Africa; to encourage clients to return again and again and above all to create authentic and memorable experiences for their clients.