Kenya is becoming increasingly popular as a dive destination. Kenya has another great wilderness area hid beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean, a wilderness just as rich, diverse and ripe for exploration as any of our game parks.
Kenya was for a long time not widely known as a dive destination- but it certainly should be. The calm turquoise waters of our beaches lie in the protective shelter of reef after reef, home to a myriad bounty of sealife. Plunge below the surface and you will discover a new kind of safari- the world’s finest scuba safari.
The diversity and spectacle of Kenya’s wildlife doesn’t end at our shores. Just as our plains are a sanctuary for vast herds of plains game, our reefs are home to huge shoals of many species of fish, stalked by undersea predators as fascinating as our lions and leopards. For those seeking out Kenya’s giant species- our elephant herds are matched by the migratory pods of whales that pass by our outer reefs.
Diving in Kenya is generally good all year round, although visibility lessens during July and August due to silting and high seas. The weather is consistently warm and sunny, with excellent balmy water temperature that makes for ideal dive conditions.
The coast North of Mombasa has several world class dive sites. Some of the best sites are in the Watamu Marine National Park- a well protected and managed area. The reef here is close to shore, meaning easily accessible shallow coral gardens that are ideal for learners and snorkellers.
The outer reef has some fine drop offs, with sheer walls, and large brain corals attracting consistently abundant sea life. Dives on the central Turtle Reef average at around 10-15 metres, with high spiking coral heads attracting large shoals of colourful parrot and surgeon fish. You will occasionally sight a few white-tip reef sharks that are in residence on the reef.
This area is an important egg laying site for the endangered Green sea Turtle, which lay on the beaches at Watamu several times a year, and they are often seen around this reef. Nearby Moray Reef has a breathtaking overhang dropping 28 metres to a sandy bottom. The coral here is a refuge for octopus and eel, and a massive semi-tame moray. The sharp reef edge has plenty of nudibranch, angel fish, tang, and the occasional grouper or barracuda.
An excellent all round dive site is the Canyon, a long sandy channel at 28m, bordered on each side by deep drop-offs. There is an impressive arch covered with soft corals, and the reef walls are always alive with trevalies and snapper.
Diving into the channel itself is a good way to find rays and reef sharks. Whale Sharks pass through this year each year from October- February, with good sightings reported each day. Migratory pods of Whales from Southern Africa pass through this area during the months of June- September, and are often seen breaching in deep water beyond the reefs.
A little further South towards Kilifi, there are good sites at Mtwapa and Barracuda Reef. The outer edges here have large shoals of angel and butterfly fish, and there have been occasional sighting of the world’s largest shark- the spectacular Whale Shark- in these waters.
The adventurous diver will not want to miss dive, the Vuma Caves near Kilifi Creek. The caves are about 20 metres beneath the surface on the face of some seaside cliffs. The open sea around the entrance is a good place to spot dolphins, while the interior of the caves is a refuge for eels, some very large grouper and barracuda. After exploring the caves, divers exit through a 10 metre chimney to emerge through a hole in the reef above.
South of Mombasa, there are dive sites ranged along the coast from Tiwi south to Shimoni. Some of the best sites are centred around Kisiite Mpunguti Marine Reserve. This area is your best chance to sight some of the largest Manta Rays on the East African coast.
A good excursion for both diving and snorkelling is a day dhow trip to Wasini Island, within the reserve- easily arranged from Diani or Shimoni. This usually includes snorkelling and/or diving, and a seafood lunch on the island.
For experienced divers, the best option here is Nyulli Reef. This is a good deep dive with strong tidal currents which allow drifts through spectacular coral, snapper, barracuda, rare zebra sharks and massive Napoleon wrasse. A much easier dive is Kisiite Point. There is plenty of large, tame shoals to be found here, with average dive depth of around 12 metres. Divers at Kisiite often encounter hawksbill turtles and bottlenose dolphins.
This is makes for a relaxing day trip, with dolphins often accompanying the dhow through the reserve, and the interior of the island itself well worth exploring. In the island archipelagos of Northern Kenya, around Lamu and Manda, new dive sites are currently being explored and made accessible, opening a new frontier for the underwater adventurer.
From unexplored sites to easily accessible undersea gardens of coral, schools of sharks to breaching whales, friendly dolphins to endangered turtles, incredible caves to mysterious wrecks, a Kenyan scuba safari gives you the whole wild world- underwater.