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Dive Review of Swahili Divers + Sea Point/Keran Saray + Mafia Lodge in

September, 2011, an Instant Reader Report by Michael Joest, Kehl, DE
Sr. Contributor   (21 reports, with 4 Helpful votes)
Report Number 6236
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
all over the world
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
25   to 26    Celsius  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
5   to 40    Meters  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
30 m maximum, 50 bar or 50 min whatever comes first  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
4 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
Boat Facilities
3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
3 stars  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  
4 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars    
5 stars   
5 stars    

 Pemba Island (Sept. 2011)

Qatar Airways brought me via Doha and Nariobi safely into Dar Es Salaam.
Visa I already obtained from the embassy at home, so I was lucky to be the
first guy, who got through customs and immigration. For safety reasons I
had taken a yellow fever inoculation at home too, it´s not mandatory
for T., if you not travel through some other African country. Sometimes
however Dar immigration does not ask for it, but Zanzibar officials do.
From the international airport you can easily reach the domestic area with
shuttle from Coastal  Aviaton, who are one provider for  the island and
safari flights. It´s only a 10 min. ride just round the corner, they
use the same runaway as the International. It´s mostly 16 seater
small one engine planes.   Coastal has a baggage allowance of 15 kilo and
ask you to bring soft luggage no hard case. With carry on I had 28 kilo
altogether, on check in this was no problem at all. Only the luggage
handling locals later insisted on 1 US $ for every kilo above 15. I paid to
make sure, my suitcase is going into the right plane, better even watch,
where it´s going. On all the other connecting flights they never
asked for a baggage surcharge. Make sure your schedule is not too tight
with connecting flights, as Coastal is never on time. I nearly missed my
Qatar back home, when they were 45 min. late. Via Zanzibar we flew to
Pemba, approximately half  an hour each leg. From Pemba Airport it´s
another 1.5 hours transfer up into the northern part of the island, through
the town Chaka Chaka and some small villages. While Zanzibar is rather
flat, Pemba has a lovely hilly landscape. We passed through Ngezi
Rainforest, which is a nature park and shortly after reached Kervan Saray
Beach Resort. They have 6 spacious double bungalows, one is a dorm for 6.
It´s a modest but very nice resort, run by Raf and Cisca, the
owners. They have a lovely family atmosphere, all meals are held together
at one big table, so it´s easy to get to know your fellow divers and
have a nice chat. The bungalow might be simple but is huge, the bed is on a
concrete pedestal of 3 x 3 m meter with mosquito net above, bathroom
outside with the sky above you. I need gluten free meals and from the
start, they had a smiley face next to each good meal  for me on the menu,
very considerate of them I found. They even prepared pancakes made out of
corn instead of flour for me in the morning.  You can choose from two
starters, often soup or salad and a main course with fish, meat, rice,
pasta. mashed potatoes and vegetable, plus dessert. There is a nice area
around the bar and some sort of lounge area right over the beach where you
can enjoy beautiful sunsets. Malaria is not a serious problem on the
islands, I just took insect repellent but no prophylaxes there. A lovely
beach which stretches way down south and north is right next to the resort.
On low tide you need reef shoes to get out into deep water. We had sun only
partly clouded every day, water was 26 degrees C, good enough with a 5 mil.
Normally they do a two tank in the morning, if you like you can do a third
and even night dive. Surface interval is spent on some lovely beach with
tea and fruits. Reefs are similar to those of the Maldives of the 80
´s, a good mixture of hard and soft coral, beautiful sea mountains,
bommeys, boulders, overhangs, crevices, some awesome coral gardens, vis is
40 m plus nearly endless, stunning for me to find. My favourite was
Slobadans Bunker, you best ask Raf where that name comes from. I love
walls, where it´s tempting to go deep, hit some shelf and another
wall reaching down into the deep blue. In between smaller islands you have
gaps, where drift dives and encounters with pelagics are possible. We often
had a big school of barracuda cruising past. They let me run on rather long
leash, when they noticed, I show half a tank after 45 min of deep diving
nearly running into deco  a divemasters nightmare they called me.
Don´t miss a trip to Masali Island, a marine protected area where you
will find healthy coral reefs and good fishlife. On our way back, we had
dolphins and whales on the surface. Swahili Divers use a big Zodiac with
two strong outboards, so you reach the dive sites in around 20 min. Besides
diving it´s a good idea to hike around the village, rain forest and
to an old light house, you will find endemic birds, chameleon, monkeys and
plenty of colourful flowers. 

Mafia Island (Sept. 2011)

My flight schedule showed a flight via Zanzibar straight to Mafia. I was
lucky, the pilot learned of this and informed me, I had to go via Dar
again. It seems they only do direct flights in high season with lots of
travellers going there. Mafia Lodge is inside a marine park, where they
charge 20 US $ for every night/person you spend there. You need cash, which
tore a considerable hole into my budget with 11 nights, no info of my
travel agent on this. Mafia Lodge is a nearly luxurious resort inside a
nice park and sandy beach area in the south near Utende. They offer
superior or standard rooms, each overlooking the bay, fan, AC and warm
water is available. A large open space with restaurant, bar and lounge
invite to spend you leisure time in. As single  traveller you get your own
lonely table, which often is surprising me in resorts of that size and
standard. What are you supposed to do while waiting for meals, write
postcards, read, not exactly polite to do so. They took good care of my
gluten problem and even advised which meals I could not eat.  Weather was
nice nice all through my stay, only one rainy day but most times a bit
windy.  Sea Point Divers have their center next to the beautiful beach.
They use a traditional Dhow with a 40 horse power outborder as dive boat.
It´s a unique experience and where else in the world will you still
get the chance to dive from a Dhow they told me. On the other hand
it´s an environmental effort, to reduce use of gas and thereby
pollute with exhaust. Thus however you need sometimes up to 45 min to dive
sites inside Chole Bay which you would reach with inflatable two engine in
about 1o  15 min. Going outside of the bay so proved to be a big problem.
Choppy seas with a propeller sometimes coming above water made this nearly
impossible with such a boat. Only once when it calmed down could we dive
outside. I´m not quite sure if this was a real problem or manmade and
some excuse to save gas. So I ended up with many dives in the bay and they
soon ran out of different places to show me. On day they allowed me to
guide and do some exploratory dive, where I did a triangle course finding a
new small reef. Only once could we do a drift dive, which ended with 10
min. in 1.5 m shallow sea grass area. Most times they only went out, when
the tide was coming in. Outgoing time would mean the risk of divers being
pushed outside the bay, impossible to reach and recover with Dhow. This
however meant always following the time of tide which often made us get up
at 6 or even earlier to reach the place in good condition. Vis was the big
disappointment on Mafia, often it was less than 5 m with lots of plankton
(?) and some green yellow algae stuff floating into the bay, an
environmental problem, nobody could say. Only very early in the morning we
sometimes had rather good vis. Sea Point has a strange policy with their
dive guides, they insist on thorough buddy check before each dive, it was
rather strict and conservative briefing don´t touch, one warning,
second you are out of the water. Each had his own ideas, so no common
policy with Sea Point. One guide asked never to pass him, he wanted to see
half tank shown with fingers 100 bar = 10 fingers or signing 100 but not
the international acknowledged sign. Another guide was happy with o.k. sign
as long as you were above 100. Even a reverse profile (first one shallow,
second deeper) seemed to be a problem. For me a bit of kindergarten, odd to
find this with an Italian manager Laura, who are famous for their way of
deep diving against all rules. Their rental equipment seems to be faulty,
we had one woman who often complained about leaking pressure and inflator
gauges and to her dismay got a different BC nearly every other day. One guy
lost his regulator in 6 m, only the mouthpiece remained between his teeth,
which made him abort the dive going to the surface. When his buddy pointed
that fact out to the guide, he too surfaced and checked the problem. Then
the whole group of experienced divers had to surface so that he can solve
the problem. He would not allow us to stay in 12 m on a beautiful reef with
no current waiting for him and the other guy. All the time they carried and
pulled a dive buoy to the surface  along with them. Most sites in the bay
offer nice coral gardens with plenty of good fishlife, in between however
you find big areas with rubble, purple anemones  and/or sea grass. These
places reach down to 16 m, most of the time you cruise around 8 to 12 m and
could be fun in good vis. A good excursion they offer is Mange Reef and
island, where they do a picnic on a beautiful sandy patch, no trees there
at all, stunning colours inside the lagoon. With Dhow that takes 1.5 to 2
hours one way, with wind and spray sometimes a wet and cold experience. 
Diving there shows you how much better it´s outside the bay. Healthy
coral reefs with an abundance of fishlife small and medium sized in good
vis are waiting for you there. Only one shark was cruising by.  Once only
could we go outside the bay to Dini Wall. The wall down to 26 m with
canyons and crevices  itself does not show much coral growth, all around
however you find big stuff. We had huge groupers, napoleon wrasse, a big
bunch of batfish, some tuna and jacks, 7 turtles all in great vis. Above us
passing by we encountered 9 blue marlin, swimming in a row, for me and the
dive guide a once in a lifetime experience. The next day we again tried to
get outside, no chance however with choppy seas and a strong wind blowing.
So we choose the edge of the bay with Pinnacle and Kinasi Wall, which both
proved to be superb sites, good vis, awesome topography, ideal to cruise up
and down into. So make sure, you choose the right season for this adventure
and insist on a good mixture of outer bay and inside dives, then Mafia is a
worthwhile dive destination if you prefer shallow dives to deep blue ones. 

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