Dawn patrol- that’s what the instructors call it when a dive leaves as the sun rises, and usually the Mnemba trip is done as a dawn patrol! You would think that it would be used in a sentence such as “ugh- I have a dawn patrol tomorrow” but it never is. Our PADI Instructors and Divemasters always jostle for a place leading diving and snorkelling to the Mnemba Marine Reserve as they know they are in for a great day of scuba diving – also they get to eat as many Zanzibari donuts (Swahili name mandazi) as they like.
After a quick breakfast of sweet tea, fruit and pastries everyone piles in to the bus for the 90 minute drive to the northern part of Zanzibar Island where Mnemba sits like a jewel in an azure blue sea.
As the sun rises over Paje beach the bus is already driving through the mango and palm trees, the famous Jozani forest Red Colobus monkeys are often spotted leaping over head. The bus trip seems to pass quite quickly –so many new things to see, combined with the steady patter of jokes and wisecracks from PADI pro Didi means that in no time you arrive in Matamwe beach, directly opposite Mnemba Island.
On arrival the fishermen are already back from checking their nets and they are ready to supplement their income by helping us load our gear on to the traditional boats that we hire for the trip.
The first drift dive is a coral covered wall dive. The Mnemba Marine Park is home to a myriad of marine life, some highlights that you can hope to see are dolphins, green turtles, reef sharks, octopus, moray eels and if you are very sharp eyed maybe a sea-horse.
Our second dive is a sandy bottom dive with where blue spotted stingrays abound and our dive guides make a game of sneaking up as close as they can to groups of garden eels sticking their heads out of the sand. To be honest, the eels seem way sharper than the guides and we never get that close!
We shelter behind the island itself for delicious lunch of beans in a coconut sauce and chicken served taco style in a chapati. Hopefully this should replenish you enough to manage a last snorkel in the crystal clear water. Our theory is that the makers of Finding Nemo drew their inspiration from our lunch spot as you can expect to see plenty of clownfish and blue tangs (Nemo and Dory!!)
After lunch we potter slowly back to shore and head towards home, bidding goodbye to the local fishermen and the beautiful Mnemba island! Until the next trip!