Best Places to See Dolphins in Zanzibar


Dolphins are some of the most adorable sea creatures. There is something about their playful nature and intelligence that has captured the hearts of humans for ages. And what could be better than getting to swim with them in the wild?  

But have you ever thought that you can be able to see them when visiting Africa? Many people are unaware that dolphins can be found in Tanzania. When most people are planning for a Tanzania Safari they focus on seeing wildlife, but did you know that you can also swim with dolphins in the wild in Zanzibar? Zanzibar is a beautiful island located off the coast of Tanzania, in East Africa.

If you are looking to add Zanzibar Dolphin Tour to your Tanzania safari adventure, the island is home to pods of dolphins. There are a couple of places on the island’s southern coast where you can spot them in their natural habitat, but they are more prevalent in Zanzibar’s protected marine conservation areas. Kizimkazi, Mnemba Island Reef, and Fumba Peninsula in Menai Bay are the best places to get an amazing dolphin experience in Zanzibar. Thanks to the marine conservation efforts in these areas, dolphins can get plenty of fish and squids to feed on.

Kizimkazi Dolphins           

Kizimkazi, a village in Zanzibar, has traditionally been a popular spot for local fishermen. It is also one of the top places to watch dolphins on the island all year round. Situated on the southern edge of the island, Kizimkazi is a favorite social and hunting joint for dolphins. The waters around the shores of the Kizimkazi fishing village are crystal clear, making it easy to spot wild dolphins swimming.

Small boats ferry visitors to Kizimkazi coastal shoreline. There are several spots where dolphins are known to frequent at dawn. Once you get to these areas, you can watch Kizimkazi dolphins up close from the boat if you don’t want to get into the water.

For water sport enthusiasts, swimming close to dolphins in the wild is truly a joyous experience. And if you are looking for a bit more of a challenge, grab your snorkeling gear and get into the water. Snorkeling is a great way of encountering dolphins in Kizimkazi as they sometimes swim too close to snorkelers.

Mnemba Island Dolphins

Another excellent spot to enjoy a dolphin trip in Zanzibar is around the shores of Mnemba Island, a small, privately owned island.

With blue clear waters and an abundance of marine life, snorkeling and diving in Mnemba Island is a magical experience. Mnemba Reef, a protected marine area, offers plenty of places to see dolphins playing, hunting and feeding.

Whether you are accessing the reef from Matemwe or Nungwi, you are likely to encounter dolphins during your boat ride.

Mnemba Island dolphin trip gives visitors an opportunity to encounter diverse marine life such as the huge green turtles, dolphins, and migrating humpback whales which occasionally swim and dive past them.

Sometimes referred to as the Mnemba Atoll, this is the perfect place to observe dolphins as they leap out of the water and listen to them whistling and clicking.

Menai Bay Dolphins

In Zanzibar Archipelago, dolphins can also be sighted in Menai Bay. Straddling 470km2 Menai Bay Conservation Area features diverse and beautiful coral reefs surrounded by mangrove forest along the shorelines.

Besides Kizimkazi village shorelines, which lie on the eastern section of Menai Bay, there are a couple of other places across the bay waters where Bottle – nose dolphins and Spinner dolphins can be viewed.

Dolphins are commonly seen in the area around the shores of the uninhabited islands surrounding the bay and along the Fumba Beach Peninsula.   

What are the Types of Dolphins in Zanzibar?

There are three main species of dolphins that you can see in Zanzibar’s shores, which includes the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, the spinner dolphin, and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin.

Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops aduncus)

This is the most common dolphin you will come across in Zanzibar waters. It has curved, thick and short mouth and is the fastest among the three species. They can be seen in large pods both in Kizimkazi and Mnemba Island.

Spinner Dolphins (Stenella longirostris)

 Spinner dolphins are slender and have a long mouth. They are experts in spinning and can twist several times in the air in a single jump hence the name Spinner dolphins. They are also smaller and live in smaller groups than Bottlenose dolphins.

Humpback Dolphins (Souse plumbea)

Humpback dolphins are the rarest of the three key species found in the coastlines of Southern Zanzibar. As their name suggests these oceanic dolphins have a hump at their back in between the dorsal fins.

Other Species

Although they are very rare to find  Rizzo’s dolphins (Grampus griseus), Frazer’s dolphins (Lagenodelphis hosei), Pan-Tropical Spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata) and Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates)  can sometimes be sighted by surfers, sailors, divers, and snorkelers in Zanzibar.

When Can You See Dolphins in Zanzibar?

Zanzibar dolphins are best seen in the early morning hours (6-8 A.m.) when they come out in huge numbers to hunt.

After breakfast, they take time to play and interact with each other before returning to their hideouts deep in the ocean.

Although they can also be spotted occasionally during the rest of the day and in evening hours, chances of seeing them during these times are less.

Also, unlike whales, there is no specific dolphin-watching season in Zanzibar, as dolphins can be seen throughout the year. However, the drier season (June-September, January-March) is considered the best time to watch dolphins. This is because dolphins enjoy riding on ocean waves and so it is easier to spot them from a distance as they swim and jump when the waters are calmer.

Can you swim with dolphins in Zanzibar?

Yes, it is possible to swim in the company of wild dolphins in Zanzibar waters. The most popular areas to enjoy dolphin swimming adventure are Mnemba Island and the shores of Kizimkazi fishing village.

While dolphins are excellent swimmers, if you are lucky enough you can swim close to them.

Since dolphins are quite calm, it is considerably safe to go for a dolphin-watching excursion in Zanzibar. To get the best swimming with dolphins experience don’t disturb them, avoid splashing water, chasing or touching them. Once they feel threatened, they swim away.

How Much Does it Cost to Swim with Dolphins in Zanzibar?

The cost of a dolphin swimming tour in Zanzibar is determined by the number of people in a group and your pickup base.

Usually, the price of a dolphin trip covers transfer charges to and from the location of the visitor to the dolphin spotting point, boat ride, rental gear (flippers, mask and snorkels) and includes snorkeling as well.

How Long Do Dolphin Tours in Zanzibar Last?

On average, dolphin trips in Zanzibar last for 2-3 hours. Depending on the spot, dolphins are located on a particular day. You can see them just after a few minutes, but sometimes sighting them takes a bit longer.

Although there is a high probability of encountering these marine mammals during most of the trips, there is no 100% guarantee that you will see them on every tour. They are wild and can sometimes change their location and pattern.

Is Dolphin Tour on your list of adventures in Africa?

The Zanzibar dolphin safari is a unique opportunity for those who want to watch and swim with Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins and the Spinner dolphins in their natural habitat

In addition to dolphin watching, a day in this section of the Indian Ocean also means you will have ample time to see the picturesque reefs of Mnemba Atoll Marine Reserve and Menai Bay while enjoying snorkeling and diving. You also get an opportunity to see a variety of other aquatic species, such as whales, turtles, and different fish species.

Do not let any stone unturned while in Tanzania, our Travel Experts will be happy to assist in planning for your lifetime adventure 

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