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Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (4)

A secluded gem nestled in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, Mnemba Island, beckons travelers seeking stunning snorkeling & diving or an exclusive retreat off the northeastern coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania. This island is a must-add to your Zanzibar itinerary!

This private island, situated just a short boat ride away from the main island, is renowned for its pristine white sand beaches and vibrant coral reefs. Home to the luxurious andBeyond, the resort offers a limited number of secluded bandas, providing an intimate and exclusive experience for discerning guests.

Surrounded by crystal-clear turquoise waters, Mnemba Island is a haven for marine enthusiasts. The island is located within a marine conservation area, ensuring the protection of its rich underwater ecosystem.

Snorkeling and scuba diving reveal a kaleidoscope of marine life, with colorful coral formations, tropical fish, and even encounters with gentle sea turtles. The commitment to marine conservation extends to the island’s role as a vital nesting site for green turtles, contributing to the preservation of these endangered creatures.

It’s no surprise that a visit to Mnemba Island make our best things to do in Zanzibar list!

Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (9)

Best months to visit Mnemba Island

The best time to visit Mnemba Island in Zanzibar typically falls during the dry seasons, when the weather is pleasant, and the sea conditions are favorable for outdoor activities such as snorkeling and diving. Zanzibar experiences two main seasons:

  • Dry Season (June to October):
    • This period is characterized by lower humidity, minimal rainfall, and cooler temperatures.
    • The weather is generally clear and sunny, making it an ideal time for water-based activities.
    • Sea conditions are calm, offering excellent visibility for snorkeling and diving.
    • June to October is considered the peak tourist season in Zanzibar, including Mnemba Island, so it’s advisable to book accommodations well in advance.

 

  • Short Dry Season (December to February):
    • This season is also relatively dry, with warm temperatures and less humidity.
    • While there might be occasional short rains, they are usually not enough to significantly impact travel plans.
    • This period is another good time to visit Mnemba Island, with pleasant weather for beach activities and marine excursions.

*It’s important to note that the months between March and May constitute the long rainy season in Zanzibar. During this time, there is a higher chance of heavy rainfall and storms, which can affect sea conditions and limit outdoor activities. Therefore, you should avoid planning a visit to Mnemba Island during these months if you want to enjoy the best possible weather.*

Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (1)
Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (2)

Getting to Mnemba Island

If you’re staying at andBeyond Mnemba Island (the only accomodation on the island), they will arrange transportation for you from either Stone Town or the airport.

A stay at andBeyond was way out of our budget on this trip, so we just took a few hour trip to the Mnemba Island Atoll for some stunning snorkeling.

Our hotel arranged a tour for us including a driver + boat trip. We paid around $60/person for our tour.

If you’re planning to visit on your own, the easiest way to get Mnemba Island is to drive to Matemwe Beach. There you will find countless small boats waiting to take people on dolphin tours or snorkeling at Mnemba Atoll. *see our photos below*

Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (5)
Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (6)

Snorkeling & Diving at Mnemba Atoll

Snorkeling at Mnemba Atoll in Zanzibar is a captivating experience and was some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever seen! We had the opportunity to explore some of the most pristine coral reefs and marine life in the Indian Ocean. Mnemba Atoll’s protected marine reserve status ensures that the underwater ecosystem remains vibrant and diverse.

Coral Reefs:

The atoll is surrounded by coral reefs. The coral formations provide a habitat for a wide variety of marine life, making it an ideal spot for snorkelers and divers to witness the beauty and diversity of the underwater world.

Marine Life:

We encountered a rich array of marine life while snorkeling. There’s the possibility of seeing colorful reef fish, sea turtles, rays, and even larger species such as dolphins (more on the dolphins later). The clear, turquoise waters enhance visibility, allowing for a close-up view of the underwater inhabitants. Even on an overcast day, we found the visibility to be excellent!

Guided Snorkeling Tours:

Many resorts and tour operators in Zanzibar, especially those in proximity to Mnemba Atoll, offer guided snorkeling tours. Experienced guides accompany snorkelers, pointing out interesting marine life and ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience.

Equipment Rental:

If you’re not traveling with your snorkeling gear, most snorkeling excursions at Mnemba Atoll provide the necessary equipment, including masks, fins, and snorkels. We opted to bring our own masks and snorkels because we don’t like sharing.

Scuba Diving:

We were planning to go scuba diving in Zanzibar, but we ended up running out of time during our trip. Here are some dive centers that were recommended to us by other divers –

Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (4)
Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (3)

Cost of visiting Mnemba Atoll

As mentioned above, numerous tours are available for you to explore. Opting not to make reservations through your resort and instead approaching a local by their boat is likely to result in a better deal. Prices for tours arranged through a tour company start at approx. $40 for a half-day snorkeling excursion in Mnemba Atoll and dolphin watching.

Dolphin watching & swimming with dolphins

While this is an extremely popular activity near Mnemba Island and in other areas of Zanzibar, it is a bit controversial. The manager from our hotel let us know that most of the dolphin tours are quite unethical. This is because there are often many boats chasing the dolphins so people can jump in and swim with them. Unfortunately, this puts a lot of stress on the dolphins.

Swimming with dolphins was at the top of my bucket list, but I didn’t want to support the unethical behavior of chasing the dolphins. My husband and I decided that we’d only swim with the dolphins if there were very few boats and we saw the dolphins along our route heading to Mnemba Island.

Luck was on our side because it was a rainy day and lots of tourists weren’t going on the boat trip. We decided to go anyway. Once we started heading toward Mnemba Island there were about 40 dolphins that decided to join us! Calmly, we jumped off the boat and swam with them for 5-10 minutes until they decided to move along. It was a truly magical experience and I’m so glad we did it.

If you are considering doing a dolphin watching tour or swimming with them, please don’t go on a day where there are tons of boats and people jumping off everywhere. Visit on a rainy day or during off season and see if the dolphins approach your boat on their own.

Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (11)
Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (10)

Can I walk on Mnemba Island?

Access to the island is restricted to guests staying at the andBeyond resort. If you are not a guest at andBeyond Mnemba Island, you will not be able to walk on the island. This resort offers a high level of privacy and seclusion for their guests, and the island itself is known for its conservation efforts and protected marine environment.

Staying on Mnemba Island

andBeyond Mnemba Island is an exclusive and luxurious private island resort. The resort offers intimate and exclusive accommodation in the form of beachfront bandas. These are traditional, thatched-roof cottages with a rustic yet elegant design. The bandas provide a secluded and romantic setting with direct access to the beach.

The resort is known for its emphasis on privacy and exclusivity (you even have a private butler). With only 12 bandas on the property, guests can enjoy a tranquil and secluded environment. It’s truly an ideal destination for honeymooners and those seeking a romantic getaway.

andBeyond Mnemba Island is involved in marine conservation projects, including the protection of sea turtles and other marine species. The surrounding waters are part of a marine conservation area.

The resort provides exquisite dining experiences, offering a variety of fresh and locally inspired dishes. Meals are often served on the beach or in a romantic setting, enhancing the overall guest experience.

Amenities include in-room massage, yoga classes, dhow cruises, a PADI dive center, and more.

Prices start from $2,150/person per night.

Fun fact:

This resort is frequently visited by celebrities including Bill Gates, Mick Jagger, Naomi Campbell, and many more.

Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (8)
Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (7)

Tips for your visit to Mnemba Atoll

  • Pack sunscreen, a hat, insect repellent, and a towel. Don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning landscapes and colorful marine life. We brought our GoPro with the dome case and shot some awesome photos and video!
  • If you plan to go dolphin watching, be mindful of ethical considerations and choose operators that follow guidelines for responsible dolphin encounters.
  • Mnemba Atoll is home to diverse marine life. Respect the natural habitat and avoid any actions that could disturb or harm the wildlife.

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Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (1)
Mnemba Island, Zanzibar (2)

Hi! I'm Carrie Salter, a travel blogger originally from the USA, but now traveling and living abroad full time. I share travel guides, travel tips, and inspiration from around the world!

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