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March 16th 2015
Published: March 16th 2015
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I remember learning to dive on Mafia, a smaller island of the archipelago, about 4 years ago. It was incredible, but I was completely new to diving at that point, so perhaps I got the impression that the whole ocean was filled with colourful corals, beautiful fish, and giant whale sharks. I have since dived elsewhere, and can now fully appreciate the Zanzibar reefs. A typical day’s diving can include seeing turtles, stingrays, lionfish, nudibranchs, innumerable coral fish, forests of different corals, and much more. Even snorkellers often see octopus, squid and dolphins as well as hundreds of multi-coloured and patterned reef fish. Some of the most impressive - Google them - include the juvenile emperor angelfish, moorish idols, oriental sweetlips, juvenile spotted sweetlips and regal angelfish. Moorish idols, two-bar anenome fish and palette surgeonfish represent the cast of Finding Nemo. The best place to see all of these as a snorkeller is on a reef surrounding a private island called Mnemba. Think of the most stereotypical travel-agent-window desert island image you can conjure up, add to that a BBC Documentary on tropical fish, and you are picturing Mnemba. It’s easy to see why so many people come to Zanzibar to dive, and why we don’t have a hard time convincing non-divers to come and snorkel. Even my boyfriend’s mother, who is somewhat apprehensive of open water, declared that the snorkelling trip we forced her into was the highlight of her holiday here. A couple of days ago I swam with dolphins. This sounds a lot more relaxing than it actually was - we spotted some dolphins, everyone began shoving fins onto their feet and masks and snorkels on their faces before flopping off the boat with giant splashes and plenty of salt water going into eyes and noses. After a few minutes paddling and desperately staring through the clear blue water at empty expanses of sand, I spot a dolphin. Adrenalin, excitement and joy flood through me, and I suddenly feel as natural in the water as the dolphin, floating above it as it swims gently along. Approximately a minute later, my lungs are almost bursting and my legs are cramping with the effort of keeping up. My snorkel appears to be getting smaller as I demand more air from it; I pant and thrash as the dolphins (there are three now) effortlessly glide. They are so powerful and so well adapted that they look as if they are hardly moving. The experience was incredible, but it reminds me just how much we humans are simply visitors to the underwater world.


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