Diving in East Africa does not enjoy the same level of organisation and safety across the board as it does in other parts of the world. Many of the dive operations down here are at best a little lax and at worst downright negligent. You should not assume the integrity of a dive operation based upon its size or any connection to a lodge or hotel.
All of the dive operations that we recommend we know personally and have dived with. Between us here at ATR we have over 500 dives in the region. We know our recommended dive schools to be operating within the guidelines required by PADI and to be good, reliable and honest people. Over the years we have also had incidents of decompression sickness which have required evacuation procedures to be initiated, so we have seen these guys in action when it really counts.
All of our recommended dive schools have PADI instructors on-site and hence can offer courses from Discover Scuba up to Dive Master. Guide prices and timescales can be seen in the table below.
Most schools will also be able to offer PADI speciality courses but you may need to book these in advance.
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If you are thinking of taking your Open Water course but you don’t want to spend your entire holiday in the classroom or the swimming pool it makes a lot of sense to take parts 1 & 2 of the course at home and then just part 3, the open water (sea) dives, when you are in the region. In total, this does work out as slightly more expensive but does give you more time on the beach.
Like anywhere in the world, all dive schools will require you to indemnify yourself against any accidents that may occur. They will also require you to produce evidence of your diving experience, either from your logbook or certification card. If you do not have these, you may be required to retake a try-dive or perform a skills test beforehand.
Almost all of the dive schools in the region are PADI certified but will recognise the qualifications of other organisations (NAUI, CMAS, BSAC, SSI etc) , You should refer to the website of either PADI or that of your organisation to ascertain how your level of qualification compares
The closest recompression chamber is in Mombasa on the mainland of Kenya which is about a half-hour flight from Pemba and Zanzibar and an hour from Mafia. The few times that we have heard of divers needing to use this facility, the feedback has been excellent. You should make sure that your travel insurance covers this eventuality.