My husband and I took a snorkeling trip to Mnemba Atoll with Zanzibar Watersports today. Since we only had 2 full days in Zanzibar, I wanted to plan this trip ahead of our arrival to make the most of our limited time. We chose Zanzibar Watersports based on the positive Tripadvisor reviews and the company's responsiveness to my emails. Unfortunately, the company did not live up to its reviews.
Over email, we scheduled the trip for yesterday. We woke up early and were ready to go at 8:15 am as instructed, but at that time a company representative arrived and informed us that due to rough water the previous day, they were postponing our trip until the following day (today). We were annoyed, but decided to alter our plans because we did not have much of a choice at that point. In retrospect, we suspect that the company canceled our initial trip because they did not have enough people for the initial day and they wanted to consolidate 2 days worth of trips into one. It turns out that the day of our initial trip was much calmer and sunnier than today. I would not have minded the postponement as much if they had just been honest and if they had contacted us in advance to let us know about the change. Since they picked us up from our hotel, they certainly knew where we were staying and could have called the hotel to let us know that the trip was being postponed. They also could have emailed us since we had been in contact via email.
We woke up again early this morning, only to be picked up 20 mins late from our hotel. Furthermore, we were lied to once again. We had been told that we would be going on a Seafari with a stop at a beach island if there were more than 7 people on the trip. Our trip had 11 people, yet we did not get to do the Seafari. Instead, we spent the entire time on the boat, and what a long day it turned out to be!
We got on the boat at 9:30 am and did not return to Zanzibar WaterSports until 4 pm. Two-thirds of that time was spent in transit. We were told that the trip to Mnemba Atoll would take 1.5 hours maximum. However, in reality it took 2 hours on the way there and 2.25 hours on the way back. While traveling in a dhow may be the authentic Zanzibarian way to travel, it is definitely not the most efficient way. At some points the water was so shallow that we had to creep along and even then we ran aground a few times. Given the distance from Nungwi/Kendwa to Mnemba, I highly recommend traveling by speed boat or semi-inflatable rubber duck like the ones offered by Spanish Dancers Diving or East Africa Diving.
Given the time it took to get to the atoll, we were one of the last boats to arrive and it was initially very crowded in the area. We only got to snorkel for about 30-40 minutes at each of 2 sites and we spent 40 minutes eating lunch on the boat in between sites.
The snorkeling was disappointing as well. Although Zanzibar Watersports cannot be held completely accountable for the snorkeling conditions, their guides only contributed to the bleaching of the coral by standing on the coral with their fins on!
Furthermore, it was hard to actually see much because the company did not provide any defogging solution for their masks, which were therefore constantly fogged. When I complained about this, I was told to spit in my mask, which is not only unsanitary, but did not even work!
Unfortunately, the trip did not get any better from there. After the long trip back, we just wanted to get back to our hotel ASAP, but when we got back to the company headquarters, we were informed that the company only has 1 vehicle and that it was currently being used, so we would have to wait for a taxi. Although the taxi only took 15 mins to arrive and was provided at no additional cost to us, it only made a long day even longer and served to underscore our negative impressions of the company.
In summary, if you are planning to go the Mnemba Atoll from Nungwi or Kendwa, take a speed boat rather than a dhow and don't use Zanzibar Watersports because they are dishonest and will tell you whatever if takes to sell you a trip and then fail to follow through on their promises.
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