Diving in Tofo versus Vilanculos
Versions Française ici.
First of all, I’m the owner of a dive centre in Vilanculos, so you know where I’m coming from and don’t read any further if you think I’m writing this page to get more business.
In the last years, I have answered the same question hundreds of times, and with this page, I’m hoping to buy myself some time. It’s really nice to live in paradise, but much less if you spend all your time in front of your computer.
So, is it better to dive in Tofo/Zavora or Vilanculos?
"I want to see whale sharks and manta rays"
Mozambique built its dive reputation around the two biggest fishes in the world, not counting the very rare small eye stingray. And these are mostly found around Tofo and Zavora. We haven’t seen one whale shark around Vilanculos for years, and very few manta rays on Two Mile reef (the reef where we dive most of the time). Choose Tofo or Zavora.
"I like to dive deep"
In Vilanculos, we only have deep sites in the Cabo São Sebastião area. Unfortunately, we rarely go there, because we need excellent weather and only experienced divers on the boat. Choose Tofo or Zavora.
"I want to dive three times a day"
In Vilanculos, we go for a full day, the dive sites are far away, we do long dives, but have only time for 2 dives a day, with a nice stop on the Bazaruto Archipelago between the dives. In Tofo, the dive sites are much closer, you can have the chance to dive 3 times a day. Choose Tofo – not sure about Zavora.
"I like clear visibility"
Then choose the Red Sea. Neither Tofo nor Vilanculos can guarantee clear water. We have quite a lot of plankton here, which is why we get the big fishes and such a steaming underwater life. Visibility can be from not dive friendy to 20 meters (when you are very lucky). Vilanculos is usually a little bit clearer.
"I don’t want to spend too much money"
Again, the reefs in Vilanculos are far away. All operators charge about $80 to go to the Bazaruto Archipelago. We charge on top $35 per dive (still a few more miles to go), total $150. And the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park charges about $20 per person per day extra. Moreover, Tofo being a world known tourist destination, most of the dive centres launch 3 or 4 boat a day, 2 or 3 times a day, imagine the income while we have only one boat with one launch a day to cover our fix expenses. Choose Tofo.
Then why diving in Vilanculos?
Because you are more into tropical diving, warmer water, corals and colours. The reefs are pristine here, the diversity of corals (the base of the food chain) induces the diversity of fishes. Researches established that 75% of the species of the Indian Ocean have been found on Two Mile reef…
Because you like quiet dives. Most of your dives are very shallow (20 meters maximum), you don’t need a negative entry, we mostly swim with the current. Moreover, warmer water and shallow dives allow longer dives (up to 60 minutes if you are good on air).
Because you want to see Bazaruto, the Jewel of the Indian Ocean, a taste of Namibia surrounded in incredible waters. Bazaruto is one of the highlights of Mozambique, many travellers go to Mozambique just to climb the dune, which is what you will be able to do for your lunch break
Because you like a very peaceful marine life. There are so few divers per day on such a big site as Two Mile reef, that the marine life is undisturbed, and you can easily be at touching distance from curious turtles, rays and massive groupers. The reef fish are so peaceful that they unwind a few centimetres in front of your mask.
Because you want a chance to see a dugong. Nothing guaranteed here, we sometimes have resident ones, and in this case, we sometimes see them every day.
Because you don’t like crossing the surf. The boat launch can be sometimes impressive in Tofo – adrenaline guaranteed. In Vilanculos, you just walk in flat water to the boat, jump on it, make you comfortable and off we go.
What about the whales?
From Tofo or Zavora, you see them from the beach. Incredible. From Vilanculos, you see them while you go diving, on a regular basis. Season is July to October. Diving with them is a question of luck, but on both sites we feel it happens more and more.
I heard about San Sebastian ...
Yes, that’s where we have our deep sites. Honestly don’t expect to go there, excellent weather and divers on board needed. But then, it’s like Tofo, with clearer water, more corals, more diversity.
So Vilanculos or Tofo?
If you spend more than 7 days diving, try to do both, you will get the best of Mozambique. Transport can be arranged for $170 for a vehicle, 4 hours, or if you are more adventurous, $10 for public transport (count 7 hours). Otherwise, I believe you now have enough information to make your choice.
Any comment or question, feel free to write me…