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We spent three days diving on Mnemba with OneOcean in August 2011 and here is my review. I postyed this on Trip Advisor but having just found ScubaBoard I think this is a better place to post it.
We were based in Matemwe at Kasha Boutique Hotel, which was fabulous and beautifully quiet and private but there is nothing to do there besides dive or snorkel and enjoy the nice hotel environs. The food was excellent. To walk on the beach, you have to go down the road to the adjacent hotel, which was where OneOcean picked us up and dropped us off.
Mnemba atoll is fabulous diving! We had only have 12 – 15 dives each, so we don’t have a lot to compare it to, but Mnemba was FAR better diving than the Big Island. Many more fish and many more varieties of fish. We easily saw hundreds of fish – multiple schools -- at a glance. On every dive we saw numerous other critters such as turtles, octopus, groupers, eels (easily seen), sting rays, flounder, lion fish (many), and others. I would go back here for diving in a second!
The weather was windy, the sea was choppy (no whitecaps) and there were strong currents at the 18m we reached (though nothing that even new divers like us couldn't handle).
OneOcean as a dive company is very good, but I do have some concerns. Chief among these is their boats. We dove three days, one day was on a wooden dhow, comfortable and enough room for the divers and snorkelers. There was a canvas top for sun protection and a ladder for getting back onto the boat.
On two days we were in a dinghy, a rubber boat (they called it) which was maybe 6 x 12 feet or so (I am estimating). Ugh, I would not want to do this again. No sun protection, and no ladder (you have to haul yourself in over the side after doffing your weight belt and BCD). Sorry, but I am of an age and size where this is not fun. The worst part for me were the trips from shore to the atoll and back. Although it is a relatively short distance (a mile or two?) it involved a high-speed run (maybe 30 knots?) while sitting on the side (gunwale) of the dinghy, and holding on for dear life as we bounced across the waves. Falling off that boat at high speed would be very dangerous, I am surprised they used this for water transportation. I was not in fear for my life and limb, but I was definitely concerned. I should say that the younger people seemed to enjoy this ride, but I certainly did not.
The dinghy was very crowded, maybe 12 – 15 people and often there was 6 inches or more of water in the bottom. It was never in danger of floundering, but the staff were always monitoring the water level. When we signed up for the third day of diving, we were assured that it would be on the dhow, not the dinghy, but that turned out to not be the case. Their web site certainly does not mention you might be in a crowded dinghy (it shows pictures of some very good-looking boats, all with sun protection and all with ladders).
OneOcean staff were on the whole good dive guides. They prepared the equipment well, showed us its operation pretty well, and gave decent dive briefings (kind of hard to do when you’re bouncing around in a small dinghy and all you want to do is get in the dang water!). There were no moorings at the dive sites, so recovery was via inflating a long balloon which marked our position for the boat or dinghy to retrieve us. This system was really not adequately explained prior to beginning the first dive, and I was confused about what to do when I came up before the others in my group. Was I supposed to swim for the boat? I couldn’t see the boat, so I just hung on and that turned out to be the right thing to do. (NOTE TO SELF: make sure you know the recovery system before entering the water).
On the whole a great experience – with reservations as discussed. We paid $125 per person per day including equipment. There was a small discount because we dove multiple days in a row.