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KENYA is all about safaris and big game, but there are some national parks - marine parks and reserves - where the rangers wear fins and BCs, and carry computers rather than rifles.
A new book, The Dive Sites of Kenya and Tanzania including Pemba, Zanzibar and Mafia, should make Watamu and Shimoni as well known as Masai Mara and Serengeti. These are parks where the big game include white sharks and zambezis, mantas and eagles, sailfish and marlin.
The book aims to be a one-stop guide to the countries, their history and politics. It tells you how to get there, where to stay and eat; it gives advice on customs and practices, and what to do and see. In all these areas it is accurate and up to date, although it does not give any prices. And then theres the diving.
The author, Anton Koornhof from South Africa, has covered the coast from north to south, describing some 100 dive sites along the way. He uses a basic classification system, assessing sites according to the following: snorkel/dive, boat/shore, night/wreck/ reef, and level of dive. Each site has a rating from one star (poor) to five star (first class).
This is, of course, subjective, but my logbook record of dives on many of these sites generally agrees with him. Rather more patchy, however, is the description of sites. It is obvious that there are those the author knows very well and others where he has relied on descriptions from dive operators rather than first-hand experience. These are sometimes over-written.
That said, the book is written with enthusiasm and is full of useful information. There are chapters on diving conditions, the marine environment, underwater photography, and health and safety from DCI to triggerfish bites. Dive centres listed are mainly PADI, although the keen-eyed will spot the BSAC School in Watamu.
There are more than 150 photographs in the books 156 pages, ranging from Mount Kilimanjaro at dawn and market traders in Zanzibar town to the more expected turtles and morays and shoals of reef fish.
This is a lovely book to add to a collection and browse through, whether it be for divers winter dreaming or non-diving partners tropical holiday planning.
In the end, if you are planning an independent trip it would be very useful, but as virtually all diving is from hardboats run by dive centres, and they choose the sites you visit, a good dive brief will also give you all the information you need.
Marjolein Thrower

The Dive Sites of Kenya and Tanzania, New Holland Publishers 0171 258 1293. Softback £15.99

Divernet