Mafia Island

Mafia Island

Mafia Island

Islands, Marine Parks and Reserves 394 km² Mafia Island, Pwani

Mafia Island (394 km2) is located in the east coast of Tanzania opposite the delta of the Rufiji River. The 20 kilometres wide stretch of water between the delta and the island is called the Mafia Channel. Mafia Island is part of a small Tanzania’s Mafia archipelago in the Indian Ocean   consists of one large island and several smaller islands, including Jibondo, Chole, Juani, Bwejuu, Mbarakuni, Shungumbili and Nyororo. Some of which are inhabited. The main town on Mafia is Kilindoni on the west coast. In the south beaches include secluded Ras Kisimani, just across from Bwejuu Island and Utende. On the east coast is Chole Bay, Mafia's protected deep-water anchorage and original harbour. The bay is studded with islets, sandbanks and beaches, and is protected from the east by coral reefs and Juani Island. 

The island lies across the trade routes from the Gulf and has seen Egyptian, Omani, Greco-Roman, Chines, Portuguese, English and German occupation, and has had a prominent place in the history of the East Coast of Africa, as it was a safe haven for ships to stop for water and for repairs. The Mafia Archipelago hosts antiquities dating back to the Eleventh Century, including ruins at Kisimani Mafia, Kanga, Kua on Juani Island and Chole Island.

The atmosphere of all the islands in Mafia is one of adventure: days are spent fishing or exploring exposed sand bars and untouched reefs, however the main appeal for many visitors is that it remains locked in a time warp of the early 20th Century.

Surrounded by a protected marine park, the diving, fishing and snorkeling here are the best in the entire region. Mafia is truly an excellent destination for those wanting to spend a bit of time in the underwater world and interested in nature and outdoor activities. Known for it’s location of the migratory Whale Sharks, spotting these magnificent creatures is an unforgettable experience of a lifetime.

The atmosphere of all the islands is one of adventure: days are spent fishing or exploring exposed sand bars and untouched reefs. Perhaps best for those mad keen on making diving the central focus of their Tanzania holiday.

Mafia is undoubtedly the best dive location in Tanzania. It’s a small haven that has a lot to offer and, quite exquisitely, is also suitable for less experienced divers. The reefs of the archipelago offer a staggeringly beautiful and varied display of marine life. The diversity of animal and plant life is hard to match, with over 50 types of corals and 400 species of fish so far identified. On top of that, Mafia offers one of the world’s best opportunities for snorkeling with whale sharks!

Mafia Island Marine Park

The marine park at Mafia Island extends over 822 km2, with more than 75% of it below the high-water mark. The area hosts an outstanding mosaic of tropic marine habitats including coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, and inter- tidal flats. Two species of sea turtle use Mafia’s beaches as nesting grounds and the area has been recognized internationally as a critical site for biodiversity. 

Several sites of historic ruins lie within the marine park area, some dating back to the C13th. Mafia Island’s separation from the mainland and its freedom from industrial development have ensured that its surrounding waters are some of the least contaminated in Tanzania. The marine park area has national importance as one of the few remaining reef complexes within Tanzania’s coastal waters in relatively untouched condition.

Marine Parks and Reserves are created as an important tool for conservation and tourism in Tanzania and worldwide. With the two, it is our responsibility to always balance them for the best of both present and future generations.

Mafia Islands Marine Reserves

  • Shungi Mbili Island Marine Reserve
  • Mbarakuni Island Marine Reserve
  • Nyororo Island Marine Reserve

Mafia Island

How do you get to Mafia Island?

To reach mafia one no longer sails as the first option, but rather take a flight in light aircraft from Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar, or one of the game parks such as the Nyerere National Park. Coastal aviation and auric air both offer multiple daily flights, which take approximately 30-50 minutes.  The experience is fantastic, with great views of the African bush and coastline.

How far is Mafia Island from Zanzibar?

The distance between Zanzibar City and Mafia Island is 198 km. It takes roughly 30 to 40 minutes flight from Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam respectively

Best time to visit Mafia Island

Mafia Island enjoys two rainy seasons, similar to the mainland. In November and December and March to May.

  • The first best time to visit is from October to February offering the best visibility
  • The second-best time is June to September as it is the coolest time.

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