Mafia Island – Your guide to African island bliss

14 May 2024

While you’ve no doubt heard of Zanzibar in East Africa, the small archipelago around Mafia Island, just 160km to its south, remains virtually unknown. Mafia is an exquisite Indian Ocean tropical island paradise that is perfect for deep sea fishing and scuba diving thanks to its pristine coral gardens and abundant aquatic life. The islanders are also friendly and welcoming, most being fishermen or farmers that grow coconut, paw-paw, rice and cassava. The island ambiance is delightfully relaxed and laid-back with a smattering of small, high-quality lodges. If you are looking for a luxurious and secluded tropical retreat read on to discover why Mafia Island is the ideal choice.

Boat of beach of Mafia Island

Where is Mafia Island

Mafia Island (394 km2) is located in the east coast of Tanzania opposite the delta of the Rufiji River. The Mafia archipelago in the Indian Ocean consists of one large island and several smaller islands, including Jibondo, Chole, Juani, Bwejuu, Mbarakuni, Shungumbili and Nyororo

The Mafia Island Marine Park

The Mafia Archipelago and the delta of the Rufiji River form one of the most fascinating marine ecosystems and coral reefs in the world. Covering a surface of 821 km2 the Mafia Island Marine Park was established as the first Marine Park in Tanzania, and was formed to protect the archipelago's reefs, so snorkelling and diving here ranks amongst the very best in the Indian Ocean.

The island’s rich scenic landscape is populated by large palm groves, baobabs, mangroves and fruit trees and the wildlife is just as varied with countless types of birds, monkeys, small antelopes, wild pigs, bush babies, and a small colony of hippos. With over 400 species of fish and an unparalleled diversity of hard and soft corals the island’s warm Indian Ocean waters can only be described as an underwater wonderland.

Getting to Mafia Island

Mafia isn't the easiest place to get to - but then again, that's the point! The best way to get to the island is by light aircraft and with spectacular views of the African bush and coastline, the flight alone is a wonderful experience. Coastal Aviation and Auric Air both offer multiple daily flights, which take 30-50 minutes from Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar, or one of the game parks such as the Nyerere National Park.

How far is Mafia Island from Zanzibar

The distance between Zanzibar City and Mafia Island is 198 km. It’s a 30-to-40-minute flight from Zanzibar or Dar es Salaam.

Best time to visit Mafia Island

Like the mainland Mafia Island enjoys two rainy seasons from November to December and March to May. October to February offers the best visibility while June to September offers cooler weather.

Where to stay on Mafia Island

There are very few hotels here, which only adds to the attraction of Mafia as a tropical island holiday destination for those looking for remote and authentic island vibes with the promise of adventure.

If a luxury stay is the preferred choice:

Pole Pole, Mafia -Luxury beach Lodge 7 bungalows

Pole Pole is a stylish, intimate beach lodge that's well off the beaten track. With gorgeous private balconies and sumptuous day beds, spending time immersed in nature with a cocktail as the sun sets is one of life’s many pleasures. Spending long lazy days lounging by the lodge’s sparkling swimming pool is a joy while sailing in a traditional dhow to one of the pristine sandbanks in the bay is just one of the many delightful excursions on offer.

If remote living appeals:

Chole Mjini, Mafia - Luxury eco lodge 7 tree houses

If you like your modern conveniences, Chole Mjini is not for you! This is treehouse living at its best where you can completely disconnect from modern life and reconnect with nature. This unique eco-lodge offers accommodation in 7 open fairytale tree houses and a complete retreat from the pace of modern life… no electricity or running water, no radio or TV, no wireless, just the natural ebb and flow of authentic African island living.

Things to see and do on Mafia Island

The warm waters of the inland bays and lagoons are a heavenly haven for both expert and beginner scuba divers as well as those simply wishing to snorkel. The reefs of the archipelago offer a stunningly beautiful and kaleidoscopic variety of marine life with over 50 types of corals and 400 species of fish so far identified. This secluded paradise also offers unparallelled fishing and depending on the season, you can even swim with whale sharks, spot humpback whales, and witness the magic of turtles nesting.

Typical Mafia Island activities include guided excursions, picnics, cycling adventures, scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking, sailing, fishing, and windsurfing.

As an unspoiled, little-visited alternative to other Indian Ocean locations Mafia Island is a unique and exotic holiday destination as part of a safari package or simply a place to unwind and get away from the daily, modern, and busy world. Contact us today and we’ll create a bespoke itinerary that exceeds your wildest African island dreams.

Call UK 01233 80 27 27 or visit our website


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