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Mafia Island

With serene and picturesque white sandy beaches, Mafia also boasts a protected marine park that offers some of the worlds most magnificent diving and snorkelling.

Fast Facts

Major Attractions
  • Abundant sea life
  • Coral reefs
  • Lagoons
  • Coastal forest
Activities
  • Diving
  • Snorkeling
  • Fishing safari - Deep sea fishing
Size
  • 822 sq km(320sq miles), or 48kms long and 17kms wide at its widest point.
Location
  • 120kms south of Dar es Salaam and 20kms offshore from the eastern coastline.

ABOUT

Mafia Island and its surrounding archipelago has a great deal to offer as an unspoiled, little-visited alternative to other Indian Ocean locations around Zanzibar and along the coast.

Mafia provides excellent opportunities for diving and snorkeling, and for discovering deserted beaches and offshore islands with rich natural and historic interest.

The deeper channels around the islands are renowned for world-class deep sea fishing, and home to at least two greatly endangered species; the docile dugong (manatee or sea cow), is still thought to cruise between Mafia and the Rufiji River Delta, and the small islands around the archipelago remain a popular breeding ground for giant and green turtles.

These islands are an idyllic natural haven for birds and wildlife, with over 120 different species of birds sighted and recorded, (including five types of sunbird), and the whole area is best explored from the comfort of the deck of a traditional sailing dhow.

At the island centre is a cool pine forest, and the eastern coastal aspect feels quite wild and unkempt despite its diminutive size.

WILDLIFE 

The sea around Mafia Island hosts an outstanding mosaic of tropical marine habitat including coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangroves, inter-tidal flats reef flats, lagoons and coastal forest. These are nesting sites for Green and Hawksbill turtles while Leatherback, Olive Ridlely and Loggerhead also occur in Mafia. Sharks, barracuda, grouper, needlefish, moray eels and triggerfish are also prominent in these waters. Also Torpedo-shaped and robust yellow-fin tuna, cobia manta rays and sting rays, swordfish, black marlins and wahoo are Mafia Island wildlife seen in the Marine Park.

GEOGRAPHY

Mafia Island is a raised portion of the continental shelf, not a coral island. The soil of Mafia Island is mostly sandy and the terrain very flat. There is a ridge forming a backbone to the northern end but at its highest point it does not exceed 200 feet above sea level. Along this ridge there is firm and fertile clay soil and cultivation of annual crops. Several smaller islands and islets are scattered to the west and south fo the Mafia Islands. Natural vegetation on Mafia ranges from tidal mangrove thickets and scrubby coastal moorlands to palm-wooden grassland and lowland rainforest. Magnificent baobabs are prominent along with the native Albizia. Patches of coastal high forest remain in localities all over Mafia; one of the most picturesque, the Chunguruma Forest, is a dense tree canopy interlaced with palms, lianes and epiphytes and has an abundant floor covering of ferns.

CLIMATE

Temperatures are mild, even when we speak of the “hot” season, as the temperature in Mafia rarely exceeds 30°C. It is the humidity level that often causes visitors to feel they are hot, especially when the breeze drops and it is very calm.  Mafia has a relatively dry tropical climate with approximately 1,800 mm of rain each year divided into two seasons of “long” rains in late March-May and “short” rains in November-early December.

WHEN TO VISIT

The excellent visitor periods are August-October inclusive and early December-mid-March inclusive.

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Accommodation at Mafia Island

Mafia Lodge

Mafia Lodge

The warm, colourful waters of the Indian Ocean surrounding Mafia Island provide an ideal location for many sea activities. The large open restaurant, bar and lounge area have a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere.

Pole Pole 1

Pole Pole Resort

Pole Pole Resort is considered one of the most exclusive eco-resorts in the world and is renowned for its great cuisine, unpretentious and laid-back atmosphere and warm but discrete hospitality.

Optional Activities in Mafia Island