The Mafia Archipelago is located 25 km off the Tanzanian coast, and includes Mafia and Chole islands, Juani and Jibondo as well as a series of smaller atolls and islets. The name Mafia probably derives either from the Arabic “morfiyeh”, which means “group” or “archipelago”, or from the Swahili “mahali pa afya” which means “a healthy home”.
It is renowned for the Marine Park which offers intact coral gardens, a great variety of tropical fish, extraordinary places where you can dive considered among the best in East Africa. Very important is also the constant presence of whale sharks which attract visitors from all over the world.
Mafia: how to get there and where to stay
It can be reached by flights from Zanzibar (about 45 minutes by flight) and from Dar es Salaam (30 minutes by flight).
Mafia is much less tourist than the more mundane Zanzibar. It offers only a handful of lodges on the island, but unlike the more exclusive Pemba you can find facilities here even at cheaper prices. Climate is very similar to that of Zanzibar.
The most exclusive accommodations are the Kinasi Lodge and the Pole Pole which are flanked by structures at affordable prices (but not as cheap as those of Zanzibar) such as the Mafia Island Lodge and the Shamba Kilole Lodge, a real eco-lodge.
All these accommodations are located within the marine park, on Utende beach and in front of the island of Chole which can be reached in circa 10 minutes by boat from the beach. In all these facilities, besides the price of the lodge, you should consider an additional cost of $ 23.6 per person per day as fee for the marine park .
Mafia: beaches and activities
The entire east coast is characterized by kilometers of mangrove forest that end directly in the water. An exception is Utende and the area a bit further south where the mangroves have been eliminated thus creating the beach available to the lodges. The sand is not talcum powder like in Zanzibar, but this is a strategic point to venture among the corals of the marine park.
The most beautiful beaches are on the west coast, very wild and practically deserted. Definitely the beach of the Butiama Beach Lodge stands out, probably the most beautiful on the island.
Mafia is a perfect island for those who love to engage in marine activities such as diving, snorkeling and excursions. We don’t reccomend to those who love sunbathing in paradisiacal tropical beaches.
Whale shark and Hawksbills turtles
Whale sharks live permanently in the Mafia canal where they feed on plankton brought by the delta of the Rufiji River. Sightings are possible all year round most likely from October to March when the sea is calm and plankton is on the surface. The boats are able to move among them in silence and you can snorkel very close to them.
The island of Juani is one of the main nesting places for Hawksbills tartarguhe, and the nesting period runs from December to April. On Sea Sense you can find information about the days of hatching of the eggs, in order to plan your stay in Mafia in the best way.