Mafia Island - Tanzania
When To Go
|When to go|
Mafia Island is one of our favourite places to stay after a Tanzania safari. Perched just off the coast of Tanzania, Mafia is just a quick 30 minute light aircraft hop from Dar es Salaam before landing on this unspoilt and sleepy island. With just a handful of resorts and hotels on the island your time will revolve around the ocean and beaches. You can dive, snorkel, enjoy castaway picnics on deserted sandspits, explore the mangroves by paddleboard or canoe, swim with the gentle whale sharks and sail in dhows at sunset. Depending on where you decide to stay you may have a few creature comforts such as a swimming pool and beach with direct access to a dive centre just a short stroll from your room. There are a number of places to stay - from comfortable family run hotels to lodges with swimming pools and airconditioned rooms to an island tree house resort where you can fall asleep to the sound of the sea caressing the mangroves below you.
If you are a diver or would like to learn to dive, then Mafia Island may be a good choice as it offers superb diving for most levels and is located in a marine park. The marine park surrounding Chole Bay is home to over 270 species of coral including giant table corals, delicate sea fans, whip corals and huge stands of blue and pink tipped stag horn coral. As well as the spectacular variety of reef fish there are turtles and large predatory fish such as Trevally, Grouper and Barracuda. Eagle rays, Giant reef ribbon-tailed rays and occasionally shark are encountered in Kinasi Pass. Mange dive site is best for black-tip and white-tip reef sharks.
Almost all Mafia’s best diving is in depths of less than 20m - between June and September you can dive only within Chole Bay, albeit in almost any weather. For the more challenging dives outside the bay, you have to wait until the calmer conditions which begin around mid-September. Outside the bay and in the entrance to the bay the average size of the fish is bigger, and you have a good chance of seeing a 2–3m grouper; these are friendly and let you come quite close. Visibility from June to September tends to be 10–15m, whereas in October to February it can be 25m.
Mafia is good for beginner divers, as it’s very safe inside the bay. Diving outside the bay is slightly more challenging with deeper dives that require Advanced certification.
Whale sharks are the other brilliant reason to visit Mafia Island - it is possible to find them in the warm seas surrounding the island from October to March but never guaranteed. The whale sharks are attracted by plankton and when the conditions are right they feed on the surface in the shallow waters on the western side of the island. We only work with a reputable and eco-friendly organisation for our whale shark encounters to ensure that you will be introduced to these fabulous gentle giants in a safe, relaxed, respectful and ethical way. Swimming alongside a whale shark in crystal clear waters is an experience you will never forget!
The Mafia Archipelago has 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 over the centuries. Later, as a part of the Sultanate of Kilwa, it prospered as a settlement during Kilwa's rise to become the most important economic power in the Indian Ocean. Today Mafia Island is little changed from ancient times and retains a traditional culture and friendly people who depend on fishing and agriculture and to a certain extent, tourism.
The Island lies across ancient sailing routes controlled by the trade winds and has experienced Yemeni, Egyptian, Phoenician, Greco-Roman, Chinese, Portuguese, English and German influences.
One of Tanzania's best kept secrets, Mafia Island is a perfect haven to relax and enjoy the island after a busy safari. If you are looking for peace and quiet, excellent diving and snorkelling, fresh fish sandbar picnics and just chilling by the sea - Mafia Island could just be what you are looking for.
To combine a safari with Mafia Island call us on 01984 667420 or email [email protected] to start planning your Tanzania adventure!