Mafia Island lies off the east coast of Tanzania and is only about 48 km long and 17 km wide at its widest point. The island’s pristine coast is surrounded by turquoise waters and golden white sandbanks.
Visit this island while it is still relatively unknown. It is an amazing destination for travelers looking for a more exclusive beach destination in Tanzania. This small, isolated archipelago features beautiful beaches, a slow pace of life, and friendly locals. You can swim with whale sharks, watch humpback whales, and even observe turtle breeding, depending on the season. There are several accommodations to choose from on the island available from budget to luxury.
Contact us for personalized guidance on integrating Mafia Island into your safari itinerary. Combine your stay an incredible safari on the main land or visiting one of Tanzania’s other islands: Zanzibar and Pemba Island.
Scuba Diving is one of the best things to do on Mafia Island. The Mafia Island Marine Park protects over half of the shoreline, and marine life is abundant. Highlights include over 460 tropical fish species, five turtle species, the elusive dugong, and a plethora of hard and soft corals.
Mafia Island’s greatest attraction is undoubtedly the yearly migration of the magnificent whale sharks, providing a remarkable opportunity to dive and snorkel alongside these gentle giants. A dream come true for any diver and ocean-enthousiast.
The whale sharks arrive in Mafia’s seas on their annual migration from September to March and can often be spotted in great numbers close to the coast, feasting on plankton.
For wildlife enthusiasts, Mafia Island boasts diverse habitats, including coastal high forests and lowland rainforests. Exploring these wilderness areas on foot allows encounters with indigenous monkeys, squirrels, flying foxes, lizards, and over 120 bird species. Coastal areas provide opportunities to observe the island’s birdlife foraging on tidal flats. Humpback whales can be spotted during their migration in September and August, and baby turtles hatch between June and September.
The rich marine life is perfect for deep sea fishing, you can charter a boat to the seamounts beyond the marine park. Fishing enthusiasts have the chance to catch various species such as sailfish, wahoo, tuna, and giant trevallies. Additionally, visitors can engage in other watersports, including snorkeling in shallow reef sites and exploring the island’s tidal mangrove forests by sea kayak. Dhow cruises and tours to the uninhabited islands and sandbanks are also offered.
Mafia Island’s intriguing history and culture can be explored through visits to its historic ruins and cultural sites. The archipelago showcases ruined settlements that reflect its trading past, such as the Kua Ruins, once a bustling medieval trading post with Swahili residences, mosques, and a sultan’s palace. The fig roots engulfing many of the ruins create a sense of discovering a lost civilization. The Chole Ruins also features Arabic ruins from the 12th century and remnants of German occupation during World War I. Visitors can combine trips to Chole’s ruins with visits to the island’s contemporary boat-building communities, immersing themselves in the local culture.
Mafia Island is a destination that offers something special throughout the year, but for those seeking an unforgettable encounter with whale sharks, the period between September and March is the prime time to visit. During this period, these majestic creatures grace Mafia’s waters during their annual migration, providing opportunities to witness their presence in significant numbers as they feast on plankton.
Additionally, the island offers more natural wonders during specific months, such as spotting humpback whales during their migration in August and September, and witnessing the hatching of baby turtles between June and September. Regardless of the season, Mafia Island promises a remarkable experience for all who visit.
Mafia Island enjoys a tropical climate, characterized by warm temperatures and high humidity throughout the year. The island experiences two distinct seasons: the dry season and the wet season.
The dry season typically extends from June to October, offering pleasant and sunny weather with minimal rainfall. This period is ideal for outdoor activities, including diving and snorkeling.
The wet season, on the other hand, lasts from November to May, bringing more frequent rainfall and higher humidity. Although rain showers can occur, they are usually short-lived, and the island remains lush and green. Despite the occasional showers, Mafia Island retains its natural beauty and offers a unique charm to visitors throughout the year.
Mafia Island provides a range of accommodation options to suit various preferences and budgets. From luxurious beachfront resorts to cozy eco-lodges, visitors can find a place that caters to their needs. Many accommodations on the island offer stunning views of the turquoise waters and pristine beaches. Whether you prefer a secluded or a more vibrant atmosphere, there are options available. Most accommodations offer activities and excursions, allowing guests to explore the island’s natural wonders and marine life.
The name “Mafia” has interesting origins. It is derived from the Arabic word “morfiyeh,” meaning “group” or “archipelago,” as well as the Swahili phrase “mahali pa afya,” which translates to “a healthy dwelling-place.” In 1995, Mafia Island received support from the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) to establish a marine wildlife center, marking the establishment of Tanzania’s first Marine Park. This assistance contributed to the conservation efforts and development of the island’s natural marine resources.