Located 25km off the coast of Tanzania, Mafia Island, between Kilwa and Zanzibar, is a piece of paradise left untouched. Treasure-hunters may find it exciting to think of this tropical island as a hide-out for glorious pirates and their fellow criminals. However, this hidden gem actually derived its name from the Swahili “healthy living place”.
As the first Marine Park of Tanzania, it has escaped mass tourism. The main island and several smaller ones are therefore surrounded by healthy and abundant corals, making Mafia island a dream destination for scuba diving.
Escape the crowds to this natural archipelago of the Indian Ocean.
How to get to Mafia Island
To get to Mafia Island, you can catch one of the daily flights from the capital city Dar Es Salam to Mafia’s Kilindoni airport. Make sure to book your flight to Mafia Island, as this undamaged scuba diving destination is only reachable by air.
Please note that passengers on any internal flights are required to pay an airport departure tax (about $6). In addition, airport service charge and security fees are usually not included in your flight ticket (about $5).
Scuba diving in Mafia Island
With over 42 different types of coral and over 400 species of fish, Mafia Island Marine Park insures a stunning diversity of marine life and healthy reefs. It therefore ranks as a world-class scuba diving destination.
Although it is possible to dive all year-round in the sheltered bay of Chole, if you’d like to venture outside the bay, the best time to dive in Mafia Island is from November to February.
Within the bay, visibility is highly dependent on tides. At high tide, it stretches to 30m. Outside the bay, water clarity is less affected by tidal movements.
With an average of 26°C, water temperatures can reach 29°C during the summer months.
Where to sleep on Mafia Island
As a protected area, building on Mafia Island is restricted. This means there are only a few tourist lodges to choose from. Room prices vary according to the tourist season, the type of rooms and the location. A night in a double room can cost from $50 to 150$.
A lodge is an exotic version of a resort with a relaxing atmosphere offering barefoot luxury. They are the ideal places to find some peace and quiet and to log off from the stress of the urban life.
Travel budget for Mafia Island
Please note that there is no banks nor any ATM on the island. Therefore, it is necessary to bring cash with you, either Tanzanian shillings or US Dollars (although some other major currencies may be accepted by some businesses such as Euro, British Pounds, Swiss Francs…).
Make sure you also bring $20 per person and per day in cash to pay for the Marine Park fee. A dinner can cost between $15 and $25. Some lodges offer full board accommodation.
What to do on Mafia Island
As most islands, activities revolves around water. During your holidays on Mafia Island, you’ll enjoy scuba diving, snorkelling, beach time and offshore island excursions. There are a number of small islands nearby to visit. Kinasi Pass Islet, Mange and Jibondo Pass are amongst the most popular attractions around Mafia Island.
Between October and January, whale sharks are common visitors to the western side of the island. Snorkeling excursions can be organised. From August to September, you may enjoy humpback whale watching.
Good to know
Mafia Island is an Islamic place. Although bikinis are allowed at the pool of your hotel and on tourist beaches, it is best to pack knee-length and shoulder-covering clothes to respect the cultural traditions when walking in the villages.
This tropical wildlife reserve is in a malaria-zone, so it is highly recommended that you bring strong mosquito-repellent. However, you may consider with the advice of your doctor to take anti-malarial treatments. Doxycycline is not recommended as it causes skin sensitivity, not great if you plan on working on your tan. Malarone appears to be a better choice, however it may cause sea-sickness, not ideal for a scuba diving holiday in Tanzania. Make sure you pack anti-seasickness medecine.