Mafia Island Holidays
he exotic island of Mafia is located 120 km or about 30 minutes by plane southeast of Dar es Salaam and about 20 km opposite the Rufiji Delta on the Tanzanian mainland coast. The 50 km long and 15 km wide island is the largest of a small archipelago consisting of many smaller atolls and sandbanks. Chole Bay and the surrounding forests and islands are located in the protected Mafia Island Marine Park.
Mafia is best known for its coral reefs that surround the whole island. But not only diving and snorkeling is possible here, deep-sea fishing is also very popular. The island is a true paradise for anglers, divers and water sports enthusiasts. The warm water of the Indian Ocean is transparent here and offers a fantastic view of untouched coral reefs. With many private sandy beaches and spectacular flora and fauna, Mafia is the ideal place to relax and recuperate after a dusty safari – there are no tarmac roads and everything goes “pole pole” (slow or easy).
Some guests like to end their exciting safari with a few days on the remote and private island of Mafia. For this purpose, an open jawed flight with your international airline is a good option, e.g. arrival via Kilimanjaro intl. and departure via Dar es Salaam intl. or Zanzibar intl. Airport. For the connection to Mafia island from Dar es Salaam, Arusha or Zanzibar we recommend a flight with one of the numerous smaller domestic and charter airlines (e.g. Auric Air, Tropical Air, Precision Air, Air Tanzania, Coastal Aviation, Flightlink, Regional Air, Air Excel).
Mafia is located 160 km south of Zanzibar. It is the smallest and southernmost of the main islands of Tanzania. Opposite Mafia, about 20 km to the mainland, is the estuary of the Rufiji River. In 1994 the first Mafia Island Marine Park was created there. There is a whole range of attractions on the island, e.g. historical ruins, deep-sea fishing, snorkelling and diving. The population of Mafia consists mainly of fishermen. Other sources of income are coconut and cashew nut processing. The plantations are remnants from the Omani rule, but the poor soil on Mafia is not necessarily suitable for agriculture, so the island is extremely sparsely populated. The staple food is cassava (manioc), which was imported from Brazil by the Portuguese in the 16th century, mainly to feed the slaves.
The sea around Mafia includes a large number of tropical marine habitats, especially coral reefs, seagrass beds and dry tidal flats. The eastern side of the island is protected by a 33 km long outer reef from the forces of the Indian Ocean. The western side is significantly influenced by the nearby mainland and is therefore even better protected than the eastern side. There are also the most beautiful beaches. For both inexperienced and advanced divers and snorkelers, Mafia Island Marine Park offers an impressive underwater world. Visibility ranges from 20 to 25m from October to February and drops to 5 to 10m between June and September. Fire corals, antler corals and leaf corals offer a refuge for a variety of colorful reef fish, ranging from angelfish, butterfly fish, angelfish and wrasse. Parrotfish, rainbow fish and rays can also be found. Further out there are tunas, cobias, king mackerels, sea turtles, but also some more dangerous fish. More than 2000 fish species from 150 families exist in the western part of the Indian Ocean and every year more species are identified. Whether you dive or snorkel, the behaviour of reef fish, their colours, their relationships to each other and to other marine organisms are an endless source of fascination.
The inhabitants of Mafia call themselves Mafians and not Mafiosos. The population comprises about 45,000 islanders, the majority of whom are Muslims. The island itself is 48 km long and 17 km wide. Tourism is hardly developed on Mafia, but there are already 4 bigger beach resorts. The temperature almost never falls below 23°C and only in very rare cases rises above 33°C. Thanks to the establishment of the Marine Park, some environmentally destructive activities have been drastically stopped. Before, tons of coral stones were quarried to build houses and mangrove wood was cut to build boats.