Mafia Island

Mafia has had a prominent place in the history of the East Coast of Africa. Mafia was part of the sultanate of Kilwa and prospered as a settlement during Kilwa’s rise as an economic power. The island lies across the trade routes from the Gulf and has seen Egyptian, Omani, Greco-Roman, Chinese, Portuguese, English and German occupation.

A 20-minute flight south of Dar es Salaam, Mafia Island was Tanzania’s first Marine Park. It is one of the most exciting diving and fishing areas in the world and is home to some four hundred species of fish and five species of turtle. Sports fisherman flock here for the superb catches, which include barracuda, marlin, sailfish and tuna. The main season is from September to March, although fishing is possible all year round within the reef and channel.


Scientists have confirmed that Mafia has some of the richest reefs in the world, with an unparalleled variety of hard and soft corals and diversity of tropical fish. Divers will see a veritable kaleidoscope of reef dwellers. These include butterfly fish, clown fish, lion fish and rainbow fish while, in deeper waters, they will come across groupers, rays and sharks. The rare dugong breeds in the Mafia Channel while the green and hawksbill turtle nest on the smaller islands.

Mafia Island is the most culturally original and environmentally natural of Tanzania’s Indian Ocean islands, visited by the few who know its charms and desire a special adventure. A friendly culture therefore prevails. Here beautiful beaches, unaffected by modern life, pollution and settlement, coral reefs with an array of snorkel and dive sites, famous game fishing experiences, ancient ruins connected to Persian and Arab settlement and coastal forests are the setting for a traditional way of life for the local people. Fishing and smallholder agriculture underpin their livelihood.

The main activities guests will be interested in while staying in Mafia are:

  • Snorkelling, Scuba diving and swimming around the islets and beautiful coral shelves of Chole Bay
  • Swim and snorkel with the amazing whale sharks (usually October-March)
  • Turtle-hatching season from July to September
  • Sailing on traditional jahazis or outrigger ngalawas with local sailors
  • Guided excursions to villages on the islands to see traditional village community life and economic activity, such as boat building and farming