If you’re looking for a peaceful tropical island with rich underwater life, Mafia Island is the perfect place. It is known for its tranquillity and diving, and is a ideal alternative to Zanzibar to escape mass tourism. The fishing villages are charming and Jibondo Island is home to one of the last wooden dhow factories.
Mafia Island is located 150 km south of Dar es Salaam and 10 km from the Rufiji River Delta. It is the largest of an archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean and is home to Tanzania’s first marine park, the Mafia Island Marine Park.
Mafia Island is a place rich in biodiversity, with mangroves, seagrass meadows, coral reefs, flat reefs, lagoons and coastal forests. Chole Bay, which is the anchor of the protected area of the island, is at the heart of the marine park.
The channel between the island and the mainland is one of the last sanctuaries for the dugong, a marine mammal that is the source of many legends of mermaids that frightened sailors of yesteryear.
Turtles come to lay their eggs in the small eastern islands of Mafia from March to December, and whale sharks can be seen around the island from October to April.
Diving at Mafia Island is one of the most spectacular in the world, with colourful coral gardens, walls of different levels, shells and corals in abundance. There are six main dive sites and many more that offer the best diving on the east coast of Africa.
For those who don’t dive, the months of June to October are the best for the weather, while January, February and March are hot and humid with significant rainfall from April to May. The best months to experience turtle hatching are June and July, and to see whale sharks are October to March.