Mafia Island is the most southerly isle in the Zanzibar Archipelago, offering a relaxed and secluded beach stay, pristine coral and the opportunity to go in search of the elusive whale shark. Off the beaten track and far less developed than Zanzibar, Mafia is popular with divers who come for the beautiful coral protected by the Mafia Island Marine Park.
Mafia is a remote island with a real laid-back charm. White sandy beaches are carved with mangrove pockets and the glittering blue waters that surround the island, are a treasure trove for both divers and snorkellers. It is the largest island in the tiny Mafia archipelago, where sandy lanes lead to friendly and traditional farming and fishing villages, as well as golden beaches, where you can watch the dhows drift sleepily between the islands.
Much of the water is protected within the Mafia Island Marine Park, which is the largest marine protected area in the Indian Ocean at 822 square metres. Home to 50 different types of coral and over 400 fish species, there is always something exciting to see from octopus, to bright-orange clownfish and if you would like to experience this fascinating underwater world, we can arrange it for you. The shallow reefs around Chole Bay are perfect for snorkelling or learning to dive, while more experienced divers will want to explore the long coral wall outside the bay’s entrance.
Mafia also lies along the migratory route of the whale shark and provides some excellent sightings from October to March. For the brave among you, we recommend diving in and swimming alongside these huge creatures on an organised excursion in a safe, relaxed and respectful way. While the whale shark is the world’s largest fish, reaching over 20 metres in length, they are extremely docile, posing no threat to humans and believe us, this is an experience not to be missed.
Kilindoni is the main town on Mafia and we’d suggest spending a few hours here exploring the lively fish and vegetable markets, while gaining a great insight into how the coastal dhow trade works. Visits to local villages, historic archaeological sites, coastal forests, coconut plantations and traditional boatbuilding yards, can also all be great fun if you’re looking for a break from the beach. There’s also some wonderful birdwatching to be had on the island too.