Mafia Island

While Zanzibar has become a popular tourist resort, Mafia Island lying only 160 km south, remains virtually unknown. Previously poor communications with the mainland and being much lesser known than Zanzibar have kept Mafia ‘original’, although a steady trickle of visitors are unanimous in singing its praise. Mafia is one of the safest places in the Indian Ocean and there are no hustlers to spoil a holiday.
The Mafia Archipelago is scattered over the Indian Ocean 21 km off the Rufiji River Delta in central Tanzania. The largest of a score of islands, atolls and tidal sandbars, Mafia itself is approximately 50 km long by 15km across, and is surrounded by a barrier reef teeming with marine life. Almost half the coastline of Mafia, some 822km², has been gazetted a marine park by the Government.

To date over 50 genera of corals, more than 460 species of fish and five different species of turtles have been recorded in the waters around Chole Bay.As an unspoiled, little-visited alternative to other Indian Ocean locations around Zanzibar and along the coast, Mafia and its surrounding archipelago including Jibondo, Juani and Chole have a great deal to offer. However, as with Pemba, Mafia has better diving than Zanzibar, but worse beaches.
Just a 30-minute flight south of Zanzibar, Mafia is the one island off Tanzania’s coast that really encourages visitors to explore its offshore islands and sand bars. There are very few hotels here which only add to the attraction of Mafia as the beach destination for the adventurous traveler. The central main island is where most of Mafia’s accommodation options can be found, although the smaller islands are also fun to explore, with crumbling historical ruins now inhabited by a variety of different animals from monkeys to wild pigs, fruit bats and bush babies. Mafia is primarily known for its ocean glory, the Marine Park which was created to protect its reefs. The diving, fishing and snorkeling here are the best in the entire region, infinitely better than those to be found on Zanzibar (although note that the beaches on the main island are not nearly as good as Zanzibar’s). Whereas Zanzibar has no advanced diving, Mafia has plenty to challenge and reward the advanced diver – as well as numerous sheltered bays and coves that are great for novice to intermediate divers. Snorkeling is also magnificent.

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