Book Flights to Mafia Island

Mafia Island – Tanzania

Mafia Island is pure and even ‘un-touristy’. A handful of lodges, a couple of backpacker hostels, you really feel like you have stepped into the past. It is quiet, peaceful, undisturbed. White beaches that dazzle you with perfection, lined with coconut trees for miles on end and gently lapped by azure blue waters.

Combine this picturesque setting with a very easily accessible and relatively cheap spot to go snorkelling with whale sharks and you have found one of the best island escapes in the world.

And when you are not swimming with the whale sharks, there are plenty of other things to keep you busy, or beautiful beaches to flop down on for those who just want to sunbathe and chill.

The diving and snorkelling on Mafia Island are world-class and romantic cruises in a traditional dhow can be enjoyed whilst watching the setting sun.

Mafia Island is a true little paradise on earth.

About Mafia Island

Mafia Island is 394 square kilometres in size and lies only 20 kilometres from the coast of mainland Tanzania, opposite the mouth of the mighty Rufiji River.

The archipelago is formed of one large island (Mafia) and several small ones, most notably Chole island. Some of the other smaller islands are inhabited by local fishing communities or have been sold as private islands. It used to be an important Arab trade centre, before becoming a military base for the German colonists. It was then traded for a strip of land from the British and eventually handed over to become part of Tanganyika through independence from British rule.

Today Mafia’s inhabitants rely on tourism as well as the agriculture and fishing industries.

Main Attractions

Mafia Island is a small, stunning island off the coast of Tanzania, the main attractions are:

  • Snorkelling with the whale sharks
  • Some of the best diving on the Tanzanian coast
  • Snorkelling and swimming in the azure blue ocean
  • Big game fishing
  • Exploring the ruins
  • Relaxing and sunbathing


Swimming with whale sharks

The ultimate water based adventure, snorkelling with whale sharks is something you will never forget. These gentle creatures are the biggest fish in the world (they are not sharks) and it is perfectly safe to swim with them. And Mafia Island provides the perfect base to snorkel with these giants.

Best diving in Tanzania

Mafia Island is well known for the breathtaking scuba diving in its marine park around Chole Bay to the south of the island. Apart from snorkelling with whale sharks, the excellent diving in the Mafia Island Marine Park is the main reason to visit Mafia for most people. The variety of species is huge and so are some of the individual animals.

Snorkelling and swimming

As well as diving, the snorkelling here is excellent. If you don’t have a diving certificate it is still very much worth having a look at the underwater world in the Mafia Island Marine Park with your mask and snorkel.

Swimming in the crystal clear, blue waters around Mafia Island can be a very relaxing way to cool off when sunbathing on the beaches of Mafia. Check which hotels offer swimming at all tides if this is the main reason of your stay as at some places you can only dip in at high tide.

Big game fishing

The deep sea fishing for big game fish here is excellent. Its proximity to the outlet of the Rufiji River results in the channel being particularly rich in nutrients that ensure an exceptional range of underwater landscapes and biodiversity. Fish to catch include sailfish, blue, black and striped marlin, barracuda, wahoo, kingfish, giant trevally, yellowfin and dogtooth tuna and dorado just to name a few.

Exploring the ruins on the various islands

There are various ruins on various islands that can be explored. In the south-west of the main island are the oldest ruins, where coins from China, Mongolia and India from before 1340 have been found. The biggest site can be found on Juani Island, it is spread over more than 12ha. It includes several mosques as well as a double-storey palace. They are worth exploring and a guide can really bring them alive.

Relaxing and sunbathing

It’s a beautiful tropical island, what better way to spend your days than relaxing on the beach, maybe reading a book or having a massage in between swims, dives or other activities. Mafia Island is a great spot for a beach holiday either before or after your safari in East Africa. And of course, if you just want to escape the winter in another part of the world than this is your spot too.

How to get there

Fly to Mafia Island

Mafia’s airport is located just to the northeast of the main town of Kilindoni. Scheduled services run to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, as well as several popular safari destinations like the Selous and Ruaha.

Book your cheap flight to Mafia Island with Tripindigo and find your own tropical paradise on earth.

Best time to visit

The cool, dry months of spring from June to October and the hot and dry summer months of December to February are the best times to visit. In July there is usually a strong southerly wind, the kusi.

High season

High season is definitely when the whale sharks are around. But this doesn’t mean the place gets crowded with tourists. This is still an underdeveloped Tanzanian island and tourist numbers are low. This is what Zanzibar felt like many years ago, explore it now!

Low season

Low season on Mafia Island is during the rainy months of April and May. This is when the long rains happen in Tanzania. In November and December, there are also the short rains, but this generally doesn’t stop people enjoying Mafia Island as the showers are usually short and the rest of the day filled with sunshine.

Best time to snorkel with whale sharks on Mafia Island

The whale sharks are in the area from November to March.

Best time for deep sea fishing on Mafia Island

The best fishing is from September to March, although some species can be caught year-round. These include species like trevally and barracuda. Tuna are around from August to November. Black and blue marlin can be caught from September to December, and the striped marlin is around from December to March.

Best time to kite surf on Mafia Island

On the south-east coast it is excellent kite surfing from June to October. And from December to March you should take the kite to the north east coast. Bring your own as there are no facilities to rent.


  • Having nothing to do to with the Cosa Nostra (the Sicilian Mafia), the name Mafia may have possibly come from the Arab word for archipelago, ‘morfiyeh’ or the Swahili saying ‘mahali ya afya’ meaning healthy place.
  • Tanzania’s first marine park, the Mafia Island Marine Park, was established here in 1995 and includes more than 800 square kilometres. It is located to the south mostly and encloses some of the smaller islands of the south-east coast like Chole Island. It reaches almost halfway up the east coast.
  • You can stay in a tree house on Chole Island with wonderful views over the bay. From there many excursions are run, including to the nearby ruins on Juani Island.

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