Mafia Island (Marine park)

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  • Discover Mafia Island with its pristine white sand unspoiled Beaches. Mafia Island lying only 160 km south, lesser-known islands of Tanzania. 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.

    Natural vegetation on Mafia ranges from tidal mangrove thickets and scrubby coastal moorlands to palm-wooden grassland and lowland rainforest. Magnificent baobabs are prominent along with the native Albizia. Patches of coastal high forest remain in localities all over Mafia; one of the most picturesque, the Chunguruma Forest, is a dense tree canopy interlaced with palms, lianes and epiphytes and has an abundant floor covering of ferns.

    The Mafia Island region which includes the Rufiji River Delta and Mafia Channel, forms one of the finest complexes of estuarine, mangrove, coral reef, and marine ecosystems in the World, all lying in an area of around 1500km².

    The coral reefs are particularly diverse for Eastern Africa. Habitats in the area of the MIMP (822km²) include hard coral dominated reefs, soft coral and algal dominated reefs, sheltered back reef systems, inter-tidal flats with hard and soft substrate, mangrove forests, extensive seagrass beds, algal, sponge and soft coral sub-tidal beds. The area includes critical habitat for the dugong (Dugong dugon, vulnerable, IUCN, 1994) and sea turtles (Chelonia mydas, Eretmochelys imbricata, Lipidochelys livaceae, Dermochelys coriacea, all endangered and Caretta caretta, vulnerable, IUCN, 1994) and has been recognized as a critical site for biodiversity.

    First formal initiatives to create marine and coastal protected areas in Tanzania came in 1975 through regulations made by the then Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism under the Fisheries Act, 1970. Seven small areas of reef were declared Marine Reserves for total protection; these included two areas of Mafia Island, Chole Bay and Tutia Reef.

    Mafia Island and its reefs are known as an excellent, World-class diving destination. 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. There are very few hotels here which only adds to the attraction of Mafia as the beach destination for the adventurous traveler.

    When to go there

    Mafia has very good weather throughout the year. Virtually straddling the equator means that the island never gets cold and so the only thing to avoid is the rain. The heaviest rain months are April and May.

    Best Activities in Mafia Island

    Very much off the beaten path, Mafia is a great destination for the adventurous traveller who wants an active holiday fishing, snorkeling,diving,Nature walking and exploring the offshore islands without the crowds. Reef-walking The tidal reef is an excellent subject for the amateur naturalist. In the pools left by the receding tide you will find live cowries and other shells, small moray eels and juvenile fish, as well as a myriad of starfish.

    Fish eagles and palm nut vultures stalk the pools on the flats along with many waders and scavengers, and four species of mangroves grow side-by-side. On the outer edge a lovely, sandy beach gives way to the blue water of the channel at low tide.


    Bird watching in Mafia adds a very interesting dimension to a Tanzania wildlife safari, as the visitor will see many species of shorebird, including migrants such as the Crab Plover, and other species found in coastal thickets and mangroves that cannot be observed in the main land National Parks and Reserves.

    Mafia -Lodges Kinasi Lodge Kinasi Lodge is Mafia's most well-established and the best accommodation in Mafia. The lodge has attractive rooms, a spa, good dive centre and the added bonus of Mafia's only swimming pool. The diversity of activities and adventures to be had from here make Kinasi worthy of a very good rating.

    Chole Mjini Chole Mjini is one of the most unique properties we work with. Located on Chole island just off Mafia itself Chole's rooms are open air tree houses designed with a distinct eco feel. Pole Pole Pole Pole is a nice little lodge on Mafia. The rooms and relaxed atmosphere are charming and unpretentious, yet due to the lack of beach you may prefer other hotels on the island.