Green islands, turquoise waters and white sandbanks

The green islands of the Mafia Archipelago are scattered along the coast southeast of Dar es Salaam. They are surrounded by turquoise waters and shimmering white sandbanks.

Heading for an active holiday? Would you like to dive and snorkel at one of the most stunning diving locations in the world? In that case, Mafia Island is the perfect location. The island is in fact the largest protected nature reserve in East Africa. You can even snorkel with whale sharks here.

  • Surface435 m2
  • Inhabitants 50.000
  • spring rain season April & May
  • fall rain seasonNovember

About Mafia Island

Mafia Island has a friendly and tranquil atmosphere. The locals are mainly concerned with their traditional way of life and don’t care much about the outside world.
The island is ideal for divers, but also for sailors and hikers who are looking for the extraordinary.

Culture and products on Mafia Island

There are several small islands, atolls and sandbanks in the Indian Ocean that together form the Mafia Archipelago.

Of all the islands in the Mafia Archipelago, only a few are inhabited and life on the islands is not easy. The isolated location of the islands has both advantages and disadvantages. The big advantage of living on this location is that the islands are largely undiscovered. However, most residents have no access to electricity or running water.

The inhabitants of the archipelago are among the poorest in the world and therefore, the unemployment rates are high (research 2002). Most people live off what the land and sea has to offer them. Whatever they cannot use themselves is being sold.

Among the exported products are coconuts and products thereof, like brooms, mats and ropes. The inhabitants live off fishing and the cultivation of seaweed.

The (coral) reefs that surround the islands of the Mafia Archipelago aren’t just spectacular to see, but have a very important job as well; they form a barrier between the islands and the Indian Ocean and constitute the main source of food for the great biodiversity in this area. The Mafia Island Marine Park is one of the most important ecosystems in the world, with around 400 different fish species and over 48 species of coral.
Apart from that, this is the place where green sea turtles nest and friendly manatee stay. Huge groups of whale sharks migrate to this area from October to April to feed and give birth to their young. The Chole Bay is ideally suited for diving and, due to the low current, very suitable for the novice diver.

Beaches and infrastructure
Mafia Island has stunning white sandy beaches.
The infrastructure on the entire island is primitive and therefore, the island is especially recommended for the (adventurous) traveller who wants to enjoy the peace and quiet of what the island and the Mafia Archipelago have to offer.

Climate and season on Mafia Island

Mafia Island has a tropical climate and is a beautiful destination all year round.

April and May:
There is a higher chance of rain. This essentially means a tropical shower in the morning and sometimes at night. The temperatures are pleasant.

June to October
This is the “cool” period on Fanjove Island. Temperatures are pleasant and vary from 25 to 35 degrees.

November to December:
Precipitation varies and temperatures slightly rise.

December to February:
This is the hottest period of the year.

Interesting facts

1. In its entirity, the Mafia Archipelago consists of fifteen islands and dozens of sandbanks and atolls.

2. Apart from Mafia, three more islands are inhabited; Chole, Juani and Jibondo.

3. Unlike the other islands of the archipelago, Mafia Island has the luxury of electricity, but most villages are not connected to the network.

4. Together with the neigbouring islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, the Mafia Archipelago form a semi-autonomous state within the United Republic of Tanzania. This means that the islands have their own president, government and parliament, which are located in Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar.

5.  The name Mafia has nothing to do with the Italian crime syndicate. The name is probably derived from the Arabic word “Morifyeh” which means “group” or from the Ma’afir: an Arabic tribe originating from present-day Yemen. It is less likely that the name is derived from the Arabic word “Mafi” which means “garbage” or from the Swahili phrase “Mahali pa afya” freely translated: “healthy place to live”.


Mafia Island is a dream location for divers. One that should definitely be on your bucket list!
Here you find an unprecedented variety of coral and diversity of tropical fish like rays, whale sharks and large fish for you to see up close.

Zanzibar vakantieMafia Island


Mafia Island is a true dream location for divers.
These reefs are some of the richest you will ever see, with bommies, walls, caves and gorges. There’s a wide variety of hard and soft corals and an immense diversity of tropical fish, such as rays, sharks and large fish, which you can see up close. The reefs are between 6 and 28 meter deep.

From many properties, it is possible to organize diving trip. Kinasi Lodge has a good diving organisation on site.

Whale sharks

It is very special to swim next to one of these gentle giants.

They occur year round in the waters around Mafia Island, but surface seasonally in the shallow waters off the west coast of the island when conditions are right. Close to Kilindoni, they are easy to find. The season lasts for about six months, somewhere between October and March.

Whale sharks are fascinating creatures: some live for more than 100 years, reach lengths of up to 20 meters and weigh 15 tons, but they are completely harmless and feed on huge amounts of plankton that they suck up while swimming.

You don’t need any experience to swim with the whale sharks. Swimming or diving is easy with just snorkels.

Animals in the area

Mafia Island has an outstanding marine environment. Common animals include the green sea turtle, manta ray, Napoleon whale, whale shark and various black and white tip reef sharks.

Due to its isolated location, protected species such as the Syke’s monkey, the Seychelles fruit bat, but also the bush pig and the Blue Diver and osprey live on the island itself.

Click here for the wildlife overview

Dieren overzicht Mafia Island

  • Blue diver
  • Bush pig
  • Green sea turtle
  • Manatee
  • Manta ray
  • Seychelles fruit bat
  • Syke’s monkey
  • Whale shark

Imagining yourself on Mafia Eiland yet?

Have a look at other example trips that can be fully adapted to your wishes or contact us directly!

example trips trip advice

Accommodations on Mafia Island

Looking for an adventurous eco lodge among ruins, dazzling trees and mangroves? Or would you rather prefer a bungalow amidst the palm trees by the sea? Whatever it is, they are small-scale, hospitable and of high quality.

Butiama Beach

Mafia Island, East Tanzania
Cozy lodge, Half board
€ 160 to € 190 pppn (half board)

Butiama Marine Camp

Mafia Island, East Tanzania
Cozy lodge
€ 55 tot € 65 pppn (lodging & breakfast)

Chole Mjini Eco-Lodge

Mafia Island, East Tanzania
Cozy lodge, Full board
€ 215 to € 220 pppn (full board)