Mafia Island

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Mafia Island off the coast of Tanzania must be one of the Indian Ocean's best hidden gems. With white sandy beaches, dazzling aquamarine waters and refreshingly few tourists, Mafia is often described as Zanzibar 30 years ago. A laid-back eco-alternative with no tarmac roads, few hotels, no shops, no ATMs (credit cards are accepted at the up-market lodges) which is not geared for mainstream tourism. Be warned, if you want fancy shops and a wild night-life, Mafia isn’t for you!!! There are six lodges on Mafia, five (Chole Mjini , Kinasi Lodge , Mafia , Pole Pole and Shamba Kilole) clustered closely together within Chole Bay and one, the Ras Mbisi Lodge, on the western side of the island . Additionally there are a handful of backpacker friendly ‘hotelis’ in Kilindoni, the main town (the port and airstrip are here). Hopefully Mafia Island will not becomes the ‘next destination’ but remain an eco-friendly niche. Currently there are about 3000 to 4000 over-night stays annually on the island. However an annual Mafia Dance Festival is planned and will take place each August on remote beaches bordered by coconut plantations. Whale sharks and Humpback Whales can be found in the waters surrounding Mafia Island, as can turtles and so rumor has it so can dugongs. (less...) (more...)

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Points of Interest in Mafia Island

Ras Kisimani is the far western cape of the main island, facing the Rufiji Delta. Kisimani Mafia, just north-east of the Cape is KiSwahili for “the place of the well”. An old town dating to the 12th Century has been drowned by rising sea levels and a collapsing foreshore for over 100 years. The Kinasi library contains a full account of the archaeology of these ruins, once the most important town on Mafia, especially from the 12th to 14th Centuries. It was founded by Bashat, one of the sons of the first Sultan of Kilwa, and extended the control of the Sultan to Mafia. The power and wealth of the Sultan of Kilwa was based upon gold, ivory and customs tariffs on all goods traded on the southern coast. In its time it was far more important the Zanzibar but its economic influence waned upon the arrival of the Portuguese at the end of the 15th Century. There is little left of the town now, but visitors can easily find many beautiful potsherds and coins in the ruins and on the beautiful palm-fringed beach. The circular rock weights used to confine slaves at night can also be found here. Due to erosion the old well from which the town took its name now stands on the beach. The whole area is now a protected core zone of the Mafia Island Marine Park.

Bwejuu Island sits between Ras Kisimani and the Rufiji Delta and is a sand-fringed, palm-covered island surrounded by sand bars and snorkelling reefs. These are all-day excursions by boat from Kilindoni for beach-lovers and those looking for a castaway experience. Beautiful beaches and fabulous swimming along the edge of the Ras Kisimani point and off the reefs and sand bars of Bwejuu.

The Lighthouse at Ras Mkumbi : A visit to the lighthouse will allow you to see far to the south over the Mlola Forest, protected for its vegetation and wildlife, including Sykes monkeys. There are magnificent baobabs in the north of Mafia, especially at Ras Mkumbi (the northern tip of the island, just beyond Bweni village.

Jibondo is Mafia best-known fishing village. The island is about 30 minutes away by boat. Over-fishing resulted in a decline in shark populations but the people still harvest a great deal of octopus. Seaweed farming is becoming an important business. The Jibondo people are famous throughout the Swahili-speaking world as boat-builders.Unlike Chole, Jibondo island is almost entirely coral rock (ancient Porites coral) so no crops can grow in the shallow soil. There is always a water shortage and many of the younger people spend a great deal of time carrying water from sources on the main island.

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About Mafia Island


Diving, snorkeling. Some resorts and lodge have dive centers. The only independent one is The Big Blu [3]

  • Blue World Diving, Utende,  +255 777424588. Offers diving for advanced and novice divers in safety under professional instruction. The centre is managed by Kinasi resident Dive Instructors. They have been assisting marine research for over six years.
  • North Mafia Island, Bweni. Beautiful beaches (3km) and in contrast the Chole Bay side of Mafia is superb for diving and snorkelling. Completely different part that is quite another world of vegetation, beaches and activities. Complete isolation from any other tourist facility or commercial activity of any kind.


Almost all resort and lodge have their own restaurant and usually the price are Full Board, so tourists rarely go around to find different places.

  • Kinasi Lodge Restaurant, Utende. There is a cocktail bar offering a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and a wine cellar of specially selected wines. Good cuisine and each year they send their local chefs abroad for training. Lunch U$D 20 / Dinner U$D 25


You can find whatever you want but if you look for something typical in Tanzania you can drink the coconut water (madafu) (from a real coconut), the soda called Stoney Tangawizi (with ginger taste) and some Tanzanian good beers such as Kilimanjaro. You can also find wines from South Africa.

  • Top Life, Utende. Local Bar with cold beer, Gin and soft drinks. Features local djs during the weekends and Taarabu music during the week.
  • Sunset Bar, Bweni. The bar is limited to a few excellent reds and whites and the usual damaging toxins like gin, vodka, whisky, brandy, and anything special if you let us know in advance. All the soft drinks and mixers are available and lots of ice.
  • Kinasi Bar, Utende. 17-23. Open to public this bar features a incredible view from Chole Bay .A Wine Cellar full of African wines combined with sea food bittings and a great variety of spirits.Beers around 2 U$D.
  • Mapenzi, Utende. Local bar with nice atmosphere. Price for the beer is around 1 U$D.


Locally made coconut oil soap [4]

  • Kinasi Shop, Utende,  +255 777424588. Mafia Island local handicraft decorative & clothes .

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Mafia Island on Wikivoyage.