Mafia Island

Quieter and less visited than neighbouring Zanzibar, but also a "spice island" on the historic trade routes, Mafia Island is the largest of a small archipelago of unspoilt islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean off the coast of mainland Tanzania, south of Dar es Salaam.

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Mafia Island

Mafia Island is the largest of a small archipelago of unspoilt islands and atolls off the coast of Tanzania. It lies south of Dar es Salaam. Like its better known neighbour, Zanzibar, Mafia Island was a Spice island. It offered a safe harbour for the ships and dhows plying the historic trade routes from the Gulf. There are atmospheric ruins from early trading settlements which date back to the 12th century.

Mafia Island is far quieter and more peaceful than Zanzibar. With only a few small beach hotels and lodges. It caters to people who value coral reefs, lagoons and beaches more than large beach resorts with lots of facilities. Check out our suggestions – Pole Pole Lodge, Kinasi Lodge and Butiama Beach.

Mafia forms part of the Mafia Island Marine Park – Tanzania’s first marine national park. This spectacular, pristine area offers coral gardens of hard and soft corals. And diverse marine life, making it an excellent area for divers. While you may choose to fly to Mafia after being on safari in the Selous Game Reserve. Or after the classic northern Tanzania game reserves, Mafia has dive sites which lure keen divers who don’t need to step in a safari vehicle.

But even if you only like to snorkel, swim and potter about at the water’s edge, Mafia Island has sandy beaches and most beach resorts also have a pool. Some have spas and all offer excellent cuisine making use of fresh, local produce. The attractions for nature lovers are not all underwater either. Mafia Island’s coastal thickets and mangroves are host to many bird species. Which you won’t have already seen on safari in Tanzania.

Mafia is easily accessed by light aircraft in 35 minutes from Dar es Salaam. Or 45 minutes from Zanzibar and the Selous Game Reserve.