Mafia Island

Mafia Island off the coast of Tanzania must be one of the Indian Ocean's best hidden gems.

19 things to do

All Places

Ras Kisimani

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.

SEE   —  Map


Mafia's 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.

SEE   —  Map

Kinasi Lodge

Kinasi Lodge is a boutique hotel. A short ride across the island from the airport and the main town of Kilindoni, the lodge overlooks Chole Bay in Mafia Island Marine Park. This resort, situated in an old cashew and coconut plantation, provides a luxury stay. Only 14 rooms are available. Each room is in a private bungalow with large veranda and ensuite bathroom. The rooms have ceiling fans and mosquito nets.

SLEEP   —  +255 777424588 —  Utende

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.

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Mafia Island Diving

Directly across the strait to Chole. Offers customised diving (tide-dependent) which are operated from authentic dhows which sail out to the dive site. Excellent safety record and equipment. Also offers excursions and activities (i.e. mangrove walks, tours of Chole Island, sea-turtle hatchouts via Sea Sense (Jun-Aug), and Whale Watching (Oct-Feb))

DO   —  +255 688 218 569 —  Utende

Lua Cheia

Located at Bweni Village near the northern tip of Mafia is called Ras Bweni. “Ras” stands for peninsula, and from here one has fine views of the sweeping bay and palm-fringed beaches, superb sunsets over the Rufiji Delta and the moon rising over the Indian Ocean.This part of Mafia is where the beautiful beaches have been formed.

SLEEP   —  +255 777424588 —  Bweni

Sea Turtle Hatchout with Sea Sense

During June, July, and August, it is possible to do a 45-minute hike across Juani island to watch baby sea turtles hatch and scamper across the beach into the surf. If you are not very sure-footed, bring closed-toed shoes, as the hike is over some sharp and somewhat treacherous rocks. Cost is approximately $45.

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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.

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North Mafia Island

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.

DO   —  Bweni

Ras Mbisi

Built from local sustainable coco-wood by local artisans, the accommodation comprises nine spacious ‘open tent’ bandas/rooms which are only metres from the white powder beach. The design erases boundaries between the lodge and the natural splendour of Ras Mbisi.

SLEEP   —  255 (0)754 663739

Shamba Kilole Lodge

Shamba Kilole Lodge is located just opposite the gate of the Marine Park of Mafia Island. It consists of five hectares plot with secular trees and the spectacular view of Kilole bay and the islands of Chole, Juani and Jibondo. This Lodge is also a PADI resort.

SLEEP   —  +255 786 903752 —  Map

Sunset Bar

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.

DRINK   —  Bweni

Blue World Diving

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.

DO   —  +255 777424588 —  Utende

Kinasi Lodge Restaurant

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.

EAT   —  Utende

Kinasi Bar

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 USD2.

DRINK   —  Utende

Top Life

Local bar with cold beer, gin and soft drinks. Features local DJs during the weekends and Taarabu music during the week.

DRINK   —  Utende


Local bar with nice atmosphere. Price for the beer is around USD1.

DRINK   —  Utende

Kinasi Shop

Mafia Island local handicraft decorative & clothes .

BUY   —  +255 777424588 —  Utende

Mafia Island Lodge

Next to the beach. Rooms can be a little pricey.

SLEEP   —  Utende

About Mafia Island

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. But 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 ‘hotels’ in Kilindoni, the main town (the port and airstrip are here). Hopefully Mafia Island will not become the ‘next destination’ but remain an eco-friendly niche. Currently there are about 3,000 to 4,000 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 reportedly dugongs.

Source: wikivoyage