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Mafia Island


435 km² (168mi²)



Best time to visit

June to October and December to February

Experience Mafia Island before it changes

If you're seeking an unspoiled tropical paradise, Mafia Island should be at the top of your travel list. This hidden gem, located just 20 km off mainland Tanzania, has stunning beaches devoid of visitors, a laid-back atmosphere, and friendly local people. Snorkel alongside the beautifully patterned giant Whale Sharks during certain seasons, scuba dive in marine reserves, catch a glimpse of majestic humpback whales or witness the wonder of baby turtles hatching on the beach. You'll be immersed in tranquillity on this island, with luxurious lodges available for your ultimate relaxation. Don't miss out on this unique and unforgettable experience before it's too late.

Mafia Island beach view

Mafia Island Holidays: Enjoy Excellent Diving & Snorkelling

Discover the hidden gem of Mafia Island, an exquisite archipelago comprising one large and several smaller islands. Contrary to popular belief, this tropical paradise is not part of the Zanzibar archipelago. It is located in the southern Mafia district and is a less-visited tropical paradise with long white beaches, swaying palm trees, and abundant marine life.

Mafia Island is the best option for nature enthusiasts who prefer to take the road less travelled. Unlike the famous Zanzibar archipelago, tourism and development haven’t significantly impacted the Mafia archipelago. This means you can find yourself on stunning beaches all by yourself. And for divers and snorkellers, you will discover some of the best corals and marine life in East Africa.

Located 20km from mainland Tanzania and 130km south of Zanzibar, getting to Mafia Island is easier than you think. You can take a small plane from Arusha, Dar es Salaam, or Zanzibar and be transported there in no time. While there is a ferry from the mainland, its schedule is irregular, and the crossing can be rough and unsafe.

If you book a safari and beach package or a Mount Kilimanjaro climb and beach package with us, one of our travel experts will book flights, accommodation and island transport. This leaves you to enjoy a smooth, stress-free transition from Tanzania mainland to Mafia Island.

On the island, you will experience first-rate hospitality and excellent beachside accommodation nestled in palm groves. If you’re looking for a romantic yet secluded beach getaway to celebrate a honeymoon, Mafia Island is the perfect choice.

Soak up the relaxed atmosphere and enjoy the beautiful beaches of Ras Kisimani, Utende, and Kanga. Explore unique sights such as the elusive hippos at Ndagoni, the northern lighthouse of Ras Mkumba, or the giant fig and baobab trees on Chole Island. While there, you can also discover the Chole Island Ruins, which include a 14th-century mosque and an 18th-century two-storey building.

The ocean to the south has been a reserve since 1995, resulting in abundant marine life and a diverse range of corals. This makes it one of the best dive sites in East Africa, with plenty of options for both beginners and experienced divers. If you’re interested in snorkelling, don’t miss the beautiful reefs of Chole Island and the Blue Lagoon on Juani Island.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with Whale Sharks also exists here. Beautifully patterned, they are known for their almost magical presence, similar to a dugong, dolphin or whale.

If you plan to swim with the Whale Sharks, the best period is from October to February. We recommend choosing a company that provides a thorough briefing on how to swim respectfully around Whale Sharks and that maintains slow boat speeds to avoid disturbing or harming the Whale Sharks with their propellers. Another highlight is from August to September, when Humpback whales can be seen during a whale tour.

Mafia Island map
dry season

Mafia Island Marine Park

Mafia Island Marine Park (MIMP) was established in April 1995 as Tanzania’s first marine park. It covers 821 km² of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass, and coastal forests.

dry season

Resident Whale Sharks

Whale sharks were once considered seasonal visitors, but some live year-round in the Mafia archipelago. They move to deeper waters at different periods, leading to the assumption that they migrate away from the islands.

dry season

The Name is Mafia

Mafia’s name origin is uncertain. One theory suggests it comes from the Arabic “morfiyeh,” meaning archipelago. Another theory is that it comes from the Swahili phrase “mahali pa afya,” meaning a place of health.

Snorkelling on Mafia Island

Mafia Island is an excellent snorkelling and diving destination.

Dhow beach ocean

There are far fewer visitors on Mafia Island than for example on Zanzibar.


Best time to go to Mafia Island

Mafia Island experiences warm and dry weather during two dry seasons. They occur from June to October and December to February. Similarly, these two periods are also the best time for wildlife viewing in mainland Tanzania as the wildlife congregates around water sources. Therefore, these two seasons are perfect for combining a safari with a relaxing beach holiday.

There are two rainy seasons which could affect your holiday plans. The short rains, which arrive somewhat unpredictably, occur from November to December. Whilst the long rains bring heavy rain from March to May.

dry season

Dry Season

June to October

Ideal period for the perfect weather to relax on the beach.

rainy season

Green Season

March to May

Best time for even fewer visitors and lower rates.

Why to go

A perfect place to leave the world behind

If you’re looking for a unique and secluded travel experience, then Mafia Island is the destination for you. This tropical paradise, overshadowed by its neighbouring islands, mainly Pemba and Zanzibar, is yet to be impacted by tourism, making it the perfect place to escape the crowds. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you explore the easy-going pace of life and enjoy the hospitality of the locals. And for those interested in diving and snorkelling, you won’t find a better place in East Africa than the Mafia Island Marine Park. Here, you’ll have the chance to swim with Whale Sharks and discover some of the best underwater scenery in the region. Choose Mafia Island for your next holiday and fall in love with this enchanting archipelago.

Dhow sunset Pole Pole Bungalows Mafia Island
Feedback beach holiday Mafia Island
The hotel was magnificent, the variety of food was very good and the service was superb. On a related note, we would also like to mention that all transfer drivers were always very punctual and offered us a first glimpse of the country and its people.
Dieter & Renate | Germany
Boat cruise near Mafia Island
Boat Cruise

There are different options for boat cruises.

Woman snorkelling
Snorkelling & Diving

Depending on your travel time, you will see different marine life.

Things to do

Ocean experiences of a lifetime await

Mafia Island is a great holiday destination if you enjoy water activities! The marine life is vibrant and colourful.


  • From October to February, swim with majestic Whale Sharks.
  • From August to September, take a boat tour to see Humpback Whales.
  • Snorkel at the Colombo Island, Blue Lagoon and Chole Island
  • Discover giant fig and baobabs trees growing around the Chole Island Ruins
  • Spot the shy and sometimes elusive hippos at Ndagoni
  • Visit and climb the lighthouse of Ras Mkumba
star fish beach
Land and marine wildlife

The flora and fauna on Mafia Island is diverse and largely unspoiled.


Abundant marine reserves and fascinating inland habitats

Mafia Island wildlife includes hippos, fruit bats, Vervet monkeys, nocturnal Galago Bushbabies, rare Blue Duiker, and Genet Cats. Over 120 bird species reside here, with notable sightings, including the Goliath Heron, Openbill Storks, Fish Eagles, Palm-Nut Vulture, and various Sunbirds. Enormous inland fig and baobab trees are a highlight, while dense mangroves and tidal sandbanks support numerous species. Many types of corals exist, along with over 400 marine species.

Where to stay on Mafia Island

Pole Pole Bungalows Mafia Island

Pole Pole Bungalows

Mafia Kivulini Lodge

Mafia Kivulini Lodge

Dive Planet Mafia Island

Dive Planet Mafia Island


Travel to Mafia Island, 20km from mainland Tanzania and 130km south of Zanzibar, by taking a short flight from Arusha, Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar. A ferry from the mainland is not recommended due to erratic schedules and unsafe crossings. You can get around the island on Tuk-tuks.

There are numerous places to stay, ranging from lodges to guest houses, in Rufiji Mafia Kilwa Marine Reserve, as well as on the western side of the island. Chole Island also has some beautiful options.

Your safari adventure before relaxing on Mafia Island

Lion paws closeup
Arno Snellenberg Tanzania Travel Expert
Tanzania-Experience safari vehicle

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