Mafia Island: the paradise island and its protected marine park

Mafia Island is an irresistible island off the coast of Tanzania. After a safari, you will enjoy relaxing on its warm sand and tasting delicious coconuts. But it is during your dives in its turquoise waters that you will discover the most beautiful treasures of Mafia Island. The observation of aquatic life is indeed the main asset of this pretty Tanzanian pearl and its protected marine park. Want to know more ? In this article, we provide you with all the information about Mafia and the activities to do there.

Mafia Island


  • Mafia Island in a nutshell
    • The island paradise of Mafia Island
    • Mafia Island: an original name!
    • Mafia Island: the largest protected marine park in the Indian Ocean
  • What to do in Mafia Island?
    • Diving and snorkeling at Mafia Island
    • Encounter with whales and whale sharks on Mafia Island
    • Historical visits
    • Mafia Island Sunset Cruise
    • Exploration of the most beautiful beaches of Mafia Island

Mafia Island in a nutshell

The island paradise of Mafia Island

Mafia Island is a small Tanzanian island off the Indian Ocean. It is located about 150km south of Dar Es Salaam. Although it is located not far from Zanzibar, the island of Mafia is not part of this famous archipelago. She is quite the opposite. It is an off the beaten track destination, untouched by tourism, and one of Tanzania’s best kept secrets  ! Do not hesitate to also consult our complete article on what to do in Zanzibar .

On site, you will be amazed by the turquoise blue shades of its warm waters as well as its white sand. There’s nothing better than a siesta under its coconut trees, lulled by the gentle lapping of the Indian Ocean! It is also a destination of choice to rest after a safari in Tanzania.

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For the romantics, know that the beauty of Mafia Island and its tranquility make it the ideal setting for a honeymoon in the sun.

Mafia Island: an original name!

The story of Mafia Island has absolutely nothing to do with the mafia. So don’t worry, you won’t risk finding yourself immersed in the heart of the Godfather’s universe. It will rather be a dive into the heart of the Indian Ocean…

For the record, Mafia Island was from the 8th century a stopover for Persian ships, then on their way to explore the African continent. Africa being full of natural resources, explorations have multiplied and the island has been subjected to various influences, Persian, Arab and Swahili. The name “Mafia” probably comes from the Arabic morfiyeh which means group or archipelago.

Mafia Island: the largest protected marine park in the Indian Ocean

Mafia island from the sky

Mafia Island and its waters are part of a huge protected marine park spread over 822km². It is also the largest in the Indian Ocean! Mafia Island Marine Park encompasses the coastline, waters to the south and east of the island, Chole Bay, and several surrounding islets and reefs. Find the official map on the Marine Park Tanzania website .

Around Mafia Island, there are 50 types of coral, over 400 species of fish, sea turtles, as well as marine mammals such as dugongs and whale sharks.

Its seabed is much more intact and varied than in Zanzibar and Pemba. Mafia Island thus attracts experienced divers. But whether you are used to the depths or a beginner, and whether you opt for diving or snorkeling, you are sure to observe spectacular aquatic landscapes.

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To preserve this exceptional ecosystem, the number of visitors is also limited on Mafia Island.

What to do in Mafia Island?

Diving and snorkeling at Mafia Island

During your trip to Tanzania , you will have the opportunity to meet wildlife. On safari, you will observe many animals in the most beautiful parks in the country. But on the sea side too, you will have the chance to observe multiple species.

The best sites for diving and snorkeling at Mafia Island are of course located in the protected marine park. Take a boat trip to Chole Bay. You will see colorful tropical fish , sea turtles , barracudas , wrasse, dugongs , and rays to name a few. Outside of Chole Bay, Juani Reef is known as Turtle Island.

Encounter with whales and whale sharks on Mafia Island

Don’t take your mask and snorkel off, your aquatic adventure in Tanzania continues! This time you go in search of the giants of the oceans, whales and whale sharks. These marine mammals pass through the warm waters of Mafia Island during their migration. To optimize your chances of seeing humpback whales, favor a stay from August to October. For whale sharks , the season runs from November to March, with a larger peak in February.

whale shark at Mafia Island

Historical visits

Passionate about history and culture, board a boat from Utende. He will lead you to the ruins in the area.

Located on the island of Juani in the Mafia archipelago, the ruins of Kua are all that remains of a medieval Swahili city. The remaining structures include the ruins of Swahili houses as well as a mosque believed to have been a sultan’s palace. Today, the ruins of Kua are tangled in the roots of trees, giving a mystical atmosphere to the place.

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Finally, take advantage of your visit to Juani Island to explore its beaches. These are nesting sites for many sea turtles.

And to continue your explorations, know that next door, on the island of Chole , there are also Arab ruins. These date back to the 12th century.

Mafia Island Sunset Cruise

mafia island sunset

Are you traveling with your dear and tender? What could be more romantic than a sunset cruise off Mafia Island? By booking your stay in Tanzania with Twalo, we will organize an unforgettable dhow cruise for you . These small sailboats, also called dhows, have been the traditional boats of East Africa for centuries. Climbing aboard these boats is already an experience in itself, but with a sunset in the background, it’s breathtaking!

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Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of this blog, 'Discover the World – The Blog for Curious Travelers.' Join me as we embark on a journey around the world, uncovering beautiful places, diverse cultures, and captivating stories. Additionally, we will delve into mysterious and, at times, even bizarre destinations.

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