By Jenna Jolie
Off the coast of Tanzania lies Mafia Island, which stands out as an exceptional destination with secluded sandbars, nesting turtles, and migrating whale sharks. Unlike its more famous counterpart, Zanzibar, Mafia Island remains relatively undiscovered, providing travelers with a serene and peaceful getaway. However, it shines brightly with its awe-inspiring diving opportunities and white-sand beaches with its crystal-clear waters. Are you going to travel to Tanzania? Then, visiting Mafia Island and enjoying romantic moments with your partner is a must.
Must-Know Facts and Tips for Travelers Preparing for a Trip to Mafia Island
Where is Mafia Island located?
Mafia Island is an island situated in the Indian Ocean, off the eastern coast of Tanzania in eastern Africa. Positioned approximately 80 miles (130 km) southeast of Dar es-Salaam and across from the mouth of the Rufiji River, the island spans an area of 170 square miles (440 square km). It is separated from the mainland by a 10-mile-wide (16 km) and 30-mile-long (48 km) channel.
Mafia Island is an island situated in the Indian Ocean
How to get to Mafia Island?
The most convenient way to reach Mafia Island is by taking a plane. Traveling to Mafia Island has evolved, and sailing is no longer the primary mode of transportation. Instead, visitors can fly in light aircraft from Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, or even game parks like the Selous. This aerial journey offers a fantastic experience, treating travelers to breathtaking views of the African bush and coastline.
Additionally, accessing Mafia Island has become even more convenient, as it boasts daily domestic flight connections to various far-flung safari destinations across Tanzania.
How to get to Mafia Island from Zanzibar?
The most economical option to travel from the Zanzibar Archipelago to Mafia Island is combining a ferry and a flight, which typically takes around 12 hours. Currently, there is no direct connection between the two destinations. Therefore, you should follow this route for your convenience: First, travel to Pemba, then take a ferry to Zanzibar. From there, drive to Zanzibar the airport and catch a flight to Mafia Island. Several airlines, such as FlexFlight ApS, Auric Air Services Limited, and Charterlines, Inc, offer flights for this route, while the ferry operator is Azam Marine.
How to get to Mafia Island from Dar Es Salaam?
Traveling from Dar Es Salaam to Mafia Island, you have two main options: flying or taking a ferry. Undoubtedly, flying is the more convenient and less stressful choice. Departing from Dar Es Salaam, the flights, operated by Coastal Air or Auric Air, take approximately 30 minutes and can be booked in advance for around $150 one way. It's a swift and comfortable journey to the island.
For budget travelers, the ferry is a more affordable option. However, traveling by ferry may be uncomfortable if you travel with the elders or children. The ferry departs from Nyamisati village on the mainland at 4 a.m. and takes roughly four hours to reach Mafia Island.
The most convenient way to get to Mafia Island from Dar Es Salaam is by air
The best time to visit Mafia Island?
The best time to visit Mafia Island is in the dry season, which lasts from August to October or late December to mid-March. During these months, the sunny and dry weather makes it ideal for travelers to soak in the azure waters of the beaches on Mafia Island. Diving enthusiasts should avoid the rainy seasons, as the short rains from November to December and the long rains from March to May can reduce underwater visibility.
Moreover, if encountering whale sharks is on your bucket list, the best time to visit is September to March, which is the peak season for these majestic creatures.
The best time to see whale sharks in Mafia Island
Whale shark sightings at Mafia Island are most likely in November and December. Whale sharks can be sighted close to shore during peak season. On one side, the Rufiji River feeds the Mafia Channel with nutrients and planktonic creatures, while the Mafia Island Marine Park does the same on the other. Together, they make the channel profitable by attracting and feeding the whale sharks. Whale sharks swim with their mouths open as filter feeders, ingesting many kilos of plankton and tiny aquatic animals each day. Since 2012, some individual sharks have been observed.
Where to stay on Mafia Island?
Mafia Island offers a range of accommodation options that cater to various preferences and budgets. Whether you prefer a luxury eco-lodge, a beachfront resort, or a more budget-friendly guesthouse, Mafia Island has something to suit every traveler's taste. Here are some popular places to consider staying on Mafia Island:
Mafia Island Activities: Participate In Top Things To Do in Mafia Island
Immerse Yourself In The Allure of Pristine Beaches
One of the primary draws of Mafia Island is its stunning and untouched beaches. Unlike some other more popular tourist destinations, Mafia Island has managed to preserve its natural beauty and charm. The coastline is dotted with palm-fringed, white sandy beaches that stretch for miles, providing the perfect setting for relaxation and tranquility.
Once you arrive the Mafia Island, you will be enveloped in a timeless, tranquil ambiance where all your worries could be taking a long walk on the powdery soft sand beaches. All the time on the island is for enjoying the warm sun and feeling the gentle ocean breezes touching every sense of your body.
Soaking in the pristine beaches is among the best things to do on Mafia Island
Diving into a Marine Wonderland
Mafia Island's real treasure lies beneath the waves. The surrounding waters are part of the Mafia Island Marine Park, a protected area that boasts an incredibly diverse and thriving marine ecosystem. Highlights of the marine park encompass over 460 varieties of tropical fish, five distinct turtle species, the elusive dugong, and an abundance of hard and soft corals. For snorkelers, the shallow reefs near the shore offer a glimpse into this captivating underwater wonderland.
Swim with Whale Sharks
One of the most exhilarating experiences Mafia Island offers is swimming with the majestic whale sharks. These gentle giants visit the island's waters from October to March, and witnessing them up close is an awe-inspiring encounter. Their stunning appearance, adorned with distinctive spots and stripes, makes them a captivating sight.
Tour operators offer responsible and ethical Mafia Island whale shark tours, ensuring the protection and conservation of these magnificent creatures while allowing visitors to appreciate their grandeur.
Take Cultural Tours
The coastal islands of Tanzania embody the profound cultural legacy of this off-the-beaten-path destination of Africa. As you venture around Mafia Island, you'll encounter ruins of the ancient Kua civilization on Juani Island, along with various structures that echo the past, such as the Ras Mkumbi lighthouse in northern Mafia. Juani's sandy beaches are also a shelter for green turtles. You can relish a picnic afternoon on the sandbanks of Funguni and Mange Reef or even partake in a dhow-building lesson on Chole Island.
Travelers can encounter ruins of the ancient Kua civilization while strolling around Mafia Island
Mafia Island in Tanzania is an alluring destination that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and marine wonders. For travelers seeking an off-the-grid adventure and an escape from mass tourism, this hidden gem promises an unforgettable journey. As tourists continue to discover Mafia Island, it is crucial to ensure that the island's charm remains preserved and protected, allowing future generations to appreciate its splendor and allure.
In addition to the beautiful beaches, Tanzania is worth a visa owing to its vast wildlife reserves, amiable local people and fascinating cultures. Don’t forget to obtain a Tanzania visa online for your upcoming trip to this East African country. The Tanzania e-visa application is straightforward and only takes a few minutes to complete. Please contact Tanzania Immigration Services for further details about Tanzania travel and documentation you may prepare.