Unlike its namesake, this is a welcoming and peaceful island of palms and coral…

Due south from Zanzibar and opposite the river mouth of the mighty Rufiji, lies the small island of Mafia. Largely overlooked by the waves of tourism that now feature on Zanzibar, the island has a ramshackle feel to it, which only adds to its charm. Surrounded by a protected marine park, like Pemba, this is a good destination for those that are keen on spending a bit of time in the underwater world.

At around half the size of Pemba to the north, Mafia truly is a getaway from it all. Little has changed on the island for the last century or so and, while coconut exportation is no longer the lucrative enterprise it once was, its bi-products are to be seen all over the island from the roofs to the walls and even the local alcohol.

Life, on the whole, is centered on the small village of Kilindoni, and this dusty collection of huts, set amongst tall palms, is the first view that many see of the island. Like many of the bush strips of the interior, the runway moonlights as the village football pitch and so it is not uncommon to see the game disperse only second before a plane comes in to land!

Elsewhere, the main income on the island is now fishing and so there are small huts and communities that have popped up along the short, 50km coastline, making use of the island’s abundant marine life.

For the average tourist, the reason to head to the island is for the fantastic Mafia Island Marine Park that encompasses around 50% of the coastal waters of the island. On top of this, there are a few remnants of Mafia’s more important past, as a trading post for the Omanis’ and also as a small colony for the Germans….a good example of their legacy is on Chole Island where it is possible to wander amongst the overgrown buildings and walls.

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