Mafia Island, Tanzania is an island paradise offering superb diving and ocean experiences. Travelers looking to get away from crowded tourist hubs and overdone resort accommodations can saturate themselves in Mafia’s pristine waters, white sand beaches, and coral reefs. The Mafia Island Tour is indeed a fascinating one.

Mafia Tanzania has no connection at all with Italian gangsters. You certainly will not find any mob bosses among the sea turtle nesting sites or schools of tropical fish that abound on the island. The name “Mafia” comes from the Swahili phrase Mahali pa Afya, which means ‘the place of good health. And, we certainly think spending time on this serene island can only improve one’s health!

The appeal of Mafia is its aquatic life; from sea turtles or coral reefs to gentle, but gigantic whale sharks. Mafia Island Marine Park is the first site to be designated a marine park in all of Tanzania. It is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of this incredible marine area.

Along with Mafia, there are three other, small islands that comprise the Mafia Archipelago: Jibondo, Juani, and Chole. While they are small, each of these beautiful islands offers something unique and is worth visiting.

More About Mafia

While Zanzibar is a more well-known destination for tourists in Tanzania, Mafia remains a nearly untouched paradise. It’s not on the radar of many travel agents, meaning that Mafia’s beaches are secluded and wildlife and marine life are abundant. Because of this exclusive status, visiting Mafia is more expensive than in Zanzibar. However, the trade-off is the feeling that you have the entire island to yourself. Water adventures such as snorkeling and diving expeditions might very well be only you and your travel partner exploring a coral reef or diving with whale sharks.

In some ways, Mafia has remained a very local island in the Indian Ocean. The local residents of Mafia Island are mostly fishermen and farmers. Farmers generally grow tropical fruits and rice, while some may cultivate trees for cashews or coconuts. Visitors to the island are certain to enjoy tropical treats grown right there, on the island.


Things to do on Mafia Island 

Mafia has plenty of marine and beach activities to keep travelers active and engaged.

Deep sea fishing

Deep-sea fishing is especially popular in the area, offering guests the chance to catch magnificent barracudas, kingfish, enormous tuna (both yellowfin and dogtooth tuna varieties), giant trevally (which can be up to 50 kg in weight!), and dorado.

The largest recorded fish caught in the Mafia area weighed a whopping 57 kg (125 lbs)!

The famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of the Sherlock Holmes stories) visited in 1950 and caught a massive 34 kg (75 lbs) dorado that broke African-wide records for this type of fish. As far as we know, this record still stands.

If you’re interested in deep-sea fishing on Mafia, be mindful that the fishing season is over 8 months long, compromising the majority of the year (August through March).

Also, consider coming to the Mafia Channel Tournament, hosted by Kinasi Lodge (a member of the Game Fishing Association), held here on Mafia Island annually.


Wildlife spotting 

Mafia Island is a part of incredible Tanzania, which means that there is plenty of unique African wildlife to view while on the island. Visitors can see wild hippos, who enjoy the marsh at the center of the island. The island is also home to other animals, such as vervet monkeys and genet cats.

Mafia’s Chole Island is famous for its giant fruit bats – harmless, tropical bats that eat only fruit.


Across the Mafia area, bird lovers have the opportunity to observe over 120 species of unique tropical birds. The forests in the northern area of Mafia offer the highest chances to see birdlife, but, because everything is ‘extra’ in Tanzania and its islands – Mafia Island is one of the few places you can have an excellent bird-watching tour, from the waters of the Indian Ocean, seated in a traditional Tanzanian dhow.

How’s that for a spectacular way to experience nature?


The Mafia Island Tour and the surrounding smaller islands offer incredible diving experiences. In fact, Mafia Island is renowned in East Africa for its natural, vibrant reefs and abundance of a variety of fish. This area has been documented and given special protection by major international bodies, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Because of its rich reefs and marine life, and the efforts of international organizations for wildlife conservation, the Mafia Island Marine Park was founded in 1995. This is the first of Tanzania’s marine parks and an effective approach to protecting and conserving the coastal areas of the Indian Ocean along Tanzania’s coasts.

Diving around Mafia Island means the chance of sighting over 50 types of tropical coral and nearly 500 species of fish. In the clear, warm waters divers will see schools of vibrant orange and neon-yellow fish, and glimpse seahorses and natural coral in shapes and sizes that look like sculptures or art submerged in the water. The coral reefs around Mafia Island Tour offer divers some of the most biodiverse marine life on the East African coast. Further, the marine mammals divers or snorkelers might encounter around Mafia island include Humpback whales, Sperm whales, and dolphins.

Near Kinasi Lodge there is a famous diving attraction called “The Pinnacle”, which is a tall, 12-meter (nearly 40 feet) high spire of coral. Its enormous size attracts fish and active marine life from all over, making this a prime location to see some of the most elusive underwater life. Some guests have even spotted moray eels in this area.

Other popular diving locations in the area include Forbes Bay and Dindini North Wall. Diving enthusiasts should consider visiting Mafia Island in the months of December – March for the most rewarding diving experiences, although diving opportunities are available year-round.

Diving with whale sharks 

Sharks? Diving with sharks?!

Yes, diving with whale sharks.

While some adventure-seekers may prefer the extreme experience of swimming with Great White Sharks, such as is offered in places like South Africa, swimming with whale sharks is an entirely different sort of experience.

Whale sharks are beautiful, shy creatures that pose no harm to humans. As their name implies, they are similar to whales, not only in their massive size but also in their diet: whale sharks eat plankton. Diving with whale sharks in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean is a serene experience, allowing visitors to interact with nature in a profound and safe way. These spotted giants can reach lengths up to 8 meters (over 25 feet) and will leave divers in complete awe. But divers are encouraged to move slowly and gently in the water. This is because, despite their huge size, whale sharks are easily frightened and might swim away if they feel uncomfortable.


The most ideal time to swim with whale sharks is from October – February. This is because the monsoon winds from the north bring down water from the Rufiji River, which is rich in plankton – whale sharks’ preferred food. Whale sharks will come in droves along Mafia Island’s western shores to consume plankton, and divers can have the experience of a lifetime swimming with these giant creatures.

How are whale shark swimming tours organized?

Travelers join a whale shark tour. Once the boat departs into the waters where whale sharks are known to swim it usually takes a short time (15-20 min) to spot these amazing creatures.

Once seen, the boat will pause to allow these shy creatures to get accustomed to the presence of the boat. The divers then gently enter the water and swim amongst these giants, but harmless sharks for an awe-inspiring experience.


If you’re not a trained diver, there are plenty of fabulous places to snorkel and enjoy Mafia’s vibrant reefs and diverse species of tropical fish. Some of these are in quiet, shallow waters, for visitors who are not strong swimmers. The snorkeling experience on a Mafia Island Tour is an amazing one.

mafia island

Visiting Kilindoni Town 

Mafia Island’s Kilindoni Town offers a few amenities, such as a bank and post office. It also hosts a local market, for items such as fresh produce and fish or seafood.

A short 30-min drive from Kilondoni is the area of Kisimani, at the southwestern edge of the island. At one time, this was a thriving center with a beautiful palace. However, what now remains are only ruins to attest to the established locale that once stood here; some artifacts found in the area have been dated back to 600 B.C. Legend has it that the ruler cut off the hands of the masons and builders so that no one might ever recreate his palace in another location. His actions may have caused the downfall of Kisimani. Check out more about Zanzibar Vacations, Prices, Packages

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