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 Mafia Island

Mafia island lies 30 minutes by plane, 130 kilometres south-west of Dar-es-Salaam. Flights cost $140 each way from Dar, $180 from Zanzibar and $280 from Selous.

The resident population of 46,000 are mainly fishermen or smallholder farmers that grow coconut, paw-paw, rice and cassava. The friendly and welcoming islanders create a relaxed atmosphere. 

The dominant religion is moderate Islam and both christians and muslims live in peace and harmony. The air and sea temperatures remain warm all year round with the main rainy season between April and June.

Mafia Island MapToday Mafia is known as a beautiful Indian Ocean island that is famous for deep sea fishing and scuba diving. Aquatic life is abundant and the coral gardens are in good health due to the protection of the Mafia Island Marine Park. The park is located between the Rufiji River delta to the west and the open Indian Ocean to the east. The dual influences of the river and the sea have combined to create a rich and exceptional biodiversity with unique landscapes under the sea and on dry land. 

 The island was the most important trading post of Shirazi influence between the 12th and 15th centuries AD. It has occupied a key position in the East African trading routes between Kilwa and Zanzibar for centuries and ruins from these times can be visited on Chole and Juani islands. In more modern times, Mafia was the base used by British forces in World War I, when in 1915, they assembled their aerial forces to scout for the German battleship, Königsberg, which was wrecking havoc with British shipping, and was hiding under thick foliage in the nearby Rufiji Delta. Read a potted history of Mafia Island here...


Today the island has two main attractions:  snorkelling with the seasonal whale sharks off the east coast of Kilidoni from September to March,  and diving on the outer reefs of the west coast,  the passes on the edge of Chole Bay, and inside the bay itself. As luck would have it, when the whale sharks aren't visible, this is the best time of year to see turtle hatchings, from April to September, on the beaches of Juani Island, 30 minutes by boat from Chole Bay.

Chole Bay is blessed with a number of excellent dives within the bay, ensuring diving in almost any weather, as well as easy access. Visibility varies with the wind and tides, and is generally poor on outgoing tides as there is the normal accumulation of organic and granular matter in the water. The diving is tide-dependent for this reason and also to avoid strong currents at the dive sites which are close to the mouth of the Bay (Kinasi Pass). We usually dive on the full low, full high or on the incoming tide for the Kinasi Pass drift dive and the Chole and Kinsai walls. Diving outside the Bay is subject to weather conditions and tides, as it can be dangerous to negotiate Kinasi Pass on an outgoing tide; however, once outside the Bay the dives are not tide dependent. 

Potato Grouper / Bass, Mafia

Kinasi Pass has a surprising quantity of fish for a relatively barren area - snappers are plentiful, morays and schools of barracuda are common, and it is rare to not see at least one large grouper per dive here. Of the reefs outside the passes Dindini caves north and south are a long series of overhangs in the rock wall that drops from the reef top at six metres down to the bottom at around 30 metres. Visibility is nearly always over 20 metres here and often more, and the overhangs are favourite haunts of large potato groupers. These cuties can grow up to two metres long and 200 kilos, and often treat divers with curiosity, happily hanging around to have their picture taken and show that they are not disturbed by our presence. There is also good macrolife on the walls, with plenty of whip corals and resident gobies.  The sites down by Juani are covered in soft purple and pink corals, and are excellent places to  encounter turtles.



Mafia Island accommodation

Kinasi Lodge

Kinasi Lodge Mafia Island

For divers and those wanting a splash of refinement, our lodge of choice is Kinasi Lodge. The lodge has a beautiful pool and beach, thoughtfully appointed and stylish rooms, the food is both plentiful and some of the tastiest around. With only 13 independent, detached suites spread around the large grounds, amidst cashew trees on a hillside which runs down to the beach on Chole Bay, it is easy to relax and feel pampered.

For those who would like further pampering, there is a spa and massage centre on site with a resident Thai masseuse and masseur, offering massage, aromatherapy, hydrotherapy and beauty treatments. Kinasi is the longest-running lodge on the island, and is still run by it's founder, Peter Byrne. Rates for a Garden sea view suite are at $150 per person per night full board or $120 pppn half board in low season, going up to $190 pppn HB or $200 in the main season for a Sea front suite. A 6-night HB in a Garden sea view suite 10-dive package in low season would come to $1070 per person based on 2-sharing. Marine park fees of $20 pppn not included. 

Read about activities and tours from Kinasi here ...

Mafia Island Lodge

Mafia Island Lodge accommodationFor divers with a smaller budget, Mafia Island Lodge fits the bill. Mafia Island Lodge stands amidst tall palms on a sandy beach in Chole Bay, in the heart of the marine park near Utende village on South coast of Mafia. Rates start at $130 per person per night full board in a standard room, $150 in a superior room, but they have some good value for money diving packages: 

5-night, 4-dive package with 5 nights half board in a standard room, return airstrip transfers, 4 dives and 1 excursion for $691 per person based on two sharing. Marine Park fees of $20 pppn not included.

 7-night, 8-dive package, half board in a superior room, return airstrip transfers, 1 excursion for $1061 per person based on two sharing. Marine Park fees of $20 pppn not included.

It accommodates more guests than Kinasi Lodge, with 14 Superior rooms, 18 Standard rooms and 2 Family rooms are set among the coconut palms with their own veranda overlooking the bay. They are all self-contained with air-conditioning, but are next to each other. Twin and double beds are available. Among the 34 rooms there are 2 family Suites, which are made out of 2 comfortable connecting rooms with one sharing bathroom, each one with its own veranda overlooking garden and sea. They may comfortably accommodate a maximum of 5 guests. All the rooms have garden and sea view. Hot and cold water is available 24 hours a day. 

La Lua Cheia

To the north of the island is the remote La Lua Cheia, an ideal spot for those really wanting to get away from it all, of the proverbial beaten track and off the grid.

Located at Bweni Village near the northern tip of Mafia is a lovely promontory called Ras Bweni. “Ras” stands for peninsula, and from here one has fine views of the sweeping bay and palm-fringed beaches, superb sunsets over the Rufiji Delta and the moon rising over the Indian Ocean.

LA LUA CHEIA is a simple luxury camp located on Ras Bweni. Six large tents under thatched “bandas” with verandahs lead directly onto the magnificent beach; each has an ensuite bathroom built at the back of the tent with solar-heated hot water, so life is very comfortable and private. Solar lights and fans provide lighting and comfort at night. We have kept the site as simple and undisturbed as possible while providing all the necessary comforts.

Lua Cheia beach camp Mafia IslandThe rooms face north-west and take advantage of the sea breezes during the hot-season as well as the marvelous sunsets over the Rufiji Delta. Food is served always from the barbecue and home-made oven and includes fresh seafood, oysters and mussels harvested by the local people.

The wooden floors of the bar and restaurant, the antique and dhow-wood furniture and the soft sand under your tent floors and eating out under the stars on the beach all conspire to give the “barefoot” experience we want our guests to enjoy.

The stunning feature of the location is the nearly 3 km of beach stretching away in both directions, all yours…..the sand is white and pure and one can always swim, despite tidal changes. With complete isolation from any other tourist facility or commercial activity of any kind, the place is yours. Solitude, nature, complete relaxation from $125 per person per night, full board.





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