Mafia Island – no relations to THE Mafia


(Posted 14th July 2015)

While Tanzania’s famous Northern circuit national parks, Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Selous Game Reserve and of course Zanzibar, comprising of the islands of Unguja and Pemba, are well known abroad and need little explanation, has the more distant Mafia Island and its smaller neighbours always been a specialty destination for tourists.

Yet, those who ever made their way, by air or by boat, to Mafia Island, have tall tales to tell. Excellent diving grounds along the reefs surrounding the island, rewarding snorkeling trips, endless empty beaches with no beach boy pests bothering the visitors, good fishing and an intact nature rarely found today make up some of the attractions tourists enjoy and come back for. Ruins of ancient settlements, dating back to the 11th century give an insight into the history of Mafia, which, while at one time part of the Kilwa Sultanate changed hands multiple times among major seafaring powers which ruled the world at one time or another.

Located about a hundred miles south of Dar es Salaam and only a few miles off the mainland almost opposite the Rufiji River delta, is the small archipelago of Mafia one of Tanzania’s best kept secrets. Some 50 kilometres long and at the widest point just 15 kilometres across is the island almost entirely surrounded by a massive barrier reef teeming with marine life and half of the island’s shoreline extends into a marine national park. While an airstrip allows for daily flights to the mainland and telecommunications allow to stay in touch with the rest of the world is a trip to Mafia also a trip back into time and as such a marvel waiting to be explored.

Auric Air, one of Tanzania’s leading domestic airlines with over 30 scheduled and charter destinations, has now in conjunction with the Ras Mbisi Lodge put a package together to visit Mafia. At just 299 US Dollars, flight from and to Dar es Salaam included, is this offer one of the best values for a two night / three day trip to the island. Full board with mineral water at meals, afternoon tea served at the pool, coffee making facilities in the room, transfers to and from the airstrip and the free use of kajaks, besides guided nature walks, are all part of the deal which no doubt will be snapped up by local expatriates over the upcoming Idd celebrations which mark the end of Ramadan next weekend. International tourists keen to discover the small archipelago should request their local safari or tour operator to put a package together for them to include Mafia in their holiday itinerary.