A thick cover of coconut trees, slivers of white sand and wooden Dhows greet you when you land on Mafia Island. Far from a tourist hot spot and practically untouched, the tiny island escape looks like a page torn from the book of dreams. Beneath the serene waters turtles and sting rays drift against the colorful coral beds and bright eyed children run barefoot from the mangroves. Mafia Island is a delectable taste of paradise Africa.
Being an island devoid of shops, ATM’s, nightlife and even roads – Mafia Island is designed to welcome those travelers seeking refuge from the modern world. It’s a place where you can live in harmony with the locals, watch humpback whales crash offshore and dream the world away against a stunning backdrop of undeveloped Africa.
WHAT TO DO
Divers will delight in exploring the underwater live museums of Mafia Island. Clear blue waters, warm temperatures and an abundance of sea life make it the perfect destination for discovering what lies beneath. Sea turtles swim in the calm aqua waters, sting rays float past your eyes and if you are lucky you can even catch a glimpse of the white tipped reef shark.
Take an excursion around the island on one of the magnificent wooden Dhows, these boats are a traditional part of African life and you can enjoy views of the island from the water. Often you will pass other Dhows gliding through the water adorned with locals dressed in bright and beautiful garments.
Take a walk through the crumbling historic ruins of Ras Kisimani to see the town drowned out by the sea. In the ruins you can spot swinging monkeys, wild pigs, black winged fruits bats and wide eyed bush babies.
The main draw of this glorious island is for those seeking rest and rejuvenation. Whilst the beaches of Zanzibar offer a little more in terms of spectacular beauty, the soft sands of Mafia Island are far more rewarding for those wanting a taste of tradition, fishing and diving.
Mafia Island only has a dozen options for accommodation and the bulk of these being lodges. Some of the lodges are spectacular to behold as they blend directly with the nature of the area, built into trees and surrounded by green leaves. Eco lodges are very popular here and the accommodation ranges from the simplistic to the slightly luxurious meaning mosquito nets and ceiling fans at the most. However these coconut cabins are a keen reminder of the simple side of life and help keep visitors more in touch with the locals.
Being a tiny island there are not many places to dine in gourmet style but many of the lodges offer wonderful African cuisine to be enjoyed surrounded by nature or to the glow of candlelight. There is an abundance of local seafood available to purchase from the fishermen and much of the food is homegrown from the islands gardens, trees and chickens. Swahili style buffets and sizzling barbeques are available. Mafia Island is populated with coconut trees meaning that fresh coconut is a specialty on the island and you can find plenty of fresh jeweled fruits waiting to be consumed throughout the day.
Mafia Island is perched just 25km from the main coast of Tanzania and 150km from Zanzibar. Whilst getting there can be a little difficult it is certainly worth the effort to relax in paradise without the worries of crime and hassle. Small air hangers carry in handfuls of guests at a time on tiny 12 seat flights from Dar es Salaam. Direct flights also arrive frequently from Selous, so whilst air travel is your only option to find paradise, it is far from a major inconvenience.