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Mafia Island is a sleepy backwater and retains a traditional, unspoilt and friendly culture reminiscent of the Zanzibar of thirty years ago.

It is the southernmost of the offshore islands and a 35 minute flight from Dar es Salaam. Within East Africa’s largest protected area, Chole Bay’s clear waters offer wonderful snorkelling, sailing and swimming. Outside the bay are some of the richest reefs in the world, with an unparalleled variety of corals and tropical fish. The best time to visit is from November through to March.

With over 400 marine species identified, this is the meeting place for large oceanic fish, as well as those common to coral reefs in the Indian Ocean. Almost all of the best diving is at less than 30 metres. Divers can explore fabulous shallow reefs, channels, walls and caves. Among the grasses of the Majira Channel, you may find the amazing mermaid-like dugong. Giant sea turtles lay eggs on the beaches of small islands to the east of Mafia, while the fascinating giant Madagascan fruit bat remains an alluring and unusual attraction.

Mafia Island is perfectly located for a number of seasonal visitors including humpback whales (Aug-Sep), whale sharks (Nov-Mar) and both green and hawksbill turtles (Jun-Sep).

View suggested itinerary

Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: whale shark, hawksbill turtle, giant frogfish, southern stingray, white-tip reef shark

Dive trips

This dive location is featured in the following itinerary:

Dive Mafia Island

A week exploring the vibrant reefs of Chole Bay in the heart of a marine park. The diving highlight is undoubtedly the annual whale shark aggregation where small males can be seen feeding in the channel.

  • When to go: Nov-Mar
  • Duration inc. flights: 11 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £2,075 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
Suggested accommodation options are shown below. Please contact us for further recommendations.

Mafia Island Lodge

Located on the south coast of Mafia Island, in Chole Bay, this lodge stands amidst tall coconut palms on a sandy beach. It offers 34 air-conditioned rooms, each with verandah overlooking the gardens and bay.

Pole Pole Lodge

A luxury bungalow resort on Mafia Island, Pole Pole Lodge offers elegant and spacious suites raised on stilts, with a private verandah overlooking the sandy beach. Diving is available nearby.