The most southerly of the Tanzanian islands, Mafia Island lies 160km south of Zanzibar. Whilst the island played a key role in ancient trading routes, it has escaped modern day mass tourism, retaining an authentic and friendly culture welcoming visitors interested in nature and scuba diving.
Surrounded by a barrier reef, the majority of the southern coastline is a designated marine park offering both divers and snorkellers an incredible experience. Studies on the marine life in the clear waters of Chole Bay alone have recorded five species of turtle, 50 genera of coral and over 400 species of fish.
Whale sharks aggregate in the channel between Mafia and the mainland from November to March and can easily be seen as they feed on the surface. Humpback whales migrate to warmer waters in August and September. The eastern beaches of Juani Island are home to small populations of green and hawksbill turtles who return to nest from June to September.
The marine park boasts an outstanding variety of tropical marine habitats including coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangroves and inter-tidal flats, but the majority of diving is in the shallow waters of Chole Bay (5 – 30 metres). Diving is possible outside the bay along the impressive walls, for the more experienced diver.
The warm waters around Mafia Island are home to an incredible diversity of marine life including tiny critters, rays, reef fish, turtles, grouper, wrasse and reef sharks. Visibility ranges from 25-30 metres and water temperature is 26°C on average. It’s likely you’ll be the only divers on site.
A macro paradise awaits, just a short walk from the dive centre. Here you can spend time exploring the sandy bottom and coral bommies full of the weird and wonderful world of critters at sites such as Nudi City and Frogfish Town. Also inside the calm waters of Chole Bay are the picturesque sites of Milimani where hard and soft corals are home to a huge diversity of marine life including nudibranch, frog fish, octopus and moray eels with Napolean wrasse, rays and big schools of larger fish cruising by. Kinasi Pass is perhaps the most famous site due to the shape of the pinnacle which dominates the site where two large grouper reside.
Outside of the bay, the sites on the east are best visited from September through to March and are suited to more experienced divers. The walls are full of life amongst the corals, inside the caverns and overhangs patrolled by larger pelagic species. The fringing reef site at Juani is popular for turtle encounters.
The peak time for divers to visit is the hot season, November through to March, offering the best all round diving conditions and the opportunity for snorkelling encounters with the seasonal visit of the whale sharks. It is typically dry with some showers and humid.
It is possible to dive from July to September. Regarded as the cool season, these months offer opportunities to observe turtles nesting and humpback whales migrating. The island is affected by the Kusi monsoon wind during these months.
Water temperature is a warm 29°C during the peak season months November to March.
Visibility: Visibility ranges from 25 to 30 metres on dive sites around the island, with perhaps the best being on the sheltered sites inside Chole Bay. The marine park is located between the Rufiji River delta to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east. These both combine to create unique landscapes and an incredible biodiversity of marine life.
Rains: The long rains fall in April and May. It is recommended to avoid visiting the island during these months and the lodge is closed annually in May.
mafia island diving, mafia island lodge
Located on the beach outside Mafia Island Lodge, the PADI 5* dive centre offers daily shore and boat diving and a wide range of courses from beginner through to Divemaster. Night diving is available.
The majority of the spectacular dive sites are located inside Chole Bay, a sheltered natural harbour with a diverse and vibrant marine life. A few minutes walk from the dive centre are three shore dive sites suited to divers of all abilities and a favourite for underwater photographers. Boat diving is offered daily and planned in accordance with the tidal changes offering fantastic drift dives amongst the abundant marine life.
The deep wall sites found on the outside of the bay are suited to more experienced divers. Diving here is rewarding with great drop-offs and plenty of marine wildlife attractions. Diving outside the bay is subject to weather conditions and only available seasonally, from September through to March.
Your dive pack includes two daily morning boat dives. Local surcharges include night diving, private guide, scuba review and day trips to Mange Reef or Bwejuu (subject to minimum numbers and weather dependent).
Please discuss your requirements with the Regaldive team, who will prepare a quotation suited to your needs.
A range of courses and e-learning is also available - please let us know in advance if you would like to take any courses whilst staying on Mafia so we can inform the dive centre.
EXTRAS IN RESORT
Prices listed below are an indication only, and subject to change.
- Marine Park fees: $24 per person per day, paid locally by credit card only
- Snorkelling trip in Chole Bay, including equipment: $25 per person
- Wetsuit (3mm): $10
- Regulator: $10
- BCD: $10
- Dive computer: $15
- Mask, fins, snorkel: $10
- Full equpment (excl. torch/comp): $25
A number of guided day tours are available for those who want to explore Mafia Island. Visit Kilindoni, the capital, the ruins at Kua, a 12th Century archaeological site, the lighthouse on Kanga beach in the north or stay local and visit the residents of Utende village. It’s possible to walk and snorkel amongst the mangroves or sail on a local dhow to an island or sandbank. Seasonal excursions include whale shark snorkelling and turtle hatching trips.
GETTING AROUND AND BASIC TRAVEL INFORMATION
Anyone booking the full package through Regaldive will receive local supplier assistance from the moment they exit customs at the airport, and all our packages include internal flights, land and boat transfers where applicable, unless otherwise requested.
Taxis are readily available, but it is recommended that you seek assistance from reception at your local place of stay for any additional travel and excursion arrangements you may wish to make in situ.
If you would like to extend your trip, we may tailor the duration of your international flights. Please also enquire about our sister company's tailormade safari extensions.
Monsoon winds blow from the North East from December to April (Kaskazi) and from the South East from early July to mid-September (Kusi). The beginning of each new season brings rains.
The ‘long rains’ can start in March and last through to May. There is typically a second, shorter wet season in November. However, the duration and timings of the rains are becoming more irregular and Mafia in general, has a relatively dry tropical climate.
The best times to visit are August to October and from early December through to March. The hottest season is January and February which is mainly dry with some showers and an increase in humidity. Daytime temperatures range from 27°C in July and August to 32°C in the early part of the year.
Water temperatures range from 29°C from December to March and 27°C from July to November.
Tanzania is +3 hours ahead of GMT.
Tanzanian Shilling (TZS)
£1 - 2400 TZS
$1 - 1550 TZS
€1 - 2000 TZS
Although entirely voluntary, tipping is a recognised part of life in this region of the world. Some local staff will look to travellers for personal recognition of the services offered.
Visit Kilindoni, the capital, or the 12th Century archaeological site at Kua, the lighthouse on Kanga beach in the north of the island, or stay local and visit the residents of Utende village. Snorkel amongst the mangroves or sail on a local dhow. Seasonal excursions include whale shark snorkelling and turtle hatching trips.
English is the official language but Swahili is the national language, with 42 ethnic languages spoken.
Scheduled flights are available to Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar with Oman Air, Emirates, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and KLM / Air France.
- Oman Air via Muscat (Oman)
- Emirates via Dubai (UAE) and Nairobi (Kenya)
- Kenya Airways via Nairobi (Kenya)
- Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)
- KLM / Air France: Some flights are code shares with Kenya Airways. KLM offer the best UK regional departure choices, but flights are via Amsterdam, so the trade off is 2 stops (UK - Amsterdam - Nairobi - Zanzibar) and a supplement may apply.
From Dar es Salaam, an onward flight to Mafia takes 35 minutes.
There are also daily scheduled air services to the Ruaha, Selous, Arusha, Pemba and Zanzibar.
Departure tax: International departure tax US$30 and Safety Fee $8 are included in ticket prices ex-Dar es Salaam but NOT ex-Zanzibar where you will need to pay cash.
Travellers to Tanzania should have six months validity on passport from the date of return to the UK.
UK citizens require an entry visa. This can be obtained on arrival at the airport and currently costs US$50 per person but you may prefer to apply beforehand. Two blank pages FACING required. Please check your country of nationality’s entry requirements for any restrictions applicable to you.
Vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure. For the most up to date advice please consult your travel clinic. Ensure you mention you are diving as this may affect any anti-malarial medication advice you are given. Further information regarding vaccinations for travel to this country can be found at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk and from your local healthcare provider. We strongly recommend protection against malaria, hepatitis A, tetanus, typhoid and polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on the different prophylaxis available against malaria.