Mafia Island – downright eerily beautiful? It is definitely beautiful, this with 435 square kilometers very manageable island on the coast of Tanzania. And although it can be reached comfortably in just 30 minutes by plane from Dar es Salaam, you won’t find nearly as many tourists here as, say, on the much better-known neighboring island of Zanzibar.
Mafia Island is a healthy place to relax
And this is not because of what the name of the island might say. This spot has nothing to do with the mafia. There are several interpretations. The most likely is that the word comes from Arabic, where morfi’a means archipelago. But the name can also be traced back to the Ma’afir tribe, who once lived here. Or to “mahali wa afya,” which in Swahili describes a healthy place to live. Historians assume that Mafia Island is the island of Menouthesias from ancient times, which was mentioned in Roman trade reports in the year 50 of our era.
The rule over the island changed often, Portugal, Oman, Great Britain and Germany held power on the island for different periods of time. The German period was quite short. After the German-British Heligoland Treaty, Mafia belonged to German East Africa from 1892. In the end, in 1915, three Germans and 20 native Askari surrendered to a British superiority after a five-hour battle.
Rufiji River attracts the Whale Sharkes to Mafia Island
There is no sign of strife on Mafia Island these days. In contrast, you will find wonderful beaches like Ras Kijimani, fantastic snorkeling and diving grounds, and great destinations like the Kua Ruins with their impressive coral architecture or the nearby lagoon, in whose crystal-clear waters you can snorkel with harmless jellyfish. Whether a fish barbecue on the Mange sandbank or an encounter with gazelles and flying foxes, a hike through the Mlola Forest, visits to the very pristine villages or go on a traditional fishing boat. It is easy to spend a whole week on Mafia and set down the pace.
And that’s not even mentioning probably the most breathtaking adventure. From October to March, huge election sharks move along between Mafia Island and the mainland. The Rufiji River brings abundant nutrients into the sea, providing the abundance of food that the peaceful giants need. A snorkeling tour with the largest fish they have ever seen is worth a visit to the archipelago alone. If you travel in August to October, you have a pretty good chance of seeing whale sharks.
Mafia Island offers beauties under water
Yes, and then there are the beauties under water. The largest marine park in the Indian Ocean protects 822 square kilometers of largely untouched coral reefs. More than 50 corals and well over 400 species of fish can be found here in varied dive sites that make even experienced divers go into raptures. Excellently equipped dive centers with experienced multilingual guides ensure carefree fun.