Mafia island absolutely stole my heart. It is a place where people do not lock their doors and the entire village sits together to eat and watch the only TV in the village together. The entire island has two roads, only one if you are expecting tarmac roads, a small police station, a hospital and a bunch of hippos that live in some lakes in the middle of the island.
Blessed with stunning beaches, clean and clear waters and very friendly locals Magia Island is the best kept secret of Tanzania.
The best part about Mafia island is the seclusion and lack of tourists on the island. There isn’t even a single souvenir shop here, everything is suspended in a beautiful animation that ticks with the rhythm of the clock.
Don’t forget to check my Tanzania guide for a complete round up of information about the country.
Mafia Island Travel VLOG
Getting to Mafia Island
Mafia is a relatively far off place and it is not easy or cheap to get here. You can take flights domestically from Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar or you can take a ferry from Dar es Salaam which isn’t frequent or fast. There are some local boat crossings but I am highly skeptical about the safety standard after going on tours with these guys. I’m a bad swimmer and drowning in Indian Ocean is not on my bucket list.
If you still want to take the ferry, you will need to travel to Nyamisati from Dar es Salaam which takes around 4-5 hours then the ferry takes 4-5 hours from there. I met some travellers who had their ferry delayed by an entire day. It is a fairly basic service.
Generally, flights from Zanzibar are more expensive than flights from Dar es Salaam. The last I checked there are two airlines offering the service; Coastal Air and Auric Air. Tropical Air also does flights but that’s more like a chartered service without regular flights.I took Auric Air flights which run from Dar es Salaam Julius Nyerere Airport Terminal 1.
It was the small 14 seat plane and I got to sit right behind the pilot. I always wanted to do it and thanks to Mafia I was able to cross this off my bucket list.
Where To Stay In Mafia Island?
There are many resorts and lodges where you can stay. The main areas are Utende and Kilindoni. Kilindoni is the capital.
The main thing to know is the marine park fee. It is a bit weird but the properties located inside the marine park have an extra $20.63 per day on top of your accommodation. I didn’t realise it u too I arrived and had to switch places next day. For the first night I stayed in Mafia Island beach bungalows in Utende which is inside the marine park.
If you want to splash serious cash you can hire an entire island called Thanda Island just off the coats of Mafia Island. It costs only $25,000 a day with 5 days minimum stay.
Getting Around In Mafia Island/ Public Transport In Mafia Island
Mafia is a relatively small island with only 2 roads, one is tarmac from Kilindoni to Utende and the other road to the north is a dirt road. There are barely any cars on the island and most of the people travel by motorcycles or tuk tuk called Bajaji here. There is a single bus that runs south to north everyday and goes very slow. Tuk tuk are very convenient, I took the number of the guy who picked me up from the airport, he was happy to be my chauffeur. I explored the north of island with him as well. It was a great experience.
I really loved the petrol stations here which are basically guys sitting with a table with soda bottles full of fuel. Quite a unique experience I must say.
Food in Mafia Island
Food in Mafia Island is clearly divided into two types; the local food joints and the resort food. Both are good but honestly I enjoyed the local food a lot more.
In the mornings and afternoons, local women would walk around selling roasted peanuts and a small local sweet bun called Vishete. These are extremely cheap and really delicious. The local food market in Kilindoni is also great to buy fruits especially coconuts. Here are some of my favourite spots in Mafia Island for food.
Hippopotamus Food Point
I ate at Hippopotamus almost every day I was in Mafia. It is run by a local man who takes immense pride in his food. I love when he comes around after food to check how it was and I’d say ‘amazing’, he’d smile proudly.
From the specially prepared Pilao rice on request to the grilled fish, the food was always on point and really fresh and delicious. The cafe next door was great food fresh juices. It is a bit of a local hang out spot as well in the evenings which was Greg
Pole Pole is a beautiful resort with a great restaurant. I first came for lunch before my spa day and then later again with some fellow travellers for our last supper on the island together. I would recommend reserving in advance, Alex is wonderful at arranging things.
The food is very delicious and totally worth the higher price tag. I do recommend lunch to enjoy the delicious food with that great beach view. If you are coming for dinner or lunch, you can speak to the marine park entrance staff and go in without paying but you must come back in reasonable time. It worked for us for dinner.
My first 2 days in Mafia Island were spent in The mafia beach bungalows and the restaurant belongs to them. The food was delicious and well prepared. The juice was especially nice. The lobster was fresh and rice really nicely prepared. I would definitely recommend a visit if you are in the marine park.
Afro Beach Restaurant
The restaurant is small and it is basically the resort restaurant. It is a good spot for a lunch after whale shark safari. I do recommend booking in advance to avoid waiting for an hour. The food is simple and delicious and fairly cheap.
Mafia Island for Remote Working/ Internet in Mafia Island
I was quite surprised how well the internet worked in Mafia island compared to Zanzibar or Pemba Island. It is sadly still not good enough for remote working especially if your work involves uploading or downloading big files. I could barely upload a few images throughout the time. For browsing and emails it worked fine. The other issue is of power cuts which are quite unpredictable. I would recommend taking off all electronic devices from their sockets when not using or charging.
Money In Mafia Island
ATM’s in Mafia Island
There is only one ATM on the island from NMB bank which charges $5-6 per transaction with max limit of 400,000 TZS.
Card Payments In Mafia Island
Surprisingly quite a few places accept cards in Mafia Island. A few places do add a 3-5% card surcharge so keep enough cash on you before arriving.
Gay Mafia Island/ Mafia Island Gay Travel
The island has no gay or LGBT venues and no gay guys on any dating apps. It is a very small community and most of the people live in deep poverty, holding a cell phone is a huge privilege here. The attitudes however, are very positive. People in Mafia Island are very welcoming, enthusiastic and friendly. There’s plenty of privacy if you wish to come with your partners.
How Many Days For Mafia Island?
Mafia is a small island and you can see a lot in 3-4 days but to actually appreciate the life here, I’d recommend a week. I arrived with 4 days booked but extended to 8 days and totally loved it. There’s a lot to do and see on this gorgeous island.
Other Things Mafia Island
Excursions In Mafia Island
There are plenty of excursions in Mafia island. The best way is to check with the hotel or resort you’re staying at. Booking them in advance is not worth it, they are much cheaper on the island. For smaller excursions like driving around speak to a tuk tuk driver. If you are travelling solo and can’t find a group, try calling a few resorts and hotels and se if they can adjust you somewhere, it worked well for me.
Diving In Mafia Island
Mafia island is perfect for diving. I didn’t do it because of time and the fact that I don’t even have a basic PADI license. My fellow travellers did. They used The Big Blue Diving Centre (cheaper) and Mafia Diving (slightly pricier). Both places do a great jobs and both experiences were excellent according to the people who went with them.
Top Things to Do in Mafia Island
There’s lots to do on this magical but tiny island. I have listed my favourites below. Check out my Top Things To Do In mafia Island guide for full details including costs.
1- Swim With Whale sharks on a safari
2- Pamper yourself with a Spa day
3- Snorkelling in the Marine Park
3.1 – Kolongo Islet
3.2 – Blue Lagoon
3.3 – Chole Island
4 – Explore The North of Island
4.1 – Ras Mkumbi Lighthouse
4.2 – Bweni Beach & Village
4.3 – Kanga Beach
4.4 – Hippos of Ndagoni
5 – Watch the sunset from the Kilindoni Pier
6- Exploe the Western Beaches
6.1 – Kitoni Beach
6.2 – Ras Kisimani Beach
7 – Meet and swim with Humpback Whales
I hope this guide helps you in planning a wonderful trip. If you need more information, don’t be shy and reach out.