Top Things To Do In Mafia Island

by Ucman Scher
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Top Things To Do In Mafia Island

Mafia island is quite magical and despite being small, you just cannot get bored here. Despite staying a lot of days, I still loved every day here. Here are my favourite things to do in Mafia Island.

Check my Tanzania and Mafia Island guides to get the right information and make your visit perfect.

Mafia Island Travel VLOG


Swim With Whale sharks On A Safari

Price $60 shared $200 private

Company: Afro Whale Sharks Mafia

Before coming to Mafia island I didn’t know much about whale sharks, actually almost nothing. Thanks to Mafia island, I am deeply in love with these endangered creatures which are the largest fish in the ocean.

Fun Fact: Whale sharks are sharks who feed on plankton. They are fish and not mammals like whales, which are the largest living creatures in the oceans and the world.

Whale sharks are the most incredible residents of Mafia Island. People here love them so much they have miniature statues on each roundabout. They do deserve all the love and some more. I booked myself a trip right next day after I landed with Afro Beach Bungalows. They are the best when it comes to whale shark safari.

I would say a few things though:

1- Whale sharks are wild animals and there is no guarantee you will see them, it’s is like safari, everything depends on your luck.

2- Weather plays a huge role, if it is choppy waters they dive deep.

3- There’s a lot of jellyfish in the water, make sure to wear a wet suit to avoid getting stung. I got stung both times and it was not fun.

4- Please, please, please do not try to touch the fish or get in their way, they will just disappear.

5- The more boats around, the less chances of seeing the fish, start early.

6- The best time to see them is from November to February.

The first time I did it, I met some lovely guys. The water was rough and visibility was low. We searched for about 4 hours starting at 7:30. The sea calmed down a little around mid day and we got to see one who was feeding. It was incredible but I couldn’t swim with them because of the crazy number of jellyfish around, choppy sea and bad visibility. I couldn’t even get the drone footage. It was a bit disappointing.

Be careful of these little f*ckers!

The second time, 4 of us hired the boat privately together. The sea was calm without a wave and the sun was out. We left early again and luck was on our side. We caught up to not 1 or 2 but 4 of them. They were just chilling around the boat right next to us. I got to see them so up and close. The water was much clearer and barely any jellyfish were around. I got to swim next to them for a while as well. It was the best start of day I have ever had in my entire life. They are so majestic and incredibly playful.

Soon we had a few other boats who appeared and the whale sharks were gone until all of them left. They are incredibly sensitive to the sounds of engines. We saw them again and this time I managed to swim with them. It was so beautiful I didn’t even care about being stung by jellyfish. The adrenaline totally took over.

I cannot tell you how incredible the experience was. When in Mafia swim with whale sharks.

Pamper Yourself With A Spa Day

Mafia is the perfect place to relax and enjoy yourself with a nice spa day. I found two great spas; Pole Pole Spa and Butiama.

Pole Pole Resort Spa

The cost of massage was $50 in Pole Pole. The spa resort is located inside the resort in the marine park. The band where spa is located is very cute and relaxing with a pool nearby.

The staff was very friendly and helpful and the massage was absolutely relaxing, I had a wonderful time.

I loved the food at this place as well and came back with some fellow travellers on our last night. The beach nearby is also quite beautiful and secluded. The resort is a great place to relax and unwind.

Butiama Beach Lodge Spa

Butiama is located near the pier of Kilindoni at just the perfect spot for incredible sunsets. It is another well made resort with soothing blue all around the sound of water at the beach always nearby. Their bungalows are very well made with a sense of serenity all around the flower laden place.

The main reason for my visit was the spa though which was made special by the very lovely and smiling Monica. She made sure I was relaxed (I was a few metres from the beach in a beautiful bandha getting massaged, how could I not be?). The massage, manicure and pedicure all were great. It was my last day of ,you longest ever holiday with 3 flights to get home and this just helped me relax and get rid of that anxiety build up before my flight home.

If you do visit, don’t forget to stay for the sunset, It is just incredible, even after it gets dark.


Snorkelling In The Marine Park

$55 Shared

The marine park is a special place in Mafia Island. It offers a chance to enjoy the life with peace and quiet and snorkelling here is just an incredible experience.

The days started for me with a 6:45 am pick up and transfer to the Utende beach on a tuktuk where our boat was waiting. I was happy to be doing it with a group of travellers I met during the whale shark safari.

With the gang and our smiley guide

Kolongo Islet

The first point after some 30 minute boat ride was Kolongo island which is an islet. We snorkelled around the entire island in about an hour. Our guide really helped explore the place well. It was a different world down there with all the colourful coral and fish. This is the longest I have ever snorkelled in my life.

The promise of another island for snorkelling was too tempting so we headed to Kolongo Ashamba islet which was not too far. We got another 30 minutes to explore.

The day started off cloudy but somehow the sun decided to shine with all its intensity and everything changed. It was really beautiful. Hundreds of fish and entire schools going about their business around the reef.

Blue Lagoon

We headed back to the boat to head to the special spot of the day; the Blue Lagoon. We passed through a a sandbank and then into a small forest to arrive to a pristine pool with crystal clear water.

I was a little spellbound to see the beauty of this secret little spot.

The water was a bit too clear and we managed to spot something dangerous, jelly fish. Luckily, these one didn’t sting. Something else did though. The tiny fish near the entrance are quite veracious. I had a little blood dripping from on of the bite marks. They don’t say anything if you keep moving.

The jelly fish were really mesmerising, they were upside down and every now and then one of them would move up to the service and go down. There were no big fish but the water was just incredibly clear and serene.

Chole Island

My stomach was rumbling, it was around 2 and I’ve had very little in the name of breakfast. We headed to Chole island where our guide and boat captain got us a nice lunch at the beach followed by a tour of the village on the Chole island.

The island has dense vegetation and according to historical records, it was populated way before the neighbouring Mafia island. If turned out to be the village of our guide who was very happy to show us everything, he had an infectious smile.

It was a fairly typical village but the two spots that I really enjoyed were the tree that drank an entire well. This fig tree grew around the well wall and eventually its roots went deep enough to such all the water for the tree.

There were some flying foxes chilling high up the tree, they were all asleep as they go out to eat fruit after the sun gas started to set.

The second was another fig tree blanketing a massive baobab tree. The last point was the boat building yard which supplies all boats to entire Mafia archipelago.

We walked back to the beach and took the boat back to Mafia Island, it was the end of a spectacular day.

glamorous in Chole

Explore The North of Island

Cost $50

Canoe Hire – TZS 10,000

Lighthouse – TZS 5,000

While the south of the island is very beautiful and developed, the north of Mafia island is the best part of this gorgeous island. The road is pretty bad and bumpy but nothing one can’t survive. The whole way up, the air smells fresh and a huge patch just smells of some weird perfume I couldn’t put my finger on.

I spoke to my tuk tuk guy who was happy to take me up north. I was joined by another fellow solo traveller Danny for the day. We went a little lunch shopping for our octopus, mangoes and chapatis and hit the road. It was around 10:30 am. The road was pretty bumpy but nothing excitement can’t cover. The entire way was lined with small villages, huts neatly stacked next to each other, people, especially children waving at us happily.

It took us an hour and 45 minutes to arrive at the lighthouse. Our tuk tuk broke down midway which added to the journey time. Just before the lighthouse there was a patch of land which smelled amazingly lemony. The light rain helped massively with the freshness.

Ras Mkumbi Lighthouse

The lighthouse has been standing here since the nineteenth century. This is the northernmost tip of the island. The guard took us to the top, I almost felt like my drone. It is a different feeling altogether.

The vast areas of this pristine island, covered in vegetation, with the layers of blue water splashing around. The breeze felt good on the skin. It was a short stop and we were headed to Kanga beach but I spotted another beach and we decided to make a small stop there.

Bweni Beach & Village

Bweni is quite a long beach located right next to the village. It isn’t very clean though, the entire beach was covered by seaweed and smell of fish which the locals were cleaning after a day at the sea. We were warmly welcomed but the grumbling stomach forced us to head towards our next stop where we were yet to start cooking our food.

Kanga Beach

It didn’t take long u too we got it Kanga village which is next to the main road and then headed through the coconut trees to Kanga beach. It magically appeared suddenly and all I could think was wow. Another gorgeous day on this planet on a private beach with not a soul around.

Our driver/guide/friend lit a fire and we started cooking. The octopus was grilled to perfection (he did it in a way it looked like Hanukkah, I was laughing because Danny is Jewish).

The rice, beans, chapstick and octopus followed by mangoes was perhaps the least organised and most delicious lunches of my trip, absolutely loved it.

The beach is just an absolute stunner but it wasn’t possible that we would go across to the small sandbank type island across.

The driver arranged a small canoe and we got there one by one, it was beautiful apart from the macabre discovery of a massive turtle shell with head attached and limbs hacked off with eagles feasting on it. At least nothing gets wasted in nature.

The tide went down and we could walk most of the way back through the beautiful water. The real appreciation of the beach came only from across honestly. It is a small piece of paradise nestled in the middle of mangroves with countless shades of blue waters around.

We stayed till 5 when we had to go to catch some very special friends on the way back to Kilindoni.


Hippos Of Ndagoni

The hippos of Mafia Island are a bit of a myth to foreigners because not many have seen them, I managed to do just that but only because of the drone. The hippos are found in some pools of fresh water which are located quite inwards. The grass is really high and it is very difficult to go close to them. This combined with their shy nature and habit of staying in water all day makes it very hard. The drone spotted one though and I considered it done. I saw plenty in Lake Naivasha, we left them in peace and headed back.

It was a great day and I was amazed at how easy it was to see this small and serene island. The tuk tuk turned it into an adventure. It will be a happy memory for me.

Watch the sunset from the Kilindoni Pier

The Pier of a Kilindoni si a fascinating place. It is ridiculously long and almost always deserted. It is a great place to watch a sunset though. I tried to go all the way to the end in hopes of seeing some whalesharks but the idea of a creaking bridge with no one around or aware of my presence there was a turn off. I sat half way through to enjoy the view followed by a dinner at nearby resort.

Explore The Western Beaches


The beaches on the Western side of the island are really beautiful and very secluded, so secluded in fact that you have no roads to get there. It makes for a perfect day trip whether you are in Kilindoni or Utende.

I would recommend getting a tuk tuk for this ride or if you’re going alone get a bodaboda or motorbike. It was two of us so the tuk tuk was perfect. It was a gorgeous day for the beach with perfect temperature. We left around 10:30am.

Kitoni Beach

The first beach is Kitoni which is located next to the village of same name.The tide was very low we saw some sandbanks but there wasn’t much to do here. The beach itself is really beautiful, there are patches of mangroves which make it really unique. Because The beach is next to the village there were a lot of guys fixing their boats. Danny walked all the way to the end whereas I stayed close to the beach. Like most beaches here, the sand was sort of mixed golden and grey. We stayed for an hour and then headed to our main spot for the day.

Ras Kisimani Beach

Getting to Kisimani beach Is a little different we had to abandon the set path and go completely off-road. It was quite sandy and the tuk tuk skidded a lot. We had to park and leave it. The three so us set on foot until we got to the wooden bridge. It is quite a long bridge which is in terrible shape. We crossed it which was a little scary and a lot crazy. It got worse when we saw the local guys crossing it on motorbikes. It was quite clear it wouldn’t last very long.

Another 10 minutes walk later we arrived at Kisimani beach, an absolutely gorgeous miles long beach without a soul in sight. With crystal clear blue green waters and white sand, the beach is just perfect for a day of doing absolutely nothing. Coconut trees lined the entire beach with small mangrove patches in the beginning. A few dead trees and canoes added some artistic touch to the beautiful beach, perfect serenity.

Our guide told us about the local seasonal village where we could get some food. It was a small shack with some local women cooking. The rice with beans and spinach and fried fish, that lunch was perfectly delish!

We spent the rest of the day at the beach until the sunset. The only thing I’d recommend would be to keep an eye for the small jellyfish which can ruin the fun. They are fairly small and on nicer days there are very few of them.

The beach is also a perfect spot for sunset which was magical.

Meet & Swim With Humpback Whales

The area around Mange Sandbank is not only good for snorkelling, it is also the perfect spot for Humpback whale watching. Sadly, the season for that is from August to October. Although you might still see some, the chances aren’t great. I have it a miss after all the snorkelling and whale shark swimming. If you happen to be here during the season it is a great opportunity to see and swim with these beautiful giants.

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