An ideal gateway for those that wish to discover the last remaining unspoilt islands of the world is Mafia Island that is located off the delta of the Rufiji Islands in the southern region of Tanzania. This island is 120 km from the city of Dar es Salaan in Tanzania and its one of the six districts of Pwani Region in Tanzania.
The island of Mafia’s economy is primarily based on agriculture and fishing. Fishing is controlled in the southern area of the island within the confines of the Mafia National Marine Park. The Mafia has a rich history that goes way back to the 18th century when it formed an integral role as a training centre for the people of Persia and East Africans.
Arabs and Persians would make regular stops on this island when they moved across the coastal waters from the Gulf to Madagascar and Mozambique. The island of Mafia consists of one huge island and other smaller ones. Mafia Island is a huge attraction to scuba divers and light sport fishermen.
Chole Bay, the main protected deep-water anchorage and original harbor in Mafia Island, has several islands and beaches. The waters around Chole Bay are refreshingly clear, providing a perfect snorkeling, sailing and swimming environment. A typical tour package to the Island will entail visits to many ancient ruins in Chole, making a nice start for an Island excursion in Mafia.
The horseshoe-shaped island is ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving as well as underwater photography. The bay is part of Mafia National Marine Park which extends to the Kinasi Pass Wall, a sheltered bank reef sloping from 8 to 21 metres. Kinasi Pass Wall comprises many species of hard and soft corals and supports a great variety of marine life.
Throughout Mafia Island, especially in the north, you will find many residents who identify themselves as Wambwera or Washirazi and claim to be the island’s earliest inhabitants. Wapokomo are also found in the North, while in the South you will find small numbers of people claiming Arab descent, a handful of ‘Indians’, and some Europeans in the tourism business or aid projects. Due to population movements, and changing contexts and historical circumstances, ethnic identity keeps shifting.
Kiswahili is the main language spoken in Mafia Island. However, the residents also speak a local dialect called Kingome. The friendly traditional culture in Mafia island has not changed much from ancient days. The island’s community tourism association makes a lot of effort to preserve the island. Mafia Island Marine Park is a protected area supported by the World Wide Fund for Nature. The Marine Park covers Chole Bay and the surrounding islands and forests.
Mafia Island’s other popular leisure activities include sports fishing, birdwatching, and visits to archaeological sites, villages, coconut plantations, local villages, and traditional boat-building yards. For diving enthusiasts, the best season for diving is from October to the end of March. The Island has two rain seasons: the long rains between March and April, and the long rains from October to Mid-December. Mafia island is easily accessible by road and air from Dar es Salaam and Arusha all the year round.