MAFIA ISLAND:  IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK!

Travellers today are so very lucky with so many exotic locations to visit and access to thousands of hotels & resorts around the world, we are not short of places to explore although there are the odd few destinations that slip under the radar and Mafia Island is one them. Located off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean, this island is home to some jaw-dropping beaches, amazing coral reefs and some of the worlds finest seafood dishes.

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So, why is it called Mafia Island?
The island was once known as Chole Shamba (Chole’s farm or agricultural area), others have used the name Morfiyeh, it is said that this could have been a corruption of morfi’a (pronounced morfi ya) which is arabic for “achipelago”, since this island is part of the nine islands, this original story is more befitting. There is not one answer to this question as there are many different variations of where that name came from. 
The island
When you arrive at the island you can’t ignore how lushes the environment is, and your accommodation is not a hotel, but you get a choice of bungalows, meaning you have your own space whilst on the island. You have access to the islands marina giving you access to some the best snorkelling and diving locations. There are so many activities to do on the island from kayaking, bird-watching and dhow-sailing. The best time to plan your visit to the island is definitely from August to March, as you will benefit from the sun and amazing sea life. April and May is the monsoon season, July is the windiest time of the year for the island.

It’s much wilder and more pristine than Zanzibar and it’s the remoteness as well as the amazing and untouched dive and snorkel sites that really makes it stands out. It appeals to those wanting to get off the beaten track.
— Rose Hipwood, Founder

Located at the centre of the island is Kinasi Private Lodge, which was built by its owners in the early 1900s to recreate the way of life - their concept of ‘Island Life’ from their own life experiences. The lodge has 14 rooms, ensuring that your stay is as comfortable and offering you a personal service. This is one of my favourite parts of the island, this, in my opinion, makes this island very special. As the lodge is located in the centre of the island, this means that you can go swimming with whale sharks or if you time your trip participating in turtle-hatching. You also have access to the islands Dive Instructor, nature guide and Thai Spa therapist. 

For you food lovers, there are four chefs on the island who use fresh local produce enriched with spices and fruits. The chefs like to speak to their guests, so be prepared for a visit when you are dining! 

There are a further two island to explore and the first is Kisimani Mafia, just north-east of the Cape is KiSwahili for “the place of the well”. An old town dating to the 12th Century which has been drowned by rising sea levels and a collapsing foreshore for over 100 years. The Kinasi library contains a full account of the fascinating archaeology of these ruins, once the most important town on Mafia, especially from the 12th to 14th Centuries. Founded by Bashat, one of the sons of the first Sultan of Kilwa, and extended the control of the Sultan to Mafia. The power and wealth of the Sultan of Kilwa was based upon gold, ivory and customs tariffs on all goods traded on the southern coast. In its time it was far more important the Zanzibar but its economic influence waned upon the arrival of the Portuguese at the end of the 15th Century. 

Today, there is little left of the town, but you can easily find many beautiful potsherds and coins in the ruins and on the beautiful palm-fringed beach. Due to erosion, the old well from which the town took its name now stands on the beach. The whole area is now a protected core zone of the Mafia Island Marine Park. 

The second place to visit is Bwejuu Island which sits between Ras Kisimani and the Rufiji Delta

and is a lovely sand-fringed, palm-covered island surrounded by sandbars and snorkelling reefs.  

These are wonderful all-day excursions by boat from Kilindoni for beach-lovers and those looking for a castaway experience. There are huge expanses of beautiful beaches and fabulous swimming along the edge of the Ras Kisimani point and off the reefs and sandbars of Bwejuu.

My top three must-do activities!

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Nature Trail and Reef Walk
For those of you who like to explore and go for a walk, then this one is for you, the nature trail begins at the Dive Centre giving you a 3km trail heading west along the foreshore and back along the ridge to Kinasi. There is a small road via Didimaza Beach where you will find a stunning beach about 1.5km away. The trail is home to amazing wildlife, birds, and if you are lucky you can see a Lilac-Breasted Rollers and a Madagascan Bee-Eater. The island has a lot of agricultural land where you can see rice growing, cassava beans, sweet potato including some exotic fruits such as papaya, bananas, pineapples, mangoes and guavas. 

Along the reef flats, whilst it is low tide, you can see starfishes, small eels and cowries. 

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Kitutia & Mange Reefs
Kitiutia and Mange are sand cays or small reef atolls on the far western edge of the archipelago and lying in the Mafia Channel.  It is a stunning place with a sandbank – or cay – exposed at low tide at each of these and an excellent coral reef for snorkelling and good diving on the deeper channel side. 

When visiting the reefs, make sure you have a whole day free as you’ll need it. There is so much to do, from snorkelling to simply sunbathing. 

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Whale Sharks
Between September and March, each year Whale Sharks migrate of the island. These are slow-moving filter-feeding sharks, can be found hundreds of metres from the shore near Kilindoni Harbour, and if you take a short boat ride heading west you will get to their feeding ground, and when you arrive, you can’t miss them. If you are lucky you can see up to 24 Whale Sharks at any one time; males, females and juveniles with eye catching marks on their skin, stripes and spots. 

For those of you who are a little more adventurous, you have the option to swim with these amazing sharks, which can grow up to eight metres. This is one of the best places in the world to experience this and something that you never forget. 

Final thoughts

There are very few places that really get me excited, that make me want to pull out my diary and book a trip straightaway, but this is one of those locations. No matter what you do on the island, it stays with you, and you simply can not escape how grounded to feel when you are back home. When you talk to your family and friends the first thing you will say is - “YOU HAVE TO VISIT!”

For More Visit: 
www.theluxurysafaricompany.com
Call: + 44 1666 880 111

By Karl / CEO

The Ultimate Luxury Asset Intelligence Book