Mafia Island lies south of Zanzibar off the mouth of the Rufiji River. It was an important settlement from the 12th to 14th centuries, in the days when the Shirazis ruled much of the East African coastal area. However, by the time the Portuguese arrived at the beginning of the 16th century, it had lost much of its former importance and had become part of the territory ruled by the King of Kilwa. Little remains above ground of the Shirazi settlement, though you may occasionally come across pottery shards and coins on the shore where the sea is eroding the ruins south of Kilindoni.
On the nearby island of Juani are the extensive remains of Kua, a much later town dating from the 18th century but with a history going back to the 14th century. The principal ruins here are those of five mosques. The town was destroyed by raiders from Madagascar in the early 19th century when the entire town was sacked and the inhabitants eaten by the invaders!
Mafia Island is covered by coconut palms and cashew trees established by Omanis in their Zanzibari heyday, but the soil is poor and the island has never been able to support a large population.
These days Mafia is better known as a resort island for deep-sea fishing and underwater diving. It’s a superb place to do this — a 200-metre-deep trough running along the sea bed about one km off the western shoreline of the island is the habitat of a vast number of different aquatic species. The coral formations are best of the small islands scattered around the main island, the best being the Okuto and Tutia reefs around Juani an Jibondo islands close to Chole Bay.
Mafia is also notable as a favourite breeding ground for giant turtles, which come up onto the white coral sands to lay their eggs. They do this principally on the uninhabited islands of Shungumbili, Burukini and Nyororo. Unfortunately, their numbers have been drastically depleted this recently.
You are unlikely to meet any traveller who has been to Mafia Island. The reasons are simple – accommodation and transport. The accommodation available is expensive and transport can involve many hassles but at Shizi Safaris we have different offers to Mafia which include the accommodation and flight from Dar es Salaam. Please contact us for more details