Mafia Island Marine Park

Mafia Island Marine Park

Mafia is a world-class paradise island of divers, fisherman and water sport lovers.


Mafia Island is the site of Tanzania’s first Marine Park which was gazetted in 1995. The Park covers the southern half of the island and part of the north-east. This is no other island than Mafia, an island at the far reaches of the ever-busy world. While on this island, time seems to come to a stop. Its warm waters are incredibly transparent with its rich variety of the coral permitting unimaginable quantity of fishes. Mafia is a large island lying off the southern coast of Tanzania, near to the Rufiji Delta. It is 30 miles from north to south, and up to ten miles in width. It is thus about half the size of Unguja (Zanzibar) Island to the north, and, like Zanzibar, is a raised portion of the continental shelf, not a coral island. The soil of Mafia is mostly sandy and the terrain very flat.

There is a ridge forming a backbone to the northern end but at its highest point it does not exceed 200 feet above sea level. Along this ridge there is firm and fertile clay soil and cultivation of annual crops is possible. On the eastern shores there is some coral rock, making cultivation impossible. The area included within the boundaries of MIMP is one of the most important marine habitats in the world. It has mangroves, sea-grass beds, coral reefs, inter-tidal reef flats, lagoons and coastal forest.

There are a number of foreign universities which send students to Mafia as part of their courses on coastal ecology such as Study abroad Program – Field Work Worldwide. The decision to set up a Marine Park was taken by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, and MIMP now falls under its Marine Parks and Reserves Unit . MIMP is supported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Activities: Mafia is – in the truest sense – a perfect island retreat for adventure divers, game fishermen and those seeking simple feet-up relaxation. Other activities include; Forest walks, picnics to inlets and secluded beaches, swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, sailing bird watching and of course relaxation by the poolÂ

Getting there: Mafia is accessible by road and air from Dar es Salaam and Arusha

When to visit: Mafia Island is accessible all year round


KILWA: is home to the most spectacular 13th century a ruin on the East African Coast. It was during the 13th century that Kilwa established itself as a center for gold trade. Signs of its prosperity can still be seen through the ruins. The town Kilwa as such is divided into three different towns. Kilwa Kivinje, Kilwa Masoko and Kilwa Kisiwani with Songo Mnara and Sanje Ya Kiti. Kilwa Masoko is however the least interesting history wise, but the modern town right now, and centre of operations as well as location of all modern day facilities. The others are the places to go for historical reasons.

Kilwa Kivinje, was in the 19th Century an Arabian slave and ivory trading town, where caravans started off into the interior. With the end of the Arab time at the end of the 19th century, the German colonial government built a fort and extended the town. From German times one can still find a Market Hall, the big Fort with a canon from the 1st World war, and two pillars one for the tribal dead of the Maji Maji War fought between the local tribes of Southern Tanzania and the German Colonial government and the other for two German traders also killed during the same Maji Maji War.

Kilwa Kisiwani, is where one will find the greatest collection of ruins. Directly on the Northern shore one will find the old Omani Fort, which is built on the foundations of the old Portuguese fort, in the early 19th Century, and where still an old wooden door remains.   The Big Mosque is from the 12th Century and was further extended up to the 15th Century. It was said to be the largest mosque in East Africa. The Great House directly south of the mosque was once a complex building which was most likely the Sultan’s palace. In it there are four graves, of which one is rumoured to be of a Sultan. The small mosque from the 15th Century is the best kept building on the island, and still in use today. The large complex of walls in the west of the island is called “Makutani” (in the great wall). In the middle is a palace from the 18th Century, south of it, another Sultanas palace, with a mosque from the 15th Century. All the way to the east of the island there are the ground walls of the “Husuni Kubwa”, once the largest building in tropical Africa. Songo Mnara, another island with 14th to 15th Century houses and mosques. Some of which still show high walls and even parts of their roofs.

Getting there:

Kilwa is accessible by road and air

When to visit:

Nearly all year round

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