Mafia Island, Tanzania, lies off the mouth of the Rufiji River in Southern Tanzania. It is one of the least developed parts of an undeveloped country, yet it has been, and continues to be, part of important historical processes. Although its spectacular marine life is becoming increasingly well known, especially since the setting up of the Mafia Island Marine Park, little other information is widely available. Using search engines on the worldwide web tends to bring up mainly sites which represent the island as a tourist paradise: some of them also give inaccurate or misleading information.
It is the ocean here that is the great attraction. In 1995, the Mafia Island Marine Park was formed to protect the archipelago’s reefs. Within Chole Bay, the shallow reefs are perfect for snorkelling or learning to dive. Outside the bay, its entrance is guarded by a long coral wall, attracting more experienced divers. Here are more than 50 genera of coral, including giant table corals, huge stands of blue-tipped staghorn corals, and over 400 species of fish.
This is one of Tanzania’s best areas for diving. You’ll always see something exciting, from rainbow-coloured clownfish to octopus, rays and the odd gigantic grouper or large potato cod. Sharks and dolphins are found in the deeper waters, and at night turtles crawl onto remote beaches to nest. (Note that due to local winds and currents, dive sites outside the bay are often only safely accessible from about mid-September to the end of February.)