How to get to Mafia Island (Tanzania)

How to get to Mafia Island (Tanzania)
Utende Mafia island

The day I found out that in Tanzania there is a place called Mafia I decided to go there, no matter what I would find.
Only later I discovered that this little gem, still unknown, is a marine park known to scuba divers and that in recent years is beginning to be renowned in the world for the seabed with the coral reefs, swimming with whale sharks (from October to April ) and the fantastic snorkeling all year round (except for April and May which is low season and many lodges close).

 

Nobody here knows what Mafia is but they were all able to explain the origin of such a name which comes from Maf (water in) Fia (within the island), a wild island where tourism is rising and you can breathe a little marine life of an African village, and also where it is not difficult to make friends.
Less known than the more famous Zanzibar, Mafia is a little hard to reach, and if you do not choose the hard way then it can get rather expensive.

 

The solutions to reach Mafia from Dar Es Salaam are 2:

  • With a boat ( of hope ) passing through Nyamisati where you will need to spend the night
  • Flying ( about $ 120 one way per person )

 

If the flight is something simple, Flights from Dar Es Salam to Mafia Island, things get complicated when you choose the economical but definitely not convenient solution ( that is the one I chose myself, of course).
Really hard to find information on how to get there, but if I did then anyone can.

 

In the very early morning you have to get the Minibus (dalladalla) from the Tatu station, departure is scheduled for 6am, but don’t be surprised if it starts two hours later, to Nyamisati ( 5,500 + 3,000 shillings for luggage).
Nyamisati is a village with nothing special where there is only a guesthouse with shared bathroom, however the owners are still very nice and kind ( 15,000 Tanzanian shillings for a single room).

 

Porto di Nyamisati
Nyamisati port

 

I reach Nyamisati around 11, depending on the tides and wind the boat can leave the morning after, as it was in my case, or in the afternoon right after the arrival.
No one speaks English at the ticket booth so let those who can speak it a little give you assistance, it will make life easier.

 

Nyamisati

 

Departure scheduled at 3am, obviously we left at 4.30.
It is a big wooden boat, definitely not designed for tourists but rather you will be queuing along with the Tanzanian and pass from land to the inside of the boat through a wooden bridge (be careful not to fall!).
Cost 13,500 Tanzanian shillings.

 

Barca per Mafia
Boat to Mafia da Nyamisati

 

4 hours on the boat and voilà! In the morning after probably one sleepless night you got to Kilondoni, the main village of Mafia about 30 minutes from Utende, protected marine park where there are lodges, bungalows and the beautiful beaches.

 

In case you wish to stay in Kilondoni I would advice the guest house Ibizza Inn (just ask someone when you get off the boat and you’ll find it). Definitely the best cheap option in town.

Otherwise you go to , pay the entrance to the park (Visa and Mastercard are accepted) which is $20 per person per day, and everyday you will be able to wake up a few meters from the sea in beautiful bungalows set in tropical gardens.
After 2 days in Kilondoni I moved here for a couple of days and had a great stay at Utende Mafia beach Bugalows paying €25 per night (low season) breakfast included. It’s easy to reach the beach and it is worth the money you pay.

 

Utende Mafia
Utende Mafia

 

Transfer from Kilondoni to Utende can be arranged using private transportation, booked in advance, DallaDalla (1000 shillings ) bajaji (about 15,000 shillings ) or motorbike ( not possible if you carry big luggage).

 

Mafia is definitely quite expensive, mass tourism has not yet arrived and it can be a nice alternative to Zanzibar if you are looking for quiet and sea life, boat rides, snorkeling, diving and sociable people and small local communities.

Giulia Raciti

Esperta di Africa e Latino America sono in viaggio perenne dal 2011. Ho fatto un giro del mondo in solitaria durato 3 anni. Mi occupo di realizzazione viaggi personalizzati e su misura in Africa e Sud America

Questo articolo ha 10 commenti.

  1. Otapp

    I want to know is there any ferries for mafia island, and is it safe for a single women traveller with a 3-year-old kid

    1. Giulia Raciti

      Hi Otapp, as mentioned there is this boat but the trip is hard and long. Honestly, I would not travel with a 3 years old, it is tiring and I would not call that ride “safe”. I have done it, I would not do it again. Have fun!

  2. Jose

    Hi Giulia,

    I hope this finds you well

    Thank you very much for your insights.

    I am a Tanzanian looking to visit Mafia Island this November 2017. It is a shame that I have to get these insights from a ” Foreigner” but thank you very much.

    My only question is that; can I go to Mafia Island, survey the most attractive points including Chole Island and get back to Dar within two days.

    Thank you very much and I hope you are enjoying your adventures.

    Cheers,
    Jose

    1. Giulia Raciti

      Hello Jose, it sounds a bit hard to me. You have to fly there as doing it by land it takes long time (and it’s tiring as well).
      Mafia is really small and you should go straight to Utende, the protected area. So if you mean going and spend one night, sounds a bit stressful to me. At least a full day is worth it, also because I do not think flights are that cheap.
      If you mean spending just a night, i would just wait and make sure you have more time to spend over there.
      Enjoy mafia and say hello to my friend Lengai (the only masai living there)!

  3. Katie

    Hi,

    I’m hoping to go to mafia island in November – I live in Arusha right now.
    How easy did you find it to get a bus from Dar to Nyamisati. I’m debating that way or taking the plane from Dar. (As I would have already taken a 13 hour bus from Arusha!

    Thanks

    1. Giulia Raciti

      Hello Katie,
      as I wrote the isn’t that smooth, takes ages and you might will take the boat the day after. You know how Dala-Dala are in Tanzania and you also might know how the roads are.
      You will definitely make it but consider that from Arusha, 13 long hours, plus night in Dar, plus maybe night in Nyamisati, it could take up to three days.

      I wouldn’t say it’s an easy trip to someone that has never been to Africa before, it could actually be shocking. To you, living in Arusha, I would say that is long and tiring, but you can do it.
      Not the easiest trip I have done, but it was a kind of adventure. So it all depends on how many days you are going to spend and your budget. If you want to make it easy you fly, if you want to make it long and tiring (but it’s going to be fine), then you will take Dala-Dala and boat.

      Hope it helped!

  4. Hulya Muratsa

    Dear Giulia,

    I found your post on Mafia Island very usefull. I am planning to travel to Tanzania in November with my husband. I am a bit worried about safety in Tanzania, and since we are on a budget we plan to take public transportation (like the boat to Mafia). Is there anything we should take in consideration, places to avoid and so on? I appreciate any info, tips you can give us. Thank you in advance,
    Hulya

    1. Giulia Raciti

      Hello Hulya, Tanzania is very safe and you won’t have any problem with the people, you just keep open eyes in Dar Es Salaam. Arusha is safe too, just annoying but by the time you will get there you will know how to deal with people (and the inglorious FlyCatcher).
      So you will be able to make it with public transportation, just remeber it will take AGES, and you will wait long time as they minibus never depart the time they tell you.
      It will prove your nerves 🙂

      Hope also these posts can help you

      https://www.viaggiare-low-cost.it/en/solo-travel-and-backpacking-in-africa/

      and here is a complete guide about planning a trip to tanzania https://www.viaggiare-low-cost.it/en/what-you-need-to-know-for-planning-trip-to-tanzania/

      Hope these posts will answers to some of your doubts, but if you have question ask me whatever you need to know. I spent almost in 1 year backpacking in Africa and I know a lot about the Continent, mainly Tanzania and Ethiopia.
      You will love it, people from Tanzania are incredible nice, try to get till Malawi Lake, the south isn’t touristic at all so, even if hard moving around and will take long time you will meet incredible people.
      Also, I would highly recommend to get till Pangani, Swhaili Coast https://www.viaggiare-low-cost.it/en/travel-tanzania-the-swahili-soul-of-pangani/

      Last, but not least, the best safari can be done in the northern parks, it’s very expensive but definitely worth it, departing from arusha, https://www.viaggiare-low-cost.it/en/tanzania-safari-guide/

      ENJOY YOUR TRIP!
      Giulia

  5. Filippo

    Grande viaggiatrice! Brava, leggero’ altri tuoi post!

    1. Giulia Raciti

      Ciao Filippo, in questa versione inglese sto piano piano traducendo, in Italiano ho sicuramente più materiale. La pazienza è la virtù dei forti no? Ciao!

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