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).
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.
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.
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.
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.