Diving Mafia Island

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Mafia Island, Tanzania

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Shore Day Trip Live Aboard

Country: Tanzania  Area: Tanzania

Water Temp: 24 - 30°C (75 - 86°F)

Visibility: 5 - 40m (16 - 131 ft)

Depth Range: 10 - 27m (33 - 89 ft)

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Mafia Island is a relatively unknown and unexplored destination. The marine park was opened in 1996 and is in fact the biggest marine protected area in East Africa. Mafia boasts some of the best biodiversity with over 42 genera of corals and over 400 species of fish. It is also one of those rare gems in the world where the biggest fish in the sea, Whale Sharks, aggregate and feed in large numbers for part of the year.

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Mafia is the most developed island of the archipelago with water and electricity. Compared to her more famous counterparts; Zanzibar and Pemba, she is less developed and less populated. It is a remote, tropical, paradise with varying adventures to satisfy all individuals needs.

Almost all of Mafia's diving is at depths less than 30 metres making it a sport diver's paradise. The reefs of the archipelago offer a staggeringly beautiful and varied display of marine life The excellent condition and high diversity of the reefs is what stimulated the creation of Tanzania's first marine protected area.  Examples of most marine habitat occur here, including exposed fringing reefs, rock walls, soft coral and algae-dominated reefs. All water based activities are extremely tide dependent therefore departure times are not as flexible as one would like. The visibility is also greatly dependent on the tides and certain dive sites are not available during the year due to tidal or wind conditions.

Fish in Mafia Island, Credit

The dives outside the bay are known for the walls where one can see massive schools of fish, giant stingrays as well as humongous groupers. It is not uncommon to see passing wahoo or sailfish in the deeper water. One can also see the occasional white tip reef shark and in season guitar sharks.

The dives inside the bay are picturesque with their unique coral formulations which explode form 18 metres all the way up to 3. Here one can see hundreds of varieties of fish, shrimps, crabs, large morays, giant stingrays, napoleon wrasse and the occasional shark.

Guess who's hiding, Credit

The shore dive which was discovered and Is solely dived by Mafia Island Diving offers 2 unique spots for muck diving. At just 10 metres deep it has the perfect conditions for an hour long hunt below the water. Here we have identified over 80 different species of nudibranch and have spotted frogfish, shrimps, snake eels, morays, ghost pipe fish and dragon sea moth fish. If you want to see something weird and wonderful – this is the dive site to do it!

The peak months for diving and whale shark snorkelling are from November to March. Outside of these months, diving outside the bay is not possible due to weather conditions. Diving is closed from April – May

March is a month which varies, the second half usually is the start of the rainy season, but the beginning still has excellent conditions.
Whale sharks can be spotted from October through to March but are situated on the western side of the island and is done on snorkel only.

Two more fishes, Credit

Marine Conservation

- Clean up dives
- Clean up turtle nesting beach
- Turtle identification
- Support for flip flop recycling & plastic bag recycling initiatives
- Training local Mafians to open water as part of a marine education programme in conjunction with Mafia Island Marine Park

Climate & Sea Conditions

Long rains: End of March – May
Short rains: October / November

Kusi wind season (diving inside the bay only) June to September
Kaskazi wind season (diving outside the bay and inside) October to March

Other year round marine life

Leaf fish, Giant groupers, Giant Reef Rays, Jenkins Rays, Frog fish, Napoleon Wrasse, Crocodile fish, over 90 species of nudibranch, baraccuda, trevally, cobias, scorpion fish,  ghost pipe fish, Kuhls ray, blue spotted ribbon tail ray,  wahoo

Information & photos kindly provided by Mafia Island Diving

 
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Shore Diving

Shore Diving
The shore is an exceptional, relatively new discovery during some of our exploration of Chole Bay.
This reef can be broken up into 3 sites. Nudi City, Frogfish Town and Chekechea. All these sites
offer a staggering amount of macro life with beautiful soft corals on a healthy, juvenile reef at just
10 metres deep. We also do our night dives here as it allows us to be in close proximity of the hotel
giving our clients the luxury of being able to slip away for a dive and be back in time for dinner.
Examples of marine life you can find here are Nudibranches, Squids, Cuttlefish, Octopus, Spanish
Dancers, Seahorses, Crocodile fish, harlequin shrimps, stingrays and Frogfish. We also get some
slightly larger friends such as our resident lone barracuda – Leon and huge schools of trevally. This
is always a single dive and is tide dependent. It is the perfect choice for macro enthusiasts,
photography fanatics and divers who need an easy shallow dive to get started.
Inside the Bay Diving 
All but one of our dive sites inside the bay are open to all levels of divers. Each site offers its own
identity with different fish species, size, topography and coral formations. Kinasi Pass, one of the
most famous sites in Mafia is the only dive site restricted for Advanced Open Water Divers only. On
the pass one has the opportunity to dive with our resident giant groupers – Jesus and Moses who
have been left in the water by the local fisherman as they are now too big and chewy to eat. All
the other reefs can be dived at a maximum depth of 18, but most of the time we dive at around 12
– 15 metres where all the life and best colours are. These dive trips always leave for a double tank
dive and usually last around 4 and a half hours. 
Outside the Bay Diving
All the diving East, Outside the bay is restricted for Advanced Open Water Divers only. The
majority of these dive sites are wall dives and have an average depth of 18 metres and maximum
of 25. Strong currents are quite often experienced here and therefore all our dives are planned to
be drifts, we also experience big swell here which is not for the faint hearted. Each dive site
delivers an exuberant amount of fish such as snappers, jacks, groupers, giant reef rays and the
occasional sharks. These trips last a maximum of 6 and a half hours and are extremely weather
dependent and rely on the tides. These dive trips always go for two dives.
Sandbank Diving
We also have opportunities for full day diving trips to sandbanks on the southern outskirts of the
archipelago. These adventures leave around 7am and arrive back around 6pm. They are extremely
weather and tide dependent and require a minimum number of guests to be planned. These trips
also incur dive site surcharges because of the distance. 
These sandbank reefs are suitable for both divers and snorkellers and are an excellent excursion
to pair with whale watching during their migration season. Quite often we are also accompanied
by dolphins and depending on the species we can attempt to swim alongside them. Depending on
the tides and clients we plan these trips for single or double dives. The icing on top of the cake is
having a BBQ lunch on the pristine white sandbanks, a true Robinson Crusoe experience with a
splash of Mafian luxury.
Exploration Diving
A big part of our passion is exploring the unknown, stumbling upon new reefs, new species – big
fish and little creatures. We invite our experienced divers to have the opportunity to embark on
an underwater adventure of exploration. Although not guaranteed to find anything, the thrill of
swimming into the blue over rubble never ceases to excite. 
This offer is for those who want to do something new or for those who have always fancied
themselves as somewhat of a Cousteau. These trips are open to Advanced Open Water divers only
with proof of at least 80 dives.

The shore is an exceptional, relatively new discovery during some of our exploration of Chole Bay. This reef can be broken up into 3 sites. Nudi City, Frogfish Town and Chekechea. All these sites offer a staggering amount of macro life with beautiful soft corals on a healthy, juvenile reef at just 10 metres deep. We also do our night dives here as it allows us to be in close proximity of the hotel giving our clients the luxury of being able to slip away for a dive and be back in time for dinner.

Examples of marine life you can find here are Nudibranches, Squids, Cuttlefish, Octopus, Spanish Dancers, Seahorses, Crocodile fish, harlequin shrimps, stingrays and Frogfish. We also get some slightly larger friends such as our resident lone barracuda – Leon and huge schools of trevally. This is always a single dive and is tide dependent. It is the perfect choice for macro enthusiasts, photography fanatics and divers who need an easy shallow dive to get started.

Starfish, Credit

Inside the Bay Diving 

All but one of our dive sites inside the bay are open to all levels of divers. Each site offers its own identity with different fish species, size, topography and coral formations. Kinasi Pass, one of the most famous sites in Mafia is the only dive site restricted for Advanced Open Water Divers only. On the pass one has the opportunity to dive with our resident giant groupers – Jesus and Moses who have been left in the water by the local fisherman as they are now too big and chewy to eat. All the other reefs can be dived at a maximum depth of 18, but most of the time we dive at around 12 – 15 metres where all the life and best colours are. These dive trips always leave for a double tank dive and usually last around 4 and a half hours.

Starfish, Credit

Outside the Bay Diving

All the diving East, Outside the bay is restricted for Advanced Open Water Divers only. The majority of these dive sites are wall dives and have an average depth of 18 metres and maximum of 25. Strong currents are quite often experienced here and therefore all our dives are planned to be drifts, we also experience big swell here which is not for the faint hearted. Each dive site delivers an exuberant amount of fish such as snappers, jacks, groupers, giant reef rays and the occasional sharks. These trips last a maximum of 6 and a half hours and are extremely weather dependent and rely on the tides. These dive trips always go for two dives.

Colorful sea creatures, Mafia Island, Credit

Sandbank Diving

We also have opportunities for full day diving trips to sandbanks on the southern outskirts of the archipelago. These adventures leave around 7am and arrive back around 6pm. They are extremely weather and tide dependent and require a minimum number of guests to be planned. These trips also incur dive site surcharges because of the distance. These sandbank reefs are suitable for both divers and snorkellers and are an excellent excursion to pair with whale watching during their migration season. Quite often we are also accompanied by dolphins and depending on the species we can attempt to swim alongside them. Depending on the tides and clients we plan these trips for single or double dives. The icing on top of the cake is having a BBQ lunch on the pristine white sandbanks, a true Robinson Crusoe experience with a splash of Mafian luxury.

One more fish! Credit

Exploration Diving

A big part of our passion is exploring the unknown, stumbling upon new reefs, new species – big fish and little creatures. We invite our experienced divers to have the opportunity to embark on an underwater adventure of exploration. Although not guaranteed to find anything, the thrill of swimming into the blue over rubble never ceases to excite.  This offer is for those who want to do something new or for those who have always fancied themselves as somewhat of a Cousteau. These trips are open to Advanced Open Water divers only with proof of at least 80 dives.

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How to get there

To get to Mafia one must take a small caravan plane flight from Dar es Salaam. It takes roughly 35 minutes and several companies make this journey. Most major airports in the world have flights to Dar Es Salaam, alternatively from South Africa or Nairobi.

Domestic flights can be organised and booked for you through the hotels.

Airplane behind, Credit

There is also the option of taking the local dhows from the mainland to Mafia which takes around a day. This is quite dangerous and generally not advised!

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Where to eat and drink

Mafia Island has a very underdeveloped, hidden beauty. There are no 5* hotels here nor are there 5* restaurants. On the Eastern side of the island we have a couple of local restaurants/bars which are fun for a night of bongo flavour music and some meat kebabs or the traditional Swahili food of beans and ugali.

Enjoying the view of the ocean, Credit

Otherwise one can book into eat at several other hotels around. Our favourite is Merimeta which cooks up a scrumptious 3 course meal for US$10 per person.

It is generally advised that individuals who book their holidays here go for full board options. There is always the opportunity to slip out and eat in the village or order something from the snack menu. 

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Other things to do

There is always something to do depending on the tides, weather and season!

There is always something to do depending on the tides, weather and season:
Turtle Hatching
Witness a hundred or so baby green turtles emerge from their shells and scramble for the ocean. Takes place on Juani Island, where one can see plenty of birds, the odd monkeys and a wonderful array of tropical vegetation.
Whale Watching + Mange Sandbank
Take a day trip by dhow to watch humpback whales and their babies splash and play in the aquamarine waters. Then retire to our pristine white sandbank for a BBQ lunch, snorkel and swim in the amazing blue surrounding waters. 
Chole Island
Our favourite tour and by far the best value for money. Take an afternoon stroll to witness the first dedicated fruit bat sanctuary, the boat yard where all our boats are built by traditional means, explore Arabic and German ruins and of course, enjoy a sundowner from the only west facing bar on our side of the island. 
Snorkelling
Enjoy a snorkelling trip aboard on of our comfortable dhows. Watch the small tropical reef fish dart around as well as the ancient turtles, grazing in the sea grass before hoisting the sail and heading back for land. This trip can also be combined with a sandbank or island fish BBQ. 
Kua Ruins/Blue Lagoon
Take a few hours to explore an ancient Arabic town in ruins, enveloped in vegetation. Then head to the blue lagoon, a natural pool hidden in the trees of Juani where one can see lots of upside down jellyfish (non stinging) 
Island Tour
Go on a full day escapade around the island and have a peep at the German lighthouse, Mafia's mysterious hippo population, have a BBQ and a swim on kanga beach and finish off in the 'big city' for a spot of market hopping and witness an amazing sunset.
Whale Shark Snorkelling
Spend a morning swimming with the biggest fish in the sea! An amazing experience. 

Turtle Hatching

Witness a hundred or so baby green turtles emerge from their shells and scramble for the ocean. Takes place on Juani Island, where one can see plenty of birds, the odd monkeys and a wonderful array of tropical vegetation.

Guess who's checking out! Credit

Whale Watching + Mange Sandbank

Take a day trip by dhow to watch humpback whales and their babies splash and play in the aquamarine waters. Then retire to our pristine white sandbank for a BBQ lunch, snorkel and swim in the amazing blue surrounding waters.

Chole Island

Our favourite tour and by far the best value for money. Take an afternoon stroll to witness the first dedicated fruit bat sanctuary, the boat yard where all our boats are built by traditional means, explore Arabic and German ruins and of course, enjoy a sundowner from the only west facing bar on our side of the island.

Snorkeling on the island, Credit

Snorkelling

Enjoy a snorkelling trip aboard on of our comfortable dhows. Watch the small tropical reef fish dart around as well as the ancient turtles, grazing in the sea grass before hoisting the sail and heading back for land. This trip can also be combined with a sandbank or island fish BBQ. 

Kua Ruins/Blue Lagoon

Take a few hours to explore an ancient Arabic town in ruins, enveloped in vegetation. Then head to the blue lagoon, a natural pool hidden in the trees of Juani where one can see lots of upside down jellyfish (non stinging) 

Coral, Credit

Island Tours

Go on a full day escapade around the island and have a peep at the German lighthouse, Mafia's mysterious hippo population, have a BBQ and a swim on kanga beach and finish off in the 'big city' for a spot of market hopping and witness an amazing sunset.

Whale Shark Snorkelling

Spend a morning swimming with the biggest fish in the sea! An amazing experience. 

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Tips

Marine Park Fee

All the best diving and hotels are situated on the Eastern side of the island where there is a marine park fee of US$ 20 per person per day. Make sure you have enough cash to settle this on arrival.

Fruit bat, Credit

Cash tips

- All the best diving and hotels are situated on the Eastern side of the island where there is a marine park fee of US$ 20 per person per day. Make sure you have enough cash to settle this on arrival
- There is absolutely no cash available on the island so make sure you plan accordingly. Dive centres accept credit cards but some hotels do not
- Make sure to book your diving in advance as most dive centres have limited spaces available
- Beware that the flights from Dar to Mafia impose a 15kg limit for baggage
- US$ notes dated before the year 2006 cannot be accepted due to bank restrictions
- If you plan to take anti malarial medication make sure to bring plenty of sun cream and anti seasickness as common side effects are sensitivity to the sun and exasperated motion sickness
- Always wise to contact the dive centre before coming to make sure that you have the best possible tides to be able to enjoy the dives you want 

There is absolutely no cash available on the island so make sure you plan accordingly. Dive centres generally accept credit cards but some hotels do not!

Booking tips

- Make sure to book your diving in advance as most dive centres have limited spaces available

- Beware that the flights from Dar to Mafia impose a 15kg limit for baggage

- US$ notes dated before the year 2006 cannot be accepted due to bank restrictions

Butterfly, Credit

 - If you plan to take anti malarial medication make sure to bring plenty of sun cream and anti seasickness as common side effects are sensitivity to the sun and exasperated motion sickness

- It is always wise to contact the dive centre before coming to make sure that you have the best possible tides to be able to enjoy the dives you want!

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