Everything you need to know to visit Mafia Island in this travel guide
Discover the best things to do in Mafia Island, where to sleep, where to eat, its activities or the budget needed for your stay. You will also find out how to get to the island and other practical information and tips.
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Tourism in Mafia Island
Mafia Island is located on the archipelago of Zanzibar but it is not administratively part of it. It is attached to the Pwani region in mainland Tanzania, unlike the island of Pemba and Unguja which are semi-autonomous (Zanzibar).
Mafia Island is the least touristy of the 3 main islands and by far the least developed and populated. Follow this article if you hesitate between the 3 main islands of the archipelago:
Tourist visa to visit Mafia Island
Can you visit Mafia Island with the mainland Tanzania Visa?
No visa is required to visit Mafia Island if you have chosen the one from mainland Tanzania. Indeed, it includes all the Tanzanian territory, including Zanzibar.
Can you visit Mafia Island with Zanzibar Visa?
If you only have the Zanzibar visa, the Tanzanian visa is required. It is available at all ports of arrival and costs $50. You can also apply for your visa online.
How to get to Mafia Island?
There are 2 ways to get to Mafia Island:
1. By bus and boat
2. By plane
Follow this guide to learn more:
Best Things to Do in Mafia Island
Between the wild countryside for hiking and animal watching, the incredibly rich marine fauna for its diving and snorkeling, the deserted beaches for relaxation, Mafia is an island where you can not get bored. I have selected about twenty things to do on the island in the link below.
Where to stay in Mafia Island?
There are enough options in Mafia to stay, namely: bungalows, guest houses, pensions or lodges at all prices. There are simply no hotels like one might find in the big cities of Zanzibar, or even hostels.
Average cost: more than $100 per night
Meremeta Lodge (Utende)*
Chole Treehouse Lodge (Chole)
Maisara Lodge (Kilindoni)
Kinasi Lodge (Utende)*
Average cost: about $30 per night
Afro Beach Bungalows (Kilindoni)
Whale Shark Lodge (Gamboni)
Ibiza Inn (Kilindoni)
Chole Foxes Lodge (Chole)
Juani Beach Bungalows (Kilindoni)
Mafia Beach Bungalows (Utende)*
3. On a budget
Average cost: less than $15 per night
Mgeni Homestay (Gamboni)
Simba Lodge (Kilindoni)
Didimiza Guesthouse (Utende)*
✱ Utende is located on the Marine Park, which is a nature reserve. An entrance was placed before arriving in the commune. When you pass it, you have to pay $23 by credit card only. You have to pay this amount for each day spent at this place because it is the rate of the reserve for tourists (smart!).
4. Wild camping
Camping on Mafia Island is possible. I did 5 days of bivouac by the sea, and it was worth it. I talk about it in the link below. Just avoid camping around ponds and marshes because not only are they filled with mosquitoes, but you could also stumble upon hippos in the middle of the night. Follow this guide to learn more:
Relive my trip in Mafia Island
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Accomodation in low season
I was there at these times and prices drop drastically because there is absolutely no one there. This is also the time to negotiate the price of your accommodation and even in high season (if like me you never book in advance).
Do not worry, if negotiating is not part of our culture, it is here, remaining in decency. It doesn’t matter what type of accommodation you have chosen. The longer you stay in one place, the more room you have to bargain.
Where to eat?
Restaurants can be found at most lodges on the island. As you might expect, there is plenty of fish and seafood. A full meal in a restaurant costs between $10 and $15 on average.
The food is very good on the island and the price of seafood that is at exorbitant prices at home is ridiculous on the island. Although it is less offered, you will still find meat and chicken but they are more expensive. A famous place to eat fish very well cooked in Kilindoni and at a good price is: Hippopotamus food point
There is plenty to do everywhere, especially in Kilindoni. I say street food because in the evening there are people who place themselves with their pots and pans and a few stools in the streets to eat well at a lower price, about $1.
There are also many fast foods where you can eat an omelet, fries, 5 skewers and potatoes for example for a few dollars.
There are many small huts along the roads where you can eat the national dish called ugali. It is a ball of agglomerated flour served with spinach, beans and fish. You will spot these places thanks to buckets of water and basins in front of the entrances to wash your hands. You will often find fish cooked in these places and rice, which is grown on the island, for about 2,000 TSH.
You will find all kinds of fruits and vegetables all over the island. Sometimes even directly in people’s homes and in the most isolated places, just ask.
Nice fish plan
In Kilindoni there are fish stalls and a small market with fresh fish and all kinds of seafood (lobsters, crab, ray, moray eel, cuttlefish, octopus, …). To give an example, 2 octopuses and 1 fresh lobster cost less than 4000 shillings. All you have to do is cook them or ask for it to be prepared in oil on the spot.
You can also buy fried fish in the same place. A small fried fish costs 100 TSH ($0.05), a large one costs 500 TSH ($0.20).
How to get around the island?
The most common option for getting around Mafia Island is the boda-boda. It is these motorcycle taxis that you find absolutely everywhere. Even lost in the depths of the island, you can find someone who rolls empty. Count about 1,000 TSH for 3 km. Around the cities, you will even find them at 4am.
You can also travel by rickshaw, although they are common. The price is about 1500 TSH for 2 km.
Truth be told, there are almost no cars on the island but you can find these services at your lodges. As for the prices, I cannot tell you, having never used them.
In view of the few inhabitants who live on the island, buses are very few but you can use them to go anywhere from Kilindoni to the north of the island for a few shillings.
Costs of tourist activities on Mafia Island
Most activities cost between $30 and $60, everything is affordable. Both to swim with whale sharks, to isolate yourself on a sandbank lost in the ocean, to go diving (…). I suggest you follow the link below where I have listed the best tourist activities on the island and their prices.
What budget for travelling to Mafia Island?
Mafia Island allows all types of travelers to get there: both the luxury tourist and the backpacker on a tight budget. According to my research, I’ve found a lot of people who can spend more than $200 a day. But Mafia can also be visited for 10 times less than this budget.
Travelling to Mafia Island on a budget
It’s quite possible. I spent an average of $20 a day.
What does include:
● A double room 2 minutes from the beach
● 4 proper meals a day
What does not include:
● Activities costs and fees
Indeed, the difference in budget will simply be seen according to the activities you will do on the island
To sleep, you can look in the section reserved for accommodation. My best match in Kilindoni was Mgeni Homestay a short walk from a great beach and close to plenty of street restaurants for a very cheap price.
Otherwise, you have Simba Guesthouse which is even cheaper (10,000 TSH) but it is secluded and far from everything.
Most of these backpacker accommodations (but still comfortable huh!) are not all on MAPS but just ask the locals because there are enough. Even in Utende in the middle of big lodges.
Didimiza guesthouse for example, which costs less than $20 a night and located right in front of the sea.