For years the small Mafia Island, Tanzania, has been shadowed his more popular and touristic neighbour Zanzibar, but since lately a growing attraction has spread among travellers looking for peace and authentic exotic atmospheres.
This island, whose peculiar name has uncertain etymology between Arabic and Swahili, is part of a little four-island archipelago, with hundreds of sandbanks surrounding a whole natural sea park where countless fishes, birds and plants live.
Mafia is incredibly green, trees everywhere with huge branches and trunks in any possible shape, few streets and even less vehicles. Some remote little village and quite, quite everywhere.
Fishermen go from the harbour to the ocean with their dhows, shop keepers display the little stuff they have on improvised benches while the farmers take care of the rare fields under a scorching sun. And all while keeping a discreet, silent and somehow suspicious attitude towards the few tourist.
Mafia is a fable of sweet laziness, of relax and beach life. Beside a few little guest houses in Kilindoni, the main village, all other accommodations offer simple comforts perfectly blending with the landscape: small bungalows under rustling palm trees just a few metres from the sea.
And should you grow tired of doing nothing, there are options. You can take a walk to explore the villages, adventure in the sea park along its wonderful beach stretching for kilometres form the port, or you can rent a kayak and have a look at the coastline from a new perspective.
If you want to discover the remotest corners of Mafia, you can join one of the many daily guided trips: few people led by locals who really put every effort to guarantee an unforgettable experience. But the most popular activities are snorkelling at the coral reef, visiting the tiny Chole Island – among ancient ruins, tree houses and megabats – and diving in the sea park.
Our favoured moment has been snorkelling with the whale sharks, one of the most incredible experiences in my life. To swim together with a huge fella 14-metre long moving majestic and silent in the ocean’s blue waters can throw you in a very dynamic emotional state: from the starting anxiety when you first jump in the water, to happiness and awe after while swimming with the sharks.
Mafia Island is an untouched paradise, a perfect spot to avoid stress and chaos, to walk barefooted on the beach without anyone around.