The main town is located on the north-east side of the island. The airport now dissects the town, Kilindoni, which is the district ‘capital’. Mafia is a district of the Coast Province, which is one of the provinces of mainland Tanzania. It is also an electorate with its own member of Parliament.
The island infrastructure is basic. None of the villages is connected to mains water or electricity and there are no tarmac roads. There are two main roads: from Kilindoni north to Ras Mkumbi (with side roads to the villages in the north) and Kilindoni to Utende, the centre of the tourism area on Chole Bay. A third arterial road connects the south-east of the island, centred on Kitoni.
The road to Utende is quite rough (occasionally it is graded) and it can take at least 30 minutes to travel the 15 km distance. Elsewhere roads are sandy tracks or paths.
At present, there is little public transport on Mafia (a daily bus to the north), which has only about 35 vehicles, mainly Land Rover pick-ups and 4x4s belonging to the hotels, UNICEF, government and to the fish processing factory. Hitch-hiking is an accepted means of getting about but usually means a long wait. Islanders also use Jahazis, widely referred to in English as dhows, to commute between Kilindoni and outlying villages on Mafia, and for inter-island travel.
The Mafia Archipelago is scattered over the Indian Ocean 21 km off the Rufiji River Delta in central Tanzania. The largest of a score of islands, atolls and tidal sandbars, Mafia itself is approximately 50 km long by 15km across and is surrounded by a barrier reef teeming with marine life. Almost half the coastline of Mafia, some 822km², has been gazetted a marine park by the Government. To date over 50 genera of corals, more than 460 species of fish and five different species of turtles have been recorded in the waters around Chole Bay.
While Zanzibar has become a popular tourist resort, Mafia Island lying only 160 km south, remains virtually unknown. Previously poor communications with the mainland and being much lesser known than Zanzibar have kept Mafia ‘original’, although a steady trickle of visitors is unanimous in singing its praise. Mafia is one of the safest places in the Indian Ocean and there are no hustlers to spoil a holiday.
Used to be a difficult exercise, but not any longer, as there are quite a number of scheduled flights flying into and out of Mafia every day. Coastal Aviation, ZanAir, Precision Air and Tropical Air.
The flight by plane takes only 45 minutes from Dar es Salaam and 1 hour from Zanzibar or the Selous.
Our rates do not include the road transfer from Mafia airport to Kinasi Lodge which we usually outsource to provide income for local small businesses. This is charged at US$ 40 per car one-way
Mafia has daily scheduled air services with same-day connections to the Ruaha, Selous, Arusha, Pemba and Zanzibar; all flights can be booked direct or through Kinasi, which can make flight arrangements and invoice you as part of the overall bill.
Coastal Aviation flies every day at 1500 hrs with a direct connection on its aircraft from Arusha via Zanzibar and the Selous. Prices (inclusive of current fuel surcharge) are:
Tropical Air operates the morning schedule to Mafia leaving Dar es Salaam at 1000 with a direct connection from Zanzibar at 0800. This is an excellent service for arrivals on British Airways. The seat price is US$ 112 one way. It has also reported it will commence an afternoon schedule.
ZanAir operates Mafia flights from Zanzibar at 1130 via Dar es Salaam and arriving Mafia at 1315, in July 2009. Travellers from Pemba can also connect on this at 1030 in Pemba.
Please note that all airlines strictly observe the 15 kg per pax limit on bags on internal flights in light aircraft and prefer soft or duffel bags not hard plastic or aluminium suitcases.
We offer a personal ‘meet & greet’ and transfer service between terminals in Dar es Salaam and from hotels and Stone Town in Zanzibar (through our sister company Zanzibar Travel Services firstname.lastname@example.org) for your clients. Our rates are:
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Mafia is not part of the Zanzibar archipelago, as many people think. It once was the property of the Sultan of Zanzibar after he wrested from the Portuguese, who sold it to Germany in 1890 during the ‘scramble for Africa’. In 1915 the British Army took control of Mafia after skirmishing with a force of German and Tanzanian askari in the coconut plantations of Dundani, Mafia’s highest plateau (just 50 m above sea level). The final battle took place in a grove of mango trees, named thereafter asmwembe vita (the mangoes of war).
The assault on the island was precipitated by Britain’s need to establish a base on Mafia from which to launch attacks on the famous destroyer Konigsburg, which had taken refuge in the Rufiji Delta after the outbreak of hostilities in the First World War. The destroyer had been on an official visit to Dar es Salaam at the time. The reconnaissance flights mounted from a makeshift pontoon runway on Niororo Island (30 km north of Mafia) proved to be too long, with much fuel consumption wasted on the flight to and from the Delta. The aircraft were used to ‘spot’ the ship and provide accurate information for ranging guns on the British warships holding a position in the Delta.
After the War Britain administered Mafia under martial law until 1922, whereupon it became part of the British Administration in East Africa and not part of the Protectorate of Zanzibar, that remained under the Sultan of Oman.
Today Mafia is a district of the Coast Province of the Republic of Tanzania. It is also the smallest electorate with fewer than 20,000 voters for a single member of Parliament.