Mafia is an island located 160km south of Zanzibar island. It is the smallest and southernmost of Tanzanias main islands.
Opposite Mafia, about 20 km to the mainland, extends the mouth of the Rufiji River. The island of Mafia can be reached from Dar es Salaam by plane in half an hour. In 1994, the first Mafia Island Marine Park was established. There is a number of attractions on the island, such as historical ruins, deep sea fishing, snorkeling and diving. The population of Mafia consists mainly of fishermen. Other employment options include coconut and cashew nut processing. The plantations are remnants of the domination of the Oman , however, the poor land on mafia is not necessarily suitable for agriculture, which is why the island is sparsely populated. The basic food is cassava (manioc), which was imported from Brazil by the Portuguese in the 16th century to feed the slaves.
The sea around Mafia includes a large number of tropical marine habitats, especially coral reefs, sea grass meadows and dry mudflats. The east side of the island is protected from the forces of the Indian Ocean through by a 33 km outer reef. The western side is significantly affected by the mainland and is therefore even better protected than the east side, which also is where the most beautiful beaches are. Mafia Island Marine Park offers an impressive underwater world for both novice and advanced divers and snorkelers. The visibility is between 20 to 25m from October to February and drops to 5 to 10m between June and September. Fire corals, antler corals and leaf corals provide a resort for a variety of colorful reef fish, from angelfish to butterfly fish, angel fish to wrasses. You can also spot parrot fish, rainbow fish and rays. Further out you may come across tuna, kobias, kingfish, sea turtles, but also a few more dangerous fish. More than 2,000 species of fish from 150 families exist in the western part of the Indian Ocean, and each year more species are found. No matter if you dive or snorkel, the behavior of reef fish, their colors, their relationships to each other and to other marine organisms are an endless source of fascination.
The inhabitants of Mafia are called Mafians and not Mafiosos. The population includes about 45,000 islanders, most of them Muslims. The island itself is 48 km long and 17 km wide. Tourism is barely developed on Mafia, so that there are only a few major beach resorts. The temperature hardly drops below 23°C and rises only in very rare cases over 33°C. Thanks to the establishment of the Marine Park, some environmentally destructive activities were drastically decreased. For example, previously tons of coral stones were mined for the construction of houses and also mangrove wood was struck to build boats and to fire hobs.