Mafia Island

Mafia is the largest of a small archipelago of islands, and is as close as you can get to the quintessential ideal of an Indian Ocean tropical paradise. Mafia Island Lodge and Kinasi Camp constitute the upscale accommodation choices, although it is possible for self-sufficient types to camp on the beaches. The Lizu Hotel and Aswan Hotel in Kilindoni, the ‘capital’, offer basic accommodation and meals. There are six major dive sites, and innumerable lesser sites that offer some of the best diving on the coast of East Africa. Self-sufficient travellers can charter local dhows, but most of the diving is organized through the two upmarket lodges.

Mafia has a rich history, going back over 2,000 years. It was a pivotal centre of Shirazi influence between the 12th and 15th centuries AD, but for centuries before this occupied a key position in the East African trading routes. In the mid 1820’s, the Shirazi town of Kua on Juani Island was sacked by a raiding party of 80 canoes filled with Sakalava cannibals from Madagascar, who ate many of the locals, and abducted the rest into slavery. In more modern times, Mafia was the base used by British forces in World War I, when in 1915, they assembled their aerial forces to scout for the German battleship, Koenigsberg, which was wreaking havoc with British shipping, and was hiding out under thick foliage in the nearby Rufiji Delta. In July that year, the South African elephant hunter, Pieter Pretorius, who boarded the vessel posing as an Arab chicken-seller, located the Koenigsberg. It was bombed and then scuttled by her skipper, Max Looff.

October to the end of March are the best months for diving. But for non-divers the months between May and October offer the best weather, as January to March are uncomfortably hot and humid. The heavy rains come in March and April, and lesser rains in October to mid-December.

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