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Mafia Island
Mafia Island
Mafia Island
Mafia Island

Mafia is a relatively unknown Island in the Indian Ocean.

It offers golden sandy beaches and emerald seas.

The Island is the perfect place to relax...

...and great for snorkelling or learning to dive.

Mafia Island

Mafia Island

Mafia's secluded sandbars, migrating whale sharks, nesting turtles and laid-back vibe make this island simply magic.

While Zanzibar is probably the most popular island in East Africa, the small archipelago around Mafia Island, just 160km to its south, remains virtually unknown. Yet for simple ocean pleasures, Mafia has long been the connoisseur’s choice for genuinely laid-back, feet-in-the-sand island chilling.

The archipelago’s clutch of small, high-quality lodges – from fairytale treehouses to a world-class private villa; diving that ranks amongst the very best in the Indian Ocean, and relatively few visitors, make it the ideal destination for a low-key tropical retreat.

On arriving at Mafia's tiny airport, it is clear that the pace of life is slow here. Recently paved roads lead through the sleepy capital of Kilindoni, before giving way to farming and fishing villages, lush coconut plantations and dense forests of baobabs, mangos and cashews.

The coast is lined with tangled mangroves and a few golden bays, where traditional dhows and kayaks are launched into the turquoise waters. Beach lovers head out by boat to utterly idyllic sandbars, where surrounded by gently lapping ocean waves, they can picnic and swim from pristine, powder-white crescents of sand.

For it is the ocean that is Mafia’s greatest attraction. In 1995, the Mafia Island Marine Park was formed to protect the archipelago's reefs, for this is one of Tanzania's best areas for diving. From rainbow-coloured clownfish to octopus, rays and the odd gigantic grouper to sharks and dolphins in deeper waters, there is always something dramatic to see. Within Chole Bay, the shallow reefs are perfect for snorkelling or learning to dive, whilst outside the Bay, a long coral wall attracts experienced divers to admire its giant table corals and huge stands of blue-tipped staghorn corals.

The islands’ blossoming marine conservation projects are equally impressive. Watching Juani’s turtle hatchlings scuttle to the sea is heart-heartwarming, whilst sailing or swimming alongside the annual whaleshark migration is perhaps one of Africa’s greatest wildlife encounters. Mafia offers extraordinary escapism!

Mafia Island

Mafia Island: in detail

Holidays visiting Mafia Island

Just ideas, we'll always tailor-make a trip for you


Lemon Grass Beach Holiday

6 days • 2 locations • 1 country

Enjoy undisturbed leisure at the Mafia Archipalego’s lesser-visited Chole and Mafia Islands. Two charming, elegant lodges provide opportunity for total relaxation as well as a range of activities.

Visiting Mafia Island

US$2,040 - US$2,800 per person

Read more about the Lemon Grass Beach Holiday

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Map of Mafia Island

Choices for where to stay in Mafia Island

Reference map

Most recent reviews of our beach holidays to Mafia Island

Click below to browse all 135 reviews from Mafia Island. All from our travellers; all are in full & unedited.

135 reviews since August 2007
The VD family from London

Arrived 14 Nov 2023, 12 nights

"My Nov 2023 trip"

"Once again extremely happy with Expert Africa - Everything went to perfection …" Read The VD family’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Mr P & Ms W from Herts

Arrived 19 Oct 2023, 12 nights

"My Oct 2023 trip"

"Fantastic overall first time safari experience for the children. …" Read Mr P & Ms W’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Mr & Mrs H from UK

Arrived 21 Jun 2023, 19 nights

"My Jun 2023 trip"

"Our first time to Tanzania was a fantastic experience …" Read Mr & Mrs H’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Mrs C. from Bristol

Arrived 7 Feb 2023, 14 nights

"My Feb 2023 trip"

"The organisation was excellent and the lodges lived up to our expectations. …" Read Mrs C.’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Mike & Janette from UK

Arrived 20 Aug 2022, 16 nights

"My Aug 2022 trip"

"Fantastic - a great success …" Read Mike & Janette’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Mr E. from London

Arrived 16 Aug 2022, 16 nights

"My Aug 2022 trip"

"We loved this family trip and it created long lasting memories. …" Read Mr E.’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Mr J. from Staunton

Arrived 15 Jul 2022, 15 nights

"My Jul 2022 trip"

"A huge success...two-centre holiday in Mafia was a good choice. …" Read Mr J.’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Ms C. from Seattle

Arrived 1 Feb 2022, 28 nights

"My Feb 2022 trip"

"I wish I could book Expert Africa for all of my trips. …" Read Ms C.’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

M&A from Austria

Arrived 1 Feb 2020, 14 nights

"A Great Green Season Safari"

"Very happy with the services of Expert Africa and gladly book with them again. …" Read M&A’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Good

Mr & Mrs S from E Sussex

Arrived 8 Dec 2019, 21 nights

"Xmas beach Holiday"

Overall rating: Good

See all Mafia Island reviews

When to go to Mafia Island

Our month by month guide: What it's like to visit Mafia Island in Tanzania













Tanzania in January

January usually marks the start of the short dry season, although the exact timings of this are a little unpredictable. You can expect clear blue skies and sunshine, if the short rains have stopped, and the temperatures will be building. The short dry season is a little less pronounced in Southern Tanzania, and so it can still be wet in these areas. It is an interesting time for avians as resident birds go into breeding plumage and migrant species can be present.

Once the New Year busy period has quietened down, January can offer great value and quieter parks, although the weather can be variable, and in the Selous and Ruaha the wildlife is more dispersed.

  • Variable weather: clear & dry or cloudy with some rain.
  • Occasional thunderstorms may occur.
  • A good time of year for birding as and many migrant species are around
  • The wildebeest migration is gathering in the southern Serengeti.
  • Busy in early January, quietening down through the month.

Our view

A good time to visit, with pros & cons

Weather in January

Tanzania in February

February is during the short dry season and is one of the hottest months in Tanzania, with temperatures reaching around 33°Celsius. This can be a good time to visit, as some areas of the Northern Circuit are comparatively quieter than during the European summer months, and lodge rates are also a little lower.

The wildebeest will typically be on the southern plains of the Serengeti for their calving season, which tends to occur in a 2-3 week window in early-mid February – although this does vary year on year. This is also a particularly rewarding time for birdlife, as northern hemisphere migrants join the resident species.

  • Hot and dry weather.
  • Wildebeest migration calving on Serengeti’s southern plains.
  • Ngorongoro Crater and southern Serengeti busy for the migration.
  • Selous and Ruaha are typically quiet at this time.
  • The parks are likely to be lush and green, leading to pretty landscape

Our view

A very good time to visit

Weather in February

Tanzania in March

The heavier ‘long rains’ start in earnest in March although exactly when varies year on year. With no need to stay close to permanent water sources, migratory wildlife disperses, and so game viewing starts to become more challenging. This is most prominently seen in Tarangire National Park. The wildebeest migration may still be calving, or have moved on into the central regions of the Serengeti.

Many of the camps in the southern parks close mid March and mobile tented camps in the Serengeti will wind down towards the end of the month in order to move location or carry out refurbishments, ready for the new tourist season.

  • Hot with building humidity, before the rains begin at some point.
  • Wildlife viewing is variable depending on the start of the rains.
  • Parks are quiet and rates are low.
  • Not great for southern or western Tanzania.
  • March can be a good time for birding, with many migrant species.

Our view

A good time to visit, with pros & cons

Weather in March

Tanzania in April

April is in the middle of the long rainy season and is the wettest month, with on average 250mm of rain. Temperatures are fairly high and humid in comparison to the rest of the year. Expect the bush to be lush and flowering, and alive with insects, birds and smaller animals. It is however also dense, allowing wildlife to hide, which in turn makes game viewing harder. This is a very quiet time in terms of visitor numbers.

Many of the tented camps are closed in April, however the larger lodges remain open. The rates are significantly cheaper, and so if you are willing to work harder to spot the bigger game, some accommodation bargains can be had.

  • Heavy rain expected, with impressive thunderstorms and lightning.
  • Many camps closed and roads impassable due to ground conditions.
  • Rates are at their lowest all year round, with very few other tourists
  • Places that are open are green and vibrant, wildlife more dispersed.

Our view

This is not a great time to visit

Weather in April

Tanzania in May

As Tanzania is close to the equator there is no dramatic difference in climate throughout the year, but temperatures do start to drop a little in May. The rains are likely to still be present, although potentially clearing towards the end of the month. Visitor numbers and lodge rates are still low. The wildebeest migration is making its way through the western regions of the Serengeti, crossing the Grumeti River.

Virtually all camps in southern Tanzania remain closed, and many of the roads and tracks in the Selous become impassable.

  • Heavy rains and storms are likely, this can create some dramatic skies
  • Blissfully quiet in northern Tanzania, and a good time to avoid crowds
  • The parks are likely to look lush and green, with long grass.
  • Wildlife is likely to be more dispersed, with fewer sightings.
  • The low prices make safaris much more affordable at this time.

Our view

This is not a great time to visit

Weather in May

Tanzania in June

The rains come to an end at some point during the month and migratory wildlife begins to be drawn back to perennial water sources as the land starts to dry up. It’s likely that the parks will still be quite green and the grass high though, so walking and fly-camping may be unlikely. This marks the start of the season with camps reopening, but prices are still more affordable than the subsequent months.

The migration may still be in the Western Corridor, or on the move northwards towards the Mara River. Western Tanzania presents more challenging conditions for chimpanzee trekking in Mahale National Park, as the chimps are higher in the mountains.

  • Variable weather: clear & dry or cloudy with some rain.
  • A transitory time for the migration – moving from west to north.
  • The parks may still be quite green, and grasses high.
  • Wildlife may be dispersed still.
  • Relatively low visitor numbers and good value, shoulder season prices.

Our view

A good time to visit, with pros & cons

Weather in June

Tanzania in July

July is considered to be the start of the peak season, with no rainfall expected and pleasant daytime temperatures. As the parks dry, the wildlife congregates in fewer areas, grass is eaten and trampled by the migration, and game viewing gets better and better. The wildebeest are typically arriving in the northern Serengeti, ready to begin their period of crossings of the Mara River.

In the Selous and Ruaha wildlife sightings can be fantastic, with animals gathering around the lakes and rivers. Great conditions and school holidays mean the parks are at their busiest, with Ngorongoro and the Serengeti particularly crowded.

  • Dry and warm daytimes, chilly and windy in the mornings and evenings.
  • Great wildlife viewing, as water sources diminish.
  • The most popular time of year with very high visitor numbers.
  • Prices are at their highest due to the great conditions on the ground.
  • To avoid the crowds consider Tanzania’s southern parks.

Our view

Fantastic: the very best time to visit

Weather in July

Tanzania in August

August is the middle of the long dry season, with clear skies and sunny weather. You can expect some cooler weather at night and first thing in the morning. Remember to pack layered clothing, so you can wrap up warm on your early morning game drives, but remain comfortable as it heats up throughout the day.

August is a very popular time to visit, so accommodation prices are at their highest and advanced booking is necessary. It can get noticeably busier in some of the northern parks – in particular the Ngorongoro Crater and northern Serengeti, as visitors flock to the area in hope of witnessing an exciting migration river crossing.

  • Dry and warm daytimes, chilly in the early mornings and evenings.
  • General wildlife viewing should be excellent.
  • An exciting time of year for the wildebeest migration.
  • Certain areas will be very busy and camps fill up fast.
  • Great wildlife sightings in the Selous and Ruaha, and fewer people.

Our view

Fantastic: the very best time to visit

Weather in August

Tanzania in September

September can be an excellent time of year to visit Tanzania. As the parks continue to dry up the wildlife becomes increasingly reliant on the remaining water sources, leading to high densities of animals. Whilst early September can be busy, with fewer families traveling at this time the parks typically become quieter as the month goes on.

You are still likely to see the wildebeest migration in the northern Serengeti, with river crossings occurring on a regular basis. Tanzania’s southern parks are also fantastic at this time of year, generally receiving far fewer visitors than the north, and wildlife sightings can be great. Prices remain high and the weather generally remains good.

  • Wildlife viewing in September can be fantastic.
  • Whilst still fairly busy, often the parks are typically a little quiet
  • The parks will start to become very dry, with little new vegetation
  • Cooler mornings and evenings, warming up during the day.
  • Prices remain high.

Our view

Fantastic: the very best time to visit

Weather in September

Tanzania in October

At the tail end of the dry season, the wildlife should be the easiest to spot, although photographers should be aware that it can be a bit dusty at this time of year, as there has been no rain for several months. Great general wildlife viewing throughout as animals are attracted to remaining sources of water. Elephant numbers are particularly high at this time in Tarangire, and Mahale and Katavi are especially rewarding with frequent wildlife sightings close to camp.

There is a chance of rainfall towards the end of the month, if the short rains commence. While prices remain high, visitors numbers are significantly lower than in July-August.

  • Mostly dry and temperatures comfortably warm, with the chance of storm
  • Great game viewing although the landscape can be a bit barren.
  • Much lower visitor numbers than the earlier months.

Our view

A very good time to visit

Weather in October

Tanzania in November

In November you can expect the start of the short rains, although the start date varies every year. The rains are highly localised, and are much lighter and more unpredictable than the long rains that occur earlier in the year. These should not really interfere with your safari – as the game viewing at this time is still good - but you should pack a waterproof jacket and be prepared for some short rain showers!

The majority of tented camps remain open, but some of the mobile camps in Northern Tanzania will close for the latter half on the month. Given the seasonality, camps are charging shoulder season rates so there are often some bargains to be had. Early November can offer great value for money and the weather conditions are likely to be comparable to late October.

  • Variable weather: clear & dry or cloudy with some rain.
  • Parks are comparatively quiet and prices at the lower end.
  • Some camps will close towards the end of the month for maintenance.
  • Good wildlife sightings, but animals will disperse when rain starts
  • The wildebeest migration is on the move and the location unpredictable

Our view

A good time to visit, with pros & cons

Weather in November

Tanzania in December

December is also during the short rainy period, but this does not stop Tanzania being a popular destination to spend the festive period. Be aware that many of the lodges book up early, and charge peak rates over this time. Advanced booking is essential over this period, especially if travelling in larger family groups.

Travelling in December outside of the festive period allows travellers to make use of excellent shoulder season rates. Temperatures are pleasant with the averages of 27Celsius, although there is the chance of intermittent thunderstorms.

  • Variable weather:clear & dry or cloudy with some rain and thunderstorm
  • Good general game viewing in parks with low seasonality - Serengeti.
  • Very quiet early in the month, becoming exceptionally busy.
  • Prices reflect this – great value rising to the highest they are.
  • The wildlife in southern Tanzania is more dispersed.

Our view

A good time to visit, with pros & cons

Weather in December

Tanzania fact file

Useful information and advice to help you prepare for a trip including Mafia Island.


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