Butiama Lodge faces north-west towards the Tanzanian mainland.
Butiama Beach: Our full report
Butiama Beach opened on the west coast of Mafia Island in 2010. The lodge is a stroll along the beach to the west of the island's capital Kilindoni and outside the boundaries of the Rufiji Mafia Kilwa Marine Reserve. It's a simple beach lodge catering for couples, friends and families - from Dar expats and residents looking for a weekend escape, to better-heeled trans-African travellers and those staying for a short break after a safari.
Butiama has 15 spacious bungalows, including 2 family rooms on the sea front with two bedrooms; 2 triple rooms - one at on the seafront and one further back in the gardens; 2 twins in the gardens; and 9 doubles in various locations. They all face north-west, across the sea towards the Tanzanzian mainland, although some have better sea views than others. The bungalows have large verandas at the front, and the baraza-style sofas and hammocks here are a lovely for catching the breeze and enjoying the sea views.
Inside the rooms, reclaimed wood from old dhows has been used to create the wooden beds and luggage racks. The white mosquito nets and bedspreads, combined with colourful kikoi-woven cushions and bedspreads give a really light and airy feel, and the beds are comfortable. The colour scheme throughout Butiama Beach is whale shark: light blues and dappled white polka dots. There is some space to hang your clothes, as well as an en-suite bathroom with reasonable water pressure and hot water most of the time – not that you will often want a hot shower. The rooms have good-size digital safes and 24-hour electricity and charging points, with UK-style 3 pin sockets.
Sheltered under makuti thatch, the lodge's main areas comprise the sandy floored Chiringuito bar, which is set right by thebeach overlooking the sea. There's also a small library with board games, pool table and local games of >bao. Dining takes place in an open-sided area to one side of the bar, although you can also eat on one of the comfortable sofas arranged around the bar. Butiama has a shop called the 'Green Room' that sells a good selection of souvenirs, many of which are locally made.
In keeping with the rest of the lodge, the swimming pool is also pale blue and provides dappled shade. It’s a decent size and there are sun loungers and a few tables set up around the circumference. It’s a lovely place to relax during the day, as is the clean, quiet beach beyond. Butiama is the only lodge on Mafia with access to such a long, white sandy beach. Apart from a few fisherman there are very few people here and being west-facing, they get magnificent sunsets.
If you want to be further relaxed and pampered, then check out the liltte Bahari Spa treatment hut at the west end of Butiama's beach. Open from 10am to 6pm daily, they offer massages, manicures and pedicures, and can also treat you in your room.
Butiama Beach offers a number of activities. Sea kayaks, snorkelling gear, motorboats and fishing tackle are available, as well as traditional dhows. They also have their own PADI-certified dive centre that takes guests scuba-diving inside the marine park. It's worth noting that diving is done on the eastern side of the island, so guests are driven over there to dive, which takes about 30 minutes.
Butiama Beach is also perfectly situated for guests who hope to see and snorkel with the enormous, harmless whale sharks that laze in the shallows off the island's west coast roughly from October or November to March, vacuuming huge quantities of plankton into their wide mouths. Butiama Lodge operates motor boat trips out to snorkel among the whale sharks whenever more than a couple of people want to do this activity, which involves positioning the boat near a circling shark and then allowing snorkellers to gently drop into the sea to swim alongside it. Unfortunately, Butiama's boats barely adhere to the whale shark code: going too fast; chasing the sharks, joining other boats when there are already too many by a shark; and trying to intercept the fish to allow their guests to get the underwater photos and videos they're hoping for. While Butiama can't be accused of actions that are particularly flagrant, and certainly no worse than other boats in the vicinity when we experienced this excursion twice in 2016, we did feel they should be encouraged to adhere much more strictly to the agreed code, and we very much hope in the future they will do so.
Back on shore, you can walk along the white sandy beach: 10–15-minutes walk in one direction leads to Kilindoni village and the markets, while the other direction leads to a creek populated with a variety of birds and small monkeys.
Our viewWe like Butiama Lodge a lot. What it lacks in fluffy towels and fancy toiletries it makes up for in value and consistency. It's ideal if you're looking for a simple, laid-back base after a safari, and the diving and whale-shark-snorkelling are big pluses. If it could get its act together properly on the somewhat chaotic whale shark trips and follow the code for conducting these, we'd be able to recommend it wholeheartedly.
Ideal length of stay: Stay here for 3–4 nights to relax and perhaps do some diving.
Directions: Butiama Beach is about a ten-minute drive from Mafia airport.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: The managers are very helpful, and are more than willing to help cater for any special dietary requirements, or to help you make the most of a special occasion.
Breakfast is usually served in the main restaurant and is a selection of fruits and cereals, followed by a cooked breakfast made to order. Limes with the papaya and decent coffee make for a good start.
Lunch is a varied à la carte menu, including pizzas, salads and sandwiches. We were impressed with the variety of choice, and thought the food was fresh and tasty. It was refreshing to have such a wide selection to choose from.
Dinner is a set three-course menu with choices. On a previous visit, we enjoyed a tomato soup to start, followed by grilled fish with roasted vegetables and rice, and a chocolate mousse for dessert. The food was simple, but it was clear some thought had gone into the menu. As is to be expected, Italian dishes and seafood feature frequently on the menu. On our last visit, in 2016, the fritto misto di mare seafood starter was light, crunchy and full of flavour, followed by a solid crab linguine.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £10-15
Drinks included: Tea, coffee and unlimited big bottles of drinking water are complimentary, but other drinks cost extra.
Diving & snorkelling: From November to March, Butiama offers good opportunities to swim with whale sharks. It is also a short drive from the protected reefs of the Mafia Marine Park on the east side of the island.See more ideas for Diving & snorkelling in Tanzania
Attitude towards children: Butiama Beach welcomes children.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions.
Special activities & services: None.
Equipment: They have cots and highchairs.
Generally recommended for children: Most of the activities on offer at Butiama are suited to older children and the nearby beach presents a potential water hazard, so parents should supervise their children at all times. The laid back atmosphere and family rooms are a good option for those travelling with children.
Notes: Recommended for age 10+.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: There is a back-up generator.
Communications: There is good cellphone signal and free WiFi is available in the reception area.
TV & radio: There is no TV at the lodge, but there are TVs in nearby local restaurants if you're keen to watch a major event.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: Bottled water is supplied.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a first-aid kit at the lodge for basic injuries and there’s a hospital a ten-minute drive away in Kilindoni.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: The lodge has three guards on duty during the night and two during the day.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the main areas and in each bungalow.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included in the price.
Money: There are electronic safes in all of the rooms and they can exchange small amounts of money.
Accepted payment on location: Butiama ask that payment for any extras is made in cash. US dollars, euros, Tanzanian shillings and British pounds are all normally accepted using the exchange rate of the day.