Mafia Island Holidays - Ultimate Wildlife AdventuresMafia Island: Swimming with Whale Sharks

Home to some of the best dive sites in the world and possibly the most reliable place on the planet to swim with whale sharks, Mafia Island is for the serious marine enthusiast.


  • Swim with the largest fish in the sea, the whale shark.

  • Experience some of the best and most challenging dive sites in the world.

  • Enjoy the laid-back nature and authenticity of this rarely visited island.

Mafia Island is the southern-most island of the 3 main islands of the Zanzibar Archipelago, with Zanzibar Island in the middle and Pemba to the north. It is a relatively small island at only 435 km² with dimensions of 49 kilometres in length and 17 kilometres wide.

Although Mafia is within the Zanzibar Archipelago it has never been politically a part of Zanzibar, instead governed by the Pwani Region on the Tanzanian mainland.

The big attraction of Mafia is its reliability in producing exceptional whale shark experiences. Wildlife, whether terrestrial or marine, is never guaranteed but the promise of swimming with whale sharks carries more reliability here than arguably anywhere else in the world. The diving is exceptional but leans more towards the experienced diver than the first-timer.

Tourist numbers are low on Mafia Island in comparison to Zanzibar Island and this is in effect due to the relative obscurity of good quality accommodation and the fact the beaches are much inferior to those of their larger cousin’s. The accommodations are generally more geared towards the outdoorsy and adventurous types. The coastline is dominated with mangrove forests rather than the postcard-perfect beaches characteristic of Zanzibar Island.

Mafia Island is not for everybody and certainly most of our guests are suited to Zanzibar. However, for those wanting authenticity and a laid back vibe combined with exceptional diving and reliable whale shark sightings then Mafia is the perfect destination.

The months of October to February are deemed the whale shark season, with November and December providing the most reliability. It is at this time of year that the north monsoon wind, known as Kaskazi, pushes surface water rich in plankton from the Rufiji River towards Mafia Island. The whale sharks are attracted to this area and hoover up the plankton with their huge mouths. Swimming next to these 9 tonne giants is a truly extraordinary and exhilarating feeling and can be regarded as one of the most breathtaking wildlife experiences anywhere in the natural world.

We have produced some outstanding trip ideas below to demonstrate how Mafia Island can combine so well with the safari areas on the mainland.

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Contact us to discuss designing your perfect Mafia wildlife adventure or peruse our suggested itineraries below for more information and inspiration.

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Mafia Island Itineraries

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