The beautiful island cluster takes its name from the Arabic “morfiyeh”, meaning “group” or “archipelago”, or alternatively (and we like this one more) from the Ki-Swahili "mahali pa afya", meaning "a healthy dwelling-place". The Mafia island is home to just over 40,000 people.
While Zanzibar has become a popular tourist resort, Mafia Island only 160 km south, remains virtually unknown. Mafia Island is one of the safest places in the Indian Ocean and, unlike its more visited neighbours, you won’t feel like you’re constantly bumping shoulders with other tourists. The Mafia Archipelago is truly breath-taking. Scattered over the Indian Ocean 21 km off the Rufiji River Delta in central Tanzania and surrounded by a barrier reef teeming with marine life, it’s not difficult to understand why almost half of its coastline, 822km², has been gazetted a marine park by the Tanzanian government. Here you can find over 50 genera of corals, more than 460 species of fish and various species of turtles.
Mafia is not just about stunning natural beauty. The island has a very rich history, going back to at least the 8th century. The island used to play a major role in trade between the ancient people of the Far East and mainland Africa. Boats carrying goods to and from the Persian empire would regularly stop here. A settlement on the tiny island of Chole Mjini, just offshore in Chole Bay, controlled trade from the silver mines of Eastern Zimbabwe, which reached the settlement via the old ports of Kilwa and Michangani.
Under a treaty of 1890, Germany took control of Mafia and constructed the buildings still evident on Chole. Germany paid Sultan Sayyid Ali bin Said al-Said of Oman 4 million Deutschmarks for both the island and part of the mainland coast. In January 1915, Mafia was taken by British troops as a base for the air and sea assault on the cruiser Königsberg. Getting to Mafia used to be quite difficult, but it is now served by a number of scheduled flights from the Tanzanian mainland. Ask us for more information, or contact Coastal Aviation or Tropical Air.
What is lala? It’s Swahili for sleep, but here at Butiama Beach it means all the relaxation you could ever wish for, in truly exotic surroundings... Relax in a hammock on your spacious verandah as the evening breeze caresses you and the sun gently sets.
Each one of our bungalows is beautifully furnished with our unique furniture - hand crafted from the sun and sea-kissed hardwoods of retired sailing dhows, and decorated with kikois – charming, colourful hand woven cotton sarongs. Choose from double, twin or our roomy family bungalows. All our rooms are fully equipped with hot water, mosquito nets and yacht fans.
Start the day with a full breakfast of muffins, pancakes, cereals, yoghurt, fruit, bacon and eggs. At lunchtime choose from an array of tempting light dishes. Refuel, replenish and revive yourself at our lovely wave-lapped beach bar and restaurant, Chiringuito. Tea, coffee, and herbal infusions are always available to perk you up at any time. In the evening, come and join us for a full 3 course dinner – the perfect way to end your day.
Take one of our kayaks and explore our beach front, or go further afield... Mafia has some of the world’s richest reefs, as well as being a meeting place for various turtle species and many oceanic fish. Scuba dive, fish and swim with the world’s largest fish - whalesharks.
Discover the native trees, animals and birdlife, take excursions to experience local village life, watch skilled craftsmen at work, or go sailing in a traditional dhow to nearby islands, sand banks, or other beaches. Explore the ruins of the ancient city of Kua on Juani Island; get a taste of history at Kisimani; or head to Chole Island, where you will gain a fascinating insight into the traditional life of a peaceful and industrious village community as well as experience their different flora and fauna including the rare Comores fruit bat. Take our Land Rovers to the north of the island, and explore Mafia’s miles and miles of secluded pristine beaches. When you have finished exploring the island, you can have a relaxing massage to unwind before settling down to watch the sunset.