Southern tanzania

Hippo tours
Saadani Game Reserve
Zanzibar / Unguja
Zanzibar Stone Town
Beaches in Zanzibar

Mafia is salvaged by misunderstanding. Once the droll references to Sicily are finished and the misguided references to Hemingway are corrected, Mafia Island is then dismissed as the Zanzibar for those trying to be different.

And different it is. Admittedly lacking in the historical charms of Stone Town, there is still an equally-charming ruined town of creeper-choked temples straight out of Indiana Jones. The beaches, it must be said, are not quite the white, picture-postcard swathes of Zanzibar, but then Mafia makes up for it's (merely excellent) coastline with its sandbanks, glaring apostrophes of pure sand that punctuate the horizon a mere half-hours boat ride from shore.

Above water and below, Mafia balances its attractions with a gentle grace - no one feature outstandingly dominant, but each one important in defining the whole composite charm of the island. Beaches, mangroves, historical sites, marine parks sit together within a thriving, effectively self-sufficient, community of fisherman and farmers, continuing with life whether people bother to visit or not. Free of the touts and hassles, the commerce and the kitsch, where the only thing you are asked for is the news of your day, the only thing that you are sold is fresh seafood and the closest you get to high-rise is a ruined jail strangled with foliage, Mafia continues with its differences.


Mafia's hotels are all located in one bay on the eastern side of the island, close to Chole island and the Marine Park, but as they are only three and all are very friendly, their proximity has never really mattered.

Mafia Island Lodge
The former government lodge was recently taken over and currently represents the best value of any beach property in the country. Large but family-friendly and located on the best stretch of beach on Mafia, the overall advantages are difficult to ignore.

PolePole Lodge
A small, Italian-owned property of intimate atmosphere and subtle décor, PolePole (the Swahili for slow/relaxed) is the best-rated of the Mafia properties. There are eight groomy, hand-crafted bungalows facing out over the sea, and a dining area and central public space that is straight from Robinson Crusoe. Here is served a fusion of Swahili and Italian cuisines, complemented by excellent wines that seems the most fitting tribute to all that goes on around you. First class lodge, perfect for couples, honeymooners and those of a sybaritic bent.

Chole Mjini
In the heart of the ruins of the Chole settlement, past the liana-strangled Hindu temple sits Chole Mjini Lodge, a treehouse lodge of incomparable eccentricity and charm. Perched in the eaves of the baobab trees, above the mangroves and beach, the houses are open on all sides, with artfully-carved furniture and comfortable beds as the sole concession to hotel status.

Perhaps most impressive of all - aside from location, style and form - is the community projects that are funded by the revenue from this property. This is a genuine community conservation programme, benefiting the villages and instigating a respect for tourism and visitors that should be held as a shining example to tourism across the continent.