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Mafia, Chole & Fanjove Islands

Why visit the Indian Ocean islands of Mafia, Chole or Fanjove?

If you want something smaller, more personal and less crowded than Zanzibar, one of these small islands south of Zanzibar could be just the ticket.  Try Mafia for quiet beaches and great diving, Chole for treehouse-living and island adventures, and Fanjove if you have Robinson Crusoe tendencies. 
The reasons you should visit are:

  • A smaller, less busy islands than Zanzibar. 
  • No large hotels, no cars on Chole or Fanjove, not even any inhabitants on Fanjove.
  • Some of the best diving in East Africa from Mafia and Chole in particular (September to March is best). 
  • Great snorkelling year round. 
  • A rare chance to swim with whale sharks, off Mafia Island (Oct-March).
  • Stay in a baobab treehouse on Chole Island.
  • Enjoy a complete escape on Fanjove.
  • Beaches are tidal here (some more so than others) but there is always somewhere quiet to relax on the beach, even if that means heading out on a boat to a sandspit! If you want a guaranteed Caribbean-style beach though, these are not the right places for you. 

When to go on holiday to Mafia, Chole or Fanjove Islands

Other than avoiding the main rainy months of April and May, you could come here at any time. This coastline is always affected by one of the trade winds (which you’ll be glad of in the hotter months), but January and more particularly June tend to be the windier months. 

Tanzania's small Indian Ocean Islands: How to do it?

Mafia and Chole are a 20 minute flight from Dar es Salaam. Fanjove is another 20 minute flight further south to Songo Songo Island, after which you take a boat trip (roughly 30 minutes) out to Fanjove Island. 

All of these islands make a wonderful holiday in their own right, or are a perfect end to a Tanzanian safari. 

Accommodation in Mafia, Chole or Fanjove

All of these Indian Ocean islands are small, but the biggest is Mafia Island (still just 394 km2). Even if you count all the tiny local guesthouses there are only about 20 places to stay. We work with the 5 better lodges, all of which we’ve visited.  If you’re mainly going for the diving, you’d be best staying on the east of the island or at Chole. 

Chole Island, which is just a 5 minute boat trip across a channel from Mafia, is tiny (2km2) and has just one lodge – Chole Mjini – which is rather a special place where you stay in treehouses and can meet the islanders in the village. 

Fanjove Island is about a 20 minute flight south of Mafia and Chole and is even tinier, at just 1km by 300m. It is uninhabited, and has just one lodge of 6 beach bandas – a real escape. 

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Mafia, Chole & Fanjove Islands accommodation

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facts and information

Time: GMT +3 hours

Flight time:

Flights from UK to Tanzania take about 9 hours direct or 10-11 with a brief stopover en route if from Europe.

Language: Kiswahili and English are Tanzania's official languages. Although most people in the cities speak some English, a few phrases of Kiswahili are useful in more rural areas.

Visas:

Most nationalities require a Tanzania visa, obtainable from the High Commission in London (or on arrival into International Airport.

Health:

Most nationalities require a Tanzania visa, obtainable from the High Commission in London (or on arrival into International Airport.

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