Sandbank Picnic -- Marimbani sand bank is a dazzling strip of white sand, approximately 600 to 700m (1,968-2,296 ft.) long, that appears only during low tide. Your lodge will drop you here with some refreshments and leave you alone to explore the warm crystal-clear waters that surround the bank. The one side of the bank drops off sharply -- ideal for swimming -- whereas the other side remains slightly submerged, with pockets filled with marine life such as tiger cowries, sea urchins (watch out!), crabs, and starfish; these attract plovers and other seabirds that feed on this trapped bounty. From the Kitutia sand bank (on the Ras Mbisi side of Mafia island, facing Kilondoni), you can even snorkel the surrounding reefs; these have suffered, as they are not as protected as Chole Bay, but in combination with time spent lolling on Kitutia, they offer a good excursion.
Chole & Juani Island Excursions -- Tiny Chole -- a short dhow trip across Chole Bay -- was once the main settlement in the archipelago, home to a number of wealthy Omani traders who used Mafia Island as their farmland, where they planted the coconut palms that dominate the skyline today. Today Chole is home to a vibrant village and one of the best eco-lodges in Africa, set amid the crumbling ruins of old Arab mansions and massive baobabs, as well as structures built by the Germans from 1892 (the customs house that can be seen on the beach from Chole Bay is currently being transformed into a sunset bar by Jean from Chole Mjini -- it's a great spot and, once completed, likely to be featured in any number of glossy magazines' Top 100 Places to Order a Drink).
The atmosphere in the village is very friendly (do bear in mind that it's a Muslim village, so women are asked to cover their shoulders and knees with a wrapped kikoi, or light shawl), and visitors are made to feel very welcome. Stop at the boatyard to see how dhows are built much as they have been for centuries. In fact, Mafia boat builders are renowned for their skill; amazingly, they build entirely by eye, using traditional tools and bending timbers into shape. Nearby Jipondo Island is another traditional shipbuilding center and well worth a visit if you're interested in this ancient craft. While on Chole, visit Popo Park, the world's first park for the conservation of the fruit bat, also known as the flying fox; every evening, you will see the bats wing their way from Chole to mainland Mafia, where they feed on crops before returning to Chole Island at dawn. At low tide, you can walk across from Chole to Juani Island, or catch a dhow to explore the 13th-century ruins of Kua, once the Shirazi capital of Mafia and thought to have been founded at the same time as Kilwa, but now a wild and atmospheric ruined village, home to rooting wild pigs and small antelope. The southern point of Juani features a long channel, linking the big inland bay with the open sea; this is where you will find the island's "blue lagoon," effectively a (tidal) swimming pool.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.