There is no tourism office on Mafia. Kilondoni has a bank and post office, but you will do any currency exchange or posting through your lodge. Pole Pole, Kinasi, and Chole Mjini are all within Mafia Marine Park, which costs $10 per person, per day; you will need to prepay this amount in cash on entering the park, so have the figure (in dollars) ready, as the permit will be checked upon departure. For more information on Mafia, visit www.mafiaisland.com or www.zanzibar.net.
By Air -- The airstrip is located in Kilondoni, "capital" of Mafia, which is no more than a largish village; Utende Beach lies about 20 minutes' drive from here. Coastal Aviation (www.coastal.cc) offers a daily scheduled flight to Mafia from Dar es Salaam, arriving at 3pm and departing Mafia at 3:30pm; at press time, the return trip costs $220 per person. (Remember that you may carry only 15kg/33 lb. per person in luggage on these planes, preferably in soft bags.) You can book your flight to Mafia from Arusha, Ruaha, Selous, and Zanzibar, but all flights go via Dar. Kinasi Lodge has its own aircraft, which you can charter if you are staying there, for not significantly more than Coastal Aviation. Note: The international departure tax ($30) and Safety Fee ($8) are included in ticket prices from Dar es Salaam but not necessarily from Zanzibar, so carry additional cash to cover this eventuality.
By Boat -- There is no scheduled commercial boat service to Mafia Island.
Mafia island is 48km (30 miles) long and 17km (11 miles) at its widest point, with two main dirt tracks running from Kilondoni, the main village (where the airstrip is located): One reaches Bweni in the north, and the other leads to Utende Beach in the southeast, where three of Mafia's lodges lie within 1km (1/2 mile) of each other (and Chole Island is clearly visible on the other side of the bay). With hardly any vehicles to speak of on the island, your lodge will arrange for your transfer or Mafia Island excursions, in either in a battered Land Rover or private lodge vehicle (Pole Pole includes this transfer in the price, Chole Mjini charges around $30 per car trip, and Kinasi charges 15€ per person). To reach the smaller islands that lie south and west (Chole, Jibondo, Juani, Bwejuu), you will need to charter a dhow; again, your lodge will arrange this.
When to Go
Like the mainland, the island has two rainy seasons: short rains in November and December, and long rains from March to May, when the island's tourism more or less closes down. The temperature on the island is stable, rarely dropping below 20°C (68°F) or rising above 33°C (91°F). June to September is the coolest period; during this time, you can dive only within Chole Bay. The best time of the year for diving is from October to February, when visibility is best -- up to 25m (8 ft.) -- and you can dive the walls outside the reef that protects Chole Bay. Peak accommodation rates are usually charged in August and the Christmas/New Year period. Most visitors stay 4 to 5 nights.