Photo Courtesy of Samurai_dave
Mafia is a wonderful Island lying on the southern coast of Tanzania, near to the Rufiji Delta. The Island is the site of Tanzania's first Marine Park which was gazetted in 1995 with assistance from Frontier-Tanzania.
Historically, Mafia Island's history goes back to the 8th century. The island once played a major role in ancient trade between the people of the Far East and East Africa.
From an environmental point of view, the area is known to be one of most important marine habitats in the world. It has mangroves, sea-grass beds, coral reefs, inter-tidal reef flats, lagoons and coastal fores, with 14 villages and over 18,000 people living within these new park boundaries.
In many areas the underwater limestone landscape supports extensive and diverse coral communities. At Milimani reef, scores of soldiersfish shelter amidst giant pillars of Stylopora coral whilst brightly marked lion and scorpion fish drift in pairs near the bottom. A rich and colourful array of other invertebrates abounds on the reefs in Chole Bay; featherstars, bryozoans, cleaner shrimps and coral crabs. Cyanea and blue-ringed octopus hide in hollow dens, hunting by night for molluscs and small fish. Gigantic sea anemones harbour vivid orange and black anemonefish amongst their tentacles, the fish immune to the stings.
Divers claim that the island is the best dive location across Tanzania. They describe it as a small heaven which has a lot to offer and quite exquisitely, does not require lots of experience to be dived. On top of that, snorkeling with the resident Whale sharks makes Mafia one of the best places in the World to visit.
Today Mafia is known as a beautiful Indian Ocean tropical resort that is famous for deep sea fishing, scuba diving and scientific research. Aquatic life is abundant and the coral gardens are pristine due to the protection of the Mafia Island Marine Park. However, many conservation and environmental organizations are calling for attention and assessment of the on-going protection policies and fishery management system. This is to ensure sustainability of the marine resources and the livelihoods of coastal communities living there.
By Nala Mahmoud