Zanzibar is an archipelago made up of the Zanzibar and Pemba Islands, and several islets. It is located in the Indian Ocean, about 40 kilometres off the Tanzanian mainland of East Africa. Zanzibar, known locally as Unguja, is 97 km long and 32 km wide.
It is characterised by beautiful sandy beaches fringed by coral reefs, and the magic of historic Stone Town – the only functioning ancient town in East Africa. Long the destination of Arab traders, Zanzibar is a melting pot where Africa meets Arabia, it having been an important trading port for the commodities of spices and slaves. The historic port of Stone Town still bears the scars of the slaving years.
Mafia Island and its surrounding archipelago (including the tiny islet of Chole) has a great deal to offer as an unspoiled, little-visited alternative to other Indian Ocean locations around Zanzibar and along the coast. This is what Zanzibar was 30 years ago. Visitors today still find essentially small, rural farming and fishing communities whose lives have continued in much the same pattern as has been traditional for millennia.
The southern region of the archipelago houses the Mafia Island Marine Park, a UNESCO World Heritage listed area. The park is home to a wonderful variety of marine life and offers some, if not the best diving on the African coast. Mafia’s best kept secret is its population of whale sharks; in the summer months good numbers inhabit the waters of the channel to Mafia’s north feeding off the plume of nutrient from the Rufiji River. The islands also witness humpback whales and turtle nesting over the same period.