The Mafia archipelago and its associated islands

There are several islands off the East African coast that together form a semi-autonomous state within the United Republic of Tanzania. The islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia are all beautiful but isolated. Of the aforementioned group, the islands that together form the Mafia Archipelago are probably the least known and that is precisely why the archipelago is ideally suited for a wonderful and peaceful holiday. Culture enthusiasts can visit one of the many ruins and nature lovers can visit one of the tropical or mangrove forests. But the archipelago’s true attraction lies underwater. The ecosystem in the waters surrounding the archipelago is so diverse that it is considered one of the most important ecosystems in the world.


  • The Mafia archipelago
  • Daily life in the archipelago
  • Flora and fauna
  • Mafia Island
  • Chole, Juani and Jibondo


The Mafia archipelago

There are several small islands, atolls and sandbanks in the Indian Ocean that together form the Mafia Archipelago. Of all the islands in the archipelago, only a few are inhabited and life on the islands is not easy. The isolated location of the islands has both its advantages and disadvantages and the biggest disadvantage is that most residents do not have electricity or running water. The big plus of the location is that the islands are still largely undiscovered.


The Mafia Archipelago consists in its entirety of fifteen islands and dozens of sandbanks and atolls. The largest island and namesake of the archipelago is located about 25 kilometers off the coast of Tanzania, near the Rufiji Delta; Mafia. The island of Mafia is approximately 50 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide and the capital Kilindoni is located on the southwest side of the island. The capital is also home to the archipelago’s only port and airport. In addition to Mafia, three more islands are inhabited; Chole, Juani and Jibondo. Only Mafia and Chole have the conveniences of running water and electricity is only available in two cities on Mafia. In 2002, the archipelago had approximately 41,000 inhabitants living across the four islands. The Mafia Archipelago, together with the neighboring islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, forms a semi-autonomous state within the United Republic of Tanzania, which means that the islands have their own president, government and parliament, which are based in Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar. The inhabitants of the archipelago are among the poorest in the world and unemployment on the islands is therefore high (research 2002). Most people live from what the land and sea have to offer and what they cannot use themselves is sold. Tourists who visit the archipelago mainly come for the rich underwater life and there are several beautiful diving spots around the islands. The reefs that belong to the Mafia Island Marine Park are particularly popular among divers.
The name Mafia
It is not known when the islands of the archipelago were officially referred to by the name Mafia, but reports from the Portuguese from the eighteenth century showed that the name was already common at that time. Although many people immediately think of the Italian crime syndicate when they hear the name, it has been determined that the name has nothing to do with it. The name is probably derived from the Arabic word Morifyeh” meaning “group” or from the Ma’afir: an Arabic tribe originating from present-day Yemen. Other suggestions

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