Day 1: Today your Specialist Tanzania trip commences in Dar es Salaam with check-in at one of Dar's best located hotels, the Sea Cliff (or similar), and a welcome from our local representative. Depending on your arrival time today there may be time for an afternoon city sightseeing tour of Dar (approx. 3 hours). This optional tour will take you to visit the Askari Monument standing tall along the junction of Samora Avenue and Maktaba street, the Nyumba ya Sanaa, the National Museum, the Azania Lutheran Church and the Forodhani front where you will learn about the history of the city.
A short drive out of the busy town leads to the Kariakoo Market - a typical bustling African market, the University of Dar es Salaam and the famous Makonde carvers at Mwenge Handicraft Center. On the return trip you will pass the Village Museum which houses Tanzania's tribal traditions. Here cultures are preserved in the form of different examples of housing found in villages. Sophisticated and decorated mud and thatch huts stand side by side and demonstrate the diversity of cultures found in Tanzania. Accommodation: Sea Cliff Hotel (or similar).
Day 2: Transfer back to Dar airport to make the short 35 minute flight south to Mafia Island. Approximately 20 miles off the Tanzanian coast, Mafia is the largest of a small archipelago of islands (including Pemba and Zanzibar) with a population of about 40,000. The name Mafia is probably derived from the Arabic "morfiyeh", meaning "group" or "archipelago", or from the Swahili "mahali pa afya" meaning "a healthy dwelling place". Its history goes back to the 8th century where it played a key role in the East African trading routes between Kilwa and Zanzibar.
Today it’s known for its spectacular and peaceful natural environment. Mafia has so far escaped the invasion of mass tourism as building has been restricted to just a handful of lodges. On arrival at Mafia’s tiny airport you’ll be met and transferred to your beachside accommodation at Ras Mbisi in time for lunch at the beach-front restaurant. Ras Mbisi is a small informal "beach meets bush" lodge set on 8 kilometres of deserted beach on the west coast of Mafia Island.
Sustainably-built, Ras Mbisi Lodge offers a relaxed atmosphere in an untouched part of Mafia Island. This afternoon you can truly relax, unwind and perhaps take a walk along the pristine beach. The lodge staff will no doubt be on hand to discuss the optional activities that are available on the island, should you wish to make any arrangements. Accommodation: Ras Mbisi Lodge. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Days 3-12: At leisure at Ras Mbisi. Besides the tempting lodge pool and beach, depending on your personal interests, there are plenty of things to do on Mafia Island to keep you occupied over the next few days including scuba diving, snorkeling, island excursions, boat trips to offshore islands and whale shark encounters (in season). Diving safaris around Chole Bay, within Mafia Island’s acclaimed Marine Park are outstanding. One of the highest bio-diversity marine sites in East Africa, Mafia Marine Park has are over 400 species of fish, 48 genera of soft and hard coral, the endangered marine turtle, dolphins and the rare dugong.
Chole Bay, the core of the Marine Park, has a handful of genuinely world class dive sites and you can be assured of never diving in a crowd. A wide choice of guided dives, dive packages, adventure dives, introductory courses, an open water course and advanced courses are available through our PADI-certified Dive Centre partner (Mafia dive options can be pre-booked with Specialist Tanzania).
Popular excursions in Mafia include visits to Chole Island – the oldest, still inhabited settlement in the archipelago with lush vegetation, a traditional dhow shipyard and ruins of old Arab buildings; Juani Island – with ruins of the ancient city of Kua, monkeys, blue duiker and the "blue lagoon"; Kitutia Reef – one of the most beautiful coral reefs with fine white sand beaches, perfect for a castaway fish lunch experience; Bwejuu Island; Chuwia Beach; Sunset Cruises; Ras Mkumbi – an exciting trip by road to the lighthouse at the northernmost point of the island.
Also, between October and March, whale sharks frequent the waters off the coast of Mafia. During this time boat trips can be arranged from Kilindoni harbour to spot these gentle giants quietly feeding on plankton a few hundred metres from the shore (sightings are never guaranteed, but chances of seeing them are high). Mafia Island is ideal for nature lovers, this is a real paradise with a rich variety of vegetation, which combines a mixture of bush with baobabs, mangroves and dream sandbanks. There are wild pigs, duikers, monkeys, small antelopes, hippos and nocturnal creatures such as bush babies and the fruit bat (flying fox). Fish eagles and countless other wading and wetland birds frequent the shoreline. Accommodation: Ras Mbisi Lodge. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 13: Fly to Dar es Salaam. Holiday ends. Your Specialist Tanzania Mafia Island Ras Mbisi Escape holiday ends today after check-out from your accommodation and a return flight to Dar es Salaam. Depending on the departure time of your international flight you may be transferred to a Dar hotel to relax before returning to the airport later on. Includes: (B).
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