Arriving In Mafia

Waiting at he airport in Dar Es Salaam for my flight to Mafia, I couldn't help but be excited for the upcoming trip. This excitement quickly turned to apprehension as we boarded the eighth seater plane and the pilot calmly explained that he liked to leave his door open until we took off to make the most of the breeze!

Click to read more ...


The 5 Best Species To See In Tanzania

Home to the famous Serengeti National park, Tanzania is normally the go-to country for spotting the Big Five and it also attracts a vast amount of attention due to its annual migration of over one million wildebeest and 250,000 zebra. But what other species are best to see in this country?

Click to read more ...


Part IV: Little Island, Lots To See

Our Assistant Research Officer gives us an indepth account of the beauty that Mafia Island beholds... read on and imagine..

Click to read more ...


Fish Are Friends Not Food

When you see fish do you think food? Here we delve into fish farming techniques and discover which ones are best to avoid if we want to protect our oceans and fish stocks

Click to read more ...


'Mambo, Jambo' - Learning the Language in Tanzania 

With many overseas adventures, learning the language of the country you are visiting can be frustrating and often you may find, like I've done on many occasions, that instead of persisting with feeble attempts at a new language, you rely on miming actions or words as a means to communicate.

Click to read more ...


The Locals Of Tanzania 

Morfiyeh. Derived from the Arabic language, 'morfiyeh' translates to 'group' or 'archipelago'. In the local language, Mafia was apparently the amalgamation of the Kiswahili "Mahali pa afya", meaning a 'healthy dwelling place'.

Given the white sand beaches with turquoise, tropical waters full of diverse fish life, not to mention the swaying palms laden with juicy coconuts, I'd like to believe that the latter is indeed true. Five stunning islands make up the idyllic archipelago - Mafia, Jibondo, Juani, Chole and Bwejuu. Relatively untouched, unlike the well known tourist hot spot of Zanzibar, Mafia Island, from my observations, has retained a quiet and traditional charm from it's early days as a prominent trading hub between East Asia and East Africa.

For example, many arabian dhows, the generic term for the numerous trading or fishing vessels still used today, often visited a prominent settlement on the small Island of Chole Mjini, that controlled numerous trade from the silver mines of Eastern Zimbabwe. Not all visitors, however, have come with peace and prosperity in mind. Records show that in the mid 1820's, the town of Kua on Juani Island (a few kilometres a south east off Mafia Island) was set upon by Sakalava cannibals in a fleet of 80 canoes from Madagascar. The gruesome events ended with many of the locals of Juani being eaten, and the remaining taken into slavery.

At present, there is still a constant stream of locals from Mafia Island that travel to Chole Island and vice versa selling fresh produce, handicrafts or freshly caught fish of the day. Visitors will see the ferry, full of locals, with men and women sometimes segregated. The men with serious faces, and the women, very shy, peek out beneath the head scarves that adorn their braided hair. I wish I could take a photograph of the colourful scene, but due to the superstitions of many here, it is believed if a photograph is taken of you, a piece of your soul is also taken and lost.

Although shy when it comes to photographs, the local community of Mafia Island are ever enthusiastic to stop and say hello to any mzunguu's (foreigner) and are more than happy to exchange pleasantries and get to know you. Although the language bridge is still yet to fully be crossed, one thing I know is certain, is that a friendly smile swapped between mzunguu and mafian locals can go a long way in meeting new friends here on this incredible Island, Morfiyeh.

By Von Sebastian - Assistant Research Officer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Tanzania.

Check out what volunteers in Tanzania are up to right now!