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Rift Safari
Travelling along the Rift Valley: Beaches of Mafia

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Beaches here are not as beautiful and so wide as the ones of Zanzibar and this is due to the fact that much of the island is surrounded by mangroves which nevertheless have a very important role against coastal erosion and work as nursery for a variety of juvenile fish.
The most beautiful beaches are here located on the western side of the island [where you can admire the sunset over the African continent] while the less attractive eastern ones have direct access to the marine park.

• The East Coast:

With the exception of a stretch of beach inside Chole bay nearby the village of Utende, where the mid market Mafia Island Lodge is located, the whole eastern coast of Mafia island is characterized by a long expanse of mangroves ending up directly into the coral lagoon with virtually no beaches for miles.

The sandy beach in Utende is no doubt the best one inside the bay and within the marine park even if the sand is more yellowish and greyish than white and not so powdery as one could expect from a tropical beach.
The great advantage of this beach is that it is located straight in front of the bay hence a short distance by boat to the beautiful coral gardens where snorkellers can enjoy and divers can start to warm up and that it is non-tidal so if you are not a diver but you are travelling with divers you can enjoy swimming in the sea and not in a swimming pool all day long.

The beach at Mafia Island Lodge
The beach of Mafia Island Lodge nearby Utende village

All other facilities located inside the marine park have been built just outside the bay on the southeastern side of the island. Their beaches have been artificially created by owners removing part of mangroves. That means that the sand of the seabed tends here to be gloopy and the coastline very shallow in pitch which means as well that the effect of tides is very much pronounced with water retreating for long distances making it impossible to swim into the sea at some time of the day. To alleviate this issue all lodges here have a swimming pool.
The only lodge who refused to interfere with the environment is Shamba Kilole which strictly sticks to the principles of eco-architecture.

The beach at Pole Pole Bungalow with high tide

The beach at Kinazi Lodge with low tide

Shamba Kilole
View from the lounge over the mangrove and the sea at Shamba Kilole.

The West Coast:

Beaches on the western coast are definitely much more beautiful than the ones on the eastern side of the island, absolutely remote with virtually no hassle.

Up to now there are only three hotels on this side:
Butiama Beach is set about 10 minutes driving from Kilindoni outside the marine park. The beach here is rather broad and has powdery white sand. Like most of beaches in Mafia there are some coral outcrops in the sea so one should walk carefully or eventually wear seashoes. In our opinion and conventionally talking Butiama Beach enjoys at the moment the most beautiful beach among all hotels on the island.

Butiama beach at low tide Butiama beach at high tide
Butiama beach at low and high tide

Ras Mbisi is remotely set in the central part of the west coast. The beach here, especially at high tide, is not very broad but it stretches for a long distance both sides and it is no doubt a paradise to get away from other people. At low tide the water retreats for about 200 meters and not more than 300 during spring tide.

Ras Mbisi beach Ras Mbisi beach
The beach at Ras Mbisi looking respectively toward left and right

La Lua Cheia is the last facility located on the western coast. The little cosy lounge set on the rocky promontory works as a sort of watershed and the powdery, white sandy beach stretches from here for kilometers on both directions and unravels through isolated clusters of mangroves. Although rather tidal and even if in the sea the sandy bottom gives ways to patches of coral outcrops [so that one has to walk carefully or wear seashoes]. Enviromentally talking we loved this place: a wild, untamed, unspoiled piece of Africa.

view from the sea of the beach and tents walking on the beach through cluster of mangrove
The beach at La Lua Cheia View from the makuti restaurant over the lounge and the sea

Chole Island:

From Utende one will reach Chole Island in about 10 minutes with a traditional ngalawa boat. There's a special little unconventional lodge here that outdoorsy people will almost certainly love. It's name is Chole Mjini and it consists of a few tree houses built on trees among overgrown ruins completely surrounded by huge baobab trees and mangroves. Chole Mjni anyway hasn't got its own beach which you will find only sailing the ocean in the other little islands of the archipelago.

Heading to Chole Island by ngalawa Getting closer
Locals coming back home Passing through the overgrown ruins toward Chole Mjini Lodge
View from a tree house over the mangroves into the sea the sea front at low tide seen from the makuti restaurant