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Rift Safari
Travelling along the Rift Valley: Whale sharks in Mafia Island
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Whale sharks are magnificent creatures holding many records for sheer size in the animal kingdom, most notably being by far the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate, yet they are totally harmless and sometimes allow swimmers to catch a ride although this practice is discouraged by conservationists.

Although known as migratory animals there is evidence of year-round resident whale sharks in the channel of Mafia Island, off the coast of Tanzania, and particularly nearby Kilindoni bay where they feed on plankton carried by the delta of the Rufiji River. Sightings are therefore possible all year round but chances are higher from October to March when the sea is supposed to be calm allowing plankton to float on the water surface.

An estimate of a population of over fifty individuals [composed of juvenile to subadult sharks] have been made through tagging and photo-identification of over forty animals with confirmed identities.

All whale sharks excursions depart from the port of Kilindoni which can be reached in ten minutes or one hour driving depending on which hotel you stay at [10 minutes from Butiama Beach; 20 minutes from Ras Mbisi; about one hour if you stay on the northern tip of the island at La Lua Cheia or at any of the facilities around Chole Bay: Kinazi Lodge, Pole Pole Bungalows, Mafia Island Lodge or Shamba Kilole and 15 minutes longer if you leave from Chole Mjini since you will have to cross the bay by boat]. Once at the port you will embark on a 3 - 4 hours cruise in order to swim and snorkel with them.

The port of Kilindoni

Toward the whale sharks by boat

The west coast seen from the boat

The whale shark in Mafia channel