How to get to Mafia Island on a budget (using the ferry) [2024]

Cover Image for How to get to Mafia Island on a budget (using the ferry) [2024]
Lisa & Pol
by Lisa & Pol
This post is linked to the following video :
Youtube thumbnail
Mafia Island : The true local experience | Tanzania travel vlog [2024]

Filmed on : February 2024

Filmed in : Mafia Island, Tanzania

NyamisatiKilindoniUtendeCholeKitu Kiblu

There are two ways to get to Mafia, by plane or by ferry. Depending on how on a hurry you are, and how much you're willing to spend on transportation, flying in might be the best option. However we will focus on the ferry for this article, assuming you're coming from Dar (because that's what we did).

The general idea is to get to Nyamisati by public transportation and then take the ferry from there. In both directions.

We did this journey at the end of February 2024, so allow for some changes in the prices and schedules.

From Dar to Nyamisati

We travelled to Nyamisati on Sunday, knowing that the next ferry was leaving the next day, on Monday. This way we felt no pressure with times, and we knew that accommodation in Nyamisati was possible. We had come across different bus stations when planning this part, but this is what worked for us. Apparently, on days where the ferry goes, there are direct buses to Nyamisati.

Getting to Mbagala Rangi Tatu bus stand, using a city bus (600 TZS).

Boarding the first bus that was going, direction Bungu (7000 TZS).

The journey takes around 3h, and the bus was very crowded.

In Bungu, board a shared taxi and pay 5000 TZS. The car makes the journey in 1h, and it's super sandy, our bags were dull of dirt/sand by the end. The departure is located a few meters from the bus stand, towards Dar. There is a sign indicating the ferry.

Nyamisati

The swedish mission guesthouse common area
The swedish mission guesthouse common area

It's a village, with not much to do, and it can get very hot. We slept at the Swedish Mission Guesthouse, 100m from the bus station towards the sea, on the right side of the main road, a bit apart. We didn't book in advance and paid 10000 TZS for the room (1/2persons is same). The room is basic and small, but it does the job. There is another option, fancier, in town, next to the bar.

The ferry ticket can be bought during working hours, but come as soon as you can in the morning of the ferry, on the main square (the bus station).

A local guy that can arrange buses, accommodations and that knows the ferry schedules is Shaban (+255 786 921 322).

Ferry

The ticket costs 16000 TZS, that's the official price paid by locals as well. The schedule changes, depending on tides, weather and the needs of the passengers to some extent. So always make sure that the ferry goes when you expect. In our case, it left Monday at 2pm. We bought the ticket around 8:30am, and entered the port at 1pm. The ferry finally left at 3pm and we arrived in Mafia at 8pm.

Everyone gets a seat, there is AC, and some food options. The ride was smooth and we spent most of the time outside on the deck. We were invited by the captain inside the crew cockpit.

Island vibes on our first night in Mafia, walking to New Afro Bungalows
Island vibes on our first night in Mafia, walking to New Afro Bungalows

On arriving in Mafia, the ferry stops at the end of a long jetty, and all passengers must either take the bus or a tuktuk to get to land. The ride costs 1000 TZS per person. It's a mess, everyone pushes to get to the bus. It can take a lot of time if you are in the lasts.

Mafia

Watching the fishermen come back on land in Kilindoni
Watching the fishermen come back on land in Kilindoni

We stayed at New Afro Beach Bungalows, it was the cheapest option at the time and we had seen it was reachable by foot from the ferry. We were supposed to have a tent but were upgraded to a room so we were quite happy (the room is really good). However, the service overall is pretty bad, breakfast is (very) late, the entire staff is laying on beds at reception watching Tiktok with no one available to answer our questions, and the food is overpriced. They also seemed annoyed that we didn't book any whale shark tour with them and kept insisting everyday.

Sunsets on Tanzanian islands are unbeatable !
Sunsets on Tanzanian islands are unbeatable !

About the whale shark tours

The official season is from October to February, but we've been told the best moment to see them is in November-December, where you can see any at once, just chilling eating the food. We found a guy at the bar who told us that he was the only one that day to have found them and he offered us a great price (45$/person) for the next day (the 29th of February). At the end of the season, which is when we were there, it's much harder to get to swim with them because they keep moving looking for food. It's very possible to not see any, we have a friend who tried twice and failed both times ... (both in February). Us, we got lucky, after 2h30 of searching, our captain spotted one and 3 times we went to the water to "swim" with it. It's amazing, a 7-8m creature so close and so fast. Bring water, a cap and a lot of patience on board :)

About the marine park

Chole island, remote and authentic
Chole island, remote and authentic

We hadn't really realized that half of Mafia is actually within the marine park reserve, and so every time you must pay the 23$ fee per person per day. So make sure to optimize your day if you're going to Utende/Chole/Blue Lagoon. The tuktuk from Kilindoni to Utende should be around 7000 TZS (for 2).

The famous spiral coconut tree of Chole Island
The famous spiral coconut tree of Chole Island

Going back to Dar

Sunrise on the ferry from Mafia to the mainland
Sunrise on the ferry from Mafia to the mainland

Ask the schedule to someone that knows, buy the ticket to the office at the port (we believe it closes at 5pm, but try getting there early as the tickets can get sold out). Our ferry was leaving at 3am. Again you need to pay 1000 TZS to get to the end of the jetty. We slept the entire night on the upper deck, it was very nice watching the stars move and the temperature was ideal. In the morning, everyone rushed to the buses that go directly to Dar, so be prepared to fight to get a spot. We didn't feel like wrestling, so we took the less desirable bus to Bungu (5000 TZS) and hitchhiked from there back to Dar.

Utende beach for ourselves, but you will need to take a boat to snorkel
Utende beach for ourselves, but you will need to take a boat to snorkel

Overall, we are very happy we went, it's a very chill and local island, much less touristy (at least when we were there) than Zanzibar. The whale sharks swimming was very unique. But the journey there and back takes some time and energy so we wouldn't recommend taking the ferry for less than 3-4 days on the island.

Lisa & Pol
Lisa & Pol
We're a Slovak-French couple in our twenties currently backpacking across Africa for a year. One of our goals is to inspire travellers to go explore this often forgotten continent. On this blog we're focusing on providing up to date info about prices and itineraries, especially geared towards backpackers on a budget. We also create content on Youtube and Insta if you prefer a more visual approach 😉
Some links on this site are affiliate links. We may earn a commission from your clicks, at no extra cost to you.
Did you like this article ? Consider sharing it or getting us a coffee !