Majestic. Relaxing. Enchanting. Amazing. It was everything that I didn’t know I needed.
I knew this trip would be awesome as soon as the pilot let me sit in the co-pilot chair. I had never flown on a small plane but I figured I might as well go hard or go home.
After taking the 30 minute plane ride from Dar es Salaam, we arrived on Mafia Island, not knowing what to expect or what adventures the island would hold. Our driver greeted us at Mafia Island Airport (which was funded by the United States…go USA!) and drove us on the bumpy and unpaved roads to our secluded and remote hotel, Butiama Beach. The town of Mafia looked so different than what I’ve seen in Dar es Salaam. Mafia is more rural and not a busy city like Dar. I’m pretty sure the island doesn’t have a single paved road…and the speed humps were logs that were somehow stuck in the road.
Butiama Beach was a quaint, beach side property that boasts 15 rooms for parties of various sizes. I walked in and immediately felt like I was at one of those resorts you see on tv where celebrities go to vacation. I fell more in love with the property the more I saw. There were no TV’s and the wifi only worked in the hotel lobby (which I’m convinced the owners did on purpose), so we had no choice but to unwind and enjoy the beauty of the island.
Saturday, we woke up early, excited for our whale shark adventure (the main reason we went to Mafia). Since the boat wasn’t leaving until noon, I got an ocean-side full-body massage (so good!) and relaxed by the pool. Noon finally rolled around and we headed out to sea for our whale sharking adventure. We rode out to sea for about an hour, but our guide didn’t spot a single whale shark. They usually come to the surface so it’s easy to spot them in the water. We were so disappointed. After hearing one of my coworkers rave about how swimming with whale sharks was such a magical experience, I was looking forward to escaping my comfort zone and doing something I wouldn’t have very many opportunities to ever do. We settled for snorkeling instead which turned out to be fun, but still didn’t replace seeing whale sharks up close and personal. Later we learned that Sunday was officially the last day of whale shark season and they had already begun migrating south.
Sunday, we sea kayaked and had so much fun! I capsized twice but once I finally got the hang of it, I kayaked like a pro. The rest of the day we relaxed, hung out at the bar & learned more Swahili from the bartenders (I can count up to 10!). We were all super sad to leave. While the island was remote and small (and my room had no air condition), the people were so warm and hospitable. It was the perfect place to escape city life of Dar es Salaam. Check out more of my pictures from Butiama Beach and the town of Mafia Island below.
This upcoming weekend I head to the Arusha, Tanzania for a 4-day safari to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater & Tarangire National Park. Keep your fingers crossed that I see the Big 5 (Elephant, Lion, Rhinoceros, Leopard & Buffalo)!
Photo Credit: Ashlee Tuck