Thanda Island - Luxury Private Island - District of Mafia Island, Tanzania

Water Adventures

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You have exclusive use of the Shungimbili Island Marine Reserve surrounding Thanda Island and a superb choice of water and marine activities. A boathouse full of equipment is yours to enjoy, and a boatman is dedicated to you as your personal guide.

Swimming with Whale Sharks
One of the most emotional and spectacular ocean wonders you can ever experience is being up close with a whale shark, which can grow to an astonishing 18 metres. These absolutely harmless, gentle giants - the largest fish in the world - are an incredible part of the Thanda Island experience and in the area from October to March. We are privileged to be able to share these beautiful creatures up close with you: you can either swim with them or you can view them from our luxury adventure vessel, ably commandeered by our trusted captain.

At the same time we invite you to participate in our citizen science programme where the photographs that you take of the whale sharks can be uploaded to ecoocean.org and whaleshark.org. Photo identification of the whale sharks, each with a unique pattern or ‘fingerprint’, is used to study their little known feeding, migratory and breeding patterns. To retain your memories of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, our marine guides are equipped with GoPro cameras to record your time with the whale sharks.

Marine Turtles
Five species of marine turtles occur in Tanzania’s waters, including green, hawksbill, loggerhead, olive ridley and leatherback turtles. All are categorised by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as endangered or critically endangered species. We often have turtle sightings around Thanda Island and we know that you will be completely amazed by these creatures. We are hopeful that with our focus on creating a conservation haven on Thanda Island, that two of the turtle species – green and hawksbill – might continue to return and nest here.

Snorkelling
We have a resident snorkelling guide on Thanda Island who can take you on seven different snorkelling adventures around our Island. This can be enjoyed by all ages and novices. Marine turtles have frequently been sighted during snorkels, along with plenty of exciting marine life.

Scuba Diving
If you enjoy scuba diving at any level, challenging or laid back, or you would like to learn to scuba dive, we will arrange this for you with Mafia Island Diving, our accredited 5-star dive partner at Chole Bay, Mafia Island. They speak and teach in eight different languages: English, German, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Dutch and Swahili.

The majority of the Mafia Island and Thanda Island dive sites are not deeper than 18 metres, making them the perfect reefs for all ages and experience levels to explore. Mafia Island Diving is the only PADI 5-star dive centre on the island, offering a highly professional service with an accent on safety and attention to detail.

For the Mafia Island dives, we’ll take you to Mafia Island by boat. All their dives are done from traditional Arab dhows in the Mafia Island Marine Park, which includes nine islands and is widely regarded as having the most spectacular reefs for diving and snorkelling in sub-Saharan Africa. As the largest marine protected area in the Indian Ocean, it includes an intriguing diversity of coral reefs, five species of turtles and 400 species of enchanting reef fish. It is a rich breeding ground for pelagic fish such as the baracuda, stingray, napoleon wrasse and large grouper. Hopefully you will also see sea turtles, whale sharks and dugongs during your dive. Outside of Chole Bay a choice of equally exciting dives are available, including eleven reefs within reach of Ras Mbisi, Mafia Island. The beauty of Chole Bay is that because it is a well protected bay, you can dive here all year round.

Three of the reefs you can explore in Chole Bay include:

Kinasi Pass – a 5-star rated dive at the mouth of Chole Bay where the sheltered bay meets the open ocean. A gradual slope through a narrow channel of coral then drops off into a wall, plummeting to almost 30m. Experience reef rays, giant gropers, large Napolean wrasse and amazing shoals of sweetlips, barracuda, trevally and the occasional shark. This dive favours the more experienced diver but novice dives can be undertaken when the current is calmer. Average depth: 17m
Maximum depth: 27m
Average visibility: 15m

Milimani Coral Gardens – Milimani is extremely picturesque with unusual coral formations that are home to rich, colourful shoals of small and medium-sized tropical fish. The site is suitable for divers at all levels and ideal for night diving.
Average depth: 11m
Maximum depth: 18m
Average visibility: 15m

Chole Wall – Chole Wall is a westward extension of Kinasi Pass, known for turtles, stingrays and many colourful reef fish. Average depth: 15m
Maximum depth: 18m
Average visibility: 15m

Big Game Fishing
We have a fully equipped 28-foot reef runner cat, deep-sea boat if you would like to do some big game fishing nearby Mafia Island. Our captain and professional fishing guide Wade Scott will lead your fishing expedition to seek out iconic catch-and-release species or to bring home the catch of the day for our chefs to prepare for your lunch or dinner.

Wade has South African colours for fishing and is very passionate about all types of fishing and goes out of his way to make sure you have the best possible experience. Children are also welcome to fish or to learn how to fish. The fishing season is from September to March, with Sailfish from November to January.

Cruise the Islands
Cruise around Thanda Island and the surrounding islands in Thanda's boat, beautifully appointed with a luxurious cabin, cocktail bar, dedicated waiter and a music system with a wide range of song choice. Sip on champagne and enjoy Island delicacies as you explore the magnificent marine reserves.

Sailing, Paddling and Kayaking
Explore the reefs around your island in a kayak, sailboat or on your stand-up paddle board. We can also organise a sailing trip on a traditional Arabian fishing dhow.

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