Swim with whale sharks!
A rare species invites itself to Mafia Island..
Mafia Island is isolated and little known to tourists. This jewel in the Pacific, close to Zanzibar, is without doubt the most secret place in Tanzania! Very well preserved, this island offers Tanzania’s largest marine reserve: Chole Shamba, where you’ll find a huge diversity of fish and coral, enough to delight divers. But that’s not all! Off its magnificent white sandy beaches, in its incredibly translucent waters, you can spot the world’s largest fish: the whale shark!
These graceful giants of the sea can be seen close to shore. The best time to see them in Mafia is between October and March. Whether you’re a snorkeler, diver or simply a lover of the oceans, you’re in for an extraordinary experience, and the thrill is likely to be intense!
A diver’s dream!
The whale shark is the star of Mafia Island. It’s true that we never tire of observing these giants of the oceans in their natural environment. They are easily recognisable with their massive bodies: some of them can measure up to 20 metres long and weigh as much as 30 tonnes! It has a broad, flat head and a grey-blue back covered with white spots.
Completely harmless to humans, they feed mainly on plankton and other small fish. You’ll be able to watch it swimming peacefully with its mouth open, up to two metres wide, to catch as much plankton as possible. It’s quite impressive!
The whale shark swims very slowly: around 5km/hour, but when it passes us, it seems very fast and it is sometimes difficult to keep up.
An endangered species..
Since 2005, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified the whale shark as “vulnerable”. The whale shark is a victim of overfishing, as it has a high market value in Asia and the Far East. Their numbers have fallen sharply. Another factor in this extinction is pollution, such as oil spills, which pollute the plankton and reduce the life expectancy of the whale shark, which can normally live for 100 or even 150 years.
Eco-tourism, a win-win situation!
For the inhabitants of the island of Mafia, who are often very poor, the presence of whale sharks is a real blessing, as it attracts tourists, creates jobs and improves the lives of many people.
On the other hand, mass tourism could drive them away, which is why the locals are keen to preserve the island and its ecosystem. So they intelligently manage this eco-tourism by limiting the number of boats on the sites, supervising divers so that they respect the whale sharks and making the new generation understand that these are gifts from the sea that need to be looked after..