Thanda Island Private Marine Reserve

With sugar white shores fringed by coconut palms and outstanding diving potential across the largest marine protected area in the Indian Ocean, Thanda Island is the ideal escape for divers and non-divers alike. Since the villa has to be rented exclusively it is also the perfect place to gently introduce friends and family to the wonders of our underwater world.

Image of Louisa Fisher
Image of Neill Ghosh

Neill and Louisa are here to help give you the inside track.

At just a 45 minute helicopter flight off the coast of mainland Tanzania this private island escape is easily accessible. Accommodation on the island is in a large villa which houses five en suite bedrooms and an expansive living area featuring an indoor aquarium, Steinway grand piano, wine cellar and glass rim swimming pool. The villa was built as the private island escape of its Swedish owners, which can be felt in the Scandi-cool interiors; whitewashed wooden ceilings and French doors open out to the soft sand beach ensuring the villa is light and airy, while vibrant soft furnishings inject an element of Swahili style. Two open-air Robinson Crusoe-esque Tanzania Bandas complete the island accommodation.

Meals at Thanda are crafted using fresh, local produce including herbs from the island garden, home-made coconut milk for curries, and even home-made ice creams and sorbets for a post-dinner treat. Super fresh seafood features highly on the menu, alongside spicy Swahili flavours and there's a pizza oven on the island for low-key or family friendly dinners. If the occasion warrants a more special dining experience, romantic meals on the beach, under the starry African sky are also easily arranged.

With exclusive use of the surrounding Shungimbili Island Marine Reserve, Thanda Island is a great choice for beginner divers who are looking to learn in privacy, or for experienced divers seeking an off the beaten track dive destination. The five star PADI accredited dive school on neighbouring Mafia Island provides the excellent dive instructors and equipment for the dives, which take place across the marine park from a private traditional Arab dhow. Since maximum depth often doesn't exceed 18 metres here the area has fantastic visibility and great beginner conditions. However the unusual coral formations and colourful range of marine life mean even the most experienced divers will be impressed. For example, some of the most popular dive sites near Thanda Island include Kinasi Pass, Milimani Coral Gardens and Chole Wall, which are home to reef rays, barracuda, colourful coral, tropical fish, turtles, whale sharks (October to February) and more.

If you can tear yourselves away from the diving, there are plenty of other water based activities to enjoy on Thanda Island. These include snorkelling, deep sea fishing, swimming with whale sharks (again, October to February), nesting turtle spotting, paddle boarding, kayaking and jet skiing. For land based pursuits, tennis courts, beach volleyball nets, a yoga sala and, of course, the gorgeous beaches, mean all the family are well catered for.

Why we love it

Image of India Tyndall

Diving or snorkelling in such proximity to whale sharks is not only an incredibly special experience but it also contributes to the conservation of these gentle giants via a brilliant citizen science programme. Essentially, upload your photos and help biologists track the behaviour of individual whale sharks as a result.

India, Original Diver


Key Info

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Other places to stay in Mafia Island

Lodge overlooking the ocean at Chole Mijini, luxury hotel in Africa

Chole Mjini

Chole Mjini is a unique island lodge whose seven tree house chalets offer a lofty luxury adventure.

The exterior at Pole Pole, luxury hotel in Africa

Pole Pole

Nestled amidst the tropical jungle on Mafia Island, overlooking calm ocean waters, Pole Pole (or “slowly slowly” in Swahili) is an exclusive luxury eco-lodge located on the doorstop of Tanzania’s first marine park.


Mafia Island Lodge

Mafia Island Lodge, a little tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean, is nestled amongst tall palms on a sandy beach in Chole Bay. It has a welcoming, relaxed and laid-back atmosphere and is located just 16 miles off the coast of Tanzania - reachable by light aircraft in 35 minutes.

Start creating your tailored trip today

Neill and Louisa are our Mafia Island experts and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.

Call us on +44 (0) 20 7978 0505

Or enquire online