Mafia Island (“Chole Shamba”) is part of the Tanzanian Spice Islands, together with Unguja and Pemba. As one of the six districts of the Pwani Region, Mafia Island is governed from the mainland, not from the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar, of which it has never been considered to be a part.
According to the 2002 Tanzania census, the population of the Mafia District was 40,801.The economy is based on fishing, subsistence agriculture and the black market. The island attracts some tourists, mainly adventure scuba divers, game fishermen, and people wanting relaxation.
The Mafia archipelago consists of one large island (394 km²) and numerous smaller ones. Some of these are inhabited, such as Chole Island (2 km²), with a population of 800. Chole Bay, Mafia’s protected deep-water anchorage and original harbour, is studded with islands, sandbanks and beaches. The main town is Kilindoni. The stretch of water between the deltas of the Rufiji River and the island is called Mafia Channel. There are popular rumours of pygmy hippo on the island but there are zero confirmed sightings.