The Marine Seasons of
Thanda Island, Tanzania

Luxury private island and villa surrounded by one of the largest protected areas in the western Indian Ocean is swimming with 300 coral and 500 fish species –
from seahorse to whale shark


Africa’s National Parks and private game reserves have the “Big 5”. The Galapagos Islands in the distant Pacific count a “Big 15”. So how much wildlife can travelers look forward to at a small island in the Indian Ocean? If it’s Thanda Island, a luxury private island and villa off the coast of Tanzania, much more than they might expect. Countless.

Located 24 nautical miles from the main island in the Mafia Island Marine Park, one of the largest protected areas in the western Indian Ocean, Thanda Island is smack dab surrounded by an impressive mosaic of pristine tropical marine habitats from coral reefs to seagrass beds, mangroves to intertidal flats. The diversity of animals and plant life therein includes more than 300 coral species and 500 species of fish – and that’s just how many have been identified to date. 

Denizens of the Indian Ocean range from the delicate seahorse to the robust giant grouper. Five species of turtle, including two species of threatened sea turtles, use Thanda Island’s beach as a nesting ground. Humpback whales navigate migratory routes. Trumpetfish, blue-spotted stingray, jewel damselfish, goldbar wrasse, reef needlefish, and camelfish can be observed on seven different snorkeling adventures to shallow reefs surrounding Thanda Island. And whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, swim along the outskirts of the Marine Park to feed so routinely that scientists have begun giving the harmless, gentle giants names.

Hold Your Breath: Seasonal Sightings

The Mafia Island Marine Park, adjacent to Thanda Island, offers guests sightings for all seasons. Explored through scuba diving or snorkeling from June to August, guests can look forward to watching the heart-wrenching journey of baby sea turtles as they battle their way to the ocean, facing an unimaginable number of obstacles. From July to early September, humpback whales can be seen breaching and splashing as they migrate past the archipelago with their calves, while October to March is undoubtedly the best time to come face to face with whale sharks when Mafia’s western shores become a hotspot for these mighty leviathans.

Diving or Snorkeling – or by Boat?

The island partners with Mafia Island Diving, a PADI 5-star and SSI dive center based at Chole Bay on nearby Mafia Island. Underwater aficionados have the opportunity to get dive certified right onsite and in total privacy on Thanda Island, sharing the experience with their close family and friends.

Thanda Island guests have exclusive access to the stunning Marine Reserve via a range of water and marine sports, with Thanda Island’s 36-foot adventure yacht Sazi and 34-foot Cobalt motor cruiser Island Princess at their disposal with a dependable captain and crew along for the ride. Guests can also explore coral reefs via kayak, sailboat, stand-up paddle-board, or arrange for a sailing trip aboard the newly refurbished traditional Arab fishing dhow. Kite-surfing with or without a private instructor is available, too.

All-Inclusive Private Island for Small Groups

Exclusive use of Thanda Island is offered at US $45,000 per night for a maximum of 12 travelers, all-inclusive for a minimum of five nights. The rate includes the dedicated island host team, all meals, and drinks, including a handpicked selection of wines, as well as diving, unlimited spa treatments, ethical swimming with whale sharks (October-March), snorkeling, sailing, fishing, jet skiing, kayaking, SUPs and a wide selection of boathouse toys, a floodlit tennis court, high-speed WIFI, sandbank picnics, sunset cruises on the Yacht, as well as roundtrip helicopter flights from Dar Es Salaam Julius Nyerere International Airport.

Upon landing, whether flying privately or commercially, the Thanda Island team will either meet the guests on the tarmac or at international arrivals and escort them to a luxury van that will transport them to the helicopter for their 40-minute connection to Thanda Island. Alternatively, a chartered plane can fly a larger group to Kilindoni on Mafia Island, where they can either be ferried to Thanda Island via helicopter (about 10 minutes either way) or fast boat (30-45 minutes).

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