Five Islands of Africa - Part 5



Finally, the final African edition. This section has taken longer than I thought it would. I originally thought that there were not that many islands on the African continent. I'd, obviously, heard about Robben Island in South Africa, although I initially thought it was spelt Robin. And I'd heard of the island groups like Comoros and Cape Verde, but I never knew there were so many smaller places scattered along the coastal regions. 
Some parts of Africa I have left out, like Seychelles and Mauritius. The reason for this is that I intend to write a few blogs later dedicated to islands in certain oceans, islands within lakes or rivers, and maybe even islands that are not really islands. We shall see what the future brings. I may even get bored and stop after Asia.....just kidding MG, I'll get to Brazil eventually!
Anyway, onwards and upwards, as the saying goes....

Mafia Island (Tanzania)

Despite it's name, Mafia Island has no connection with the Sicilian crime syndicates of the same name. Or at least there are no known connections. It's name is thought to derive from one of two sources. Either the Arabic, morfiyeh, meaning "group" or "archipelago" or from the Swahili, mahali pa afya, meaning "healthy dwelling place"

Mafia boss, John Gotti, No known connection to the island 
A beach on Mafia Island

Mafia has had quite a turbulent history. It was originally a main port and trading centre between Africa and the Arab nations as early as the 8th century. It controlled the trade from the Zimbabwean Silver mines amongst other things.

In the 1820's the island was attacked by cannibals from Madagascar who ate many of the population and forced the rest into slavery.

Boat approaching Mafia harbour.

In 1890, the island was bought from Zanzibar by Germany, however in 1915, the British took over and used the island as an air and military base.

In 1995, with aid from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) a nature and marine wildlife park was set up to protect the habitat and provide financial support to the inhabitants.

In 2016, a diver that had been searching for a rumoured sunken fort, found the remains of a wall that stretched 4km into the sea from the island.

The island has it's own airport with internal scheduled flights from Dar es Salaam. Alternatively, the island can be reached from the mainland village of Nyamisati. The journey takes around four and a half hours.

The island has it's own website promoting tourism.

Wasini Island (Kenya)

Wasini is situated just 3km or a mile and a half off the coast of Kenya, near to the Tanzanian border. It's name derives from the local name for the original Chinese inhabitants.

Wasini shoreline

There are no cars or even roads on the island. Only footpaths made from sharp coral or sand. Any goods that need to be transported from the harbour are either carried or put into wheelbarrows.

Prior to 1963 and the end of British Colonial rule, there was a small tarmac airstrip. Only remnants of the tarmac survive.

The main economy of the island is tourism, or fishing. Although various factors, such as fear of terrorism and ebola virus, has reduced the tourism in recent years.

In the waters around the island, dolphins and humpback whales can be regularly seen swimming.

The harbour is a meeting point for dhows that ply their trade between Africa and Asia.

Fishermen off Wasini Island.
Traditional Dhows in Wasini harbour.

The island can be reached by boat from the jetty in the village of Shimoni, the journey takes around 15 minutes.

The island has it's own website with information and photos.

Zeila Archipelago (Somalia)

The Zeila archipelago takes it's name from the city of Zeila on the northern coast of Somalia, near to the border with Djibouti.

Following the Sheikh Bashir Rebellion against the British in 1945,  the sheikh's remaining forces were banished to the islands.

Coastline of he Zeila Islands

The islands are no longer inhabited and have protected areas following a 2004 earthquake and tsunami. Surrounding the islands are some of the best coral reefs in the region. There are thought to be almost a hundred different types of coral, and over 130 species of coral fish. The islands are also important breeding sites for many species of bird

The two largest islands are Sacadin and Aibat, the latter having the group's lighthouse.

Beach on the island of Aibat

The islands can be reached by boat from the port of Zeila, although no scheduled services exist.

The Somalilandsun website has a write up and photos.

Moucha Island (Djibouti)

Moucha is situated in the Gulf of Tadjoura, about halfway along the Djibouti coast. It's permanent population is only around 20 people although this rises considerable in the holiday season. Moucha Island is a major holiday destination in the country.

Tourist beach on Moucha
View from a beach bar, Maskali Islands in the background.

In 1840, the island was sold to the British for ten sacks of rice, however, the island was ceded to France in 1887 with the understanding that France relinquish all rights to the aforementioned Zeila Archipelago.

In 1900, a quarantine station was built on the island but never used due to a lack of medical staff.

The island was used for a weapons cache by French Adventurer, Henry de Monfried in 1914, with the aim of selling smuggled arms. After it's discovery a contingent of indigenous guards were stationed there and public access was restricted.

Tourist bungalows 

The islands are well known diving sites and can be reached from the mainland by air or sea. There is a small airport but most tourists take a ferry or privately chartered boat from the Port of Djibouti. The crossing takes around 45 minutes.

This travelogue has a report and photos of a visit to the island.

Hanish Islands (Eritrea / Yemen)

This group of islands seemed to be a perfect end to the African section. Part of them are territory of Eritrea, whilst others are part of Yemen.
Location of the Hanish Islands in the Red Sea.

They are situated in the Red Sea almost equidistant between the two nations. Although originally claimed by the Ottoman Empire, Turkey relinquished all claims in 1925.

In 1915 the islands were occupied by the British, but then became part of the Italian colony of Eritrea until 1941 when the British took over again. They became part of Ethiopia when Eritrea became part of that nation.

Ethiopia and Yemen claimed sovereignty throughout much of the 1970's, although Ethiopia's claim was based on the fact that Eritrean insurgents used the islands as a base for attacking Ethiopian military targets.

Following Eritrea's independence in 1991, there was a further conflict over sovereignty in 1996 between Eritrea and Yemen. Several soldiers on both sides were killed until an agreement was reached

French built lighthouse 

Given the islands position in a strategic part of the Red Sea, and due to the ongoing conflict in Yemen nearby, it is highly unlikely that permission to visit the islands will be given. Although the fact that the seas around these islands are rich fishing grounds, there maybe a possibility of securing a ride with the fishermen. Most western governments advise against this.

This travelogue describes a sea journey to the islands on a yacht in 2009


Yay, Africa finished! I thought it would never end. I did get a little bogged down. I think interspersing each "Island" blog with random, off the wall, one-off blogs has helped me to focus. I shall carry on that regime, at least as long as I can come up with ideas for the stand alone blogs.

It has been a long journey around the coast of this massive continent, perhaps the size of Africa is what stalled me a little. Many islands do not have much information published, even less have usable photographs and links to either a dedicated web page or blog are somewhat lacking.

"So, where to from here ?" I can hear you all asking. Well, I say hear, but above the sound of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" playing in the background I can hardly hear anything.

Next time we shall be in Asia. Starting around the Arabian Peninsula towards the Indian Subcontinent. Whether we get as far as India remains to be seen. Again, I havent researched that bit yet, but I have a long weekend off work due to the sad passing of our monarch Queen Elizabeth II, so I may do that tomorrow, depending on what my wife has planned.

So in the words of the comedy duo The Two Ronnies, "Its goodbye from me, and its goodbye from him".

Level 68
Sep 17, 2022
Finally some Tanzanian representation in this series!
Level 78
Sep 18, 2022
It had to happen eventually😉
Level 43
Sep 17, 2022
Toowise: “I thought it would never end. I did get a little bogged down.”

MG: Hold my beer.

Level 78
Sep 18, 2022
You shouldn't drink it's bad for you 😎
Level 68
Sep 18, 2022
It's not all bad
Level 78
Sep 18, 2022
Thats true, all things in moderation, it's usually the excessive use thats bad.
Level 43
Sep 18, 2022
Didn’t expect such a plot twist lol
Level 50
Sep 17, 2022
I wonder when toowise will do islands in Canada
Level 78
Sep 18, 2022
Patience is a virtue my friend 😎
Level 59
May 16, 2023
Only 15 5 islands lol