At around 822 sq km, Mafia Island Marine Park is the largest marine protected area in the Indian Ocean, sheltering a unique complex of estuarine, mangrove, coral reef and marine channel ecosystems. These include the only natural forest on the island and almost 400 fish species. There are also about 10 villages within the park’s boundaries with an estimated 15,000 to 17,000 inhabitants, all of whom depend on its natural resources for their livelihoods.
The park has been classified as a multiuse area to assist local communities in developing sustainable practices so that conservation and resource use can coexist. Entry fees are payable by everyone, whether you dive or not. They are collected at a barrier gate across the main road about 1km before Utende, and must be paid by credit card (Visa or Mastercard), although if you show up with cash only, park staff will receive it and put your payment on a park credit card. Save your receipt, as it will be checked again when you leave. Mafia Island Marine Park Headquarters are in Utende.
The main way to explore the park is on a diving excursion with one of the Chole Bay dive operators.