Hidden treasure: community healthcare on Mafia Island

August 22, 2016


From December 2016, our gorgeous Mafia Island destination will serve as a standalone program. Students can now enjoy access to this truly inspiring destination without having joined us for our mainland Tanzania program previously!

We want you to share in the excitement, so we’ve put together a short guide to Mafia Island, which covers some things you’ll see on placement and all the fantastic things you can do in your downtime as well.

Where is Mafia Island?

Mafia is a small group of islands off the East Coast of Tanzania. With only 168 square miles of land and a population of just over 45,000, Mafia is a tiny paradise with sandy beaches, breath-taking wildlife and very friendly residents.

Flights to Mafia take only 45 minutes from Dar Es Salaam, making it just as easy to reach as our other Tanzanian destinations.

Your placement

We’re sure that you will love the feeling of being worlds away from your day-to-day life. That being said, whether you’re in Mafia or Croatia, many of the amazing features of your placement will stay the same.

You’ll still have a dedicated mentor to guide you through your placement and answer any questions you may have. You’ll still spend time shadowing in a hospital environment – in this instance, the Mafia District Hospital – and you’ll still be staying in beautiful, sustainable accommodation exclusive to Gap Medics staff and students. That’s our promise!

Community healthcare

Instead of choosing a specialty such as nursing or medicine, all students coming to Mafia Island will be completing a community healthcare program. This is your chance to see how basic but life-saving healthcare is delivered to the isolated communities in the area, while still gaining incredible insight into health careers.

Students are often able to accompany their mentors and other health workers on boats to Mafia’s even smaller islands, and to observe the distribution of medication, vaccinations and vital health education. You will tend to see lots of instances of tropical and parasitic diseases, as residents often do not have access to mosquito nets and other methods of protection. Health workers will also weigh babies and check children for any symptoms of malnutrition or gastrointestinal infections.

We are committed to making our placements as life-changing for our host countries as they are for you, which is why a portion of your program fee is reinvested in healthcare on Mafia Island.

Your free time

When you aren’t busy on placement, there is plenty to do to relax. The pace of life on Mafia is very calm, and you’ll be able to find a space to put your beach towel without a problem!

Mafia is home to a national marine park, which was founded in 1995 in order to protect the reefs around the islands. Here, you can find more than 50 types of coral and 400 different species of fish and – if you’re lucky – you might catch a glimpse of some baby turtles taking their first steps towards the sea! The crystal clear waters are also perfect for diving and snorkelling; whether you’re a complete beginner or a more experienced diver, there is a route for you – and our program staff will be more than happy to offer advice.

What you’ll gain from a trip to Mafia Island

Joining us on Mafia Island could easily prove to be one of the most impactful experiences of your life. You’ll be able to make a meaningful contribution to your host community by providing non-clinical support to the island’s hard-working health professionals; at the same time, you’ll get an unparalleled opportunity to observe global healthcare in a truly unique environment.

If this sounds like an unmissable opportunity, then get in touch! And remember: from December, Mafia Island is open to everyone – so whether it’s your first placement or your fifth, we want to hear from you.

When can I go?

16 and 17-year-old students can join us on Mafia Island during the months of July and August.

Over 18s can join us any month from September to June.

We look forward to welcoming you soon!


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.