In general, week days are working days from 7:30 till 17:30 and weekends are off and spent however you please. However, occasional weekend work will be required during major events such as beach clean-ups, whale shark/manta feeding frenzies, or turtle beaching, but these activities will certainly be worth the overtime!
Manta Ray Work
This will include photo ID-ing the reef and giant mantas as you see them, laser measuring individuals, watching and assisting scientists in taking biological samples, and uploading identification pictures to relevant databases, record re-sightings on mantamatcher.org, a worldwide database which is revolutionising the ways in which scientific research is carried out on these oceanic animals.
Whale Shark Work
The area immediately off Tofo is a global hotspot for the world’s largest fish, with over 620 of these gentle giants identified within Mozambican waters. You will actively help in whale shark research by training in whale shark photo ID-ing, and will also take pictures of the whale sharks and their specific characteristics such as scarring, uploading these images to a database and recording any re-sightings. All this and more is completed during trips to and from dives, as well as on specific search transects to find animals in the feeding area (1.5km from the lodge.)
Humpback Whale Monitoring
Humpback whales make annual journeys from Antarctica to as far north as Tanzania to mate and calve. During the winter months (June to September), many humpback whales are sighted in and around the waters of Tofo. You will help assess the populations and health of the animals by conducting both beach and boat monitoring and recording the data into the world humpback whale database.
From the months of November to February, you will contribute to the collection of data from three of the turtle species found here (loggerhead, hawksbill and the critically endangered leatherback). This will involve monitoring the landing of turtles, taking GPS data on their nesting sites to gather information on poaching, monitoring the success of nesting and photo ID-ing the specimens as you see them. Activities may take place on both land and underwater, but it is more likely that you will be working with the turtles on the reef.
Coral Reef Health Work
The project has experienced much success in protecting its reefs, with fish species frequenting certain corals. A quarter of all ocean species depend on reefs for food and shelter, and it is for this reason that project has set up ‘no-take zones’ as to protect the reefs from being damaged by human activity. You will help to monitor the health of the reef by conducting marine surveys, looking out for certain keystone species such as the Crown-Of-Thorns starfish, and completing video transects in both the protected areas and the other coral reefs in which you may dive.
While much of the project revolves around volunteers working on marine conservation activities and diving, it is important to pass on valuable knowledge to the local community, encouraging them to care about their environment and teaching them how to live in harmony with their island home. One of the ways of doing this is to provide workshops and training to facilitate the opening of new protected areas and increased community resource management, as well as informing the community about waste management, sustainable fishing practices, and the protection of areas around them, Finally you may find yourself working with Mozambican widowers, teaching them how to farm fish to support their children.
The below itinerary if for a 2 week trip. For longer durations, days 4-14 are extended. Please note that itineraries are subject to change and what follows is only a rough guideline.
Day 1 - Arrival:
Arrival into Tofo via Inhambane Airport (only 22kms away.) A project representative will meet you at arrivals and will transport you to your accommodation. Don’t worry – the airport is tiny, so you won’t get lost!
Day 2 - 3 - Diving Qualification:
After your arrival, you will receive a two-day period of induction and training by your research and volunteer coordinator. For non-divers, you will start with a recognised PADI Open Water scuba course (qualified divers can proceed with the project.) It will take you between 4 and 7 days to earn your Open Water qualification, depending on the weather and sea conditions.
Day 4 - 14 - Project Days:
During these days, you will be engaging in research dives (4 per week), an estuary snorkelling trip, 2 megafauna research talks per week (one given by a shark scientist, and one by a volunteer), and other daily research activities. Even though you will be taking part in a variety of activities 5 days a week, there will be sufficient free time for you to explore and enjoy everything Tofo has to offer.
Day 15 - Final Day:
Today is your final day, and after saying goodbye to the project staff and the volunteers you have gotten to know whilst at the project, you will be transferred back to Inhambane Airport for your flight home or to commence your onwards travel plans.
Dates, Availability & Price
You can join this project on any day of the year, so if you would like to join on a date that is not listed below please enquire and we can book your place for you. To secure a place on this project a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date. Select a duration below to see the available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project!
If you are unqualified, a PADI Open Water Qualification is included in your project fee. If you are Open Water Qualified or above, your project does not include any additional dive qualifications but you can complete either your PADI Advanced Open Water or a Rescue Diver course for an additional $160. Please let us know if you would like to add any additional courses when booking.
Updates & Outcomes
This project was created in 2009 in order to research, protect and conserve the large populations of marine megafauna found along the coastline of Mozambique. 'Megafauna' are larger marine species such as sharks, rays, marine mammals and turtles.
These animals are key components of marine ecosystems but, as they are long-lived and have low reproductive rates, their populations are usually the first to be reduced by human pressures. Fortunately, they are also amongst the most charismatic animals on the planet and engender a high degree of public interest in their biology and conservation, making them useful ambassadors for the whole marine environment.
This project sees volunteers collecting and collating scientific data on a wide range of flagship species, which is then used to evaluate their international conservation status and provide fundamental data for international protection (e.g. the Convention for Migratory Species Act (CMS) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Maintaining an active role in international conservation initiatives ensures the species that are studied are protected, not only in the regions that MMF works, but also globally in all areas of the species distribution.
One of the greatest successes to come from the project, outside of marine conservation, is the impact that they have had on the local community. A few years ago, the project introduced their ‘Future Ocean Guardians’ programme in an attempt to educate the locals about their environment, particularly when it comes to ocean safety. Before the programme, far too many lives were being lost as a result of few islanders knowing how to swim, and it is this skill which has been taught to much of the youngsters in the region. Since the launch of the ‘Future Ocean Guardians’ initiative, drowning statistics have dropped by a phenomenal 70%, and a new generation of islanders are growing up with a better understanding of their role in protecting the oceans. - this project has now become fully autonomous, and has been set up to be operated by local Mozambican instructors, ensuring its continuity and legacy. As such, the project is no longer fully involved in the operation of the Guardians programme, however if volunteers want to join in and help a session, they are always welcome to!
- posted on 16/08/2017
- by Joshua McGill
September 16th marks Coastal Cleanup Day! Today is about exerting a global effort into cleaning up the world's coast in an attempt to reverse the detrimental effect rubbish has on our oceans. It causes ocean pollution, huge issues for the wrold's dazzling marine biodiversity, and in the long run it will effect us. Read on to expand your knwoledge and spread awareness!
- posted on 30/08/2017
- by Joshua McGill And Ellie Hutchin
August 30th plays host to World Whale Shark Day 2017! The conservation of these animals is more important than ever, as so little is known about this elusive species. Help to spread awareness and educate your friends on the plight of the misunderstood gentle giants of the deep by sharing your knowledge!
Enjoying your summer so far? We hope so! But it’s never too early to start planning for your next adventure! Luckily for you, we’ve put together a list of the best projects to visit in 2018 – so consider taking a holiday with a difference, and see which of our conservation projects you could be joining next year!
Is this trip for you?
You will be based in the Volunteer Research House, which offers same-sex rooms on a twin-share basis. Here, you will enjoy breath-taking views of Tofo bay, as well as easy access on foot to both the Foundation offices and the beach. Keep your eyes peeled for breaching humpback whales during the winter season!
There is basic internet at the volunteer house as well as a laptop for updating scientific data. This laptop can be used for basic emails, however, long Skype connections and downloading of music and YouTube movies etc. are not allowed. Local SIM cards can be purchased in Tofo village should you have your own laptop or cell/mobile phone and plan to use lots of private data during your stay.
The lodge will provide you with delicious meals each day, and you will eat in the lodge restaurant unless the team decides to have a barbeque at the volunteer house or lodge.
Your meals will be cooked fresh each day, but should you have any specific dietary requirements, please let us know before you arrive so that we can inform the facilitators: Tofo is quite remote and 500km from the nearest large city, so a lot of the food supplies have to be imported. Due to this, locally and sustainably caught seafood is likely to be served.
Beverages are not included in the cost of the project, but are available for a minimal cost at the lodge's bar which overlooks the beach - a wonderful location to relax and unwind!
The project involves open ocean swimming, so you will have to be fit enough (and a strong enough swimmer) to cope with this! Those that struggle with swimming are not advised to join this project - we advise that you must be able to swim around 200 metres comfortably in order to join. No specific skills or experience are required, however, we would advise that you come with an open mind and hold a significant interest in marine life and overall conservation efforts!
Vaccinations required will depend entirely on your medical history. Therefore it is essential that you consult with your GP regarding this issue prior to departure. We also thoroughly recommend that you check Fit For Travel’s website in conjunction with visiting your GP. Note If you travel from a country with prevalence of yellow fever the government of Mozambique requires you to present proof of yellow fever vaccination when you enter the country (please check if you are arriving from a country that has yellow fever).
Please note that Mozambique is a high risk malaria location and preventive medications are highly recommended. Consult your general practitioner and please note that for diving the following anti-malarials are NOT allowed; Lariam, Mefliam (Mefloquine) and Quinine.
When is the best time to volunteer?
Throughout the year bottle nosed dolphins, humpback dolphins, bowmouth guitar sharks, reef sharks, small eyed stingrays, eagle rays, manta rays and 3 species of turtle can be spotted. Other species of marine megafauna can be seen in differing numbers depending on the seasons which have been set out below.
January - March: During this time we have reef manta rays in the area as they are mating, so if you are very lucky then you may see a baby. Whale sharks are also present but with slightly fewer sightings than in other months. During this time we also have higher than normal numbers of bottle nosed dolphins.
March - June: Across this period the giant manta rays can be seen. These can get up to 7m and are very impressive. They are seen in other months of the year but this is when our data shows they are here in the highest abundance. Whale shark sightings are also more infrequent during this period.
June - October: This is our humpback whale season with hundreds of these gentle monsters coming through. During this period, you may spend a large amount of time working on humpback activities (up to 50% of your time on the programme), but this is not a guarentee. We also begin preparing for the tagging of bull sharks in September, as the sharks arrive at the beginning of October.
October - January: Whilst the whale sharks are here year round this is the peak season for them. In 2016/17 we had two encounters a day during these months. There are also a lot of reef manta rays coming through towards the end of this period. This period is also shark season and you can expect to see everything from white tips to hammerheads to bull sharks during this time. Finally, it is also the turtle breeding season meaning you are likely to have a lot of sightings on the reefs.
You will need to arrive into Inhambane Airport in Mozambique. The airport is located 22kms from the project site. The best option to get to Inhambane is via an indirect flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, which is the main airline hub in Southern Africa. There is a daily flight between Johannesburg and Inhambane (via Maputo) supplied by LAM airlines. Upon your arrival, a project representative will meet you and will transport you to your accommodation. Don't worry – the airport is tiny, so you won't get lost!
If you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flights page and fill out the form. A member of our team will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
It is possible to obtain your visa from within your country; this will involve visiting your nearest embassy. Please visit http://mz.embassyinformation.com to find any Mozambican embassy or consulate in any country in the world.
If you are unable to obtain your visa before travelling, you can obtain a 30-day tourist visa at Inhambane airport, or at the border post at Komatipoort when travelling over from South Africa. You can read more about visas in your pre-departure document after booking your place on the project.
We are able to provide you with an invitation letter, should you need it, but please note that visa applications are your own responsibility. You must also ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months from your date of arrival in Mozambique.
Currency and Exchange Rates
The currency used in Mozambique is the Mozambican Metical. For up to date exchange rates, please see XE's website by clicking here.
What's included in the price of the project?
- Airport transfers from Inhambane
- 3 meals per day
- All volunteering activity equipment and all activities
- A single dive course per volunteer (Open Water if not qualified, or Advanced Open Water otherwise)
- Project orientation and support from the Marine Megafauna Foundation staff
- English speaking project leader
- Conservation donation
What's not included?
- All flights and visa costs
- Vaccinations and anti-malarials
- Travel insurance (you MUST get insurance which covers you for diving up to 30 metres – this is ESSENTIAL in order to join this project)
- Beverages and any extra snacks