Whale Shark Monitoring
Diving in a global hotspot for the world’s largest fish, you’ll contribute to the research of whale sharks that visit the area. Over 850 individual whale sharks have been identified just off the coast of Tofo, and as a volunteer, you’ll help to photograph their ‘fingerprint’ markings, as well as any scarring, injuries or abrasions. You’ll also gather information such as sex, behaviour and characteristics of each whale shark, alongside population and GPS location. All data is uploaded to a database and analysed later with the help of the project researchers.
Manta Ray Monitoring
Over 1000 manta rays have been identified in Tofo over the past 10 years and are regularly spotted on research dives. As a volunteer, you’ll assess the health and behaviour of manta rays that visit the manta reef cleaning stations, as well as assessing the health of the reef itself. You may also have the opportunity to service acoustic listening stations that allow the team to track the tagged reef manta rays’ in the area and their movement patterns. Whilst manta rays are spotted year-round, they have a heavy presence in Tofo during January-June.
Coral Reef Monitoring
Through marine surveys, camera traps and dive logs, volunteers help to monitor the health of Tofo’s coral reefs. As the reefs here support an abundance of marine life including 31 endangered species of sharks, rays, dolphins and turtles, the team are building knowledge on Mozambique’s coral reef ecology in order to preserve the reefs current health status. By monitoring the marine life that visits the reef to feed, clean and rest, the team are able to piece together how all the species fit into this unique underwater ecosystem.
Take weekly trips to the estuary by traditional dhow boat and snorkel through the sandy-bottom reef and mangrove forests where a variety of fascinating marine life live! Here, you will undertake surveys and video transects, collecting data on starfish, sea urchins, eels, sea horses and more, in order to gain insight into the health of these valuable ecosystems. The data collected also supports work with the local government to regulate and protect the area, and because of this research, 9 protected areas have been established in the estuary since 2017!
As well as making a difference beneath the waves, you will have the chance to interact and engage with local people and communities. You may take part in beach clean-ups, visiting local schools to educate children on the importance of ocean conservation or attend community meetings and events such as World Oceans Day! The project team find regular opportunities to engage with the local people of Tofo, so you’ll be able to soak up the unique culture of Mozambique!
Join researchers on a day out in the boat, where they will look to safely capture, tag and release sharks, including bull, hammerhead and oceanic blacktip, using acoustic transmitters that will record their movements for up to 10 years! The team are currently tracking 22 sharks, building knowledge on their movements, habit use and feeding ecology to be able to develop policies that promote shark conservation in Mozambique. Please note that this activity is dependent on space availability on the boat and we recommend joining for a minimum of 4 weeks to ensure you get to actively participate.
Scientific Talks and Documentaries
The project team have a wealth of specialist marine knowledge and regularly give marine biology talks for you to better understand the aims of the project, as well as learn more about the different species you would have seen during the week. These talks are often tailored around specific volunteer interests and the activities you will have undertaken. Alongside regular talks, the local dive centre also run documentary nights where you can relax while you learn.
Tofo is a buzzing beach town with a lot to offer and plenty to keep you busy on your weekends off! With your accommodation right on the beachfront, you’ll be able to relax, play some volleyball and work on your tan. Perhaps you’ll want to catch a morning yoga class or organise a surf lesson. There’s also a great nightlife with plenty of venues offering live music and dancing, and often the project team will organise a braai (BBQ) night on the beach too!
Humpback Whale Monitoring Programme
During the winter months of June to September, hundreds of humpback whales migrate from Antarctica to Southern Africa to mate and give birth. If you are travelling in these months you are likely to see them leaping from the water whilst out at sea, as well as from the comfort of your accommodation! If you would like to solely focus on these majestic creatures and contribute to their conservation efforts during your time here, you can join the specialist Humpback Whale Monitoring Programme which runs from June to September (more information can be found in the project guide - please enquire for a copy)!
If you do not have any dive qualifications, you will spend your first 4 days getting your PADI Open Water qualification. After this, you can take part in all the activities, and if staying for longer than 3 weeks, can also opt to gain additional dive qualifications. If you are already PADI Open Water qualified or above, you do not need to complete any additional courses to take part but can if you wish.
The itinerary below is based on a 13-night stay, however, we recommend joining for a minimum of 3 weeks if you will be completing any dive courses to ensure you have plenty of opportunities to contribute to the research dives and experience all the activities on offer.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
You will arrive into Inhambane Airport, where you will be met by a project representative and transferred to the project site (approximately a 45-minute drive). You will then spend the day settling into your accommodation and getting to know the other volunteers and project staff, before getting an early night ready for the week ahead!
Day 2 - 13 - Project Days:
Project activities run from Monday – Friday and each week you will join at least 4 research dives, 1 snorkelling trip in the estuary and various community activities alongside data analysis sessions and marine biology talks. Your weekends are free for you to spend at your leisure and there is a lot to see and do in the local area! For more information, and for an example of a typical day on the project, please enquire to receive the project guide.
Day 14 - Final Day:
Sadly, today is your final day, so after saying goodbye to your fellow volunteers and the project staff, you’ll transfer back to Inhambane Airport for your return flight home or to continue your independent travel plans.
Dates, Availability & Price
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.
If you do not have a PADI Open Water qualification, you must include a PADI dive course. You can also select this option if you already have your PADI Open Water qualification and would like to complete either your Advanced Open Water or Rescue Diver course.
Updates & Outcomes
This project was established in 2014 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 great ambassadors for the whole marine environment.
Whilst the monitoring of the megafauna is essential, it is just as important to support the many ecosystems in which they inhabit. The Inhambane estuary, which is fed by two rivers, is an area that the project is using to collect data on the health of the reef and surrounding mangrove forests, helping to monitor the chain effect this has on larger marine species. Since 2017, the project has supplied this data to local governments which has resulted in 9 marine protected areas being established within the estuary.
In recent years, the project has added focused research projects such as the Humpback Whale Monitoring Programme, specifically focusing on the humpback whales that migrate between June-September for their reproductive season. The programme is designed around genetics, pollutants and staple isotope investigations to match whales feeding in areas of Antarctica to those in the same breeding ground in Mozambique.
- 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!
- 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!
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?
Within a beachfront lodge, you will be staying in a dedicated 'Volunteer Research House', which offers same-sex rooms on a twin-share basis. Here, you will enjoy stunning views of Tofo bay, as well as easy access on foot to the Foundation's offices, the lodge restaurant, bar, and the beach. The house has shared bathrooms, cleaned daily by housekeeping, kitchen facilities and social areas to relax, making the volunteer house the perfect home away from home.
Keep your eyes peeled for breaching humpback whales during the winter season, as you can spot them from the huge balcony and hammock onsite!
The lodge has a great onsite restaurant where you can enjoy 3 meals per day, included in the price of the project. You can order food at any time on a tab system and will have the option to choose from a mixture of local cuisine and western-style dishes. The restaurant provides vegetarian and vegan options and can cater for other dietary requirements, but please let us know of any before arriving. Tap water is also available and safe to drink but no other drinks, including soft and alcoholic beverages are included. They can, however, be purchased for a minimal cost from the lodge's bar which overlooks the beach - the perfect location to relax and unwind after a day’s diving!
This project involves open ocean swimming, so you must be fit enough (and a strong enough swimmer) to cope with this! Those that struggle with swimming are not advised to join this project, and we advise that you must be able to swim around 200 metres comfortably in order to join. Additionally, to take part in the activities you must be at least PADI Open Water qualified, therefore, if you are joining without a dive qualification, you will complete this course in your first 4 days.
The other important requirement is that you work well within a team and have a significant interest in marine life and the overall conservation efforts!
There are no specific medical requirements or vaccinations needed to join this project. The vaccinations required depend on the individual medical history of each volunteer, and we therefore recommend consulting your doctor/GP regarding your own vaccination needs. We also recommend that you take a look at the Fit for Travel website for more helpful information on how best to prepare for your experience, and also note that Mozambique is a high-risk location for malaria, so preventive medications are highly recommended.
When is the best time to volunteer?
With over 18 reef sites along the 40km coastline around Tofo, it is renowned for the extensive marine megafauna that is regularly spotted throughout the year. You can expect to see whale sharks, reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, manta rays, small-eyed stingrays, eagle rays, bottle-nosed dolphins, bowmouth guitarfish, 3 species of turtle and much, much more.
In winter (June – September), you can also see the incredible humpback whales that make their annual migration from Antarctica to mate and give birth. If you join during this period, we offer a specialist humpback whale monitoring programme which offers the opportunity to study these giants of deep (please enquire for more details).
In terms of weather, Mozambique has a subtropical climate and you can expect daytime temperatures of 30-32°C (86-90°F) throughout most of the year, and even in winter, the temperatures only fall slightly to approximately 28°C (82°F). The rainy season runs from December - March; however, the rain typically falls in short showers and you can still expect blue skies for much of the day.
You will need to arrive into Inhambane Airport in Mozambique on your project start date. Upon arrival, you will be met by a project representative who will transfer you to your accommodation (approximately 45 minutes from the airport).
A popular flight route to Inhambane is with LAM Airlines, who operate a daily indirect flight from Johannesburg in South Africa (via Maputo).
You will require a tourist visa to join this project and we recommend contacting your local Mozambican embassy or consulate to obtain this prior to arrival. If you are travelling from a country that does not have a Mozambican embassy or consulate, it is possible to get a 30-day tourist visa on arrival which can then be extended if required when in-country, and the team will assist you with this. Should you require an invitation letter to support your visa application, this can also be provided. Please also be aware that your passport must be valid for a period of at least 6 months from your date of entry.
What's included in the price of the project?
- 3 meals per day
- Airport transfers to and from Inhambane Airport
- All project activities and dive equipment
- A donation to the project
- PADI Dive Course (if selected)
- Project orientation and support
- English speaking project leader
What's not included?
- Soft and Alcoholic beverages
- Travel insurance (which is a requirement and must cover diving up to 30 metres)