WHALE SHARK AND MARINE CONSERVATION, MOZAMBIQUE
Located at the beach village of Tofo

For more information and bookings click here*

Golden sands, coconut palms and the spectacular Indian Ocean stretching as far as the eye can see... this project is as exotic as it sounds. Based near Inhambane in the small seaside village of Tofo, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the captivating local Afro-Portuguese culture and assist with the conservation of whale sharks.

The Whale Shark Project is located at the beach village of Tofo on the Inhambane peninsula in southern Mozambique. It is just 22 kilometres from Inhambane town, which is an old port town with a variety of historical buildings and influences. Inhambane is about 460 kilometres north of Maputo, Mozambique's capital city. Tofo is one of this region's most charming villages and is fast becoming a popular spot for tourists.

Working within this area, you will be joining the staff and researchers to assist with a variety of marine research and conservation activities. The inshore area of Tofo has a particularly high density of whale sharks.  This area also has some pristine tropical coral reefs and the coast is spectacularly rich in coconut palms. It is an excellent location to investigate whale shark and marine ecology.

The Whale Shark Marine Conservation Project involves gathering field data on whale sharks, coral reefs and other marine biodiversity to make recommendations for improving the conservation of marine life, as well as creating general awareness about the marine environment.

Whale sharks are the oceans biggest fish and although they are sharks, are harmless to people since they feed on plankton. Whale sharks are a threatened species and are relatively easy to monitor owing to their size (up to 20m long) and swimming next to them is an awe inspiring experience! They are also good indicators of ocean productivity and can play a flagship role for the conservation of other marine creatures. Very little is known about the population dynamics and threats to whale sharks and with the increase of boat and fishing activities their feeding and migratory activities may become influenced and they are vulnerable to death or injury through boat strikes.

The coral reefs that so much marine life is dependant on are under threat of exploitation, bleaching, alien invasive species and other ecological changes associated with tourism and other human activities. One of the components of the project is to monitor the condition of coral reefs in the Tofo area using methods based on the international reef check program. This involves doing scuba diving transects along the reefs and recording coral cover and indicator species of fish in one of Africa’s best diving destinations.

Your role as a volunteer:

As a volunteer on the Whale Shark Conservation Project you will help carry out the marine research and monitoring activities for the project under the guidance of the project co-ordinator. You will join other volunteers on the project to collect the data via beach walks, boat surveys, swims and scuba dives off the coastline of Tofo in Mozambique. You can expect an excellent diving, snorkeling and beach experience whilst gaining first hand marine research skills and contributing to a worthwhile project.

Volunteers help monitor whale shark numbers, behavior and ecology and take underwater identification photographs of the sharks. At certain times of the year you may help survey hump-backed whales and turtle nesting activity as well as other indicators of the health of marine biodiversity. You may also assist with beach cleanups and other general environmental activities. You may also help upload and analyze the field data and create awareness among the general public of the importance of the marine environment.

You will start your placement with an open water scuba diving course which lasts between 4 and 6 days depending on conditions. This is a PADI international accredited course and upon completion you will get a certificate permitting you to scuba dive anywhere in the world. Those who are already licensed divers may either do the course as a refresher or an advanced course or do dives for an equivalent value. During the course & dives, you will be introduced to the activities you will be involved in and may get going with some of them. Once the course is completed you will have the time & skills to focus on the project activities.

Project activities

The whale shark component involves joining boat launches under the guidance of the project co-ordinator to snorkel with whale sharks in the open ocean. It involves taking underwater photographs for identifying the whale sharks as well as recording other ecological information. 

In order to carry out these activities you will need to be a capable swimmer (able to swim 100m unassisted) and snorkeler, being able to hold your breath to dive down would be an advantage.

The coral reef monitoring involves joining boat launches under the guidance of the project co-ordinator and, on scuba dives, carrying our underwater data collection on indicator species and the condition and cover of coral on the reefs. 

In order to carry out these activities you will need to be capable of equalizing your ear pressure and willing to learn to scuba dive. A four day internationally recognized PADI open water diving course is provided as part of this project to train you to be able to carry out this coral reef monitoring. If you already have this qualification you may do an advanced open water diving course instead or, for experienced divers, you will receive a discount on your project placement fee and participate in extra research dives during orientation. 

During June-August you may help monitor the numbers of humpbacked whales on their seasonal migration up and down the coast. This involves beach based observations using binoculars and boat based observations recording the numbers of whales and, where possible, the makeup of the pods. Although their numbers have increased these whales are still vulnerable and this work will help provide recommendations for the improved conservation of these important ocean giants.

During October-February you may help survey the nesting of turtles on beaches in the areas around Tofo. Historically, loggerhead turtles have nested here in significant numbers and although these, as well as leatherback turtles and hawksbill turtles, are sighted in-water, their nesting has declined dramatically owing to poaching. The surveys involve working with local community representatives to patrol the beaches at night during laying season (October-December) recording nest sites and tagging adults where possible, then visiting nests during hatching season (December-February) to record hatching success.

A number of more general environmental awareness and cleanup activities will be also carried out during the project. The information collected during the field work is collated into a computer database both on-site and at the head office and some of the data is uploaded onto an international on-line database.

For more information and bookings click here*

* links to our partner's web site

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