As a volunteer on the Marine Research & Whale Shark Conservation Project, you will not only gain experience in a broad range of data collection techniques, you will learn all about conservation status and current research of some of the most at-risk marine species, contribute towards our ongoing projects working with these animals, complete your diving qualifications and be trained for in-water data collection, receive tutorials in real-data analysis using the latest software, understand the nuances of citizen science and public engagement, get to know and work with local communities in Mozambique and so much more. Before departure, you will meet our staff in the field during an online project consultation to ensure your volunteership is catered to your requirements (research and work experience volunteers accepted) - whether you are a biology graduate, a current student at a university, taking a sandwich year during university, a part of a large university group or a postgraduate researcher, we can accommodate for all!
The project involves conducting multiple types of research with different species. The following is a summary of the type of research and Conservation activities you may be involved with. Some of the activities are conducted all year round. Our coordinating project scientists will teach you how to assist with data collection throughout your project duration. In order to carry out many of these activities, you will need to be able or willing to learn to scuba dive. An open or advanced internationally recognized diving course is provided at the cost of the program to facilitate this (not included in the 2 week option).
You will also 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 but is not required.
Whale Shark (all year): We are lucky enough to see whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) year-round, where they are seen mostly from the water surface during our Ocean Safari snorkelling trips. Whilst on the boat, we record an array of environmental, temporal, anatomical, and behavioural information to try and uncover the population demographic trends in sightings and potential conflict with the local commercial and fishing sectors. We take photo-identification images to add to the global whale shark database, Wildbook for Whale Sharks, as you learn how to individually ID your whale sharks and view its previous sightings, migration, and more! You will receive presentations on tutorials on the latest whale shark research globally and locally to Mozambique while contributing to our ongoing efforts to unravel all that is unknown about the largest fish in the ocean!
Manta Ray (all year): Much like the whale shark, our other mega-planktivore, the manta rays, are also available year-round in Tofo. We have 2 species: the reef (Mobula alfredi) and giant/oceanic (Mobula birostris) manta rays. Both species can be seen feeding on plankton whilst snorkelling on our Ocean Safari tours, or being cleaned by reefer fish on the diving reefs on our 25-30m dive sites. We also take a plethora of data concerning environmental, temporal, anatomical, and behavioural data akin to the whale sharks. We have a database of manta-ray photo-identification images, giving us the opportunity to investigate their population demographics, migration/residency, individual life stories and much more!
Turtles (all year): We record sightings of local species, including their sex, health, and behaviour. We have a collection of photographs of the side of their face and top-down, currently contributing to the ‘Tartarugas Para Amanha’ turtle ID database. On the beaches, we monitor nesting and keep mortality records. Four species of turtles are found in the Tofo area of Mozambique, including the Green turtle (C. mydas), Loggerhead turtle (C. caretta), Hawksbill turtle (E. imbricata), and the Leatherback turtle (D. coriacea).
Dolphin (all year): You will be collecting data of dolphin numbers and behaviour that will be uploaded onto databases to share with our marine partners. Of particular interest to our current study is dolphin behaviour vis-a-vis tourism.
Humpback Whale (June-October): Monitor the numbers of Humpback Whales on their seasonal migration up and down the coast. This involves sand dune based observations using binoculars and boat-based observations recording the numbers of Whales, the makeup of the pods and the behaviours witnessed. Reef Health (all year): This involves carrying out underwater data collection on indicator species of coral fish and the condition and cover of coral and echinoderms on the reefs.
Remote Camera Trap (all year): Our long-life remote camera trap is laid down for up to five days at a time, making recordings of the megafauna moving through the cleaning station areas while we are not present. As SCUBA divers, we make noisy bubbles and can influence the behaviour of animals. Our remote cameras are used to assess the abundance, frequency, and biodiversity of megafauna life, as well as the dynamics of the cleaning station fish themselves during daylight hours throughout the year. The remote camera traps are new, expensive technology that has great potential to implement new research projects and support reef protection efforts in Mozambique. During your stay you will likely observe our research staff deploying and retrieving the remote camera and help with video analysis. If you are interested in taking on one of the many project proposals based on the video data from these cameras, let us know during your pre-departure project consultation.
Cetacean Acoustics (all year): Our SoundTrap hydrophone is used both for humpback whale reef-moored acoustic monitoring between July-October and boat-based dolphin acoustics monitoring. You will learn the deployment process of both techniques (depending on which time of year you visit) and learn the data analysis processes of both projects using spectrograph software.
Different projects focus on fisheries, seahorses, stingrays, guitarfish, torpedo rays, leopard sharks, reef sharks, mobula rays, orca, and so much more!
Please note that the activities listed above are based on availability and may vary by season. These are samples of activities that are volunteers are likely to participate in.
During your stay, you will be accommodated in Tilak Lodge, Tofo. We offer dorm-style accommodation with wifi and lockers, located on the beach front, with a restaurant/bar on site. Three meals a day will also be provided, some on a self-serve basis and other cooked for you. Enquire for private rooms.
- As part of the project activities, you will complete an Internationally Recognized Dive Qualification during a normal 4-week program, along with 11 or 12 ocean activities (ocean safaris or research dives) depending on the dive course chosen. Numbers of ocean safaris and research dives are calculated accordingly for longer/shorter programs.
- In order to carry out the activities required by you in the Marine Conservation Project you will need to be a capable swimmer (100m unassisted) and snorkeler; being able to hold your breath to dive down will be an advantage.
- Every volunteer must complete a PADI medical form before arrival. Volunteers who have pre-existing medical conditions or are over 45 years of age must also bring a medical clearance letter permitting them to dive.
- Volunteers who sign up for two-weeks must have at least an open water dive water certificate.
- Any volunteers taking Mefloquine, Lariam, Mephliam, Tropicure (or any other derivatives) as antimalarial treatment (prophylaxis) be warned it causes increased risk of sea sickness.
- Accredited divers must bring their dive cards (listing their last logged dive) with them to the project site as proof.
- Dive-accredited volunteers wanting to dive but who have not logged a dive within the last six months of their project start dates may have to complete a Scuba Review before they can participate in their research dives. The cost of a fee will be paid locally and directly to the Dive Centre with whom we partner.
- The open water certificate qualifies volunteers to dive up to 18m. While it is not essential to dive at our deeper sites (20-30m), if you wish to participate in deep diving (up to 30m) you will either need to complete a Deep Dive course at a small additional cost paid locally or an Advanced Water Course at an additional cost.
- In addition to this volunteer project & internship program, we also offer a Dive Master Internship developed in partnership with All Out Africa and Tofo Scuba, receiving the DMT certification while contributing to trainings and research with both organizations. Due to variable pricing this is organized in a custom manner, so please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote!
This package is reserved for people who already have their diving licenses. Unfortunately, due to the investment of time into diving school AND research training means we have to limit 2-week options to volunteers who already have scuba licenses.
Arrive on the Sunday before the first Monday of the month in Tofo. Be oriented to your accommodation, the dive centre, research centre, the staff, and Tofo. We’ll start you on your dive course, receive initial presentations, and go out on your first dives and ocean safaris in Tofo!