Work with Whale Sharks and Marine Conservation in Mozambique

Help with hands-on whale shark research, coral reef monitoring, humpbacked whale monitoring and turtle nest surveys. Explore one of Africa's best scuba diving destinations with a PADI Dive Course, which is included in the project. 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.

The project collaborates with the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Megafauna and Tofo Scuba, both based in Mozambique as well as the Ecocean global whale shark database and a number of international marine research bodies. 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.

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What to Expect?

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 our 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.

Volunteers are needed not only to carry out the field activities but also to help fund the project. You can expect an excellent diving, snorkeling and beach experience whilst gaining first hand marine research skills and contributing to a worthwhile project. As a volunteer you will help monitor whale shark numbers, behavior and ecology and take underwater identification photographs of the whale sharks. You will also join research scuba dives to help monitor the condition of coral reefs and indicator species of reef fish.

At certain times of the year you may help survey humpbacked whale numbers 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. The whale shark component of the conservation project involves joining boat launches under the guidance of our project co-ordinator on ocean safaris 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.

As a summary, you will collect the following information on the whale sharks: ·Date, GPS location, surface and underwater conditions ·Size, sex, scars/distinctive features, behaviour of the whale shark ·You will take an identification photograph and name each whale shark & record re-sightings The coral reef monitoring involves joining boat launches under the guidance of our project co-ordinator on scuba dives and carrying our underwater data collection on indicator species of coral fish and the condition and cover of coral on the reefs.

On these research dives you may carry out the following activities:

    • Reef transects recording indicator species of reef fish
    • Timed counts of the numbers of each indicator species of reef fish
    • Coral reef quadrats to assess the cover and condition of different coral groups

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 for turtle mortality 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 (November-January) recording nest sites, finding turtle shells and doing GPS points to track mortality numbers, and tagging adults where possible. In addition you will have a chance to do morning observations to see if any fishermen are catching turtles as well as help raise awareness about turtles in the area.

  • Program ID: # 1779
  • duration:
    2 Weeks to 1 Month
    1 to 3 Months
  • location:
    23° 54' 21.3372" S, 35° 25' 31.494" E
  • Fitness level:
    Moderately Fit
  • Closest Airport:
    Inhambane Airport (INH)
  • Costs From:
    $1500 to $3000
    Over $3000
  • Program Type:
    Environmental & Wildlife Programs
    Learn Abroad
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