Tanzania Whale Sharks & Turtles
WHAT DOES THE PROJECT DO?
Mafia island marine park
Mafia Island is about as close as you can get to the quintessential Indian Ocean tropical paradise. The tiny island of about 40,000 people is a friendly, laid-back place that has long been praised as a diver and sea angler's paradise.
Mafia's luxuriant mangroves, luminous sea grass beds and dazzling coral reefs play host to a multitude of tropical reef fish, seahorses and five species of graceful and gentle sea turtles. Offshore, the deeper waters are a regular stop-off for dolphins, migrating humpback whales and giant Whale Sharks. You can experience this magical seashore environment when you join the beach-camp on Mafia Island and swim and snorkel from the beach out to the crystal clear waters of Tanzania's exclusive Marine Park.
Conserving the coral reefs and whale sharks
Tanzania’s extensive coral reefs are damaged and in danger of being lost forever. Climate change and subsequent rising sea temperatures damage the coral by affecting the zooxanthellae that form the foundation of the reef – this process is known as bleaching. Consequently other species that live symbiotically with the reef also begin to die out. Coral reefs are not only extremely beautiful – they sustain vast volumes of biodiversity and are essential for life on Earth. Whale sharks are threatened by the threats to coral reefs, in addition to accidental death from fishing nets, sound pollution, water pollution and habitat destruction. The key aim of this project is to assist in the education and awareness of local stakeholders in whale shark activity/populations, along with turtle nesting activity, with the long term view of developing a strategy for the future coastal zone management.
If you are joining this project between November and January then you may have the opportunity to conduct surveys on the transient whale shark population. You may be recording details of sightings and monitoring returning whale sharks. Volunteers may also have the opportunity to conduct awareness raising activities with tourists visiting Mafia Island.
Monitor turtle habitat
The project undertakes underwater exploration involving mapping the incredible biodiversity of the coastal area and marine habitats. Research involves surveying, mapping, and recording important marine habitats such as seagrass meadows and mangrove forests.
Discover Swahili culture
Through participating in environmental awareness raising in local schools and community activities, you will experience the cultures and lifestyles of local peoples.
The time of year that you visit the project will greatly affect the type of work you are involved in as much of our research is heavily dependent on the season.
WHAT WILL I BE DOING?
The marine research and conservation programme is run in association with the Mafia Island Marine Park. The project provides the local communities and government bodies with the information they need to sustainably manage this priceless marine ecosystem preserving it for future generations. To gather the data needed you will snorkel through seagrass and mangrove habitats, and study the various communities existing on them.
Living and working in an internationally recognized marine protected area will give you access to a fantastic array of wildlife and ecosystems. You may have the opportunity to snorkel on habitats untouched by destructive fishing practices, and help monitor the success of a variety of conservation methods. The data collected on our commercial fish surveys aids the marine park in maintaining the most up to date and dynamic management plans for the future of the region, so we can be confident that Mafia Island will remain a stunning destination for many years.
Sea Turtles nest a neighbouring Island from April through to July with eggs hatching between June and August. If you are taking part in the project at this time, you may have the opportunity to monitor and protect these incredible creatures of the ocean, witnessing the nesting process and watching young turtles hatching and scurrying their way to the Indian Ocean.
Between November and January you may also have the opportunity to conduct surveys on the transient whale shark population, recording details of sightings and monitoring annual returners. This could involve snorkelling in the same waters as Whale Sharks as they feed. There is also the opportunity to conduct awareness raising activities with tourists visiting Mafia Island.
Whilst snorkelling, you'll see an extraordinary array of animals from abundant fish life to nudibranchs, sea cucumbers to feathery starfish, and spiny urchins to octopus. By the end of your project you will be expert at identifying hundreds of coloured and patterned reef fish. Those joining the project for a short period of time may not be able to participate in a full range of project activities. Some project activities are seasonal.
You'll find your team to be a fun, dynamic mix of ages and experiences, with members who all share a passion about travelling in developing countries and saving endangered marine life. Your staff will be young, friendly individuals who are highly experienced in their field and many have also volunteered on a project earlier in their career.
You'll get immense satisfaction from having made a valuable contribution to the conservation of this untarnished marine wilderness. You will return home with the new friends you've made and a wealth of incredible photos, videos, stories and memories.
For further information about marine conservation work see the publications section of this website.
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