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Tanzania Whale Sharks & Turtles


Vacancy: Tanzania Whale Sharks & Turtles
Company: Frontier
Reference Number: TZW
Category: Conservation Projects (Conservation projects, Marine Conservation, Wildlife)
Cost : £795

Tanzania Whale Sharks & Turtles


Your Tanzania adventure begins with a thrilling journey high above the turquoise Indian Ocean, as you fly to Mafia Island - the most beautiful of Tanzania's Spice Islands, where tranquil white sand beaches, friendly villagers and world-class snorkelling and scuba diving sites combine to make this a true tropical paradise. Tanzania's coast is home to some of the most spectacular wildlife in the world. The crystal clear waters host a wealth of marine habitats, including the bewitching whale shark and beautiful turtle, making this a perfect location to snorkel or dive, and explore this pristine and magical underwater world.

The vivid, multi-hued coral reefs support a dazzling array of tropical reef fish and provide rich feeding grounds for turtles, rays and other marine creatures, whilst the deep blue offshore waters support vast shoals of cruising pelagics, whale sharks and dolphins.

One of the most appealing and certainly most intriguing aquatic species to be found here though is the wondrous whale shark. Vast in size and steel-grey in colour, they glide silently through the deep waters of the Indian Ocean, filtering algae and fish into their wide mouths. Despite their impressive physicality (they can grow up to 12.65 metres in length and often weigh the same as a small elephant), whale sharks have been described as gentle and even playful, and make ideal swimming companions. Sadly these elegant aquatic inhabitants are threatened due to a variety of natural and human induced reasons.

The work you carry out will be rewarding and exciting, and hugely beneficial to Mafia Island Marine Park's conservation efforts, as well as being amazing fun! At the end of the day you will gain immense satisfaction from knowing that you have helped to save this precious marine wilderness, protecting it for future generations.

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, thorny and spotted seahorses and four species of graceful and gentle sea turtles. Offshore there are dolphins and manta rays, and the deeper waters are a regular stop-off for migrating humpback whales and giant Whale Sharks. You can experience this magical seashore environment when you join the Frontier 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 enzymes 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 monitor whale shark numbers and behaviour, along with turtle nesting activity and coral reef condition, 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.

Swim with Dolphins, Rays & Turtles

The project undertakes underwater exploration involving mapping the incredible biodiversity of the coastal area and marine habitats. Research involves locating and recording spectacular coral reefs and survey dazzling reef fish and turtles. If you are there at the right time of year you may even observe marine mammals.

Discover Swahili Culture

Sailing out on the traditional Frontier dhows you will dive from the boat and discover what it is like to sail on a traditional Tanzanian fishing vessel. 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.


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 or dive, locate and map the extensive coral reefs 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 dive 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 on Mafia Island from April through to July with eggs hatching between June and September. 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 and encountering dolphin pods as they feed and play in the clear waters. There is also the opportunity to conduct awareness raising activities with tourists visiting Mafia Island.

Whilst snorkelling or diving, you'll see an extraordinary array of animals from turtles to manta rays, sea cucumbers to feathery starfish, and spiny urchins to octopus. When you sail out each day on the Frontier sailing dhow to distant dive sites you may even be accompanied by dolphins. By the end of your project you will be expert at identifying hundreds of coloured and patterned reef fish as well as being an experienced and competent diver. 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 Frontier 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.

Placement Details


Main Category: Conservation Projects


  • Conservation projects
  • Marine Conservation
  • Wildlife



Included with this placement

  • Airport Pickup
  • Accommodation
  • Food


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