Humpback Whale Expedition

Mozambique

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join a world renowned Humpback Whale marine biologist on a research project in beautiful Mozambique.

From July - September each year, hundreds of humpback whales migrate through the Mozambique waters on their journey from the Antarctic to warmer breeding grounds, as far north as Tanzania. Tofo is one of the main areas for breeding and calving and the site of these magnificent animals is something magical that has to be experienced. 

One of the world’s top Humpback Marine Biologists joins the team in Mozambique every year to gather data for a scientific study of these wonderful animals. This one of a kind project needs volunteers to gather data on population numbers, behaviour studies, individual animal logging and identification, and pod structure.

In addition to the humpback whale migration, the area is also home to large numbers of whale sharks, dolphins, reef and giant manta rays and sea turtles. Numbers of whale sharks and dolphins also increase during the humpback whale migration, so it is really an incredible time to come!


Read about how the 2017 Humpback Whale Expedition got on and see pictures of whales up (very) close!

Quick Facts

Who can join: Anyone aged 18 years and over 
How long can I stay for: 2 - 12 weeks in two week blocks
Accommodation: Volunteer house - twin rooms
Transfer time: 30 minutes
Pick up from: Inhambane
Meals: 3 meals a day included
Project numbers: 10
Start dates: Flexible start dates between June and August
How much: $2,550 (2 weeks)

WHY CHOOSE THIS PROJECT?

A unique opportunity to witness one of the world's most amazing ocean migrations in an incredible location. Work alongside inspirational researchers as you help collect data for ongoing whale studies. Live in a beautiful beach-side location and experience the best Mozambican hospitality!

Background

Based in Praia do Tofo in Southern Mozambique, the marine conservation programme was developed by an experienced manta ray biologist and a whale shark conservation biologist, who have spent the last decade conducting their Marine Foundation research in Tofo’s serene waters. This humpback whale expedition is an extension of that programme, focusing on the annual migration of hundreds of whales through the Mozambican waters, to breed and calve.

This marine conservation programme is a structured volunteer program aimed at involving citizen scientists in the world-class scientific research and marine conservation work being conducted in the vibrant waters of southern Mozambique. Volunteers are coordinated by a highly-qualified scientist and work directly with world-leading experts in the fields of marine biology, ecology, oceanography and wildlife conservation. 

The project brings together a multicultural team of wildlife biologists, marine conservationists, engineers, photographers and dive instructors to share their knowledge and passion for the ocean with each volunteer and ensures everyone has a truly unforgettable African experience.

Highlights

Expedition Highlights

  • Participate in four boat based humpback whale research expeditions a week and whale watch from the stunning shores of southern Mozambique
  • Learn from experienced marine biologists and scientists and assist with their research projects
  • Witness some of the ocean's most incredible creatures as you encounter whale sharks, giant manta rays and sea turtles
  • Have countless unforgettable encounters in the wild with these ocean giants.
  • Learn new research techniques and work alongside marine scientists as they conduct their research
  • Snorkel amazing coral reefs and learn to identify fishes and other sea creatures
  • Get involved with the local community as you give swimming lessons, play waterpolo and teach children about marine conservation
  • Live on the beach and enjoy the local Mozambican seafood and hospitality

What sort of things will I be doing?

Humpback Whale Research

Humpback whales make annual journeys from Antarctica to the East African coast, as far north as Tanzania, where they mate and calf. In the African winter, hundreds of humpback whales are seen in the waters in and around Tofo. Without the presence of predators in the water they seem extremely playful and you can watch them play from the shore and the volunteer house, as well as get up close as you go on daily boat based research expeditions.

  • Participate in four boat based research expeditions a week.
  • If it is safe to do so, enter the water for an unforgettable close-up encounter (no diving experience is necessary)
  • Collect data on humpback whale behaviour, movement patterns, habitat use and pod sturctures
  • Collect similar data whilst whale watching from the beautiful Mozambican shores or the volunteer house verandah
  • Learn how to photographically identify individual whales to create a database which is updated annually
  • Learn about humpback whale behaviour, ecology, anatomy, and life history
  • Complete research within one of the most bioproductive regions on
    the planet.

Although this expedition is focused on the humpack whale, you will also have the opportunity to view and collect data on whale sharks, dolphins and manta rays from both the boat and during snorkelling expeditions. You will also collect data on estuary and ocean health and participate in coral garden conservation.

Community Outreach

Successful conservation relies as much on community work as scientific research. More than 60% of Mozambique’s population live in coastal areas, which places significant pressure on the marine environment. Many species are vulnerable to illegal poaching, many Mozambicans fear the sea and the majority cannot swim.

You will get involved with Mozambique's flagship coastal community outreach programme which, through teaching children how to protect and live with the sea, aims to create Ocean Guardians who have compassion for their marine environment. Since its inception in 2012 the community programme has reached more than 700 young Mozambicans, some of whom have gone on to train within the marine tourism industry.

  • Assist local instructors to assist children in water safety, surfing, snorkelling and ocean safaris
  • Help to create marine biology, ecology and conservation classes, participate in rock pool exploration and help with beach clean-ups
  • Play water polo with the advanced swimmers and teach the younger children the basics

What else will I be doing?

  • Enjoy sailboat and snorkelling expeditions to the local estuary and coral gardens where you will monitor the health of this unique, diverse, and stunningly beautiful eco-system
  • Explore the mangrove forests and freshwater lakes
  • Learn to surf!
  • Immerse yourself in vibrant local culture by connecting Mozambicans to their marine environment
  • Live on one of the most visually stunning beaches in the world, situated within the Southern coast of Mozambique and ‘braai’ under the stars.
  • Explore local villages and visit local bars and restaurants

This is not a diving programme, but volunteers may spend some of their free time learning to dive or may join a local dive team on their regular dives (optional extra - additional charges apply and must be paid locally).

What's a typical day on this expedition?

In general, weekdays start from around 7.30am until 16.00 and weekends are free. Occasionally there will be weekend work required during special events such as beach clean-ups, whale shark / manta ray / devil ray / dolphin feeding frenzies or turtle beaching, but it is ALWAYS worth it!

You will do four expeditions a week and on the other week day you might execute whale watching activities from the shore; explore the mangroves or freshwater lakes; visit a local community as part of the outreach programme; do more data analysis and processing; teach local children how to swim and surf; go on estuary or coral garden expeditions; go snorkelling to do more ocean monitoring.

A typical expedition day might be:

7.00  Breakfast
8.00 – Briefing on the days boat expedition and recap of the previous days data gathering and analysis; lecture on the marine wildlife in the area; finish up any image tagging
11:00 – Prepare for the day's expedition
12.00 – Lunch
12:30 - Join researchers for a boat based whale expedition - watch these amazing creatures in action, learn to identify individuals and take ID photographs, track individuals and count calves
16:30 - Return to the lodge for a briefing and download images and GPS data onto the computer

Details

Do I need any experience to volunteer on this programme?

There are no specific age or experience restrictions for this marine programme, but generally we are looking for fit, adventurous, enthusiastic people over the age of 18. This programme is ideal for students pursuing a career in marine biology who want to experience one of the world's most amazing natural events, but is also suitable for those wanting to participate in ocean conservation and witness one of nature's finest migrations.

How do I get to the project?

Included in your project fee is a return transfer from Inhambane airport to the project (approximately 30km).

Do I get some time off?

In your downtime you’ll have the change to participate in some traditional Mozambican dancing lessons, join the local surfers in front of your doorstep, find some inner peace during weekly yoga sessions or go horse riding on the endless Tofo beach. You can also join a whale watching trip, visit the beautiful beaches of Tofinho or snorkel in the estuary.

Diving

Tofo is one of the world's finest diving locations and, while this is not a diving programme, there will be opportunities to dive at the weekends, using the project's partner dive school located right next to your beachside lodge. This will be at your own cost.

Go surfing!

Tofo is the perfect place to learn to surf, with long waves which are easy to ride. For experienced surfers there are lots of advanced surfing spots which will challenge even the most expert surfer! The best news is that the surfing is amazing all year round! Surf lessons are included in the price of your programme.

Sunset Braais

Your home is on the corner of Tofo bay with amazing views of the beach and the sea. With stairs leading directly onto the white sandy beach, it is the ideal setting for beach braais. What better than fresh fish, crayfish, the sand under your feet, stars twinkling and a cold beer in your hand!

Pricing and Dates

When can I volunteer?

Volunteers can join this marine conservation expedition in two week blocks during early June - end August 2017. You may do as many two week blocks as you like within this time.

You may combine the expedition with the Scuba Diving, Research and Marine Conservation Programme, which is based at the same location in Tofo and is the same price. Please click here for details of this project.

2017 Project pricing:

The price for each two week block is US $2,550.

What does the cost include?

  • Programme fee - financing which goes back into the programme; this includes funding for equipment, supplies, vehicles and foodstuffs as well as a contribution to the Marine Foundation you will be working for
  • Return transfers from Inhambane to the project
  • Full board and lodging for the duration of your programme including laundry and housekeeping (exc. alcoholic and fizzy drinks)
  • All snorkelling equipment (wetsuits, masks etc)
  • Practical instruction on identification and research techniques
  • All programme-related transport
  • 24 hour support and guidance from the volunteer programme staff, researchers and instructors
  • Internet at the volunteer house (streaming, Skype and video downloading is not allowed)
  • Estuary and snorkelling tours


What does the cost exclude?

  • Return flights or transport to Inhambane, Mozambique
  • Visa fees (if applicable)
  • Any expenses prior to your programme start date
  • Any personal items such as alcoholic drinks, snacks, additional food or souvenirs
  • Personal medical and travel insurance, which must cover the entire duration of your programme, must include diving cover and should include cover for repatriation and air evacuation
  • Any additional trips, meals or excursions outside the volunteer programme

View our booking terms and conditions

Accommodation

The expedition is based in Praia do Tofo, Mozambique and you will live literally on the beach. Tofo is a vibrant little town characterised by local markets, friendly people and the stunning coastline and beach.

Volunteers live in a private house with a breath-taking view over Tofo’s main beach, equipped with all the necessary amenities - kitchen, shared bathrooms, computer and internet connection. You will stay in comfortable twin rooms with a maximum of 10 volunteers staying at any one time. The Foundation’s headquarters are located within the lodge grounds, only steps away from the beach. Accommodation is of a good standard and blends into the coastal dune setting, with most furnishings made out of locally sourced natural materials.

You will receive three lovely wholesome meals a day during your programme. You may either eat at the lodge restaurant and sometimes there will be a braai. All your food is cooked fresh every day and there tends to be a lot of seafood eaten. Tofo is quite remote so a lot of food supplies are brought in weekly. If you do not eat seafood or have any dietary requirements, please let us know so we can arrange other options for you.

Destination

Volunteering in Mozambique

This enigmatic African country is unfailingly rewarding - with untouched beaches and vibrant, welcoming people, Mozambique has something for even the most adventurous traveller. With colonial-style architecture in Maputo, remote archipelagos in the north, pounding surf in the south and graceful dhows with billowing sails up and down the coastline, visitors to this vast country are rarely disappointed.

Maputo - only 120 kilometers from the South African border, Mozambique's coastal capital feels like a different world. An intriguing mixture of European and African influences, Maputo is home to crumbling colonial buildings, lively markets, wide avenues named after communist leaders, art deco apartments the colour of fruit sorbets and a vibrant live music scene.

It has eclectic architecture, including the century-old elegant CFM Train Station, which made an appearance in the movie "Blood Diamond" and is home to Kampfumo, Maputo's most unusual bar, sandwiched between two platforms. Also well worth a look is the Casa de Ferro, a bizarre-looking metal house designed by Gustav Eiffel.

Most visitors to Mozambique do not linger in Maputo, instead heading for the 2,500km coastline which stretches from Tanzania down to South Africa.

Tofo and its tiny neighbour, Tofino, in Southern Mozambique, are vibrant fishing villages 30km from the town of Inhambane. Tofo has long been a favoured backpackers destination and has a couple of dive schools, several lodges and guest houses and a number of restaurants and bars. Most tourists come to Tofo to enjoy the large populations of whale sharks and manta rays, catch some waves, relax on the beach and interact at the lively markets. You can also take part in kite-surfing, horse riding and beach yoga.

Moving further north is the Bazaruto Archipelago, a group of five idyllic paradise islands 10-20 km off the coast, near the mainland city of Vilankulos. The Archipelago is one of the most beautiful destinations in Africa, with the islands and the surrounding coral reef protected as a conservation area and national park. It is the only marine nature reserve in Mozambique. Known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, the pristine and untouched beaches are well worthy of the name. Flights to Bazaruto are available from Inhambane, Maputo or Johannesburg or you can take snorkelling and diving day trips from Vilankulos.

Gorongosa National Park is located at the southern end of the Great East African Rift Valley. The 4,000 square km park includes the valley floor and surrounding plateaus and is home to all of Africa’s Big 5, excluding rhino. The birdlife in Gorongosa is fantastic, with many endemic species prized by birders.

The Quirimbas Archipelago in Northern Mozambique is a chain of 30 islands stretching from Pemba to the town of Palma, in the north. The islands are one of the world’s best fishing and diving destinations, with phenomenal vertical drop-offs of up to 400m.

While in Mozambique, DO:
- Scuba diving
- A dhow safari
- A snorkelling day trip to Bazaruto from Vilankulos
- Game fishing - the Mozambique coast is ranked as the best Black Marlin destination in the eastern Indian Ocean.
- A horse safari - with long sandy beaches and magnificent views, a horse safari is a very special way to enjoy Mozambique’s coastal beauty.

What will the weather be like?

Almost all of Mozambique falls within the tropics and the country has a mostly tropical climate. Along the coast Mozambique has a warm, tropical climate. Evenings are rarely cold, except for a few nights in June and July and the rainfall isn't too high. In summer, temperatures can soar and the humidity levels rise.

Temperatures are typically higher in the north, around Pemba and around the Zambezi River.

Project Gallery - Humpback Whale Expedition

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