Marine Conservation, Mozambique

Mozambique

Join a world-class research team in one of Africa’s most beautiful coastal locations. Southern Mozambique is one of the best diving locations in the world, home to large populations of whale sharks, manta rays and marine turtles, and is an important refuge for other threatened marine species like the elusive dugong.

Volunteers support Marine Biologists in their scientific studies through various research and conservation projects in the area, including whale shark, manta ray and marine turtle research programs. This marine conservation volunteer programme was designed by a world-leading manta ray researcher and a whale shark expert specifically to collect data for their marine foundation.

Contribute to marine conservation and support the development of marine science in the wonderful waters of Tofo Beach. Participate in marine field work such as taking identification photo’s, checking acoustic listening stations, observing environmental conditions, studying plankton, tagging animals, taking tissue samples or measuring ocean giants. All the quantitative data you collect is used for specific research projects, designed to protect and preserve these amazing marine animals.

While previous dive experience is recommended, diving certification is included in your package – or you can do free additional dives if you are already certified.

Quick Facts

Who can join: Anyone aged 18 years and over (separate family programme available)
How long can I stay for: 2 - 20 weeks
Accommodation: Volunteer house - twin rooms
Transfer time: 30 minutes
Pick up from: Inhambane
Meals: 3 meals a day included
Project numbers: 10
Start dates: Any day througout the year
How much: from $2,430

WHY CHOOSE THIS PROJECT?

Join world-renowned marine biologists and scientists as they continue their work on the conservation of marine mega-fauna such as whale sharks and manta rays. Help preserve endangered turtle species and enjoy watching humpback whales as they migrate right past your beachside lodge.

Background

Based in Praia do Tofo in Southern Mozambique, this 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 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. This project delivers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for each participant to enrich their lives and optimise their career paths.

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

Programme Highlights

  • Dive the clear, crystalline waters of the Indian Ocean and experience one of the top 10 dive locations in the world
  • Learn from experienced marine biologists and scientists and assist with their research projects
  • Get close to some of the ocean's most incredible creatures as you dive alongside whale sharks and huge manta rays
  • Learn new research techniques and work alongside marine scientists as they conduct their research
  • Become Open Water or Advanced Open Water Certified and gain your Deep Dive certification
  • 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 right on the beach and enjoy the local Mozambican seafood and hospitality

What sort of things will I be doing?

The objective of this programme is to gather as much information as possible about whale sharks, manta rays, marine turtles and humpback whales. This data is used by biologists to study the conservation of these threatened species.

Diving and Snorkelling

Southern Mozambique is one of the top 10 scuba-diving and snorkelling locations in the world and Tofo is one of the best in Mozambique!  During your programme you will usually undertake 4 research dives or ocean snorkel safaris per week accompanied by qualified dive instructors and programme researchers.

No previous dive experience is required - Open Water and Advanced diving certification is included in the programme fee. If you are already Advanced Diver Certified, you will get $120 off the price of the programme!

- Megafauna research dives and snorkel safaris - manta rays and whale sharks

In the last decade more than 800 manta rays have been identified in Tofo, and the Mozambican manta database is the second largest in the world. 
Tofo is also a global hotspot for the whale shark, the world’s largest fish. Researchers have identified more than 600 whale sharks in the Mozambican waters.

  • Join researchers to collect valuable field data to assist their scientific studies on manta rays and whale sharks
  • Take identification photos and monitor behaviour
  • Check acoustic listening stations
  • Observe and record environmental conditions
  • Gather GPS locations, segregation and sex of whale sharks
  • Tag animals and collect tissue samples
  • Measure these amazing ocean giants using laser technology

- Turtle research (Nov - Feb)

All marine turtle species in Mozambique are globally endangered. Loggerhead, leatherback and hawksbill turtles are sighted in the water, however nesting grounds have declined rapidly due to poaching. There is little information available on turtle ecology and poaching activity and volunteers contribute by photo IDing turtles and adding them to the Mozambique turtle database.

- Humpback Whale Research (June - September)

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.

  • Beach and boat monitoring of humpback whales
  • Record details and enter into the humpback whale database

You will not normally dive or snorkel near humpback whales as they can become very aggressive if they feel their calves are threatened.

In addition to collecting data on the above marine megafauna, you will also gather information on other threatened species in the area including dugongs, bowmouth guitar sharks and stingrays.

Data recording, analysis and maintenance of equipment

  • Assist researchers and scientists with the preparation of acoustic listening stations and tags
  • Help process tissue samples
  • Set up camera equipment to measure the size of whale sharks
  • Record megafauna behaviour, plankton density and environmental conditions
  • Add your identification photos to the online database

Scientific talks and presentations

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday evenings researchers present topics in the lecture room to volunteers and the general public. You will learn a LOT from these sessions and will assist the researcher in setting up and collecting money.

  • Manta Monday, Whaleshark Wednesday and Fishy Friday - weekly science talks on different marine species
  • Get an insight into manta and whale shark behaviour straight from the scientists who are managing the research

Estuary tours

  • Explore Inhambane estuary by local sailing boat (dhow)
  • Witness flamingos, seahorses and stunning macro life
  • Find scorpion fish, lion fish, frog fish and crabs

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, Nemos Pequenos (Little Nemos), 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, Nemos Pequenos has reached more than 700 young Mozambicans, some of which 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
  • Participate in Creature Feature - pick your favourite marine animal and work with teachers to get the children excited!
  • Help in the creation of a children’s marine conservation book to be used as a study aid for local children and the community

Cultural Exchange

The volunteer lodge is situated right on Tofo’s main swimming beach and boasts amazing views over the bay. It is the perfect location to explore the Inhambane province and some of Mozambique’s unique culture.

  • Enjoy a dhow tour of the beautiful estuary surrounding Inhambane where you can find sea stars, sea moths and sea horses, all while snorkelling
  • Visit Pandane, which boasts one of the best snorkelling reefs in Mozambique and Inhambane City with its beautiful rustic architecture

What marine wildlife will I experience?

The highly productive waters off the coast of Tofo attract a wide range of amazing marine wildlife. Couple this with the warm water temperature of the subtropics, Tofo is an ideal hotspot for marine science. The opportunities to experience a marine wildlife are endless.

With a consistent supply of plankton, there is always an opportunity to observe a multitude of marine giants in their natural habitat and the chance to help contribute towards one of the largest databases in the world for marine megafauna. As well as being a hotspot for whale sharks and manta rays, Tofo hosts populations of two different species of dolphins year-round; the elusive humpback dolphin and the common bottlenose dolphin.

One of the most incredible phenomenons occurs seasonally; the rare and exciting opportunity to observe humpback whales in their natural habitat. During the months between July and October the bay of Tofo fills with these ocean giants. With a world leading whale researcher joining the team, volunteers get involved in exciting whale research.

Sea turtles, sharks and rays are common along the shores, and each dive provides an opportunity to gather data on abundance, sex and health. Get the opportunity to dive with 5 species of sea turtles, numerous rays and iconic reef sharks.

Though many giants come through our waters, don't forget the colourful range of coral reefs and their associated fauna. Tofo’s reef systems teem with life, and so the project has been involved in implementing protected sites within the area, notably reefs and mangroves within the Inhambane Estuary. Not only do these systems provide nursery habitats for fish and invertebrates, but allows volunteers to undergo reef/mangrove health monitoring programmes.

Remember! We cannot guarantee that you will encounter a manta ray or whale shark, but the area you will be diving is famous for sighting them, so there is a very good chance that you will see these magnificent creatures at least once.

Details

Do I need any experience to volunteer on this programme?

There are no specific age 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, scuba divers who want to experience one of the world's  best diving locations, or beginner divers who want to combine volunteering with dive training.

While previous dive experience is helpful, it is by no means essential and diving certification is included in your package. You will get free additional dives AND £100 off the price of the project, if you already hold Advanced certification.

How do I get to the project?

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

A day in the life

You will receive a 2-day diving induction with the research co-ordinator. For non-divers you will start with a PADI Open Water scuba dive course (included in the programme fee) which takes 4-7 days, depending on the weather conditions. Once you have completed your Open Water course, you will then need to pay an additional £50 to become Deep Dive Certified - this is not complusory, but without it you will not be able to accompany researchers on their deep dives.

If you are an Open Water Diver already, you will complete your Advanced Certification (which includes Deep Dive) and then you are ready to go! This is included in the programme price.

For Advanced Divers, you will start your research programme immediately.

Everybody will get training in underwater photography to ensure your ID photos are usable.

Week days are usually from 0730 - 1500 with weekends off. Occasional weekend work will be required during events such as beach clean-ups, whale shark feeding frenzies or manta / dolphin / turtle beaching, but these are all well worth it!

Volunteers scuba dive 4 times a week and a normal diving day may be as follows: 

0700 - breakfast at the volunteer house
0730 - meet at the dive shop and kit up with the dive instructor and researchers. Go diving! Collect data, observe the marine wildlife and take ID photos
1030 - head back to the volunteer house and office for a debrief and enter the new data into the databases
1230 - lunch
1330 - depending on the time of year, you may carry out whale-watching from the shore, prepare for the night / next day activity, work on crafts and activities for the children or prepare creature features for the community programme.
1500 - end of the working day when you can chill on the beach, go for a walk, surf, swim or relax at the house.

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 and 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.

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!

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!

Rates & Dates

When can I volunteer?

Volunteers can join this marine conservation programme for 2-16 weeks (longer stays on request). We highly recommend at least a 4 week stay to really experience everything which the project and the location has to offer.

Volunteers can start this programme at any time during the year, please just enquire for current availability. You will join the other volunteers when you arrive, once you have had your induction and training.

2018 Project pricing (for projects starting in 2018):

 

Open Water & Non-
Certified Divers

Advanced Certified
Divers
2 weeks $2,550 $2,430
3 weeks $2,999 $2,879
4 weeks $3,550 $3,430
6 weeks $4,999 $4,879
8 weeks $6,485 $6,365
12 weeks * $9,273 $9,153

2019 Project pricing (for projects starting in 2019):

 

Open Water & Non-
Certified Divers

Advanced Certified
Divers
2 weeks $2,850 $2,650
3 weeks $3,350 $3,150
4 weeks $3,750 $3,550
5 weeks $4,550 $4,350
6 weeks $5,350 $5,150
7 weeks $6,150 $5,950
8 weeks $6,950 $6,750
10 weeks $8,550 $8,350
12 weeks * $10,150 $9,950
16 weeks $13,350 $13,150

Other length programmes than shown are available, e.g. 9, 11, 13 weeks - please enquire for prices.

Dive Master Package (12 weeks): $9,950

This package includes four weeks on the volunteer programme plus a two month Dive Master course. The package includes all accommodation, meals, transfers, equipment and full Dive Master certification.

 

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)
  • Open Water and Advanced Diver Certification (as required), plus Dive Master certification if selected
  • All diving and snorkelling equipment (wetsuits, masks etc) required to do your work (you may bring your own equipment if you wish)
  • 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)
  • A minimum of four dives per week

What does the cost exclude?

  • Return flights or transport to Inhambane, Mozambique
  • Visa fees (if applicable)
  • Any expenses prior to your programme start date
  • Deep Dive certification for beginner divers (£50)
  • 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

Marine volunteers are based in Praia do Tofo, Mozambique, living 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.

Testimonials

“Being a part of this incredible research and conservation program in Mozambique has been a privilege and an honour. Working in close proximity to the researchers was an amazing experience. I learned lots of interesting data collection and data analysis methods that I will be able to apply to my own personal research later in life. Not to mention I was also taught a vast amount of information about the sea life, both large and small, that surrounded me on each dive! The knowledge I gained from the diving and working hands-on in the office will benefit me greatly in my future endeavours.

I could not have asked for a more hospitable and friendly environment to spend my time volunteering! I want to give a big thanks to all of the wonderful staff at the lodge and all the members of the volunteer team for giving me such an amazing experience!

Ashley C, 18
USA

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 as such, Mozambique features 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.

Excursions

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 and kitesurfers in front of your doorstep, find some inner peace during weekly yoga sessions and go horse riding on the endless Tofo beach.

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!

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!

Tofo is relatively remote but it is well worth taking a trip to Inhambane City to see the historic colonial architecture.

With the beach on your doorstep and fantastic beach and water activities on offer, you will never be bored!

Project Gallery - Marine Conservation, Mozambique

Testimonials

Marine Conservation, Mozambique I had never been to Africa before and wanted to go somewhere off the grid / not that common. I also wanted to do a marine life conservation project, and thought this one was so unique because of the high concentration of mega fauna. I was dying to see a whale shark and on my first Ocean Safari, I remember our team saying they saw one. I was the first one in the water as I ... Leslie B, United States Read More
Marine Conservation, Mozambique The project location is stunning, with miles of deserted white sand beaches and surf. However, what made this project really special was the warmth, generosity and enthusiasm of everyone involved and their willingness to pass on knowledge. Everyone made us feel at home very quickly. Mozambique is an incredibly beautiful and relaxing place, blessed with amazing marine life and lovely people. While diving and snorkelling, we saw whale sharks, giant mantas, at least ... Cathy H, United Kingdom Read More
Marine Conservation, Mozambique Our overall experience would be a 10. We loved Tofo and we had accommodations in a reed house, steps from the beach - absolutely gorgeous. We chose this project because we wanted to be near the ocean and hopefully see megafauna. One of the best experiences of the whole trip was being able to swim in the water with whale sharks and giant manta rays - it was such a privilege. We are a family of ... Tim W, USA Read More
Marine Conservation, Mozambique Within 5 mins of touching down at the tiny Ihambane airport, all the anxieties of bringing my children on a marine conservation project in Mozambique had melted away. It hadn’t been an easy lead up. We made the decision to get our PADI open water in London before we left. After a disastrous pool session and two days at a no-visibility gravel pit near Heathrow, my 14 year old daughter decided she hated diving. ... Michael D, United Kingdom Read More
Marine Conservation, Mozambique This experience with helped me to better understand the reality of the threat to marine life, and as a consequence to a global ecosystem, which is only a sample of the complexity of this issue. This experience allowed me at the same time to go back to the basics, get more colours in my palette, reconnect with Nature… and to look further than I ever looked. Some people say that scientists are boring, whatever their specialty, and ... Sophie H, France Read More
Marine Conservation, Mozambique From Biology to Marine Biology! Submitted by Laya and Maggie | November 2015 Fresh out of our undergraduate studies in biology, we spent the summer working, relaxing and traveling a little bit while trying to figure out what we should do next. This was the first time either of us had absolutely no idea what would come next in our lives. We ended up commiserating about our lack of a plan and absolute lack of direction. We ... Laya and Maggie, Canada Read More

Send an enquiry

 

Stay Informed

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest news.