Laya and Maggie

Canada | November 2015

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 decided we wanted to volunteer abroad – Maggie wanted to do some sort of marine conservation and I’ve always been interested in marine biology. We met in the middle and chose to do marine conservation!

We landed September 28th in Inhambane and walked off the plane towards the smallest airport we had ever seen. Immediately we spotted a make-shift welcome sign that read “Laya and Maggie” being held by a young, friendly looking guy (we soon leaned his name was Gus, and he was one of the coordinators) standing by the airport. We drove back to Tofo with Gus telling us all about everyone and everything we would meet and see and do and tried to retain anything he had said while trying to fight our 24 hour travel day exhaustion.

We met many faces and were welcomed very warmly by everyone. We attended “Manta Monday” which is a talk given by another project coordinator, Callum, about Manta Rays (they also have “Whaleshark Wednesdays” and “Fishy Fridays”). Anyone can attend for the cheap price of 200 mets – about 5 dollars American.

We settled into the “Big House” where all the volunteers live and went to check out the beautiful beach that we lived on.

The next morning we were taken right out onto the water with the dive centre on an ocean safari. Some of the programme staff were also on the boat and helped explain what we were seeing and what to do when we were near them in the water. We had an amazing first experience in the ocean – we swam with 5 whale sharks, a pod of dolphins, a green turtle, a small-eyed stingray, and while we were in the water looking for a whale shark, a humpback whale swam right under us!!!!

The next two weeks flew by – we were the only volunteers in the big house so it was easy to meet all of the staff and we were invited along to a lot of their fun activities including African Dance class, movie nights, beach volleyball games and nights out at some of the Tofo bars and restaurants! It also included Maggie getting PADI open water certified and myself getting PADI Advanced certified, as well as trained in how to do research dives to help the program collect data about the fauna and megafauna (animals and big animals) found along the Tofo coastline. We did 8 dives each, and 2 ocean safaris! We’ve seen countless humpback whales, dolphins, whale sharks, a reef manta, many sharks, many stingrays, turtles, and an amazing number of fish and coral species.

We’ve also tried almost every restaurant in Tofo – we can tell you where to get the best Matapa (a local dish), tacos, oysters, and pizza in Tofo and we definitely have our favourite (Branko’s!!!).

Our two weeks were capped off by a trip to Pandane reef where we snorkelled and saw beautiful corals and many different fish, and then relaxed on the warm beach. The trip through the African bush on a beaten-up land cruiser was definitely an experience we will never forget.

We’ve only been here for 2 weeks but we’ve met so many people, made so many memories, and eaten so much peri-peri sauce, we can’t even imagine what else is in store for us on the rest of our adventure!

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