Whale Shark Conservation

Take part in this vital marine conservation internship project on the stunning Mafia Island in Tanzania.

This really worthwhile marine conservation project, situated on beautiful Mafia Island, is completely one of a kind. Renowned for its kaleidoscopic coral reefs, excellent diving and fascinating culture – the island really is a unique destination in which to intern.

Often labelled as the Zanzibar of 'thirty years ago', Mafia Island really is an intrepid traveller's dream – particularly given its white sandy beaches, dazzling aquamarine waters and lack of tourists. What's more, given the amount of astounding marine life here – including humpback whales, marine turtles and of course, whale sharks – the island really is a treasure trove and the perfect destination in which to get 'off the map'.

This exciting and varied programme provides a unique opportunity for you to interact with whale sharks on a daily basis while gaining valuable skills and experience in both marine conservation and the tourism industry. This project supports important on-going marine conservation efforts and hosts research projects in an effort to learn more about whale sharks. You will contribute to the global spot-pattern photo identification project, which seeks to identify individuals and subsequently map the movements of whale sharks. Whale shark spot-patterns are like fingerprints and therefore enable one to add their location to a worldwide database. The attraction of this method is that it does not involve tagging or otherwise interfering with the animals. The project is also researching aspects related to the whale shark tourism, such as adherence to codes of conduct and the behaviour of whale sharks in encounters with tourists and fishermen. With the chance to help in integral marine conservation of these gentle giants, contribute to their overall study and also help out with local community initiatives - this project really is one of a kind.

Prior To Arrival

You should aim to arrive at Mafia Island on your chosen start date.

To do this, we recommend arriving in Dar Es Salaam (DAR) the same day then catching an internal flight to Mafia Island. We may be able to get you resident rate flights from Dar Es Salaam to Mafia Island and back at a cost of £60 each way. The timings for these flights are 9:00am to Mafia Island and coming back at 10:15am to Dar Es Salaam.

Please note - the internal flights depart from a different terminal (1.5kms away.) Please allow at least 2-3 hours between the internal and international flights to get through security and make your connecting flight.

Alternatively, you can arrive the day before, stay overnight in Dar Es Salaam and catch the 9:00am flight. We cannot guarantee that there will be resident rate flights available as they are subject to availability, however there are later flights available with other airlines. Please enquire for more information.

A member of the project team will be there to welcome you when you land at Mafia.

Most nationalities can purchase an ordinary tourist visa for U$50 (though note that this is U$100 for US citizens) on arrival into Dar Es Salaam. Visa applications will be available on your flight or at the arrivals terminal. Your visa will be valid for up to 3 months, though you will need to make sure that your passport has at least three pages spare. Note that on this project, you will be classified as an intern so an ordinary tourist visa is all you will need to join.

First Day

Via a stunning 30minute flight transfer from Dar Es Salaam, you will arrive at Mafia Island and be met by a Project Representative. After settling in and relaxing in your accommodation you will meet and have the chance to get to know your fellow volunteers and the programme coordinators. This will be followed by a comprehensive briefing and orientation.

Regular Days

Project Days: During this time you will receive twice weekly theory classes related to conservation and research management and twice weekly classes on language and culture. You will take part in daily boat excursions, both assisting in the tourist whale shark excursions helping with boat preparation and to identify the sharks. You will also get involved with the project related tasks such as the identification of individual sharks by spot patterns, ID and tracking, tourism and fisherman impact as well as many other aspects of the research programme. There is the unique opportunity twice weekly to visit a local school and assist with English teaching and whale shark conservation awareness discussion groups, as well as swimming lessons.

Final Day

Transfer from the project site back to the airport for your return flight to Dar es Salaam, or commence your independent travel plans.

Suitable for

Couples
Singles
Groups

Typical day

This project combines marine conservation theory with practical diving elements and a regular day on Mafia Island reflects this. You will spend a lot of your time in the water skin diving and gathering data on the magnificent whale sharks as well as having an introduction to just how important underwater photography has become to help identify the marine life in the area. 

As well as the practical element, you will learn a lot about the local ecosystem through both the project staff and teaching tourists and the local school children about its importance! Daily activities will vary on the project, but this should give you a good taste of what's to come! 

Program Requirements

Minimum Age
18 years
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Other Skills
In terms of fitness, you must be able to swim and you must also be comfortable with the open ocean. We would recommend therefore, that you are in reasonable health and have at least a moderate level of fitness. A health questionnaire must be completed on application to ensure that everyone meets the entry level requirements. Note that you will get fitter during the internship!

A dive qualification is not required for this project and almost all of the work is done whilst snorkelling and skin
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 09:00 - 17:00

Do you have any questions concerning this volunteer opportunity in Tanzania? Volunteer World directly connects you with The Great Projects

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Free-time activities

Once you have finished your theory lectures (which are normally on week days) you will have either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday off, depending on what other volunteers are doing or have booked. You will also get on half day off each week, but this is at random, however you can ask for a specific day if you want to. 

This time off presents you with a fantastic chance to scuba dive, walk around the island, use one of the free bikes or paddle boards to explore the island, go bird watching, or simply relax! The choice is all yours! 

Swimming
Diving/Snorkling
Safari/Zoo
Hiking

Services

What's included?
What's included in the price of the project?

  • Orientation and ongoing training in marine conservation
  • Accommodation
  • Airport Transfers
  • Food and drinks as specified
  • Laundry service
  • Skills and theory classes
  • Community participation
  • Full support from the project team
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.

No worries, Volunteer World supports you in raising funds, checking your visa regulations and travel insurance. We also assist you in finding the cheapest flights for your journey.
Airport Pickup

You should aim to arrive at Mafia Island on your chosen start date.

To do this, we recommend arriving in Dar Es Salaam (DAR) the same day then catching an internal flight to Mafia Island. We may be able to get you resident rate flights from Dar Es Salaam to Mafia Island and back at a cost of £60 each way. The timings for these flights are 9:00am to Mafia Island and coming back at 10:15am to Dar Es Salaam.

Please note - the internal flights depart from a different terminal (1.5kms away.) Please allow at least 2-3 hours between the internal and international flights to get through security and make your connecting flight.

Alternatively, you can arrive the day before, stay overnight in Dar Es Salaam and catch the 9:00am flight. We cannot guarantee that there will be resident rate flights available as they are subject to availability, however there are later flights available with other airlines. Please enquire for more information.

A member of the project team will be there to welcome you when you land at Mafia.

Accommodation
The Magemani Camp is a stunning campsite situated amongst the trees of an old coconut, mango and cashew nut plantation on Mafia Island’s western shore. Traditional thatched houses of different sizes make up the camp – there are shared, same-sex dorms that can house between two and four people and also two double rooms which are available for an additional fee. All are equipped with amenities (including bed linen and mosquito nets). In true bush style, the camp features dry, composting toilets and outside showers.
Camping
Food & Beverages
Three meals of fresh local food are prepared by chefs daily here, including a lot of fruit and seafood such as fish, octopus and squid. Chicken and beef are also often served, and for vegetarians, there is plenty on offer. For your refreshment you will also be provided with tea, coffee and according to your preference, bottled or filtered water.
Internet Access
Good access at the project site
Costs
2 weeks (min. stay)
$1086
3 weeks
$1581
4 weeks
$2075
5 weeks
$2570
6 weeks
$3064
7 weeks
$3559
12 weeks (max. stay)
$6031

You can volunteer at the project site in Mafia Island/Tanzania between 2 weeks and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. The Great Projects will tell you your final price during your application process.
Average Fees
$523/week
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with The Great Projects during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Get ready to volunteer in Tanzania

Check out first

Visa Regulations
Depending on your nationality, you have to arrange your visa for Tanzania. Please check the visa regulations for Tanzania.
Travel Seasons
Find out the best time to volunteer in Tanzania and receive information on weather and climatic conditions.
Living Costs
Living costs vary with each destination. We give an overview of what you should plan as an estimated budget to volunteer in Tanzania.
Budgeting
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Tanzania.

What's next?

Airport
The nearest airport is Mafia (MFA) in Mafia. We assist you to find cheap flights to Tanzania.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Tanzania provides security and is a plus to have.
Vaccine Checker
If you are intending to volunteer in Tanzania you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Tanzania.
Free-time
What can you do in leisure-time in Tanzania while you are not working at your volunteer opportunity?
Packing List
Packing our bags is important to prepare your trip, but often turns into a last minute horror. Make sure you don't forget the essentials by creating a personalised packing list for your volunteer program in Tanzania upfront.
Mafia Island, Tanzania, Mafia Island, Tanzania