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The Great Projects

Whale Shark Conservation

Mafia Island, Tanzania

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.

Typical day

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

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 you can expect to take part in the following activities:

Conservation Learning

Sessions will include an introduction to coral reef ecology, tropical Indo-Pacific fish identification, whale shark biology and ongoing whale shark research. You will also learn about other conservation issues in the Mafia area. You will also receive first aid tuition, including marine envenomations and stings and marine accidents.

Skin Diving

You will learn about the theory and practice of skin diving, that is snorkelling while making breath-hold dives to observe aquatic life, up close and personal. It’s a great way to explore the underwater world when you’re not able to or don’t wish to scuba dive. Learn snorkelling and skin diving techniques including checking buoyancy, surface swimming, clearing water from your snorkel and performing effortless surface dives.

Community Participation and Kiswahili

You will participate in one or more development project in the local school and community, such as teaching English, conduct discussion groups in English, give swimming lessons, carry out study groups on whale shark conservation awareness and assist in the primary school library. You will receive twice weekly classes in the bubbly Swahili language and about the local culture.

Manage tourist participation in the global spot photo ID project

When assisting on the tourist boat trips, you will be able to share your knowledge of marine life and will help the crew spot the whale sharks and identification and recording of these and brief tourists on the findings. You will develop organizational skills, plan excursions, gain great knowledge of the marine life and learn to prepare the boat and relevant equipment.

Introduction to Photography and Videography

You will gain an insight and appreciation in how still cameras and videos are valuable conservation tools and you will use both daily as part of the ongoing whale shark research.

Whale shark research

This will be one of the principal activities which you will be involved with whilst here. For 5 mornings of each week, one or two interns will be assigned to conduct research activities, under the supervision of a resident marine biologist/researcher. This is on a rota with the others managing tourist participation in the global spot pattern photo ID project.

Learn to recognize individual whale sharks and ID them

This is a really integral part of this project as once the data is collected and collated; you will help input it into a database which will help to identify the individual sharks themselves (males/females etc.) for wider whale shark research.

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.

Details on Arrival

It is possible to start the project on any date from October 1st 2017 to January 28th 2018 (subject to availability)


Please contact us to check whether your preferred start date is still available!

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. 


In camp, there are bicycles for free use or at an extra cost you can take a picnic day trip by boat or road, go bird watching, learn to SCUBA dive (a PADI Scuba Course costs around U$600 including manuals and certification) or learn to sail a traditional dhow or ngalawa! The choice is all yours! 

Swimming
Diving/Snorkling
Safari/Zoo
Hiking

Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s).
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
You must be able to swim and you must also be comfortable with the open ocean. We recommend, 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. A dive qualification is not required for this project and almost all of the work is done whilst snorkelling and skin diving. SCUBA certification is offered at an extra cost for those who wish to learn.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 09:00 - 17:00

Suitable for

Singles
Couples
Groups

Any questions? Just ask. We at The Great Projects are happy to help you.

Contact Project Coordinator
Contact & Reservation
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
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Sep
Oct
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Dec

Included Services

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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by The Great Projects.
Services by The Great Projects
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
Airport Pickup at Mafia

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
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
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.
Vaccines
If you are intending to volunteer in Tanzania you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Tanzania.
Costs (Prices in USD)
3 weeks (min. stay)
$1,725.00
4 weeks
$2,243.00
5 weeks
$2,760.00
6 weeks (max. stay)
$3,278.00
Average fees
$561.00/week

You can volunteer at the project site in Mafia Island/Tanzania between 3 weeks and 6 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. The Great Projects will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Crowdfunding Service
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Tanzania.
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.
Africa Eastern Africa Tanzania Mafia Island, Utende, Mafia Island
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