WHAT DOES THE PROJECT DO?
Migrating Humpback Whales & Whale Sharks
Mafia Island is about as close as you can get to the quintessential Indian Ocean tropical paradise. The tiny island of about 40,000 is a friendly, laid-back place that has long been praised as a diver and sea angler's paradise.
Mafia's luxuriant mangroves, luminous sea grass beds and dazzling coral reefs play host to a multitude of tropical reef fish, thorny and spotted seahorses and four species of graceful and gentle sea turtles. Offshore there are dolphins and rays, and the deeper waters are a regular stop-off for migrating humpback whales and giant whale sharks. You could experience all this when you join the Frontier camp on Mafia Island and learn to dive in the crystal clear, immaculate waters of Tanzania's exclusive Marine Park.
If you are joining this project between November and January then you may have the opportunity to conduct surveys on the transient whale shark population. You may be recording details of sightings and monitoring returning whale sharks. Volunteers may also have the opportunity to conduct awareness raising activities with tourists visiting Mafia Island.
Dynamite Fishing Damaging Coral
Threats to the coastal environment on and around Mafia Island are on the up as unregulated tourism is on the increase and the level of the local population is rising. Increasing competition for food means that artisanal fishing techniques such as seine-netting become inadequate and inefficient, encouraging use of less discriminate catch practices such as dynamite fishing. Other threats include the over-harvesting of octopus and sea cucumbers and the over-collecting of shells and corals for the expanding marine curio trade.
Swim with Dolphins, Rays & Turtles
Your underwater exploration will involve you in mapping the incredible biodiversity of the coastal area and marine habitats. While diving you will locate and record spectacular coral reefs and survey dazzling reef fish and turtles. If you are there at the right time of year you may even observe marine mammals.
Discover Swahili Culture
Sailing out on the traditional Frontier dhows you will dive from the boat and discover what it is like to sail on a traditional Tanzanian fishing vessel. Through participating in environmental awareness raising in local schools and community activities, you will experience the cultures and lifestyles of local peoples.
The time of year that you visit the project will greatly affect the type of work you are involved in as much of our research is heavily dependent on the season.
WHAT WILL I BE DOING?
The marine research and conservation programme is run in association with the Mafia Island Marine Park. The project provides the local communities and government bodies with the information they need to sustainably manage this priceless marine ecosystem preserving it for future generations. To gather the data needed you will dive, locate and map the extensive coral reefs and study the various communities existing on them.
Living and working in an internationally recognized marine protected area will give you access to a fantastic array of wildlife and ecosystems. You may have the opportunity to dive on habitats untouched by destructive fishing practices, and help monitor the success of a variety of conservation methods. The data collected on our commercial fish surveys aids the marine park in maintaining the most up to date and dynamic management plans for the future of the region, so we can be confident that Mafia Island will remain a stunning destination for many years.
You will explore and record the living organisms that inhabit the luxuriant mangrove forests, dense sea grass beds and productive inter-tidals in the area. To do this you will use a range of newly learned research skills and scientific techniques including: underwater visual census of reef and commercial fish such as trigger fish and parrot fish, assessment of algal and coral cover to determine the extent of coral bleaching and damage, and line intercept transects for benthic life and indicator invertebrate species such as nudibranchs. You will observe the feeding habits and behaviour patterns of a range of marine life. You may even get to study the impact of dynamite fishing on the corals reefs, report the effects of global warming on marine communities or observe the impact of the marine-curio trade on endangered marine invertebrates.
Whilst diving, you'll see an extraordinary array of animals from turtles to sea cucumbers to unicorn fish, and spiny urchins to octopus. When you sail or motor out each day on the Frontier dhow to distant dive sites you may even be accompanied by dolphins. You may have the unique opportunity to swim or snorkel with whale sharks if visiting sites further afield. By the end of your project you will be expert at identifying many of coloured and patterned reef fish as well as being an experienced and competent diver. Those joining the project for a short period of time may not be able to participate in a full range of project activities. Some project activities are seasonal.
You'll get immense satisfaction from having made a valuable contribution to the conservation of this untarnished marine wilderness. You will return home with the new friends you've made and a wealth of incredible photos, videos, stories and memories.
You'll find your team to be a fun, dynamic mix of ages and experiences, with members who all share a passion about travelling in developing countries and saving endangered marine life. Your staff will be young, friendly individuals who are highly experienced in their field and many have also volunteered on a Frontier project earlier in their career.
For further information about Frontier marine conservation work see the publications section of this website.
Check out our video on Frontier Gap Year TV from Frontier-Tanzania, showing you our volunteers diving.
7:15 - Breakfast of bread and spread
8:15 - Dive duty
9:15 - Journey to dive site on traditional dhow
10:15 - Dive one – Baseline survey
11:15 - Surface interval on the boat
12:15 - Dive two – Baseline survey
13:15 - Journey back to camp on the dhow
14:15 - Wash dive kit and hang up to dry
14:30 - Lunch
15:30 - Write up data
16:30 - Invertebrate identification lecture
18:00 - Dinner time
19:00 - Chill out time
21:00 - Bed time
*This itinerary should only be considered as an example of the kind of activities and timescales to expect. Actual itineraries may vary depending on the season and the requirements of the project.
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