WHAT DOES THE PROJECT DO?
Mafia Island Marine Park
Mafia Island is about as close as you can get to the quintessential Indian Ocean tropical paradise. The tiny island of about 40,000 people is a friendly, laid-back place that has long been praised as a diver and sea angler's paradise.
Mafia's luxuriant mangroves, luminous seagrass beds and dazzling coral reefs play host to a multitude of tropical reef fish, seahorses and five species of graceful and gentle sea turtles. Offshore, the deeper waters are a regular stop off point for dolphins, migrating humpback whales and giant whale sharks. You can experience this magical seashore environment when you join the Frontier beach camp on Mafia Island and swim and snorkel from the beach out to the crystal clear waters of Tanzania's exclusive Marine Park.
Conserving the coral reefs and whale sharks
Tanzania’s extensive coral reefs are damaged and in danger of being lost forever. Climate change and subsequent rising sea temperatures damage the coral by affecting the zooxanthellae that form the foundation of the reef, a process known as bleaching. Consequently other species that live symbiotically with the reef also begin to die out. Coral reefs are not only extremely beautiful – they sustain vast volumes of biodiversity and are essential for life on earth. Whale sharks are threatened by the same threats that affect coral reefs as well as by the additional threats posed by their accidental death in fishing nets, sound pollution, water pollution and habitat destruction. The key aim of this project is to assist in raising the awareness of local stakeholders of whale sharks along with turtle nesting activity, with the long term aim of developing a strategy for future coastal zone management.
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.
Monitor Turtle Habitat
The project undertakes underwater exploration involving mapping the incredible biodiversity of the coastal area and marine habitats. Research involves surveying, mapping, and recording important marine habitats such as seagrass meadows and mangrove forests.
Discover Swahili Culture
Through participating in environmental awareness raising in local schools and community activities, you will experience the cultures and lifestyles of the local people.
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 sustainably to manage this priceless marine ecosystem and preserve it for future generations. To gather the data needed you will snorkel through seagrass and mangrove habitats and study the various communities existing on them.
Living and working in an internationally recognised marine protected area will give you access to a fantastic array of wildlife and ecosystems. You may have the opportunity to snorkel over 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 that we can be confident that Mafia Island will remain a stunning destination for the ensuing generations.
Sea turtles generally nest on the island from April to July with eggs hatching between June and August. If you are taking part in the project at this time, you may have the opportunity to monitor and protect these incredible creatures of the ocean, witnessing the nesting process and watching young turtles hatching and scurrying their way to the Indian Ocean.
Between November and January you may also have the opportunity to conduct surveys on the transient whale shark population, recording details of sightings and monitoring annual returners. This could involve snorkelling in the same waters as whale sharks as they feed. There is also the opportunity to conduct awareness raising activities with the tourists visiting Mafia Island.
Whilst snorkelling, you'll see an extraordinary array of animals from abundant fish life to nudibranchs, sea cucumbers to feathery starfish and spiny urchins to octopus. By the end of your project you will be expert at identifying hundreds of coloured and patterned reef fish. 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 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 many of whom may have volunteered on a Frontier project earlier in their career.
You'll get immense satisfaction from having made a valuable contribution to the conservation of this untarnished marine wilderness and will return home with the new friends you've made and a wealth of incredible photos, videos, stories and memories.
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 - Marine duty – filling water buckets for rinsing kit later
9:15 - Journey to snorkel site
10:15 - Snorkel to see condition of coral
11:15 - Surface interval on the boat
12:15 - Snorkel to identify invertebrates
13:15 - Journey back to camp on the boat
14:15 - Wash kit and hang up to dry
14:30 - Lunch
15:30 - Creating turtle fact sheet
16:30 - Invertebrate identification quiz
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.