Snorkelling with whale sharks is at the very top of our bucket list. Could there be anything more awe inspiring than snorkelling with these gentle giants of the sea?
Whale sharks are the world’s largest fish growing up to a staggering 12-metres. That’s around the length of a bus. Fear not. These behemoths are completely harmless and feed on krill, small fish and plankton.
Most people who are lucky enough to snorkel with whale sharks do so for just a few hours. Wildlife experts, The Great Projects, run week long or more programmes which focus on the conservation of the species. This allows visitors to have multiple underwater encounters. What’s more, they have 30% discount on their Mafia Island projects between now and 27th January 2017.
Mafia Island lies just off the coast of the Tanzanian mainland. This off-beat destination is often described as being like Zanzibar 30 years ago, Mafia Island is renowned for its kaleidoscopic coral reefs, excellent diving and fascinating culture. As an intern, you’ll enjoy picture postcard beaches, aquamarine waters and few other tourists. Though whale sharks are the focus of the project, the waters around the island are packed full of other species – humpback whales, turtles and colourful tropical fish.
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What do expect
The programme is designed to give you maximum interaction with whale sharks on a daily basis. Volunteers will be involved in tasks that are vital to the survival of the species and will learn valuable skills in wildlife conservation and the tourism industry. The data collected by volunteers will contribute to a global identification project which maps the movements of whale sharks around the world. The spotted patterns on a whale shark are different on every shark and like a fingerprint can act as identification. Contribute to the survival of the whale shark by helping in a collective study and work on local community initiatives.
Volunteers will be trained in conservation biology including coral reef ecology, Indo-Pacific fish identification, whale shark biology and ongoing research. You will also learn about other conservation issues in the Mafia Island area and receive first aid training specifically around marine accidents.
Skin diving is a vital skill necessary for whale shark research. You will learn the theory behind skin diving, the practise of breath-hold diving while snorkelling to get up close to the marine life. It’s a great way for close encounters when you don’t want to or can’t scuba dive and will serve you well in the future. Learn snorkelling techniques, surface swimming, water cleaning and performing surface dives.
All volunteers participate in one or more of the ongoing development projects that work with local schools and communities. Here you will help teach English, carry out study groups and give swimming lessons to kids. You will also have the opportunity to learn the Swahili language and discover the local culture and food.
Manage tourist participation in the global spot photo ID project
You will take daily trips with others tourists where you will be encouraged to share your knowledge of whale sharks, help the crew search for the species, and work with tourists to identify and record these gentle giants. This will help volunteers to develop organizational skills, plan excursions and spend plenty of time in the water with these creatures.
One day a week will be free to relax at the beach or explore the island. At the base, there are bicycles which can be used for free. You can take optional scuba diving lessons to and try to complete your PADI open water course (around US $600), learn to sail a traditional dhow or ngalawa fishing boat or go hiking or bird watching.
Introduction to photography and videography
You will have training in photography and videography and learn how these tools can be valuable in the research process of conservation. You will use both cameras and camcorders each day to record whale sharks.
Whale shark research
Most mornings, volunteers will be assigned to conduct research activities under the supervision of a resident marine biologist/researcher. This is one the principal activities that you will be involved in while you are on the island. Head out and spend time in the water recording whale shark species for the global spot pattern photo ID project and monitor behaviour. You will help collate the data and input it into the database for wider shark research.
Would you like to work with whale sharks? Visit The Great Projects to view from details and get your 30% discount. Offer only available on departures up until 27th January 2017.
Proudly sponsored by The Great Projects.