HUMPBACK WHALE RESEARCH & MARINE PROTECTION
Volunteer in one of the most beautiful coastal locations in Africa, getting involved in industry-leading, globally-recognized humpback whale research. As a volunteer on this 2-to-4-week program, you’ll learn all about these majestic creatures, including their behaviors, distribution, abundance and conservation.
You will learn research techniques and partake in frequent excursions out to sea, transforming scientific data into real solutions, in an effort to protect this species and preserve their valuable winter breeding ground. Humpback whales visit the area from the beginning of July to the end of September by the thousands to mate, give birth to their calves and lactate them until they are strong enough to migrate back to the rich waters of Antarctica where they feed during the summer.
From Tofo’s rustic, unspoiled beaches and turquoise seas to its vibrant marine life and colourful culture, everyone will enjoy this exotic paradise. Situated in Southern Mozambique with palm-fringed beaches and wide expanses of powdery white sand, this is a famous spot for world-class scuba-diving and for opportunities to spot some of the magnificent creatures that live here permanently or visit seasonally including, humpback whales, whale sharks, manta rays, and other large marine species such as sharks and turtles.
However, many of these species are under threat and this beautiful and important marine area is at risk of exploitation and other changes associated with tourism and human interaction. Research on species and reef degradation is vital in working with governments and other stakeholders to improve legislative protection and the creation of protected areas. Volunteers play a huge part in gathering as much information as possible about these threatened species and directly contribute towards the conservation efforts taking place in Tofo.
The Research Station is located in the little touristic fisherman village of Tofo, in the Inhambane province of southern Mozambique. You’ll stay at the Volunteer House within Casa Barry Lodge, which has shared accommodation with five same-sex rooms each with two beds. You’re just two steps from the beach and the terrace of the Volunteer House offers incredible views over the entire bay, where you can relax after a long day, while taking pictures of the sunset or whale watching! The Research Station is equipped with a science lab, an office area, a scientific library, a garden with a swimming pool and 2 boats for research trips. During your free time, you’re also welcome to use the surfboards, kitesurf and surfski!
Three freshly cooked meals are prepared for you daily at the on-site restaurant, by the beach. You have a choice of meals from the menu each day, and the restaurant can cater to vegetarians and vegans. Should you have any specific dietary requirements, please let us know before you arrive. Sometimes braais (BBQs) are arranged, and these will be done either at the Volunteer House or another outdoor area.
There is free WiFi available at the restaurant and office of the Research Station and it is possible to buy a local sim card and mobile data in town. Project Coordinators reside within the Volunteer House and are on call 24 hours a day, if required.
The climate is hot and humid all year round, with February the hottest month with an average daily maximum temperature of 30°C. The wettest months are January and February when afternoon thunderstorms are a regular occurrence and the cooler, dry season (April to October) is recommended as a more comfortable period to visit.
PROJECT IMPACT AREAS
Participate in thrilling expeditions out to sea to collect data on these incredible whales, particularly their behaviour, movement patterns, habitat use, and pod structures. You will learn all the research techniques that are used to study these whales, from photo-identification and acoustic recordings of their beautiful songs, to taking biopsies to study their diet and origin. After every trip out to sea collecting data, you will process the information gathered and interpret it with the whale research team.
CONTRIBUTE TO REAL SOLUTIONS
You will gained insight into what it really means to do research with megafauna in the field, and what can be achieved with this research to reach conservation goals. You will take part in every aspect of the research and will gain knowledge about how we transform this scientific data into real protection efforts. Our current goal is to declare the area a World Whale Heritage Site. You will be an integral part of our young research team and will contribute to this conservation success.
SCIENTIFIC TALKS AND DOCUMENTARIES
Attend talks on whale biology, anatomy, physiology, pathology, acoustics, research, and conservation. The research team have a wealth of specialist marine knowledge and researchers also give regular talks about specific wildlife such as sharks or manta rays. These will be relevant to anything you’ve seen or learnt about in the week and will be tailored to the particular interests of volunteers.
Community involvement and interaction is a big part of conservation, and we find regular opportunities to engage with local people. You might take part in a beach clean-up, visit a local school to educate children about the importance of ocean conservation and how to avoid dangers in the water, or attend a community event such as World Oceans Day.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Volunteer Whale Conservation
Why are whales endangered?
There are several reasons why whales, like the Humpback Whale, are endangered. Increased tourism activities like diving, whale watching, and fishing have caused an increase in boat traffic which presents safety risks to whales around boats. Commercial whaling activities have also led to the decline in whale species. Climate change is another issue contributing to the endangerment of whales. Changes in sea temperature and sea level have caused changes in the habitat and environment for several whale species including a decline of their main sources of food. Marine pollution is another major issue that threatens whales, fish, and other types of sea animals around the world. Volunteering in a whale conservation program can assist efforts to protect whales from these activities.
How many species of whales exist?
There are approximately 12 different species of whales with various subspecies. Whales are also divided into two main categories - baleen whales and toothed whales. Baleen whales include species like grey whales, pygmy right whales, right whales, and rorquals, which include blue whales, fin whales, and humpback whales. Toothed whales include species like beaked whales, dolphins, killer whales, pilot whales, porpoises, sperm whales, and white whales. Our whale conservation and research volunteer projects are focused primarily on the protection of humpback whales.
How can I help save whales?
There are several ways you can help save whales. You can join our humpback whale research and marine protection project in Mozambique. By participating in this project, you will gain experience working with a team of volunteers, marine biologists and other scientists where you can help conduct research, assist in the development of marine conservation, and study and protect humpback whales. If you are unable to participate in our program, you can still help save and protect whales by volunteering with conservation programs in your local community including beach and ocean clean ups, research projects, and other efforts.
You will have the opportunity to enjoy some of the incredible attractions Praia do Tofo and the surrounding area have to offer. Learn to surf, join a kayak trip up the estuary or learn to SCUBA dive in the warm Indian Ocean with an exceptional dive shop nearby. For the more adventurous, take a kite-surfing lesson, quad bike along the beach or admire the sea views from horseback.
Join a yoga or African dance class, relax on the beach, braai (BBQ) under the starts, listen to live music at local venues or buy some traditional Mozambican gifts at the local crafts market.
Before or after your project, you may wish to travel elsewhere in Africa. South Africa is the most commonly visited destination with a 15-hour shuttle service departing directly from Tofo to Johannesburg (or vice versa) twice weekly or a quick flight from Inhambane Airport. Once in South Africa you can explore Cape Town or go on safari in the Greater Kruger region, this extremely diverse country has something for everyone!
Once you have submitted your application, a Destination Specialist will be in-touch to discuss the project with you.