Marine Conservation and Dolphin Research in Tanzania

The Marine Conservation and Dolphin Research Project is based in the Menai Bay Conservation Area in Zanzibar. Established in 1997, it is home to a vivid array of marine creatures including whales, bottlenose and humpback dolphins. Through participation in this volunteer project, you’ll help collect data for research studies, assist the community in developing sustainable tourism and lend a hand with beach clean ups, tree planting and more.

Program Overview

We were all green with envy when little Sandy Ricks was sent off to spend the summer in Florida with his uncle and formed an unforgettable friendship with his dolphin pal “Flipper.” We’re all familiar with the ‘90s movie classic and this project is your chance to live your own unforgettable dolphin adventure… in the real world!

This Marine Conservation and Dolphin Research project is based in the Menai Bay Conservation Area in Zanzibar. Menai Bay is Zanzibar’s largest marine protected area. It was officially established as a conservation area in 1997 and is home to a vivid array of marine creatures including whales, bottlenose and humpback dolphins. As you can imagine the area is hugely popular with tourists from all over the world, which is great for the local economy but does have an impact on local marine life.

Tourists are taken out in fishing boats with the promise of being able to get up-close and personal with dolphins, and they often eagerly jump into the water to swim with them. Dolphins are naturally inquisitive creatures and are very friendly, but they can sometimes be surrounded by 20+ boats all chasing after them to give the tourists the best experience. This can cause immense stress and anxiety to the local dolphin population, especially if they happen to be feeding or nursing their young.

Through participation in this project, you’ll help collect data for research studies, assist the community in developing sustainable tourism and lend a hand with beach clean ups, tree planting and more.

Project Details:

  • Project Activities: Beach conservation, dolphin research, data collection, local conservation education programs, tree planting and more. A guest lecture by Dr Narriman and / or one of her colleagues from Zanzibar State University on one of the following topics will be conducted: Fisheries Planning & Management, Fish Biology, Aquaculture, Impact of Dolphin Tourism in Zanzibar, Coral Reef Conservation and Coastal Community Development.
  • Project Availability: Fixed program dates each year – see the Program Fee and Dates tab (below) or contact CISaustralia for upcoming availability
  • Project Duration: 2-8 weeks
  • Working Hours: Monday-Friday, 6am-5pm
  • Location: Zanzibar, Tanzania
  • Excursions: If you would like to participate in any excursions or cultural activities (at own expense), these should be undertaken outside of working hours, likely before or after your program dates. Our on-site staff can assist in providing advice.
  • Support: 24-hour on-site support from our Site Coordinator and Project Leaders
  • A valid Police Check or Working With Children Check is required
  • Minimum Age: 18+
  • Language: English


Get ready to roll up your sleeves and jump in the deep end, literally! Your efforts will go a long way towards helping to preserve the habitats of marine species by monitoring tourist and human interaction and collecting data. The aim of the project is to ensure dolphin tourism in the area is sustainable. Sustainable tourism is the future for this island, but it is also a very unstable industry. It brings a source of income to the local population but it needs to find its harmony with the marine life and natural habitat. Data that is collected is provided to research studies which help the government determine how to regulate dolphin and tourist interaction in the long-term.

You will also be given the opportunity to work with the local community and assist them with beach clean ups, working with local guides and helping with tree planting projects. The marine project also includes the running of a “resource centre”. The aim of the centre is to provide education to both locals and tourists about the marine life and environment. All of your efforts will ultimately help protect dolphins and other amazing species.

Sample Itinerary

An exact daily schedule is difficult to outline as activities depend on tides and seasons. However, the information below provides a rough idea of how a day in the life of a volunteer in Kizimkazi will look:

Monday to Friday

  • 6.00: Depart Project base in Jambiani
  • 6.30-8.30: Early morning boat rides to monitor tourist activities with particular emphasis on human-dolphin interaction
  • 8.30-9.30: Breakfast in Kizimkazi
  • 9.30–12.00: Depending on tides and seasons, you will undertake a range of activities including monitoring other species of fish, assisting research students and scholars with their specific research, teaching English to local tour guides, working with other volunteers and locals to develop and maintain a local resource centre for information on dolphins, the marine eco-system and marine conservation and other research and monitoring activities.
  • 12.00-14:00: Lunch break
  • 14.00-15.30: Data entry and analysis
  • 15.30-17.00: Boat ride to monitor the dolphins, i.e. behavior, feeding, daily habits, reaction to humans, numbers, family groups, types of dolphin, photos of dolphin pods.
  • 17.00: Return to Jambiani
  • 18.30: Dinner

Free Time:

In the evenings volunteers discuss their day with each other whilst having supper and preparing for the next day. Volunteers have Saturdays and Sundays ‘off’ and can chose to do their own tourist activities or rest.

COVID Safe Travel

The health and safety of our students is our highest priority. We take our duty of care for our students, their families and our Australian University partners seriously. For all of our program locations, we have developed a site-specific COVID-19 risk matrix and risk management and emergency response plans so that health and safety response protocols are monitored, managed and communicated.

We have also developed a flexible COVID-19 Refund Policy that limits the financial impact on students should CISaustralia (or one of our overseas partners) have to cancel or suspend a program due to COVID-19.

In preparation for your overseas program, it’s important that you carefully read and understand information related to COVID-19 Travel Safety and Insurance Requirements.

CISaustralia monitors Smartraveller and reliable news feeds to keep up to date with the latest COVID information and any associated travel restrictions and entry requirements for all destinations where we have programs. Due to the constantly evolving COVID-19 situation, Government travel advice can change quickly. For the most up to date information on Tanzania, visit the Smartraveller website.

The Volunteer's Role

While the local community and Tanzanian experts are involved in the project, more human-power is essential to support and sustain the project’s efforts and momentum, as with most programs like this. Work is in progress but due to a lack of resources and personnel, there is still a lot to be done. The research that has been conducted has, more often than not, been conducted on an ad hoc basis. In order for it to become sustainable and make a real impact, the project team requires a more consistent sustainable element to this research – this is where you can help!

The project needs vary from time to time and as such the tasks and activities you will be involved in will change accordingly. This gives you an opportunity to gain first-hand insight into many very important aspects of marine conservation. As a volunteer you will have the opportunity to get involved in the following activities: 

  • Assist research students with their research
  • Help develop and maintain the local resource centre
  • Teach English and other potential languages to the local tour guides
  • Research and monitoring of whales during whale season: June to September
  • Research and monitoring of other specific types of fish and marine life
  • Research on coastal activities such as bivalve collection, coconut husk burying, rope making and seaweed farming
  • Monitor dolphin behaviour including feeding, daily habits, reaction to humans
  • Document results, including taking photos
  • Monitor tourist numbers to obtain daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal figures
  • Monitor tourist-dolphin interaction

You don’t need to be a Dawn Fraser or Ian Thorpe protégé but it goes without saying that all volunteers need to be able to swim competently and confidently. As a volunteer, there are not any specific technical skills to participate, however a keen interest in marine wildlife and conservation would, of course, be very useful.  

As with any overseas travel, it is important to be culturally sensitive. It is stressed that appropriate clothing should be wore at all times, and respect for religious festivals and cultural norms be observed.


There are a variety of cultural activities and places of interest volunteers can choose to visit on their own (at own expense) outside of project hours. You will have weekends free for independent sightseeing, exploring and relaxing. Zanzibar is a true paradise and there are some very beautiful places to visit on the island. The on-site team can assist in providing advice. In many cases volunteers will go together and explore the island. The main attractions for each area are:

  • Jambiani – Dhow sailing, snorkeling, kite surfing
  • Michamvi – Sunset BBQ, Upendo Beach Bar, Blue Lagoon snorkeling
  • Stone Town – City Tour, Spice Tour, great restaurants and lots of shopping
  • Jozani Forest – Red Colobus Monkeys
  • Kizimkazi – Dolphin and Whale watching
  • Matemwe – Scuba diving or snorkeling at Mnemba Atoll
  • Nungwi/Kendwa – Beautiful beaches, full-moon parties, lively DJ music


The archipelago of Zanzibar is located 25-50km off the mainland of Africa. Interestingly enough, the Island’s main industries are spices, raffia and tourism and as such are often dubbed the “Spice Islands”. The islands are picture-postcard perfect, with endless stretches of soft white sand, crystal clear ocean waters and unforgettable sunsets. The archipelago is made up of many small islands and two large ones – the main islands being Zanzibar and Pemba.

The islands are supported by lush tropical rainforest, dispersed between coastal fishing villages and towns. At the very heart of Zanzibar Town is the old Stone Town. It is here that you will find a labyrinthine of alleyways, hand-carved doors and incredibly fascinating architecture.  

The volunteer project is only 30 minutes away from a tiny fishing village on the east coast called Jambiani. Jambiani is tiny and everything is within easy walking distance. You’ll find a laid back community set amongst beautiful scenery. There isn’t much shopping, leaving you with plenty of time to walk up and down the pristine beaches and enjoy the white sand and turquoise waters. Seafood is the name of the game here, so sit and soak up the local life while feasting on deliciously fresh seafood.

Another local must-see is the Mtoni Palace Ruins on the western shore. It is one of the oldest buildings in Zanzibar and was the largest palace on the island during the reign of Sultan Sayyid Said, who moved the capital of his Omani empire from Muscat to Zanzibar during the first half of the 19th century. At that time, over a thousand people lived in the palace and its direct surroundings. Around the 1880s, the palace was abandoned and fell into ruin. You can tour the site with a ticket and only if you are accompanied by an official guide. 

For those who would like to make the most of their trip to Africa and want to get out and explore a little further afield, you can travel to the mainland and hike Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest peak in Africa and made up of three inactive volcanos. For those who are up to the challenge, it will take you approximately five days to complete the return hike. Distance covered is over 80km+ but during the hike you’ll be mesmerised by the impressive beauty of tropical forests and open moorland. As you near the summit, you’ll discover alpine desert made up of rocks and ice. At the top, your breath will be taken away by the remarkable views afforded to you… indescribably amazing views of the wild plains of Tanzania.

No visit to Tanzania is complete without a visit to the Serengeti National Park. It is Tanzania’s oldest national park and is home to the “Big Five” – lions, African Leopards, African Elephants, Black Rhinoceros and African Buffalo. There are also cheetahs, giraffes, gazelles, wildebeest, zebras and crocodiles. Thanks to this amazing example of biodiversity and its ecological importance, UNESCO declared the Serengeti a World Heritage site.


You will be staying at a volunteer house in Jambiani village which is just a short walk away from the beach. It is a great place to soak up the sun, have a swim, read a book or enjoy some beach games. Sunrises across the Indian Ocean are amazing!

You will sleep in shared, same-gender basic and comfortable rooms in the volunteer house alongside the local village. Expect to share with 2 or 3 other volunteers. Each room is en-suite and is equipped with shelves, bunk beds, mosquito nets and fans. Housekeeping is done on a regular basis and bedding is provided. Laundry service is provided at 10,000TZS (roughly USD$5) per load. Please bring your own swimming towel.

Please Note: There is NO HOT WATER for showering  most places in Zanzibar do not have hot water. Water is a precious commodity in Zanzibar and should be used sparingly.

Two Project Coordinators live on the premises and the office is also on-site. There is a resource room to keep items needed for project work and is a great space for lesson preparation.

You will be able to sleep outside on the beach recliners on really hot evenings should you wish to do so.

Why Volunteer with CISaustralia

CISaustralia believes strongly in supporting volunteer initiatives across the world that promote sustainable and long-term societal, environmental and economic change to benefit and empower local communities.

While the term volunteering is widely known and accepted, we prefer to use the term Experiential Service Learning. This better relates to our philosophy surrounding close community engagement as well as a focus on projects that have a long-term approach and a range of positive impacts for both communities and our students. Over 98% of CISaustralia participants receive academic credit for their program abroad, which fosters a more culturally immersive and deeper reflective experience.

CISaustralia volunteering programs contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which aim to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. While not every program will achieve all seventeen of the UN goals, your role as a volunteer will have a positive impact by doing work that really matters. We partner with organisations that have in-depth, first-hand knowledge and close relationships with local communities. Prior to your departure, our team in Australia will prepare you with extensive resources so you feel supported every step of the way. You will also be supported throughout your entire overseas program by our fantastic and experienced in-country staff. 

Volunteering abroad is a life-changing experience, enabling you to learn and grow on many personal and professional levels, to broaden your perspective on the world and to become a global citizen. CISaustralia prides itself in having the strongest global partners who are socially responsible and equally committed to their local communities and ethical practices. We love what we do at CISaustralia and are here to provide you with the support you need to successfully volunteer abroad – so that you can contribute to positively changing the lives of others, and yourself, along the way. Get ready for an exciting once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Read more: Why Volunteer Abroad with CISaustralia?

Program Fee & Dates

2-8 weeks (SET DATES ONLY)
This program is available on fixed program dates (only). Programs start on a Monday and end on a Monday. Application deadline is 60 days prior to commencement. Please see specific start dates below or enquire for upcoming availability. Longer placements may be available on a case-by-case basis.
Application FeeA$ 95
Program Fee A$ 3,799
OS-HELP A$ 7,100
October-November 2022 (2-4 Weeks)
Note: Places are limited. First in, best dressed. Volunteers must start on the specified start date and can choose from 2, 3 or 4 weeks. Programs start on a Monday and end on a Monday.
Application Deadline12 September 2022
Arrival Date31 October 2022
Application FeeA$ 95
Program Fee A$ 3,799 - 4,197
OS-HELP A$ 7,100
November-December 2022 (2-4 Weeks)
Note: Places are limited. First in, best dressed. Volunteers must start on the specified start date and can choose from 2, 3 or 4 weeks. Programs start on a Monday and end on a Monday.
Application Deadline14 October 2022
Arrival Date28 November 2022
Application FeeA$ 95
Program Fee A$ 3,799 - 4,197
OS-HELP A$ 7,100


Program fees include the following:
  • Volunteer placement and supervision
  • CISaustralia support services before, during and after the program
  • Academic advising
  • Financial advice
  • Assistance with travel arrangements
  • Pre-departure guide and session
  • On-site orientation and project induction
  • Airport / ferry pick-up and drop-off (on specified program dates within designated times)
  • Accommodation – shared, same-gender basic and comfortable rooms in the volunteer house alongside the local village
  • Meals – 3 meals per day, excluding Wednesdays when you will eat out
  • Weekly laundry service
  • Activities: Staff help organise weekend activities. Some trips include diving and/or snorkelling, Jozani forest trip to see the red-colobus monkeys and safari on mainland Tanzania (activities may cost extra)
  • Program risk matrix and COVID-19 risk assessment
  • Risk Management and Emergency Response Plan
  • 24/7 on-site support – Site Coordinator, Project Leaders
  • CISaustralia Certificate of Participation (available on request)

What is not included:

  • Program application fee
  • International Student Identity Card
  • Flights (CISaustralia travel support)
  • Transfers to Zanzibar Island
  • Medical insurance
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa fees
  • Police or Working With Children Check
  • Vaccinations (if required)
  • Meals (unless mentioned above)
  • Wi-Fi
  • Extra travel/excursions (other than those mentioned above)

Please do not book flights until you have received the dates in your acceptance paperwork and you are confirmed on the program.

CISaustralia reserves the right to alter fees at any time due to currency fluctuations and/or fee changes made by our partners.

Adventure Awaits

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