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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 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.
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 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: Arrivals on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month. The program is closed over the Christmas period.
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, Project Leaders and Continent Site Director (in Cape Town)
Police check is required
Minimum Age: 18+
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
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.
The Volunteer's Role
Your efforts will go a long way towards helping to preserve the habitats of amazing 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. Your efforts will ultimately help protect this amazing species.
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.
The local community and Tanzanian experts are involved in the project, but as with most programs like this, more human-power is essential to support and sustain the project’s efforts and momentum. 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!
Get ready to roll up your sleeves and jump in the deep end, literally! 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.
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.
CISaustralia support before, during and after the program
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)
24/7 on-site support – Site Coordinator, Project Leaders and Continent Site Director
CISaustralia Certificate of Completion
What is not included:
Flights / transfers to Zanzibar Island
Vaccinations (if required)
Police background check
CISaustralia reserves the right to alter fees at any time due to currency fluctuations and/or fee changes made by our partners.
Dates are for reference only and are subject to change. Please do not book flights until you have received the confirmed dates in your acceptance paperwork.
[The best part was] when we got the chance to swim with the dolphins. It was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had! They were so playful and curious! I loved my time in Zanzibar. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was one of the best experiences of my life!
Marine Conservation and Dolphin Research in Tanzania