Marine Conservation and Dolphin Research in Tanzania

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, 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, and more. As part of regular project work you will be snorkelling, therefore participants are required to have a suitable level of swimming ability.

Project Details:

  • Project Activities: Beach conservation, dolphin research, data collection, local conservation education programs, and more. There are also documentary nights and an Aims & Achievements evening.
  • Project Availability: Fixed program dates each year – see the Program Fee and Dates tab (below) or contact CISaustralia for upcoming availability
  • Project Duration: 2 weeks
  • Working Hours: Monday-Friday, 6:30am-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 and work with local boat drivers. The marine project also includes the running of Ethical Boat Driver Training Courses which teach the captains how to safely interact with dolphins, basic business management and English. 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

  • 6.30-8.30: Early morning boat rides to monitor the dolphins i.e. behaviour, feeding, daily habits, reaction to humans, numbers, family groups, types of dolphin, photos of dolphin pods. Monitoring of tourist activities with particular emphasis on human-dolphin interaction.
  • 8.30-9.30: Breakfast
  • 9.30–12.00: Data entry, preparing classes for Conservation Club and Ethical Boat Driver Training modules
  • 12.00-14:00: Lunch break
  • 14.00-15.30: Data entry and analysis
  • 15.30-17.00: Conservation Club Preparation or Coral Reef Monitoring.
  • 18.30: Dinner

Free Time: In the evenings volunteers discuss their day with each other whilst having dinner and preparing for the next day. Volunteers have Saturdays and Sundays free 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.

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:

  • Teach English and Ethical Boat Driver Training to local guides
  • Research and monitoring of whales during whale season: June to September
  • 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
  • Depending on the project needs at the time, other research on coastal activities such as bivalve collection, coconut husk burying, rope making and seaweed farming

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 worn 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:

  • Kizimkazi – Dolphin and whale watching
  • Jambiani – Dhow sailing, snorkelling, kite surfing, scuba diving
  • Michamvi – Sunset BBQ, Upendo Beach Bar, Blue Lagoon snorkelling
  • Stone Town – City Tour, Spice Tour, great restaurants and lots of shopping
  • Safari Blue Island tour – Sailing, swimming, snorkelling
  • Prison Island – Beach, snorkelling, giant tortoises
  • Jozani Forest – Zanzibar’s first national park and one of the last remaining sanctuaries in the world to see red colobus monkeys
  • Matemwe – Scuba diving or snorkelling at Mnemba Atoll
  • Nungwi/Kendwa – Beautiful beaches, full-moon parties, lively DJ music
  • Mtoni Palace Ruins
  • Serengeti National Park


The archipelago of Zanzibar is located 25-50km off the mainland of Africa. 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.

Volunteers will be based in the picturesque fishing village of Kizimkazi on the southern tip of the island, around 1.5 hours from Stone Town and the airport. It has the most beautiful coastline and is renowned for its warm turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and lively dolphin population.

At the very heart of Zanzibar City is the old Stone Town. With a mix of European, African, Asian and Arabic culture, it is here that you will find a labyrinth of alleyways, hand-carved doors and incredibly fascinating architecture.

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.


Accommodation is at Kizimkazi Volunteer House situated a 2-minute walk away from the beach. Take a stroll at sunrise to see the fishermen already bustling about and families cooking over charcoal stoves at sunset to get a real look into Zanzibari life.

The house has all the amenities you’ll need, including Wi-Fi, daily housekeeping, shared bathroom facilities and communal spaces. You will sleep in shared, same-gender basic and comfortable rooms. Each room sleeps a maximum of six volunteers and is equipped with storage space, bunk beds, mosquito nets and fans. Bedding and a towel are provided however please bring a swimming towel. Laundry service is provided at 10,000TZS (roughly USD $5) per load and there is the option to wash your own clothes as well.

Please note: There is hot water available (which is a luxury in Zanzibar!), however water is a precious commodity and we ask that everyone uses it sparingly.

Local chefs will prepare 3 fresh meals each day, including weekends, and can cater for any type of dietary needs. Volunteers are also welcome to use the communal fridges and freezers.

Two Volunteer Managers and the Base Manager live on the premises and the office is also on-site. There is space for storing project resources and several locations for project preparation and data entry activities.

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 -4 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 90 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$ 4,599 - 5,599
OS-HELP A$ 7,921


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 will however provide travel guidance and support via our formal travel partner)
  • 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)

At CISaustralia, we love having students from all walks of life participate in our programs. No matter your gender identity, sexual orientation, race, or religion, you are welcome to take part in any one of our programs. That being said, studying abroad as an LGBTQIA+ student comes with its own challenges and things to consider. While travelling abroad pushes you out of your comfort zone, having all of our students feel safe at all times is our top priority, and we do our best to ensure that happens. Please note that the law in Tanzania and Zanzibar is not supportive of any behaviour which isn’t heterosexual. Same-sex sexual activity is illegal and carries a lengthy prison sentence – up to life imprisonment. To assist you with preparing for this program, you can find advice and resources on the CISaustralia website. If you have any questions regarding this subject please contact your CISaustralia Program Advisor.

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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