The waters of the Indian Ocean on the coast of Mozambique represent the winter breeding ground of a large number of humpback whales. These whales come from the end of June to the end of September by the thousands to mate, give birth to their calves and lactate them until they are big enough and strong enough to migrate back to the rich waters of Antarctica where they feed during the summer. Underwater Africa together with the marine biology and conservation organisation Odyssea are running a volunteer program this winter in Tofo, Mozambique. Our packages start at a two week’s minimum stay; however, we do recommend a longer stay to ensure the best possible chance of observing these magnificent marine mammals in their natural environment.
Our research program will focus on the biology of humpback whales, looking at all the aspects from behaviour, distribution, abundance, acoustics and conservation. This volunteer program is built around Dr Pierre Gallego’s PhD which looks at genetics, pollutants and stable isotopes in order to identify whales feeding in different areas of Antarctica within the same breeding ground in Mozambique. Biopsies are an important aspect of whale conservation nowadays more than ever, as it enables us to get information on pollutants, genetics, feeding ecology, and since a few years also on the age of the sampled whale. This information on age is the most important criteria
against the Japanese so-called “scientific whaling” which states that the only remaining reason to kill whales during the lethal sampling carried out by Japan in Antarctica and the North-Pacific Ocean is that you can only determine the age of whales by killing them. Science has proved this wrong and we are committed to publish as many papers as needed to stop this misbelief.

One of the interesting aspects of this volunteer opportunity is that you will participate first hand to our research efforts, going out at sea to collect data on these incredible whales. You will learn all the research techniques that we use to study these whales, from photo-identification, through acoustic recordings of their beautiful songs, to taking biopsies to study their diet and origin. After every trip at sea collecting data, we will process the information gathered and interpret it together. You will attend talks by Pierre on the whales’ biology, anatomy, physiology, pathology, acoustics, research and conservation. But you will also be part of an entire group of researchers working with many interesting species such as whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, turtles and others.

By the end of the two-week volunteer program, you will have 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 have taken part in every aspect of our research and will have gained knowledge about how we transform this scientific data into real conservation efforts. You will be an integral part of our young research team and will witness the amazing reproductive season of these truly unique whales, which carry out the longest yearly migration in the mammalian kingdom. This all takes place in a wonderful setting, the beautiful coast of Mozambique.

If you are really motivated to continuing in this field of research, we will provide you with data to analyse and will help you to present a poster or presentation at one of the international marine mammal conferences. This is a unique opportunity to show your skills to an international forum of whale and dolphin experts, and can open many doors for future Master or PhD projects. We will also issue you a certificate of attendance which will look great on your CV.

We are a group of passionate marine scientists who feel committed to transmitting our knowledge to interested people from all around the world who want to learn about the wonders of the sea, and who want to make a difference in preserving this fragile biodiversity for the future. Join us and experience the fun of doing research and conservation in paradise.

The program of the two week volunteer program will encompass:

  • Research trips at sea to collect data on humpback whales and dolphins
  • Daily talks on different aspects of whale biology and conservation
  • Data processing and analysis workshops
  • Workshops on research techniques
  • Excursions to do land-based surveys
  • The possibility to take diving lessons
  • Excursions to some local biodiversity hotspots