Having identified The Underwater Africa program as one that aligns with Gap Year South Africa, in their mission and active role in protecting and conserving the Marine world, we highly recommend putting this program on your list of things to do while you’re out here in Africa as an additional option to the Gap Year SA Marine Conservation Program.

We will help you to make this program your Gap Year reality as we work together with Under Water Africa to plan your Gap Year around participating in both the Gap Year SA Marine Conservation program here in Cape Town, as well as re-locating to participate in the Underwater Africa Volunteering Program.


When in Cape Town, South Africa you will have the opportunity to join some of the leading marine biologists and scientist in actively participating in research and data collection on White Sharks and other marine life in the False Bay.
We partner this specific program with the Surfing South Africa Program, where you get to experience the surfing culture of South Africa, and build a healthy and respectful relationship with the ocean.
So when you are not working with our team in actively collecting scientific data and participating in research you will be in the waves or you will be volunteering the communities.
You will have the chance to share your knowledge and skills with our less fortunate communities as we integrate you into our Community Development Program to present the youth of these communities with an understanding of the importance of protecting the ocean by giving them the chance and tools to connect with the ocean via swim and surf lessons, talks and presentations, as well as arts and crafts to share your valuable knowledge,

The Primary Objective of the Gap Year SA marine conservation program is for you to gain a healthy understanding and respect for the ocean by enjoying the playful waves while falling in love with the ever so enchanting False Bay while you explore what lays beneath. As you share this knowledge and experience with some of our less fortunate community members, we believe that we will be bridging the Gap between communities as we eliminate the lack of understanding and knowledge by giving community members the opportunity to experience and explore the wonders of the ocean.


As a volunteer for Underwater Africa you directly contribute to the marine conservation project and activities of the Marine Megafauna Foundation and work together with its world renowned scientists in the field of manta rays and whale sharks. This exciting program has been designed and will be monitored (whether on-site or remotely via Skype conference, depending on her schedule) by world-renowned “Manta Queen”, Dr. Andrea Marshall. Whether Dr. Marshall is on site during your stay or not, you will always remain under the guidance of a highly qualified and experienced Research and Volunteer Coordinator and you will also have continuous access to our other marine biologists, who will always be available to answer any queries that you may have. Volunteers will be involved in all of MMFs programs; manta rays, whale sharks, marine turtles, dugongs and humpback whales and will contribute to their long-term programs in the area. Depending on the length of your stay you will get to do a greater variety of field trips the longer you stay. While on the program you will be living in the dedicated volunteer house which is on the same property as the MMF research centre and Casa Barry Beach Lodge one of the largest resorts in the area, with a great view over the entire Tofo bay and it’s tasteful daily volunteer meals.

After your arrival you will receive a two day period of introduction and training by your research and volunteer coordinator. For non-divers you will start with a recognised PADI open water scuba dive Course with our partnering dive operator Peri-Peri divers (costs included in the program). This will take you 4 to 7 days depending on the conditions. If you are already a qualified diver you will start your research program immediately. We will train you in order to make useful ID pictures of several marine species. Photo ID-ing is a non-intrusive method which helps researchers investigate a number of subjects including population composition, demography, abundance estimates, residency, movement and social behaviour.

The main objectives of the program is to gather as much information as possible about whale sharks, manta rays, marine turtles, coral reef monitoring and humpback whales (in season) by which, you directly contribute towards the conservation of these species under threat.

The primary objective is not quantity, but mainly to obtain qualitative data. In close collaboration with your volunteer coordinator and with the researchers from MMF you will gather relevant and at that point in time much needed information. If you possess any specific valuable skills such as acoustic and satellite telemetry or knowledge about eco-tourism or Marine Protected Areas or digital technology, or photography, you may always inquire about being involved and what you can contribute the ongoing projects of Underwater Africa and Marine Megafauna Foundation. (None of these skills are a requirement for our program; you do not have to have any previous scientific experience to join our program, all we require from our volunteers is a passion to learn and a passion to have fun while on the program.)

You will be involved in gathering data for the following long-term ongoing programs of MMF:


Manta Rays:
The last decade over 800 manta rays have been identified in Tofo by our own “Manta Queen” National Geographic emerging explorer Dr. Andrea Marshall, she has also identified and documented the discovery of a separate species the Giant Manta. The Mozambican manta database is known as the second largest comprehensive database in the world. These databases contribute highly to investigate the biology and ecology of Manta’s and the link between environmental impacts, abundance, behaviour and preservation efforts. During your dives you may contribute to:

  • Photo Identifying manta rays.
  • Monitoring their behaviour.
  • Laser measuring individuals.
  • Watching scientists taking biological samples for use in the long term student program for genetics, fatty acids and stable isotope.
  • Servicing acoustic listening stations and watching the deployment of acoustic and satellite tags, this happens on a seasonal basis not every month.
  • Uploading identification pictures to the relevant websites and record re-sightings on www.mantamatcher.org


Whale Sharks:
The area immediately off the peaceful village of Tofo beach is a global hotspot for the world’s largest fish, the whale shark. Dr. Simon Pierce and his researchers have identified over 620 of these gentle giants in Mozambican waters. You will actively participate towards these research efforts during your snorkelling trips with whale sharks by:

  • Training in whale shark photo ID-ing, and watching the process of tagging and tissue sampling.
  • Gathering information on (GPS) location, segregation, sex, behaviour and specific characteristics such as scars on whale sharks and manta’s.
  • Taking underwater pictures of the personal “fingerprints” of whale sharks.
  • Uploading these identification pictures to www.ecocean.org and recording re-sightings.
  • Contribute to the analyses of this scientific data in close collaboration with MMF scientists.


Humpback whales (June to September):
Humpback whales make annual journeys from Antarctica to as far north as Tanzania to mate and calve. In winter time hundreds of humpback whales are sighted in the waters in and around Tofo.
Without the presence of predators they seem extremely playful and you can watch them play and breaching from the shoreline and the volunteer house.

  • Beach and boat based monitoring of the number of humpback whales during their seasonal migration.
  • Recording of identification and entering in the humpback whale database.

We do not usually dive or snorkel in the presence of Humpback whales as usually when they are in our area they do have a calf with them and can become aggressive if they feel threatened in any way, we will always observe from a close but safe distance.


Turtles (November- February):
All marine turtle species represented in Mozambique are globally endangered. Loggerhead, leatherback and hawksbill turtles are sighted in the water, however nesting grounds in and around the beaches of Tofo have declined rapidly due to poaching. There is little contemporary information on the local turtle ecology and the extent of illegal poaching in this region in unknown. You may contribute to mapping of demographic data by:

  • Monitor landing of turtles.
  • Taking GPS data on nesting sites to gather information on poaching.
  • Monitor nesting success.
  • Photo ID-ing turtles and emailing them to moz.turtles@gmail.com


Coral Reef Health/Estuary Work:
Coral reefs have been under pressure by fishing activities and global warming. As coral reefs are the nurseries of the oceans they host many species of corals and fish and represent a productive marine ecosystem. Coral reef and Estuary monitoring involves data collection on indicator species of coral fish and the cover of coral on the reefs. You may assist through:

  • Recording indicator species by making reef transects.
  • Timed counts of numbers of the numbers of each indicator species.
  • Snorkelling and looking for different species and filling in identification logs.


Other Marine Life:
In addition to collecting data on the above you will also gathering valuable information on other threatened species of megafauna in the region to support our other programs ranging from dugongs, bowmouth guitar shark and the small eyed stingray, the largest marine stingray in the world.

type Type of project: Underwater Africa – Marine Research and Conservation
max-and-min-time Minimum duration: 2 Weeks
max-and-min-time Maximum duration: 24 Weeks
location Location: Praia do Tofo, Mozambique. Tofo is a vibrant little fishing village just 30 km from the town of Inhambane in Southern Mozambique.

Fish Hoek, Cape Town, South Africa

airport Airport: MOZAMBIQUE: Your final destination airport is Inhambane, Mozambique. The best option to get to Inhambane is via Johannesburg, South Africa, which is the main airline hub in Southern Africa. There is a daily flight between Johannesburg and Inhambane
supplied by LAM airlines, www.lam.co.mz Inhambane airport is a tiny little airport and is 22km from Tofo Beach. On your arrival at Inhambane we will collect you and take you to Tofo, don’t worry you can’t get lost at this airport, it is probably
one of the smallest airports in the world, we will find you.CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: You will arrive and depart from Cape Town International Airport – connecting flights through Johnnesburg. Gap Year SA will arrange arrival and departure airport transfers.
airport Visas: MOZAMBIQUE: Firstly, all visitors must keep in mind that their passports must be valid for at least six months prior to leaving Mozambique. We do strongly advise you to obtain your visa at the nearest embassy within your country. Please check
the website http://mz.embassyinformation.com/ to find any Mozambique embassy or consulate in any country in the world.CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA: If you are staying for less than three months you will receive a Visa upon Arrival. If you are staying in SA for over three months then we will help you to arrange and in-country visa extension. Please let us know if you require more info on this.
age-requirements Age requirements: 18+
included Included: 3 meals/day will be provided. Accommodation with Wifi. Transport to and from airport. Open Water Divers – If you have any Dive Qualifications please request our specialised prices. Surf Lessons and Project facilitation. Gap Year Excursions
excluded Excluded: Flights, Travel insurance, spending money, any exploration activities and travel that we do not provide
laundry Laundry: A washer and tumble-dryer are available in the volunteer house for volunteer usage.
accomadation Accommodation: MOZAMBIQUE: You will be based in the Volunteer Research House, which will have same-sex rooms with two beds per room, here you will enjoy breath taking views of Tofo bay, as well as easy access on foot to both the Foundation offices and the beach.
Your Project Coordinator resides on the property next to the Volunteer Research House and will be on call 24 hours a day. Should the Project Coordinator leave the property for any reason, the Lodge General Manager will be the responsible person
on duty. The General Manager’s accommodation is situated 50m directly behind the Volunteer Research House. The lodge is open from 7am until 11pm. The lodge has 24-hour security on site, with a further two management staff members who are always
happy to assist.CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA: Volunteers will live in Fish Hoek, a quaint beach suburb in the South of Cape Town, nestled in between mountains and on the vibrant shores of the Famous False Bay. The Gap House is a short 10minute car journey from your
project, a stone’s throw away from the beach and central in terms of emergency facilities. The house is safe and secure and Fish Hoek is one of the safest suburbs in South Africa due to it being a dry town. This house has 3 bedrooms with 4-6 beds in each room, with a private bathroom. There is a communal kitchen, an entertainment area with TV, an outdoor area with a pool, front garden with an interactive food garden which we eat from, and braai area where volunteers can chill and hang out. We all play our individual roles at keeping the house a clean and a comfortable environment.
schedule Schedule: MOZAMBIQUE:

7.00 – Breakfast at the volunteer house.

7.30 – Meet at the dive shop and kit up for diving with the volunteer coordinator and some of the MMF researchers. (if not diving then you will undertake other volunteer work during this time with MMF researchers.)

10.30 – Walk back to the volunteer house and office for a wrap up and enter the collected data in the databases.

12.30 – Lunch.

13.30 – Depending on the time of the year execute whale watching activities from the shore or prepare for other work for the night/next day.

15.30 – End of your working day and go out for a surf, swim or relax. A lot of work is conducted on a see and ask basis, one will often see something new or out of the ordinary and then one can interact with the MMF scientists to find out more
about the event or animal that you have seen; who knows it might even be a first for marine science.

menu Menu: MOZAMBIQUE: The lodge will provide scrumptious fresh volunteer meals each day, you will eat in the lodge restaurant, sometimes we may decide to have a barbecue, then this will be done either at the volunteer house or at one of the outdoor areas
in the lodge. All food is cooked fresh each day, should you have any specific dietary requirements; please let us know before you arrive so that we can make sure that we can accommodate your requirements. Tofo is quite remote and 500km from
the nearest large city, so a lot of our food supplies have to be imported, due to this we do tend to eat a lot more local seafood produce, however if you do not eat seafood, please let us know so that we can arrange other options for you.CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: . We have a house manager who does the cooking, we keep to specific dietary requirements however we implement healthy and nutritious meals 3x a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner provided for between Mondays and Fridays.
outings Outings: Tofo hosts a couple of dive schools, several lodges and guest houses and a number of bars and restaurants. The main objective for many tourists to come to Tofo is to enjoy the unique underwater World, encounter the large populations of whale sharks
and manta rays, swim with dolphins, catch some waves, relax on the gorgeous beach with its azure blue waters and interact with the lively Mozambicans on the market. Other activities in and around town are horse riding, Kite-Surfing or yoga classes.Cape Town is easily and often rated one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s a highly divers environment culturally – you will instantly feel the pace slow down as you adjust to the laid back Cape Townian Lifestyle. Our unique landscape sports plenty of outdoor adventures, which is why GYSA builds in Gap Year Excursions into your program. To read more about the amazing places we will visit, go to the Adventures page
required Required: To have an open mind and a heart for humanity as well as a respectful attitude towards the Culture.

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