The aim of this project in Mozambique is to protect the marine megafauna of the region and conserve the underwater ecosystems which they inhabit. Working with residents to understand the challenges and needs of the local population, the project was able to establish nine protected areas in the Inhambane estuary. Through the contributions of over 300 volunteers that have joined the programme, the project has continued to promote conservation and marine education in Tofo. This project is available throughout the year.
Humpback Whale Programme – June to September
This projects also offers participants the opportunity to learn about marine conservation and research in one of the most spectacular underwater environments in the world. Every year, hundreds of humpback whales migrate from Antarctica to Southern Africa where they mate and give birth. Between June and September, Underwater Africa runs specialist programmes that focus on these majestic creatures. Volunteers support research carried out to better understand and protect humpback whales whilst experiencing their awe-inspiring presence in our waters.
Learn how to Scuba Dive or develop your skills by completing a world recognised PADI certification with us. You can choose to complete your Open Water, Advanced or Dive Master certifications as part of your programme. If you are already qualified, then you can join the programme regardless and assist on dives from day one.
PADI Open Water Diver
If you’re new to scuba diving, then you’ll start with a PADI Open Water Diver course. You’ll learn all the basics such as what to consider when planning dives, how to choose the right scuba gear, underwater signals and other diving procedures.
- Begin with a half day of practical theory to make sure you understand all the ins and outs of scuba diving.
- You’ll complete two confined water dives in the swimming pool at Liquid Dive Adventures to practice your skills and get used to all the equipment.
- Once you’re all set up with the basics you’ll head out into the ocean to complete four open water dives. You may complete two dives in one day.
PADI Advanced Open Water Diver
If you’ve already completed your PADI Open Water Diver, then you can move onto the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver qualification. The course helps build confidence and expand your scuba skills through different Adventure Dives. You try out different specialties whilst gaining experience under the supervision of your instructor.
- Complete five open water dives. Adventure Dive options include: Drift Diver (required), Navigation (required), Fish Identification, Underwater Naturalist, Boat Diver, Peak Performance Buoyancy and Underwater Photography.
- You will complete a short exam as part of this course
If you’re looking to take your diving to the next level then you can complete the PADI Divemaster course with us. The course teaches you to be a leader and take charge of dive activities. Through knowledge development sessions, water skills exercises and workshops, and hands-on practical assessment, you develop the skills to organise and direct a variety of scuba diving activities
When completing your qualification at Underwater Africa you will spend one month as a volunteer on our programme whilst starting your theory and some diving on weekends before spending 4 to 6 weeks at the diving centre.
As part of your qualification you will complete an Emergency First Responder course which is required and involves both theoretical and practical skills.
Freediving is the art of diving whilst holding your breath, pushing the limits of how deep beneath the surface you can adventure, and for how long. Liquid Dive Adventures offer courses from introductory sessions that allow you to see if freediving is for you to more advanced qualifications.
During the programme you will take part in the many different research activities that we carry out. Marine biology is all about adapting methods to the natural environment, so you will experience a selection of these and maybe others depending on the wildlife and conditions at the time. Our scientists and coordinators will expertly guide you through them and bring the work that they carry out to life.
Fed by two rivers, the inhambane estuary is a great place to study marine life. Controlled by the tides, it provides a shallow water habitat where we can study the health of the reef and surrounding mangroves. We take an expedition out into the estuary on a traditional dhow boat to snorkel, collecting data on the abundance of species through surveys and video transects. This gives us insight into the reef and over time this data supports work with local governments to regulate and protect the area. In 2017, Underwater Africa was able to establish nine protected areas in the estuary.
Reefs are home to incredible wealth of biodiversity and those found here in Mozambique are no exception. During research dives you will accompany the Underwater Africa team onto these incredible ecosystems to collect data. This might be through laying camera traps, conducting surveys or assessing the health of marine life.
To collect information over a prolonged period of time, camera traps are deployed on the reef to record what oceanic life comes past. Volunteers help to prepare these and set them up whilst learning exactly how they work. Once they have been collected back in, the footage is examined and analysed back at the project base.
All data that volunteers collect during dives and snorkeling trips are entered into our database so that we can keep track of your findings and evaluate what they mean over time. You will learn how we analyse and use this information to identify patterns and changes.
Long Term Monitoring of Threatened Species
Collecting data over a long period of time through the dive log allows us to understand how certain species respond to environmental changes. This means we can assess how they are likely to respond to future climatic changes and take steps towards protecting them.
In order to understand these misunderstood creatures, local scientists use tags that are picked up by underwater receivers to find out where they are and when. Spend a day out on the boat fishing for sharks as you learn how to use the rods and techniques for bringing them to the boat. You will safely observe as the tags are secured onto the body of the shark and collect data about the length and characteristics. The shark is then released back into the water where they recover quickly.
Tagging sharks is a challenging activity that requires specific conditions to be run with appropriate safety precautions, so we cannot guarantee that every volunteer will be able to take part.
We find regular opportunities to engage with local people. You might take part in a beach clean up, visit a local school to educate children about the importance of ocean conservation or attend a community event such as World Oceans Day.
Scientific Talks and Documentaries
The team has a wealth of specialist marine knowledge and researchers give regular talks about specific wildlife such as sharks or manta rays. We make these relevant to anything you’ve seen or learnt about in the week and tailor them to particular interests volunteers would like to learn more about.
Liquid Dive Adventures run regular documentary nights and we also have projectors and facilities to host screenings at the Casa Barry Lodge.
We have our own dedicated volunteer house at Casa Barry known as ‘Big House’ which will be your home away from home. With a big balcony and hammocks that overlook the bay it has a great, surf shack vibe to it. There are kitchen facilities and lounge areas to relax after a day of diving. You will be in a twin share room that’s fully equipped with mosquito nets, fans and storage. Bathrooms are shared but are fully lockable and cleaned daily by housekeeping. If you are interested in alternative lodging arrangements, for example if you will join us as a family or would prefer more privacy, then we can discuss different options at the Casa Barry lodge for you.
Casa Barry lodge, where you will be staying runs a great restaurant and you have three meals a day covered in the programme. You can order meals at anytime and they go onto a tab system. There is a mixture of healthy salads, fish and meat dishes and some local, mozambican specialities as well. If you ever feel like a change of scenery, there are some great spots in town that you can grab a bite from pizza places, an awesome sushi spot, cafes and the local market if you’re feeling more adventurous.
Vegetarians, Vegans and Special Dietary Requirements
Many of our staff and volunteers are vegetarian and vegan so you have options in Casa Barry restaurant and dishes are flexible if needed. The typical dish in town, Matapa, is also vegan in base so you’ll still be able to experience local food (just ask for the non-seafood version). Our dive partner runs their own vegetarian and vegan speciality restaurant, Happi, that is a big favourite amongst our non-carnivorous foodies.
We should be able to cater for additional dietary requirements but please let us know in advance so that we understand exactly what they are and can make sure that the kitchen is prepared for you.
There are loads of things that you can get involved with in Tofo and staff can help you to organise any additional activities that you would like to set up. There are a couple of places in town that offer regular morning and yoga classes and there’s a surf school if you’d like to learn to catch some waves. If you’re already a surfer, then you can rent a board and head into the water straight from the lodge.
There are volleyball nets right in front of the lodge and local football games take place on the same stretch of sand. When weather conditions are right, Tofo can be a great place to kite-surf and there’s a local school that can sort you out with lessons or rentals. There are quad bikes available to rent in town as well.
Nightlife in Tofo is fairly lively with live music and dancing at local venues in town. There is a regular documentary night at Liquid Dive Adventures and Friday nights are usually reserved for DJs at a spot just up the road from Casa Barry. Often, we will organise a braai (BBQ) on the beach in front of Casa Barry and bring out our custom made beer pong table.
Conveniently, the lodge where you will be staying has drinkable tap water that comes through a natural filter. It’s perfectly safe to drink, tastes pretty fresh and our staff and volunteers drink it all day, every day. We recommend bringing a refillable water bottle or two to reduce the need for single use plastic and so you can take water out with you on dives and activities. It is possible to buy bottled water at the bar and in town for around 1USD for a two litre bottle. Please note – bottled water is not included in the programme cost.
The waters around Tofo are bursting with life, with 18 reef sites that stretch over 40km of the Mozambican coastline. One of the biggest advantages about working here in Mozambique is the incredible megafauna that we are privileged to experience and study.
Over 800 of these gentle giants have been identified in our waters. As the world’s largest species of fish, they can reach up to 22m in length and swimming alongside them is a mind-blowing experience. When studying whale sharks on the programme you may learn about photo identification and how to take underwater pictures of their ‘fingerprint’ markings. Gather information on their GPS location, understand how to tell them apart based on sex, behavior and charecteristics and help to analyse the data with the researchers.
Sharks are hugely misunderstood around the world which unfortunately means that, combined with unsustainable fishing practices, they are in decline. Species commonly found around Tofo include bull, oceanic blacktip, whitetip, scalloped hammerhead, leopard and grey reef sharks. They are essential for the health of local ecosystems and fascinating creatures to learn about.
Over the last decade, over 1000 manta rays have been identified in Tofo. The giant manta ray, with a disc width of up to 7.2m, is regularly spotted on research dives in the area. Assess their behaviour and health with our team, service acoustic listening stations that monitor their presence and monitor manta reef cleaning stations where they gather.
The reef systems of Mozambique host around 25 threatened and endangered species. These range from stingrays, to sea turtles and everything else in between. We work to monitor the sightings of these animals and track how they change over time. As a volunteer you may monitor the beach for catches of any endangered species and report them to marine conservationists.
Dates & Costs
Underwater Africa Volunteer Programme EITHER PADI Open Water OR Advanced Open Water Course
|PADI Open Water OR Advanced Open Water Course|
|4 dives per week (either with PADI course or research dives)|
|2 Weeks||£2175||All research activities included on the programme|
|3 Weeks||£2625||Analysis of data collected with Underwater Africa researchers|
|4 Weeks||£3075||Specialist Presententations and Documentary Screenings|
|5 Weeks||£3525||Snorkel based research trips to Inhambane Estuary|
|6 Weeks||£3975||Return transfer to Inhambane Airport|
|7 Weeks||£4425||Shared accommodation, laundry and housekeeping|
|8 Weeks||£4875||3 meals per day from onsite restaurant|
Underwater Africa Volunteer Programme
with BOTH PADI Open Water AND Advanced Open Water Course
|PADI Open Water AND Advanced Open Water Course|
|4 dives per week (either with PADI course or research dives)|
|2 Weeks||£2345||All research activities included on the programme|
|3 Weeks||£2795||Analysis of data collected with Underwater Africa researchers|
|4 Weeks||£3245||Specialist Presententations and Documentary Screenings|
|5 Weeks||£3695||Snorkel based research trips to Inhambane Estuary|
|6 Weeks||£4145||Return transfer to Inhambane Airport|
|7 Weeks||£4595||Shared accommodation, laundry and housekeeping|
|8 Weeks||£5045||3 meals per day from onsite restaurant|
Underwater Africa Volunteer Programme ONLY (volunteer must already have a PADI qualification)
|4 Research dives per week|
|2 Weeks||£1995||All research activities included on the programme|
|3 Weeks||£2445||Analysis of data collected with Underwater Africa researchers|
|4 Weeks||£2895||Specialist Presententations and Documentary Screenings|
|5 Weeks||£3345||Snorkel based research trips to Inhambane Estuary|
|6 Weeks||£3795||Return transfer to Inhambane Airport|
|7 Weeks||£4245||Shared accommodation, laundry and housekeeping|
|8 Weeks||£4695||3 meals per day from onsite restaurant|
|Underwater Africa Volunteer Programme with PADI Divemaster Course|
(volunteer must already have PADI Advanced Open Water qualification)
|4 Weeks on the volunteer only programme|
|6 Weeks at Liquid Dive Adventures|
|Emergency First Responder Course|
Humpback Whale Programme June to September
|4 Boat based expeditions per week|
|All research activities|
|Analysis of data collected with Underwater Africa researchers|
|Specialist Presententations and Documentary Screenings|
|Snorkel based research trips to Inhambane Estuary|
|2 Weeks||£2175||Return transfer to Inhambane Airport|
|3 Weeks||£2625||Shared accommodation, laundry and housekeeping|
|4 Weeks||£3075||3 meals per day from onsite restaurant|
- 4 Scuba dives per week
- All activities and excursions involved in the project
- Analysis of data with researchers
- Snorkel based estuary trip
- Specialist presentations and documentary screenings
- Shared Accommodation
- Transfers to and from Inhambane Airport
- Three meals a day at Casa Barry Lodge
- Laundry and Housekeeping
- Underwater Africa Rash Vest
- PADI Qualification – depending on programme chosen
- Project Fee – part of the programme cost is invested directly back into the projects here at Underwater Africa. It facilitates funding for building materials, equipment and project supplies and covers operational costs such as housing, communication, and project vehicles. We also use the project fee to fund conservation efforts. We aim to be fully transparent about how funding is distributed so please let us know if you would like more detailed
- Visa Fees
- Personal Travel Insurance
- Activities and Excursions organised independently
- Personal Purchases
- Soft Drinks, Bottled Water and Alcohol
- Snacks or food outside of the included meals at Casa Barry
How to Get to Tofo
The closest airport to Tofo is Inhambane which is about a 45 minute drive from us. We will arrange a transfer for you (included in the programme cost) and be waiting to meet you on arrival. Many of our volunteers come through Johannesburg airport as this is an international hub and travel on with LAM airlines (https://www.lam.co.mz/en).
If you’re feeling more adventurous you can travel to Tofo via local buses and chapas. These are very cost effective but please be aware that they take a long time, are generally quite uncomfortable and it is unlikely that they will speak English.
It is also possible to take a bus from Johannesburg OR Tambo airport directly to Tofo via the organisation Tours2Moz. This is a private shuttle company that’s friendly and professional, air-conditioned and provides complimentary water and regular breaks. These run twice weekly, take around 15 hours and sell out in advance. Book directly with Zelma at https://tours2moz.com/.
Vaccinations and Visas
We recommend that you visit a medical professional at least four weeks before departure to ensure you have the appropriate vaccinations and healthcare advice before your arrival. Subjects you may wish to discuss are antimalarials and yellow fever if you are arriving in Mozambique from a country where the disease is prevalent as you may require proof of having been vaccinated.
Visas should be obtained from an embassy in your home country before arrival. 30 day Tourist Visas can be obtained from the airport in Inhambane when travelling from a country that does not have a Mozambican embassy.
If you will be staying for longer than 30 days and obtained your visa in your home country, you can extend your visa in a nearby town and we will help you to do this. If you need to extend but obtained your visa on arrival in Mozambique, you will need to do a run to the border. It is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa and a 6 month validity on your passport.