Isn’t it amazing how easily we fall back into our old routines! I’ve been back from Mozambique a week and it honestly feels like I never even went. I’m looking at my pictures and thinking is that actually me there, doing that? The time flew and with only four weeks til Intro Week I’m trying to gear myself up for new student inductions and working through training materials for our new ‘resource discovery layer’… where have all the Whale Sharks gone? Why am I not on the beach, picking up plastic and watching the Humpbacks breach?
Tofo is a place I guess you instantly fall in love with. It’s sprawling coastline, it’s soft sands, it’s laid back attitude, it’s warm waters. It’s like paradise, or as close to paradise as I can imagine, even in winter. I challenge you to sit on the sand dunes, look out to sea and not feel at peace with the world. It’s a place where life really could be a beach!
However, my reason for enduring the terrifying 30 seater mini-plane ride from Johannesburg to Inhambane wasn’t to lounge around the sands, it was to go find some Whale Sharks and have a poke around the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Megafauna. For the last couple of years I’ve been considering various options to go see what’s out there – as a solo holiday maker, as part of an organised dive trip or as a member of a group tour of South Africa more generally. Finally I stumbled upon the All Out Africa route and managed to tick all the requirement boxes… and then some!
By volunteering with All Out Africa I got to use my time in the sun contributing to something way more worthwhile than satisfying my need to dive with Manta Rays (although that happened too!) The Whale Shark Conservation Project gives volunteers the opportunity to participate in data collection processes through monitoring populations, recording encounters and cleaning up environments (i.e. helping out with more long-term assessments of species). They call it ‘Citizen Science’, I call it ‘Freakin’ Awesome’. Generally what this meant was heading out on ocean safaris to find Whale Sharks, capture ID shots and survey behaviours. Once spotted we’d slip into the water, wait for the shark/s to appear (which is far less scary than it sounds) and attempt to photograph their spot patterns. At the same time we needed to record their location, whether they carried any scarring and how it responded to the people around it (if at all). (more…)