Wild Dolphin Research Mozambique

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Mozambique: Maputo


Volunteer and Internship programs available in Ponta do Ouro - Southern Mozambique. Become a team member for a month and explore the realm of the wild dolphin together with a group of dedicated individuals who have been intrigued by the resident bottle-nose dolphins since 1994!

Volunteer programs are based on a 2-4 week stay and are designed for those that would like to gain more knowledge and field experience in the marine environment - with a focus on wild dolphins. The program is an extended stay with the dolphins, whales and turtles (depending on your chosen period) and incorporates ethical marine mammal tourism protocols as standard practice. Volunteers and interns are accommodated at the Oceans Retreat House in Ponta do Ouro with the rest of the crew. Program takes a maximum of 2 participants sharing.

Volunteers primary focus is working together with encountour participants and dolphins! Your time will be spent working on board Avalon, ensuring all participants get the best possible experience while in our hands. Volunteers help out with educational briefings, fielding questions, preparing and assisting participants in the water and working closely with our focal species. Avalon launches 1 - 5 times a day depending on season and volunteers will have the opportunity of collecting data, taking fin identification pictures, entering data and working with the reconstruction of cetaceans that have been collected through the Dcas Stranding Network. Volunteers may be called upon to assist inter/s in their specific field of research.

Interns three months internships are offered year round. Formal research projects are required to be approved by the Director of Conservation areas in Mozambique as the area falls into a Partial Marine Protected Area. Applicants will have to submit a detailed research project proposal that must be non-invasive and of benefit to conservation. Interns will be responsible for participating in the on-going research at the base station as well as be co-mentor to volunteers. Over and above their specific research aims interns will assist with the daily site running that will include and are not limited to overseeing dolphin encounter sessions and equipment maintenance. Interns pay 50% of the volunteer fee per month.

As tourism is quite seasonal, there are times where you can experience much down time. During peak periods though, we are in full swing and you can expect to work long, hot hours with extensive visitor & dolphin interaction. Participants will share the daily routine, with each person designated a specific job per time period. Volunteers may also be asked to assist with animal stranding, turtle monitoring, & guest educational sessions. The program caters towards individuals wanting an experience, tourism experience, or simply a career break. Anyone aged 18 and older is welcome. The rest week of the program will be spent working closely with team members in training & learning set protocols, in order to maintain the integrity of the project.

Regular screenings/talks are scheduled & volunteers are requested to get involved. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about dolphins & the marine environment in general. Swim ethics & behaviour presentations cover dolphins from a wild perspective.

Peak times include weekends, which are Thursdays to Sundays. Peak seasons generally coincide with school holidays & are March to April, September, & December to January. Low season ensures plenty of time for surfing, kite surfing, or just plain old relaxing!

Boat & Land based marine mammal monitoring
Information and data are collected for every cetacean and whale shark sighting. The information is in regards to abundance, location, behaviour, identification, associations, weather and conditions. In the winter months, we see migrating whales & in summer months, an increase in whale shark sightings. Land-based observations are conducted to gather information about the dolphins' travel patterns (when we cannot view them at sea). Information collected includes direction of travel, area observed, behaviour, group size, etc.

Photographic fin Identification
Our dolphins have been photographically documented since 1996, resulting in a catalogue of some 200 individuals in our 40 km area. The project allows researchers to determine abundance, movement, behaviours, & social structures of this population. Photos are taken while at sea, then moving them into the image bank where they are clipped, saved, matched to the id catalogue, & then led accordingly. This process is a long & laborious task, requiring time & even more patience.

Whale shark monitoring
When possible, the individual is sexed, & scars/unusual markings, & left & right side pigmentation patterns are photographed. Data & photographs are recorded & sent to an international data base that has been developed by ECOCEAN.

Turtle monitoring
This program runs between November & March and involves monitoring nesting females & hatching sites. Local monitors & volunteers ensure the collection of data & tagging of nesting females. Working together with WWF Mozambique & the Turtle Working Group Mozambique, species monitored include Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles.

Data entry
All data obtained in the eld needs to be entered into a central data base. This is a standard Excel workbook.

Beach Clean-Ups
Regular clean-ups are conducted. All debris is collected, recorded and counted. During 2009 the project collected: 341 bags with a total weight of 1749kgs. Total number of items collected: 12509, total hours spent in collection & tallying up: 17 and 1D2 hours

Stranding Network
One of Dca's tasks is to handle any stranded animals that come ashore. Once a report is received, dca crew contacts the relevant authorities and goes to site. Here the animal is measured and all the relevant data is collected. Depending on size the animal is then removed to a site for further specimen sampling and de-boning. The animal is then buried for a set period of time and later excavated for reconstruction. In the past we have worked with striped dolphins, humpback whales, true beaked whale, whale sharks, pygmy sperm whale, spotted dolphin, melon headed whale, spotted dolphin and turtles. Many of our specimens were unfortunately lost during the fire - however we still have a number in the ground that now need to be excavated.

In-water monitoring
In-water monitoring is undertaken on all launches. Once volunteers have some experience they will be asked to fulfill specific tasks while in the water with the dolphins ie:- mother/calf counts.

Adoption Program
Dca has an adoption program whereby the project can adopt one of our Dolfriends. Updated records and images are sent to adoptees as well as regular newsletters.


Dolphin encounters that create awareness. Opportunistic sightings of whale sharks, turtles and humpback whales.

Program Duration

2-4 Week, 9-12 Week


4 weeks

Travel Types

  • Environmental Studies
  • Snorkeling
  • Volunteering
  • Eco Tours
  • Ecology
  • Student Tours


* Fluent in English - Portuguese a bonus
* Computer literate
* Good people skill
* Willingness to work as a team
* Not scared to work
* Good physical health

Minimum Education

High School


  • English
  • Portuguese

Cost in US$:

USD 2,320

Cost Includes:

  • Excursions
  • Food
  • Housing
  • In-country orientation/Training
  • In-country staff support
  • Written materials abroad

Program Fees Include:

What is included:
- Accommodation in the village on-site with the dolphin crew
- Basic meals (three per day)(self help)(food stuffs provided)
- DolphinCare~Africa Gift Pack (2 t-shirts to be worn on duty, Dca
- Volunteer certificate of attendance, Dvd with pictures and dolphin diaries of during your stay; dvd with information on our dolphins, research projects and interesting reference papers.
- Tour of Ponta do Ouro
- Participation in a three launch dolphin encountour
- Training for specific tasks
- Field trips ~ 3 per week weather dependent
- Invaluable experience working at sea (behavioural observations, data collection, photographic identification) etc..
- Research contribution to DolphinCare-Africa
- Mentoring by DolphinCareAfrica crew

Duties include but are not limited to:
- Educational briefings and turtle walks
- Boat based data capture (photographic, behavioral, etc.)
- Land based data (land based observations ~ 3per week, data entry, fin identification, etc)
- Preparation of educational/information boards
- Marine animal stranding help
- Bone/skeleton preparation, cataloguing & reconstruction

What you are responsible for & additional costs:
- Airfare & travel costs to/from Ponta do Ouro. Transfers from further location such as Maputo, Mozambique & Richards Bay, South Africa can be arranged on request (price dependent).
- One month visa
- Soft drinks, alcohol, dining out, spending money etc
- Any recreational activities you decide to take part in (kiting, surfing, scuba diving, bush excursions, etc.)
- Medical and travel insurance
- Additional activities (open-water dive course ~ USD550)

Experience Required


Volunteer Types

  • Consciousness-raising
  • Conservation
  • Eco-tourism
  • Environment
  • Marine Conservation
  • Research
  • Tourism
  • Wildlife Surveying

Typical Volunteer

A DAY IN THE LIFE 5:15 - 6:00 (Field Trip)Participation preparation - sign in, safety and ecology briefing, gear allocation and field trip. 6:00 - 7:15 Data entry, special projects, land based observations 7:15 - 8:00 (Field Trip)Participation preparation - sign in, safety and ecology briefing, gear allocation and field trip. 8:00 - 9:15 Data entry, special projects, land based observations 9:15 - 10:00 (Field Trip)Participation preparation - sign in, safety and ecology briefing, gear allocation and field trip. 10:00 - 11:15 Data entry, special projects, land based observations 11:15-12:00 (Field Trip)Participation preparation - sign in, safety and ecology briefing, gear allocation and field trip. 12:00 - 13:15 Data entry, special projects, land based observations 13:15-14:00 (Field Trip)Participation preparation - sign in, safety and ecology briefing, gear allocation and field trip. 14:00 - 16:00 Data entry, special projects, land based observations 14:15 - 17:00 Mondays & Thursdays - Behavior & Species Introduction & Snorkeling for Encountour Participants 20:00 - 12:00 Turtle monitoring with local monitors You may be asked to prepare and present information to both the community and other resorts in the area.

Age Range

21 onwards

This Program is open to

Worldwide Participants. This Program is also open to Families, Couples and Individuals.

Typical Living Arrangements

  • Other

Participants Travel


Typically Participants Work

Independently or in Groups of upto 6

Application Process Involves

  • Resume
  • Written Application

Typically The Application Process Time is

24 hours