Kelly McIntosh - 2014 Program Participant

Snorkelling during an ocean safari trip.

Snorkelling during an ocean safari trip - this particular pod of dolphins was made up of young adult members of the pod and they provided us with an unexpected 20 minute interaction.

What attracted you to volunteer abroad?

I had never been to Africa, and I wanted to start travelling more independently and after reading the information available I was just drawn in.

Why did you choose Kaya?

After reading up on a few project providers and individual projects which were available I decided to apply to volunteer with Kaya as the website was really helpful and easy to navigate, and there was the opportunity to speak to both Kaya members of staff and also previous volunteers. Additionally, prior to signing up I had several discussions with several  members of the team who were able to answer all the queries I had about what the trip included and what to expect from the trip.

What was your favorite part about your placement location?

This project is located in a small beach based village in Mozambique and the volunteer house is situated 100 meters off the beach. The project allows you to become immersed in the local village culture and way of living; beautiful place with beautiful people.

What makes Kaya’s project unique?

During this project you not only have the opportunity to be part of a larger research/ conservation group but you are responsible for helping to collect data and photographs, which are used in long term monitoring of marine megafauna species, like humpback whales, manta rays, and whale sharks. In addition to this, because the volunteer house also accommodates volunteers from the social project, there is always an option to help out at local schools and kindergartens.

Scuba diving in one of the local reefs, called "Giant's Castle"

Scuba diving in one of the local reefs, called "Giant's Castle" - these yellow snappers are a common site on the local dives and it is not uncommon for the shoal to surround and almost engulf divers, like they have begun to do in this picture. 

How did Kaya staff support you throughout your program?

Kaya have a dedicated and highly experineced team of staff who frequently kept in touch to see how I was progressing with the preparations for my trip. Their knowledgeable staff were able to provide support and advice on flights, insurance, and also visa applications. In addition, while I was away on the trip I received a "checking in" email from Kaya to check that I had arrived safely and I was settling in ok. Fantastic support.

If you could go back in time, what would you change about your experience?

Stayed longer

What was a typical day like for you as a volunteer in Mozambique?

Monday thru Friday involved an early get up, you were at the dive center between 6:15 a.m. and 7 a.m. It was your responsibility to get there in time so that you had time to prepare your kit before the dive briefing. On the dives you would either have a slate to carry out fish speciation surveys and/or an underwater camera which would be used to take photographs of the marine megafauna for identification and monitoring purposes. After the dive you would return back to shore and transfer any information you had gathered on to the appropriate paperwork.

Then you usually had a break of between 45 minutes and an hour and a half to get yourself something to eat, before returning to the dive center for the ocean safari or a second dive in the afternoon. Again you have to take a camera with you as well as a data slate so that you can monitor and record the species that you encountered on the trip. Once back on shore the hours before dinner were set aside for inputting all the day’s data into the computer. 

Saturday and Sunday: on these days you were your own and you could book yourself in for additional dives, go for a walk, go the local market, or even hire out a board and hit some surf.

View from the top of the sand dune located one and half kilometers from the village of Tofo, where the volunteer house is located.

View from the top of the sand dune located one and half kilometers from the village of Tofo, where the volunteer house is located. From the top of this dune it is possible to carry out the monitoring of humpback whales during their winter migration. 

What did you enjoy doing on your free time?

One of the local cafes organised dance classes in traditional Mozambican dance which took place on Monday and Wednesday evening. The music was provided by a single local gentleman who played the hand drum.

What was your accommodation like?

The accommodation was great, the house is located 100 meters from the beach and is split into four dorms. All three meals were provided by the local resturant situated across from the house and the food is excellent! There is also a kitchen space with a large common area in the house for preparing independant meals if this was what you preferred.  The accommodation could be seen as basic if you are used to going to hotels, but I personally couldn’t find fault. There was electricity, gas to cook with, and fresh running water. The best feature of the house is that it is located within Tofo village itself and is literally a two minute walk from the ocean and a five minute walk from the local market.

After returning home, how have you noticed volunteering abroad has impacted your life?

Now that I am home I have a different perception of what is truly important in life: doing what you love to do! I have found myself to be much more relaxed about life and also it has confirmed the direction I want to persure regarding my job.