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Whale Shark Research & Conservation Mafia Island

Tel 0844 4120848
Intl +44 1428 620012

Lead researcher Dr Simon Pierce

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are the biggest fishes in the sea reaching up to 18 meters in length. The opportunity to interact with these gentle giants and assist in their research is a humbling and awe inspiring experience. At the enchanting Mafia Island off the coast of Tanzania, you can join our whale shark research team which includes two of the world's leading whale shark researchers, Dr Simon Pierce (in 2017) & Dr Chris Rohner (in 2018).

Researchers have been monitoring whale sharks for several years now off the west coast of Mafia Island and sightings have been consistently good across the northern hemisphere winter. The team is often in the water with several sharks at once and we often see two or three of them as we fly into and out of the island during peak periods.

We have timed this trip to fit a peak period in whale shark sightings in November, when East Africa’s seas are also usually calm – ideal for diving and snorkelling on some of Africa’s richest coral reefs. Whilst whale shark interactions are the core of this experience, we have also incorporated a full itinerary of diving for qualified divers on reefs on the opposite coast of Mafia, within an 821 square kilometer Marine Protected Area which is afforded complete protection from fishing. This means that you can dive amongst some incredibly healthy fish life. You can find yourself eyeball to eyeball with large numbers of huge groupers and snappers, which in other coral reef locations around the world would have long been destined for the cooking pot. For those who do not dive but wish to snorkel here, we can arrange snorkelling trips if you wish.

In addition to large specimens of fish, the marine park protects an incredible diversity of fish life and marine ecosystems. In Chole and beyond, you can find further excellent hard coral areas, algal dominated reefs, extensive mangrove forests, sponge and soft coral sub-tidal beds and wide inter-tidal flats. This variety encourages more than 400 species of fish to reside here, 400 types of sponges, 200 types of algae, habitat for dugongs (Dugong dugong), Green Turtles, Hawksbills, Olive Ridleys and Giant Leatherbacks. Mafia Island is an important breeding ground for small fish and larvae, and plankton which is what encourages the interest of whale sharks.

Mafia Island itself has a beautiful coastline, combining beautiful beaches, hard coral islets with extensive areas of mangrove. You can feel very detached here from mainland Africa, amongst lovely islanders whose dhow sailing boats paint a beautiful picture against the islands varied coastline.

To experience the best of Africa's marine life and terrestrial wildlife, you can consider joining a small group safari we will be operating immediately before this trip, which will go in search of The Great Migration. The Great Migration brings more than a million grazing wildebeest, plains zebras and Thompsons gazelles into the Serengeti, where we can also hope to see leopards, cheetahs, lions, hyenas, elephants, hippos, buffalo and more in huge abundance. This safari also goes in search of tree climbing lions and monkeys of Lake Manyara; and the bountiful wildlife of the Ngorongoro Crater where black rhino are always part of what we hope to see. Click HERE for details.

Photos kindly provided by Dr Simon Pierce, Dan Holmes and Ralph Pannell


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