Marine conservation volunteers make visits every 2 weeks during their stay to the enormous estuary just to the north of Tofo. This wide expanse of water has to visited at low tide to enable good visibility of a small area of reef known as “the wall” where scientific data is taken for analysis and cataloging.
Years of overfishing have degraded the ecosystem limiting the biodiversity and standing stock in the estuary. Seahorses have particularly been targeted for both the aquarium trade and Chinese medicine.
This study aims to monitor the diversity and abundance of species residing in the estuary and its continuing decline.
Access is not easy! You are dropped off on the road, and walk downhill across farm land and on arriving at the estuary, have to wade through the water across the mud flats which are exposed at low tide. Wet suit shoes/boots are essential as the bottom of the estuary can be covered with very sharp broken shells which could potentially cut your feet.
One or two fishing boats are fishing and expect to see ladies standing knee high in the water pulling in nets hoping for a good catch. This is very worrying as the estuary is a breeding and nursery ground for many fish and the ones removed will be juveniles which will have an impact on future generations.
You should see greater flamingos, reed cormorants, swift terns, black capped bulbuls, little egrets, hamercops, grey herons, sacred ibis and other birds of interest.
Eventually, on the far side of the mud flat, we waded through the water and met our boat, a traditional local fishing boat run by Carlos and his 18 year old son Salvador. They took us over to a sandy island where we swam in the warm waters and practiced with our snorkels. We searched the sea grass for the illusive sea horses but weren’t lucky enough to see any.
Then came the main scientific aspect of the trip. Arriving at an area known as “the wall”, we took turns to snorkel and film underwater, all following the same “belt track” along the wall, at timed intervals, so we could collect data on which fish and other sea creatures we could observe.
Two people also used a quadrat to monitor a certain area of the estuary floor. This data would be analyzed back at The Lodge, and entered in the data base which helps build up numbers and varieties of fish and other sea creatures, changes in the estuary, habitats, etc. This information will be shared in reports to relevant local and national Government Departments and other interested parties. We also looked again for sea horses but were not lucky to find any. The project is partnered with iSeahorse, an organization that uses citizen science to track seahorse populations around the world.
It was a great day out, even without the science (although that was the best bit), and the natural un-spoilt beauty of the estuary will stay with me for ever!
This placement requires a reasonable level of fitness as volunteers are required to be able to climb into boats on their own without ladders (assistance is given but not suitable for everyone) and also good swimming skills needed as currents can be strong.
For more information about volunteering in marine conservation in Mozambique, visit our website www.volunteervacations.co.uk, drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a ring on 07833 208 158 or 01483 203405 (eves).