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Wednesday
May312017

Tanzania Is About More Than Just  Diving

I came to Mafia for a short 2 weeks, with the aim of learning more about what I see when diving and what impacts what I am seeing underwater. I was welcomed warmly into camp from day 1 and by day 2 felt I had been here for months.

I spent the first couples of days settling in, learning how camp works and exploring the village. We had a lot of chilled time until our dives later in the week which we spent relaxing on the beach, snorkeling or having lectures by our staff member, Demi. The lectures are easy to follow when presented by such a passionate teacher, no matter how many Latin names are thrown at you! In my short stay I’ve learnt a wide range of topics and skills, from seagrass species and surveys, to whale shark populations and threats. Demi has talked us through a lot of the dangers of over fishing, most of which I had never realized before. For example I had no idea the blue fin tuna that is found with ease in bulk anywhere, is actually endangered due to massive fishing ships not adhering to policies and fishing limits. This not only means we could run out of this beautiful fish but also local fishermen do not stand a chance and are struggling to feed their families.

One skill I have greatly enjoyed trying out, one that never crossed my mind before, was free diving. I first tried it when we went for a fun snorkel, however I was trying out my new wetsuit at the same time so it was very difficult for me to not keep floating to the surface. Later when we did seagrass and mangrove surveys I gave it another shot, after some tips from the others I managed but it’ll take a lot more practice before I can stay under for long.

Another volunteer, who has been here for 2 months already, has talked us through fish identification whenever we got the chance. It’s been very rewarding to study different fish species and the subtleties between them and then correctly identify them on a dive. Now when I go on future dives I will be able to tell people what I have seen instead of saying; ‘the cute blue one!’

I have done 4 shore dives and 4 boat dives whilst here and I have seen so many new things! The coolest of which were a cuttlefish which surprised us at the end of my first dive and two seahorses I managed to spot during my last dive here. Whilst we have seen many different species my other favorites were a wonderfully camouflaged scorpion fish, two massive eels and juvenile box fishes.

We have also had a rather eventful dive when my buddy stopped as she couldn’t clear her mask, I stayed with her but the others were in front and disappeared. I tried to keep her calm as I could see she was panicking and followed procedure by looking around for the others for 1 minute. We were just starting to ascend slowly since no one had appeared when Demi came out of the blue to rescue us. We were only separated for a minute or two but in that time I was greatly aware of the dangers of diving and the importance of the safety procedures we get told over and over again!

As well as going on some of my best dives here, I have met and made friends with a group of extraordinary people. I only came for 2 weeks partly due to money but also as I was nervous about joining a project when I had never done anything like this before. Now I wish I was staying for months. I’m leaving tomorrow and I am incredibly sad to be going. We have had some amazing moments together such as dancing on the beach at sunset and chilling at camp under the stars.

By Laura Smith - Tanzania Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Tanzania.

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