Staff blog: Sea turtles on Juani Island

Last week me and the marine team went on a camping trip to Juani Island where we watched new hatched green sea turtles run back into the sea. Such a special and amazing thing to experience, watching 124 young animals enter their new habitat full dangers and threats, and knowing only one in thousand will make it into an adult sea turtle.

Tanzania has five species of sea turtles of which two, the green turtle and hawksbill turtle, nest in Tanzania. The green turtle is the most common one and these are known to nest frequently on Juani Island. Once a turtle reaches sexual maternity, between 20 and 50 years old, females will migrate up to thousands of kilometres to a nesting beach on which they themselves were born. After 3 to 4 hours of hard work of laying her eggs she will move back into the sea, and it takes another 55 days before the turtles will start hatching.

In Tanzania sea turtles are under threat due to the result of human exploitation for food, oil, leather and ornaments, in the last centuries. Mortalities are also associated with incidental capture in fishing nets, the degradation of feeding habitats and marine and land-based pollution. While we were on Juani we could experience this latter threat. The beaches were covered with rubbish, and even though I was there the week before after having cleared the whole beach with my companions, the rubbish was just as bad this time. This was a good example and representation of the anthropogenic effects on marine habitats and species. Most trash is brought to the sea via rivers and 80% of this originates from landfills and other urban sources. And hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales, and other marine mammals, and more than 1 million seabirds die each year due to ocean pollution and ingestion or entanglement in rubbish. Sea turtles often mistake plastics and other garbage as food, like jellyfish, which causes blockages in their digestive system and eventually causes death. And due to the direction of the current around Juani island, all rubbish from surrounding islands, even far away, is washed on to shore here. And as these turtles do not have another place to go because they will always nest at the same beach that they are born, they are trapped within these beaches and waters filled with rubbish.

So next time you are attempting to litter or when you see rubbish on the floor, please consider what impact this might have on these special creatures, as to other marine species.

By Becca Court, Field Communications Officer.

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


Dive Officer blog: PADI Open Water Course

With the holidays in full swing, Frontier Tanzania has welcomed lots of enthusiastic new volunteers in the last few of weeks, many of which showing a keen interest in the underwater world and marine conservation, so the marine team have been kept on their toes with courses and BSPs galore! I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate RA Celina Ramsay on recently completing her PADI Rescue Diver Course and marine ARO Jennifer Freer will imminently complete her PADI Divemaster course with only one Search and Recovery dive to go, a great achievement and the first step on to the PADI professional ladder! Last week saw 5 RAs complete their Open Water Diver course and we all enjoyed every second of it with fun and laughs had by all! As a diving instructor I find great enjoyment and satisfaction in teaching and sharing my experience with others, watching students take their first breaths underwater and seeing their diving skills develop is something very special.

The PADI Open Water Diver course is the world’s most popular and widely recognized scuba course. If you have always wanted to try scuba diving, experience unparalleled adventure and see the underwater world, this is where it starts! With so many volunteers currently undertaking the Open Water Diver course during their time with Frontier Tanzania, I wanted to share a brief overview of the course.

The course is split into three sections; Knowledge development to understand basic principles of scuba diving, Confined Water Dives to learn and practice basic scuba skills at shallow depths and Open Water Dives to use the skills learnt in the confined sessions and explore! The course also includes some water skills such as swimming and floating, we also practice skin diving techniques.  

Breathing underwater for the first time is something you’ll never forget (trust me), so don’t wait! But be warned though, once you start you will never want to stop!

By Louise Howell, Dive Officer

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


ARO Blog: Eddie Sacre

Is time spent volunteering time well spent? A response to the recent criticisms of voluntourism

Lately the industry of voluntourism - where youngsters (for the most part) spend their holidays volunteering in foreign countries instead of working or snoozing or drinking - has been under attack as a non-useful exercise or even a detrimental one. In an article titled “The problem with little white girls (and boys)” one writer says that young, unskilled white people cannot help by simply donating their time, they should just give their money, because if you don’t know how to build an orphanage, then you can’t build an orphanage, and the locals will just have to fix your mess. Let me first dismiss this argument with some science. A study by Darwall & Dulvy (1996) showed that volunteers for a marine conservation program in Tanzania were able to identify fish to the same degree of accuracy as an expert after 11 dives, which may take only one or two weeks. Yes, guidance by an expert is essential, but people can be trained in the skills required for specific tasks very quickly. An extra pair of hands, whether skilled or unskilled, is always helpful. If you want to help, you will.

So if people can be trained so quickly why not just train locals to do the work and pay them? Well, most volunteers also pay to be on their projects, so not only are they giving their time, they’re giving their money as well. Ideally, volunteers and locals should be working together, with volunteers helping to pay the wages of the locals and also lending a hand themselves. But why not just stay at home, working for a full-time wage in a rich country, periodically sending funds to the project, employing more and more locals? Because voluntourism is about learning. Learning where your money goes, why some projects work and others don’t, learning who you’re helping and why you’re helping and if you’re helping. If you don’t like the charity you’re working for, find another one, and if you don’t like that one start your own. Voluntourism may not always be a big positive but it is never a negative so long as you’re learning from it.

Before you go, try to find out as much as possible about who you’re going with. There are lots of websites dedicated to assessing the transparency of non-profits (,,, Or even skip the middle man. Decide what you want to do and contact local charities. But in the end, you’ll only achieve what you want to achieve. If you want to have a good time, then you probably will, and if you really want to help somebody, you probably will. We’re not restricted by who we work for, only by what we work for.

By Eddie Sacre, Forest Assistant Research Officer

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


Volunteer Blog: Carmen James

As Part of our marine project here, each of us choose an animal of interest, we then give a short presentation to the rest of the group about. As I will be carrying out my dissertation at University next year on Cuttlefish I thought it would be a great opportunity to further my research and get a little more to grips with them. This is also a relevant topic as it is possible to spot cuttlefish whilst out on a dive here in Tanzania.  

Image couresy of William Warby


  • They are marine animals of the order Sepiida which belong to the class Cephalopda along with squid, octopuses and nautiluses.  
  • The word ‘cuttle’, refers to their unique internal shell the cuttle bone and though their name may be deceiving they are not fish but molluscs.  
  • The cuttle bone is porous and made of aragonite providing the species with buoyancy, regulating it by changing the gas-to-liquid ratio within the chambered bone. 
  • They are masters of camouflage and are often referred to as the chameleon of the sea, as regardless of their colour-blindness, cuttlefish have evolved the ability to rapidly change the colour of their skin to match their surroundings and create patterns which are chromatically complex. This enables them to warn off potential predators as well as become inconspicuous to them. 

By marine volunteer - Carmen James

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


Volunteer blog: Lucy Mahon

Recently the Tanzania teaching project has placed more focus on educating adults in the community. The other volunteers and I teach three ‘village’ classes per week which are open to adults in Utende as well as daily lodge lessons. This aims to facilitate individuals who have had a limited education and to increase their employability. However, we are currently facing the challenge of how to widen the demographic attracted by those classes.

In view of the growing tourism industry on Mafia Island, proficiency in the English Language is becoming more and more essential to securing jobs. Frontier therefore is increasing the number of village classes, in order to ensure the community is receiving the help it needs. However, the difficulty remains in guaranteeing that all members of the community are benefiting from them as currently the majority of our regular students have been young men. Although we are pleased with the popularity of the programme, we want to drive to attract more women and people of all ages as we feel that we must make an effort to support equal opportunities where possible.

Primarily we aim to resolve this problem through better advertising; flier-ing, communicating our plans with the village elders and putting up posters in order to raise awareness of Frontier’s work. Secondly, we intend to try and establish another lesson during the day in order to aid women who may face problems with childcare or whose work schedules are incompatible with the timings of the village lessons as many women run street food stalls to late afternoon is spent preparing these and their evenings spent tending their stalls.

Finally, we are interested in collaborating with a local charity which runs microfinance workshops on Mafia to reinforce the advantages of learning English in a growing tourist economy. Only time will tell whether these changes are effective in drawing diversity to the adult classes Frontier offers, but there is no doubt that this effort is a step towards developing Frontier’s teaching project for the future.

By Lucy Mahon, Teaching volunteer

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


ARO Blog: 4 benefits of a marine reserve

We are lucky enough to work within the largest marine reserve in Tanzania – The Mafia Island Marine Park. Such marine protected areas (MPA’s) have increased in popularity as a tool to preserve fragile coral reef ecosystems that are declining worldwide. The main culprit: us.  As our numbers continue to rise we put pressure on marine resources. When demand exceeds supply, over exploitation and degradation soon follow. Over 500 million people live within 100km of a coral reef with tens of millions relying on reef ecosystems for protein and other services. So how do Marine Protected Areas work without conflicting with the needs of local residents, stakeholders and fishermen? Here are a few reasons;

  1. It increases the number of fish

Not surprisingly, reduced fishing and other activities allow the marine life to flourish. Targeted species benefit greatly by having a mortality rate 2-5x less than in adjacent fished areas. There is also evidence for increased density, biomass and size of fish within reserves. With fish living longer and growing larger, the number of larvae they produce also increases. In all, this means there are more fish.  More fish = a healthier and more resilient stock.

  1. The spillover effect

Many studies have now shown that when reserves are created, commercial fish increase both within and outside MPA boundaries. This is because there is a net export of fish outside the reserve boundaries as abundance within the reserve increases. This is known as the spillover effect. Eggs and larvae are also exported outside MPA boundaries, known as the recruitment effect, further enhancing and maintaining fish stocks.

This phenomenon is hugely important to MPA success; increased catch in non-reserve areas offsets the loss of fishing ground caused by the MPA.  One study in 2006 found that catch increased by 10% in fishing grounds adjacent to the reserve. As such, fishermen benefit from the reserve and are more likely to comply with regulations.

  1. It generates tourism

The status of a marine park can draw in tourists from around the globe as they come to see its aesthetic beauty. This is important for two reasons. First, it provides additional income for local communities through increasing employment and business opportunities. Secondly, it releases some the pressure on resource extraction as people seek alternative livelihoods to fishing and harvesting. However tourism itself can become a source of destruction through increased development, pollution and direct contact with coral. Regulations and infrastructure must be in place to ensure tourism remains viable and sustainable.

  1. Environmental services are maintained

Some benefits to marine reserves cannot be given a monetary value. Coral reefs and associated habitats such as mangroves provide valuable ecosystem services we take for granted.  For example, the ocean dissolves a lot of our carbon emissions which corals then lock up in their calcium carbonate skeleton. Gas exchange, sand production, coastal protection…the list goes on. By limiting human activities, MPA’s ensure these services continue to provide us with healthy and productive surroundings in which to live.

By Jen Freer, Marine Assistant Research Officer (ARO)

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