Tuesday
Mar182014

Memorable highlights

The Frontier Tanzania camp is located within Chole Bay with a view of three other smaller islands. Chole Island, from which the bay gets its name, is the smallest of the three and was originally the capital of the Mafia archipelago. Jibondo, the second largest island is home to a beautiful village and fishing community. Finally, Juani, the largest of the three provides the bay with shelter from the full power of the Indian Ocean and is the site of the majority of turtle nesting in the area.

There are five species of turtle which are present in the region, two of which nest here. Those being the green and hawksbill turtles.

Occasionally Frontier arrange for trips to Juani. Either for a day to see baby turtles hatching, or a night to potentially tag adults after they’ve lain. Even If you don’t get to see and tag turtles overnight it’s still worth going just for the experience. The beautiful and remote beach can be a welcome break from camp. There is also vast joy in camping with an open fire, cooking freshly caught fish and roasting marshmallows under the stars with some great company.

Whether or not you go just for the day or the night, the most rewarding part is the beach clean. Bordering the Indian Ocean it is sadly inevitable that some rubbish (locally known as “taka taka”) will be washed ashore. This is a problem for all beach life in general but in particular for the sea turtles that lay eggs and hatch here. The waste can spook females intending to make nests, choke individuals if accidently consumed and provide an additional obstacle for hatchlings on their already challenging and dangerous journey down the beach and into the sea.

No matter what your reasons for coming on this project this will definitely be one of your most memorable highlights.

By Matthew Tanton, Terrestrial volunteer

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

Wednesday
Mar122014

DAVID LANKES: VOLUNTEER BLOG

I like to think of Mafia Island as a place of two extremes. On the positive side, rarely have I come across a more beautiful setting; green and spacious above the water, vibrant and full of life below, which made it a very special place to learn diving. Learning to dive here will undoubtedly be one of my most memorable experiences, ever.

I arrived in early February and the sun was blazing into the sea on a daily basis as I was receiving my open water course. I will never forget the awesomeness of having crystal clear visibility, being surrounded by color and infinite species of fish orbiting me during the descents.
Recently, it has been raining hellish amounts (hence this being an Island of two extremes). The quantity of rain here makes notoriously rainy London seem like a petite sprinkler next to a Tanzanian fire engine hose. The rain is not necessarily a bad thing though, unless you love to tan. It has the effect of rendering all of the locals incapable of leaving their homes, making the island seem quite deserted, which is nice and mystical.

The local dish called “chipsi mayai” has quickly become one of camps’ favorite treats. It could be described as an omelet with fries in it, and if you throw in an extra 20p you’ll get a beef skewer with it - so simple, yet so delicious!

By David Lankes, Marine Volunteer

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

Wednesday
Mar122014

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR BLOG: MY PERFECT SUNDAY 

After a week of rain we were all feeling a little gloomy but as the aptly named day rolled around, our one day off of project work, the sun reared its head again. With the sunshine beaming  I woke up, put some clothes in a tub to soak for washing and had a refreshing bucket shower whilst listening to the birds chirping. A few of us headed over to one of the lodges to treat ourselves to a luxury breakfast of mangoes, pineapple, pancakes, bacon, egg, toast and coffee.

After filling ourselves a little too full we sat on the balcony watching over the lush green lawns, the palm trees and the sea in the distance. When we felt able to move again we headed back to camp where Kate one of the AROs tried her hand at cutting hair and gave me a new hair style. Then it was time to check the pitfall traps so I offered to go along as I hoped they would have caught some interesting amphibians and reptiles. Unfortunately on this occasion there wasn’t much in the traps apart from one small crab, however we got to walk through the mangrove forests which are really beautiful. Then we headed to the beach with sarongs and books in hand for some relaxing and we hopped in the bright blue sea to cool down for a while.

We noticed the Marine Park boat getting ready to go out on patrol, so we enquired as to whether we could join them too see what happens on patrol. They welcomed us aboard and we sped off out of the bay, past Chole and Juani Island. With the cool wind whipping over us and the sun beating down on us we laughed about how lucky we were to be in such a beautiful place. The patrol went past the island of Djibondo and there were lots of seabirds circling above the water, all of a sudden we saw the dorsal fin of what we think was an indo pacific dolphin. We passed a couple of small fishing boats which were conforming to the regulations of the park and the staff on our boat shouted greetings to the fishermen on board. Then we approached a slightly larger sail boat with three men on boat that the Marine Park didn’t recognize and suspected was not registered. We approached the boat and the men on board were reprimanded and told to come to the Marine Park offices first thing on Monday to pay for a license. As we cruised along the water was so clear that you could see the coral reefs that we passed over from the surface.

We travelled almost to the edge of the marine park and there was a bouy with a blue flag sticking out of it, we enquired what this was marking and were told that it was shark nets. This surprised us as shark fishing is quite controversial as static nets often catch many other things along with sharks such as turtles and dolphins. The shark nets were there to catch for consumption not as a barrier to protect beach goers, which is how they are used in some places. With sharks being apex predators which help to regulate the oceans and maintain ecosystems it is not a very sustainable fishing option. Sharks are also relatively slow to mature and often don’t have many offspring at once. However, this method of fishing is allowed within the park, so we carried on our patrol. Then we approached a reef which was partially exposed at the surface as it was low tide. This is an area at the edge of the Marine Park where the staff informed us that fishermen from the mainland often try to come here to dynamite fish, which is forbidden in the park and illegal in Tanzania. Then we had a quick break on a sand bar where we looked at the seabirds and dipped our feet in the Indian Ocean. We began our journey back in to the bay where we saw large silvery fish jumping out of the sea being accosted by seabirds.

  Back on land we headed back to the village to buy chapattis and milk then created a lovely brew of milky chai back on camp. On the beach when we were returning to camp we found a white-spotted pufferfish on the beach which had died and been washed up onto the beach. We decided it would be really interesting to dissect so we brought it back to camp. I opened the body and removed the stomach, the intestines, the liver and the swimbladder. We dissected the brain and the eye and searched for the otolith but with no luck. The otolith is an important part of the fish anatomy as it has rings on it like a tree which can be useful in telling the age of a fish. Then we opened up the stomach to see what it had been feeding on. It appeared to have lots of black sponge and corraline algae in the stomach.

We had a small bonfire on camp and had a lovely dinner of cabbage and rice. Feeling hot and icky after the dissection I went for another bucket shower but this time under the bright light from the stars. A little planning for the week ahead and then I curled into bed in my snug banda and did a little reading. What a difference a spot of sun makes, and for me, a perfect Sunday.

By Catie Gutmann Roberts, Principal Investigator

Find out more about volunteering projects in Tanzania.

Thursday
Mar062014

Volunteer Blog: Keith Forbes 

The Frontier marine project in Tanzania is located on Mafia Island. Mafia Island is on the east coast of Tanzania as well as the island of Zanzibar and another relatively small island. Mafia Island is mainly part of the archipelago.

The people of Mafia Island are mainly Muslim or Christian who live in harmony without any conflict. The Frontier camp on Mafia is located in the peaceful village of Utende. The village accommodates most establishments in close proximity to the camp. Such as various bars and restaurants that mainly serve simple dishes consisting of eggs, chips, fish and beef. There are also various lodges along the beach which is only a 5 minute walk away. Some of the volunteers go to these lodges to indulge in a variety of meals and to access the internet at a reasonable price, not to say the daily rice and beans on camp is not amazingly good.

The daily routine for the volunteers on camp duty consists of collecting 4 jerry cans of brackish water which is used for washing hands at 2 stations around camp as well as dive equipment. Collecting 4 buckets of fresh water used for drinking, cooking and washing dishes and utensils. The pots and pans from the previous day are washed in the morning for continued use during the day. The kitchen and communal bandas are cleaned and swept. Beans are sorted from those which are edible and those which that aren’t. As the beans are sorted a fire is made to cook the beans for lunch. More fresh water is collected at 5 pm to accommodate for the vast amount of water that is consumed on camp. The last task of the day is making bread for next morning’s breakfast.

On weekends camp life slows down and livens up at the same time. Saturday is the only day when volunteers can break the one beer cap and so Saturday nights are filled with embarrassing stories drunken conversations because Sunday is our day off (that was the livened up part), however those on camp duty don’t go as mad as the others. Sundays we have to cook for our selves because our amazing cook also gets the day off as well. As staff and volunteers cook which can either turn out good or bad most volunteers go out for their meals either into the village or to the lodge where one can get ice cold beer, pizzas, or croque madamme or monsieur but at a price which consists of bad service, dodgy food on occasion and no change.

However life on camp is joyful filled with laughs, giggles and banter at every corner. I have enjoyed my stay here on camp and I hope future volunteers will have an even better experience on Mafia Island.

By Keith Forbes, Marine Volunteer

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

Friday
Feb282014

ARO Blog: The adventures of Simon the squirrel 

A few things you may want to know before you raise an abandoned red bush squirrel!

It's been 3 weeks since the red bush squirrel going by the name of Simon came to live on Frontier camp. He arrived in the hands of Rama a local friend after being found abandoned under a coconut palm. Rama had tried to find his mother and any other siblings but with no success.

*Squirrels are social animals like humans so should be raised with other individuals not alone in this case this was not possible, but it is good practice to check the site for the next week in case the mother is deceased and other siblings are also abandoned.

At this point we gave him some milk, made him a bed out of a cardboard box and lots of cloth. He was approximately 5 weeks old. At 5 weeks a squirrel needs lots of sleep, feeds 4 times a day, cannot curl his tail yet, or jump. He is still very dependent on his mother for heat to aid with digestion as he is unable to regulate his own body temperature. For this reason we gave him a lot of attention for the first few days and lots of snuggles in our warm clothing.

*Good to know: If a squirrel loses its mother the mother will not recognize it as her own unless it is at the same body temperature as her. Therefore if you are wanting to reunite a squirrel with its mother you should first keep his body temperature high for instance in your hands before trying to reunite.
The Adventures of Simon the Squirrel: One unforgettable night.....

One night no different from any other night Simon decided to go on a wander without telling anyone where he was off to. After only having been with the Frontier camp for a couple of days the camp was in despair and searched for almost an hour in fear that Simon had met his maker. The search party finally gave in for the night and went to bed feeling at a loss.

It wasn't until the next morning that they realized how resilient a chap Simon was when he strolled into the communal area none the wiser how much distress he had caused. It was this day that camp realized that Simon wasn't the helpless creature they all thought and gave a certain few people a glimpse into what motherhood must be like.

Needless to say he got put in the naughty corner and told he was too small and young to go out alone at night!

Back to present.... After the initial hiccups Simon quickly learnt to jump and curl his tail like a pro. He started to eat solids such as mango or a local fruit known to be favored by his species. Squirrels are known to eat fruit and nuts so we try to keep his diet a natural as possible. Due to the lack of a mother figure, we suspect that he will be dependant on Frontier for food and emotional support for the rest of his life. Other than this he is already dependant, and we hope we can continue to live in harmony together as he grows into an adult.

At this point it is good to note that squirrels are not pets and they are very strong minded persistent animals. They should only we reared by humans if this is the only option. In this case upon seeing Simon there was no way were going to let him be eating by the crows.

We will keep you updated on his growth and progress but for now I will leave you with a snapshot of Simon taken last week.

By Kate Helliwell, Forest ARO

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

Tuesday
Feb252014

Competition winner blog: Laura Cutting - the half-way point

Laura Cutting won a two week volunteering trip back in 2011 for her video of her experiences in Ghana. She chose to take part in Frontier's Tanzania Beach Conservation project and here she shares her half-way blog about volunteering.

Today marks the halfway point in my time on Mafia Island. It has been a really good experience and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have the opportunity to learn so much and be in such beautiful surroundings snorkelling very day-and it’s all for free!  One of the 11 people I work with is a returner; I can see why people would like to come back here.

All images courtesy of Laura Cutting, Tanzania Beach Conservation

Most days here involve me going out for a snorkel and observing the mariners collecting research. I am continuing to practice identifying different types of fish and am getting much better at it. I love to swim amongst the schooling fish. Today I swam through a group of unicorn fish which was very exciting.

The visibility here is great; particularly at high tide- today we could see probably 25-30meters, possibly more. It is so peaceful under water.The water is warm and the rays of the sun dance in the surface waters. It would be quite easy to spend an hour or two floating in the sea allowing the tranquil waters to guide you gently as you watch the hustle and bustle of marine life happening beneath you.

We then sail back in to the shore and the spray from the waves allows for a refreshing break from the relentless heat of the sun.


Getting back to camp is nice because there is a time to relax and food is usually ready to eat. We have a mama on camp who prepares the food for us, she is lovely and I went to church with her yesterday. She likes the fact that I know some Swahili and we can chat a little.

Some evenings the volunteers all go to the local bar, or just stay at camp and put the world to rights. If I am honest… I usually join them for a bit, but am usually in bed by 9pm. My life here is so different to in England!!


I am a little disappointed by the fact my time here is almost over, but it was a beautiful short glimpse of what like on a frontier camp is like. I truly needed some beautiful scenery and tranquil serene beach life to help drag me away from Neema Crafts where I was volunteering before. I still miss them dearly, but the time away has reminded me how good it is for me to move on and continue the journey. Who knows who I will meet at my next destination.

By Laura Cutting, Tanzania Beach Conservation Volunteer

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