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.


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.


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.


Dive Officer Blog: Mafia Archipelago - A Diver’s Paradise

Arguably the most beautiful archipelago in the Indian Ocean, the Mafia Islands are abundant with wildlife both above and below the surface. However, more than anything it’s azure waters and abundant marine life drew me to this place…it truly is a diver’s paradise. As a Scuba Instructor you could not hope to find a better office! Unspoiled reefs surround the islands, rich in soft and hard corals, sponges and anemones, attracting a stunning array of fish.

Cracking an egg in deep water!

One of my favourite dive sites within the archipelago has to be Dindini Wall. Located just outside the bay entrance, this stunning dive consists of a rock wall descending from 8 metres to 28 metres.  With calm waters and visibility varying from 15-30 metres this really is a magical site. When weather, tides and transport permit this is my number one site to undertake the Advanced Open Water Deep Dive. It is a safe environment with the 8-metre shelf abundant with marine life such as Redtooth Triggerfish, Surgeonfish and Moorish Idol and amazing invertebrates such as Crown of Thorns, large Sea Cucumbers and Sea Urchins. The rock wall makes a great visual reference for divers while descending to the deeper waters and we regularly encounter large fish such as Potato Grouper and Napoleon Wrasse. The seabed of this site is ideal for carrying out the skills and games required for the AOW Deep Dive and my students are always in great spirits on surfacing from this dive!

By Louise (The Barracuda) Howell, Dive Officer

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


Volunteer Blog: Ben Hinder

The way we collect data here on Mafia is really simple. We use a baseline survey protocol (BSP ) to collect rich data in the limited time we have underwater. We have team of five divers, each with a specific focus on the dive. One diver surveys the physical parameters of the dive site, so temperature, timing, number of boats etc. Another diver surveys the benthic cover of the reef, they look at coral morphology (shape) and what the sea bed is made up of other than coral. The other three divers survey the remaining organisms on the reef. One surveys invertebrates, one schooling fish and the other territorial fish. Our transects are 20m long and we do three on each dive, allowing 10m between each transect to get the maximum coverage of the reef.

We descend as close to the desired survey site as possible and weight down one end of the transect tape . Then the schooling fish and physical surveyors reel out the tape and do their data collection. The other divers wait five minutes to allow the animals of the reef to return, then work along the tape collecting their data and recording it on slates.

Once we've collected the data and finished the dive, we log all the data into a spreadsheet. Once the data set for the five year research is complete, we will compare the data from before the marine park opened to now, when it's been open for 19 years. We will also compare the different areas inside the marine park to see if the designations are having a positive affect.

Once we've finished collecting and analysing the data, Frontier hopes to either provide the Park's management with advice for improving the way the park is structured if the park isn't working, or potentially expanding the park to include more of Mafia's reefs. By showing that the park can be beneficial to both the locals and international community, Frontier could even help encourage other countries to open their own parks.

By Ben Hinger, Marine volunteer

Find out more about volunteering projects in Tanzania.


Volunteer Blog: Joe Griffin

The diving around Mafia island, more specifically around Chole bay is exceptional. Although I have not seen all of the fish I could see here, I have seen a huge amount within my relatively short stay of a month already. I have no doubt however that I will have seen all of the species I would like to have by the time I leave in 2 months time, for example, Frog fish and Honeycomb moray eel's.

I have compiled a list of my favourite under water creatures I have seen so far, starting in no particular order. The Giant Grouper, these are very large, the one I saw was approximately 2 meters long and its  body was as round as a beer keg although they are not found on every dive site I understand that they can be relatively easily found on a few dive sites around the bay area. Another amazing thing to see on any dive anywhere in the world, that can be found here is the turtle, the hawksbill that we saw was just relaxing at about 22 meters eating algae, there are also Turtle hatchings on Juani, one of the islands just off the coast from Utende depending on timing. Nepoleon Wrasse can be found just outside of the bay, these are also big fish with a distinguished hump on their heads. Sea horses can also be found in amongst the seagrass just off the shore, and from what I understand from speaking to locals they can also be found further out in the bay, but I find it more fun to duck dive and look for them while snorkeling.

Giant Moray Eel's are very impressive and as the name suggests they are large (up to about 2 M long) they can be found not only hiding within the coral, as I have found them previously but also free swiming. Giant Reef Rays are also found here whist diving, mainly around the edge of the bay. Nudibranch's (meaning naked lung's in latin) are always great to find for many divers, mainly because of their many different shapes, sizes and extravagant colourings, these sea slugs have their gills on thier backs, almost looking like a tree (hence the name) and can be found on almost all of the dive sites around the bay area. Orange striped Trigger fish although not very rare to see in the bay area, their bright colouring and smaller stature in comparrison with their close relatives the Moustache / Titan Trigger fish and the Yellow Margin Trigger fish, I find them very nice to look at on a dive.

Snowflake Moray Eel's are also common amongst sea grass, and can easily be seen just off the shore whilst snorkeling as well as diving. Stone fish are very hard to spot and camouflaged to look like stones and rubble on the sea floor. They are also very poisonous! If there was ever a reason to have good bouyancy these fish are one of them. Finaly Whale Sharks can be seen out of the bay if you go on a whale shark trip. The whale shark is the biggest fish in the ocean growing up to 14-15 M, the ones you can see here will range between 3-10 M. I think I can honestly say Whale Sharks are on a lot of peoples bucket list so having any opportunity to see one must be taken.

Find out more about volunteering projects in Tanzania.