Entries in #explore (8)

Tuesday
Mar142017

Crown Of Thorns  Cull

When most people think of conservation it usually inspires thoughts of researchers studying animal behaviour, patrolling some vast wilderness, designating an area as a national park/reserve or freeing a trapped animal from a net. So it may seem odd to some that killing animals for conservation purposes is practised.

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Tuesday
Jan242017

Winter In Africa

So up until this year every winter I have had has been full of Christmas spirit, cold, sleet and snow. This year was to be very different and also daunting as I was going to spend it in Tanzania as Project Coordinator for Frontier. It turned out to be a lovely and memorable time.

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Monday
Apr252016

Part IV: Little Island, Lots To See

Our Assistant Research Officer gives us an indepth account of the beauty that Mafia Island beholds... read on and imagine..

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Monday
Feb152016

Mdola Forest Adventure

Mdola forest is one of the last remaining coral forests, stretching the East coast of Mafia for around 30km. Protected to an extent by the Mafia Marine Park, the forest is kept relatively undisturbed, and, as we as the terrestrial research team were about to discover, almost impenetrable. When we were told about the forest and the many wonders it contained: a sparkling blue lagoon with endemic fish species, large troops of Sykes monkeys in the trees, bat caves and a mysterious giant frog hidden in the depths… we were determined to see it for ourselves!

Attempt 1 : Admittedly a little naive, and armed with vague directions, snorkels, and little else, we set off on the dirt roads north on piki pikis (motorbikes) to find the forest, imagining such luxuries as signs, paths, and maybe even a visitor centre full of cakes and ice cream…needless to say, we were sadly mistaken. The hilariously disastrous day included us being directed to what can only be described as a prison-village full of friendly convicts and their families, walking miles to find the village chief who would take us into the forest, and eventually finding what everyone told us was the sparking lagoon but was in fact a shallow muddy lake where the farmers watered their cows. And then the heavens opened. Cue the most difficult, muddy, and wet 3 or 4 hours of our lives as we struggled home on our motorbikes.

Some would be put off by this series of small disasters, but not the Frontier Terrestrial team! Home and dry, we planned our next visit with some significant changes – the main ones being a Landrover, better directions, and a sunny day!

Attempt 2: We had a vehicle, supplies, and a friendly Swahili speaker at the wheel. We were ready. And we made it! It might have taken getting lost a few times, asking one person for directions, who hopped in and took us to another person, who hopped in and took us to the village, where 3 more people hopped in (seeing a pattern?) and finally took us to the guide…. But we made it!

All of our new friends came into the beautiful, dense forest with us as we hiked to the lagoon, which was just as sparkling and paradise-like as promised! After a much needed snorkel in the cool waters, we went to find the bat cave – seemingly empty, until we rounded a corner into a confined space between a couple of boulders.

A rustling and some fast moving shadows alerted us to their presence, out came the cameras. The flash sowed us hundreds of eyes in the recesses of the cave, although it seemed like thousands when we realized we were standing right in their flight path, blocking the only exit. Time to go! There followed a quick and unsuccessful search for the elusive giant frog (yet to be found), and a monkey sighting or two before we returned home, successful at last!        

By Cori Bailey - Terrestrial Research Officer

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Tuesday
Aug252015

Dissertation Project - Mangroves and Birds 

I have been working with Frontier Tanzania as an intern over the past three months and during this time I have had the opportunity to collect data for my third year undergraduate dissertation.  I study Environmental Science and have a particular interest in ecosystems and their interactions with, and the impacts of, human activities on an ecosystem.  As an intern I have been working with the terrestrial team, especially on the bird project which I found particularly interesting.  


There is a huge range of bird life on Mafia Island and Frontier survey a range of habitats which makes each survey unexpected and exciting.  My favourite transects were along the coast as the mangroves provide such incredible ecosystems due to their ability to provide extensive habitats for a huge range of marine and terrestrial species.  The mangrove forests on Mafia Island are particularly affected by human disturbance which I thought would make an interesting study for my dissertation.  The mangroves are harvested by the local people for fuel wood and building materials which reduces their health.  They are also affected by other activities such as fishing and tourism which has led to large areas of mangroves being cleared.  I chose to look at birds as I find them very interesting and have learnt a lot about them during my time here.  They have also been shown to be effective bio indicators of ecosystem health. In the end I decided to base my research on looking at birds and how they can be used as bio indicators for mangrove health encompassing surrounding human activities.

I chose four mangrove transects along Mafia coastline which are affected to different degrees by human disturbance. This will hopefully provide a good comparison to show whether the impact of human activities is significant on bird populations or not.  Three of the transects were along Utende beach and one along the Mirubani coastline further afield.  The first transect is affected mostly by fishing, harvesting of timber and is nearby to tourist lodges and dive centres along the beach. The second transect is more heavily affected by tourist lodges and large sections of the mangroves have been cleared to make way for private beach areas and pathways through the mangroves.  The third transect is further along from the second one is somewhat less affected by tourism. The main disturbance in this area is fishing boat storage and some harvesting. 

The final transect is quite isolated and a bit of a walk from the Frontier camp.  It has mostly been changed by fishing, pathways and clearings have been formed to transport fishing boats in and out as well as transporting the catch back to villages.  This is the most pristine site of the four and is not affected by tourism.    


Without thorough analysis of the data I have found a few significant initial findings.  Purple-banded Sunbirds were the most commonly surveyed species within the mangroves which shows that mangroves are perhaps a good habitat for them to survive in.  The presence of Pied Crows and House Crows seems positively correlated with human activities.  Where there is more human development, i.e. lodges and cleared beaches there is a higher abundance of crows.  This could be due to their nature as scavengers and the large amounts of waste around these areas generated by the lodges.  As expected there are fewer birds seen when there are more people within the area.  

I have really enjoyed carrying out my research here on Mafia Island and am so glad that I got the opportunity to work with Frontier and develop my own project.  I am looking forward to doing some further analysis of my data to see whether birds can be used as an effective bio-indicator for mangrove health and human disturbance.

By Louisa Mamalis - Intern

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Tuesday
Aug252015

Captains Log - I've Arrived On Mafia Island 

I’ve landed in a strange land where the sea is teal, the mango juice runs like a river and the word ‘mzungu’ has been uttered many a time in my general direction. I’m situated on Mafia Island at the Frontier Camp in a small village by the name of Utende. Contrary to cliché, the word I will use to describe this place is not ‘amazing’; the word I will use is ‘PHENOMENAL’.

I feel like I have settled in really well into this new environment. Hardly a day goes by without one hearing such odd phrases as ‘I’d give it a six’, ‘I don’t think so’ or ‘where IS the dala dala’. Camp life truly is a strange but wonderful life!

I’m stationed on a mission here to teach English and practice beach conservation. The kids in the village are great, I can stroll through the sandy streets with my head held high while copious ranks of excited children swarm around me shouting ‘teacher, teacher!’ and asking me for stickers… what more can a man want in life I ask you? I adore the vibrant and friendly atmosphere in the village and have come to be well acquainted with some locals; in particular the owner of the local ‘chipsi’ shop who I chat with every day on my way to the school.

Utende is such a breath of fresh air for a Londoner such as myself. Walk down a busy south London street and ask a random stranger how his day went and the likely answer won’t be suitable for a blog such as this. Walk through Utende and do the same thing and immediately that local is a mate who you can chat with about all manner of things on a daily basis.

I’ve taken the opportunity while living here to further my own Swahili as well as teach English to the locals. The primary school children are less energetic than the nursery children but by no means less eager! Before I came here I never imagined that I would have the patience to be a teacher, the image of a weary teacher with no free time and two buckets of stress had been instilled into me for ages. But the combination of the cordial locals and the blissful teaching has changed my way of thinking. Who knows, maybe one day I may find myself in a full time teaching position… or maybe I’ll be lucky enough to come back one day and work for Frontier in Utende. Three weeks in a place like this just isn’t enough!

By Anthony Menezes… over and out - Dive, Teach and Wildlife Conservation Volunteer

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

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