The internship program is designed for science students or passionate conservationists aiming to get experience in marine conservation fieldwork and practices. Please submit your CV along with the application (found the bottom of this page). Due to the nature of the research and limited space on-site, not all applicants can be selected to participate. While applicants don’t need to be a enrolled in a university or science program to be eligible, dedication, interest in marine research, and responsibility for yourself and the environment are essential.
Do I need any specific qualifications?
Interns must have their Open Water SCUBA certification to take part in the internship program. Advanced Open Water is recommended. If you wish to participate in wreck and deep dives (which require the Advanced certification), our local dive partners can offer courses during your stay at additional cost to you.
To benefit fully from the internship program, a minimum one month (four week) internship is recommended. Interns wishing to develop their own project and depending on the subject, two months is recommended. Interns typically stay for one to two months during school or university summer holiday. For those interested in staying longer, we can put together longer-term packages.
Where is the lab located?
Zavora Marine Lab is located in Zavora, southern Mozambique, approximately one and a half hours south of Inhambane and seven hours north of the South Africa-Mozambique border.
With the exception of mid-December to mid-January, which is peak tourist season, Zavora is very quiet and peaceful without the glitz of a typical tourist spot. It’s an excellent place for people who enjoy being close to nature and who enjoy the thrill of exploring wild landscapes and untouched reefs.
How to get here?
The best way to get to Zavora is by plane. You should be able to find a flight from your home country to Johannesburg, South Africa, and then from Johannesburg to Inhambane Airport. Some airlines may fly directly from your home country into Maputo, but this is usually a more costly option. At the moment, LAM is the only company that flies to Inhambane. You can buy your ticket online at lam.co.mz. It’s a good idea to factor in a few extra hours in Maputo and Johannesburg for your returning flight as LAM is often delayed.
There is a shuttle that leaves from the Johannesburg airport on Thursday’s at 1am and will drop you off in Inharrime. The return transfer from Inharrime-Johannesburg leaves on Tuesday’s at 7am. It is about a 12 hour drive, but is cheap, safe, comfortable and reliable. If there is demand, there is also a shuttle that goes from Inharrime-Maputo on Saturdays and Maputo-Inharrime on Sundays. Plan ahead as there is only one shuttle and it books up quickly. Enquire at Tours2Moz for more details.
A cheaper, but more tiring and uncomfortable alternative is to get a chapa (passenger van; frequently overcrowded) from Maputo to Inharrime.
Arrival dates and arrangements
Airport pick-ups and drop-offs on the 1st of each month are included in the cost of the internship. Interns arriving or leaving outside this time will be required to arrange transport from the Inhambane airport to the research station (about 100km/1.5hours away) at their own cost.
Interns wishing to be picked up in Inharrime town can do so on any day (included in the internship fee).
How much money should I bring?
There’s not much to spend money on in Zavora apart from some local souvenirs and a couple of bars and restaurants. However, interns often take a weekend trip to Tofo or Barra to do Ocean Safaris or party. Depending on the applicants habits and lifestyle, we suggest adding $300-500 USD to monthly budgets for souvenirs, excursions, entertainment and other personal or daily needs.
Locally, the restaurants and bars accept VISA and there are ATMs in Inharrime and Inhambane.
Can I cancel or change the dates of the internship?
Due to the number of applications we receive during high season and the limited spaces available, we cannot accept all applicants. Therefore, we do not welcome cancellations or date changes after the final confirmation.
- A one month deposit paid on acceptance into the program is required as confirmation (foreign and local bank fees are at the applicant’s cost). The remaining fee must be paid in full within two weeks following arrival in Mozambique.
- Cancellations prior to six months before the internship begins are accepted without cancellation fee (i.e., the deposit will be refunded in full). Cancellations between six and three months before the start of the internship will be charged a cancellation fee of 50% (50% refund of deposit).
- Cancellations less than three months before the start of the internship will only be refunded to 25%.
Please make sure that the dates you indicate in your application suit your schedule and budget before applying.
Please let us know of any changes or cancellations as soon as possible so that we are able to welcome another applicant.
Do I need a VISA?
Yes! While you can obtain a visa at any border upon arrival, we recommended obtaining one through the Mozambican Embassy in your home country in advance of your departure. The border visa is a 30-day, single-entry visa (around $80 US), which can be extended for another 30 days. If you wish to stay longer, you can obtain an extended visa in Maxixe (100km north of Zavora) or make a trip to the border at your own cost.
If you plan to stay longer than two months, we recommend applying to the Mozambican Embassy in your home country to obtain a three-month, single-entry visa, as a multi-entry (30 days max. stay) means that you will have to renew your visa at the border every 30 days.
Please contact us for a letter of invitation, which, in some cases, is required as part of the visa application.
For interns purchasing a one-way flight, we recommend consulting the Mozambican Embassy in your home country to ensure that you can get your visa at the border.
Do I need insurance?
Yes. You will be required to sign liability and copyright releases, as well as an agreement that you are knowingly partaking in potentially dangerous activities upon acceptance to the internship program. You are not covered for accidents or illnesses through the lab, so organize your own medical and health insurance in the unlikely event of an emergency. You may apply for a normal travel insurance policy. Please make sure you have insurance for your entire stay in Mozambique, and also make certain that your insurance also covers diving accidents, as many normal travel insurance policies will not cover this. There is no recompression chamber in Mozambique and in case of a diving accident you will need to be transported to South Africa. We highly recommend Divers Alert Network (DAN) membership. DAN is a non-profit organization focused on diving accidents, and they also offer plans that cover travelling accidents. To apply or to find more information, visit diversalertnetwork.org
Do I need any specific vaccination or medication before coming to Mozambique?
Zavora is located in a malaria zone. Some interns prefer to use prophylactic medication, while others prefer to protect themselves using repellents and a mosquito net. It is up to you. Recommended medicines are: Malarone (side effects: damages liver so it is advisable to drink alcohol in small quantities), or Doxycycline (side effects: short periods of increased photosensitivity, thus recommended to be taken around dinner with food). Malaria tests and treatment are also available on site at a clinic located down the road. Consult your doctor or a travel clinic for more information.
Note that SCUBA diving while using some prophylactic medications (such as Larium or Mefloquine) is not recommended – your choice of medication should be made accordingly. In any case it is recommended to bring mosquito repellents to be used mostly during dusk and dawn periods. Please consult your doctor for any other recommended vaccinations.
What do I need to bring?
A waterproof windbreaker, a wide brim hat, a fleece or other warm clothes (Zavora can get cold, especially during the winter months), insect repellent, 30+ SPF sunblock, and towel. Bed sheets and mosquito nets are provided.
Don’t forget your diving certification card(s)!
A waterproof watch (to min. 30 meters) or a dive computer is compulsory. You can use the dive centre’s equipment, but we recommend that you bring your own wetsuit, mask, snorkel, and fins. In the summer, a 3mm-5mm wetsuit is recommended and 5-7mm in winter.
Do we have days off?
Interns have one designated day off per week as well as whenever the weather and sea conditions do not allow for fieldwork. Double-tank dives are finished in the early afternoon, so interns have plenty of time to complete data entry before exploring nearby lakes, grabbing a late lunch at the Lodge, or reading in a hammock. One weekend a month is usually reserved for excursions or activities not included in the internship (e.g. weekend trip to Tofo or Barra). This must be requested some days ahead so we can work our schedule around it.
Useful information about Zavora and your stay
The remoteness of Zavora is what makes this place quiet, special, and unexplored. The lab is about 30km from the closest town – Inharrime. Mozambique is classified as a Least Developed Country, being one of the 10 poorest countries in the world. Zavora is far enough from the capital that products you may be used to seeing in grocery or hardware stores are limited or nonexistent. Inharrime town, where we do much of our shopping, is very small and a typical ‘African village’. Here you will find basic foods such as seasonal vegetables and fruits, chicken, eggs, rice, beans, pasta and milk. Products such as batteries (apart from very poor quality in the most common sizes), insect repellents and sunscreen are NOT available. You are therefore advised to bring anything you might need apart from basic food.
- Food Due to the differences in food preferences amongst interns and the limitations of products, each intern receives a 5,000Met food allowance upon arrival to spend on whatever you prefer to eat. We provide transport to Inharrime town once every two weeks to buy supplies. For those who don’t like to cook, we can organize traditional meals once per day, six times per week at a charge of 2,000Met/month, which is deducted from your allowance. Home-cooked meals include pasta, chicken, matapa (a local favorite made with cassava leaves), and cassava.
- Accommodation Interns will be based out of the Zavora Marine Lab research station. The research station was built to provide facilities as a field laboratory and housing for interns. The main building houses a conference room, office, and wet lab (downstairs), as well as three private and semi-private bedrooms and common room (upstairs), a communal kitchen, female and male toilets/hot showers, a storeroom and the directors’ house. The wet lab is complete with three stereoscopes, one microscope, a precision scale, and a conference room with a video projector. The large communal kitchen has plenty of fridge/freezer space, a hob, oven, hot water and there are braai (barbeque) facilities outside. For your security and convenience, the lab directors’ chalet is located on-site in case you need any assistance outside of working hours.
Electricity in Zavora is limited to a few houses and enterprises, including the lab. Most of the local community lives under the light of the moon. Mozambique occasionally experiences power outages, usually for short periods of time. The lab is equipped with a backup electricity from solar panels and batteries in case of an extended outage. Plugs are 220V. Interns are advised to bring at least one adaptor–Mozambican (round two pin) and South African (round three pin) sockets–though the office is equipped with universal adaptors for laptops, cellphone, and camera chargers.
- Money exchange You are advised to change your currency to the Mozambique Meticais (Met) when arriving in Mozambique. You can also withdraw cash from the ATM in the closest town once every two weeks (VISA card normally works better than other cards). Limited places accept VISA cards and other currencies might be accepted but the exchange rates are worse than in the bank. Please take care if changing money with people on the streets or at the border crossings, preferably wait until you are collected for your transfer and our staff will help you with this.
- Diving All dives included in the internship are scientific or training dives. Interns collect data used to manage dive sites, check the health of the reefs, and survey manta ray and nudibranch populations. Diving is a fun and social sport, and the diversity of marine life in Mozambique is astounding, but you must first and foremost be aware of your role as a researcher. If the science is not accurate, the results may be wrong and its use will result in poor management and potential damage to the marine environment. Being responsible with the data is essential.
- Visibility The waters of southern Mozambique have visibility ranging from 5-30 metres, with an average of 12-15 metres. Offshore reefs usually have better visibility than inshore reefs as waves are less frequent. Poor visibility can be the result of bad weather and big waves stirring up the bottom, or can be caused by the upwelling of cold nutrient rich water from the Mozambique Channel. This upwelling water usually causes a chain of events, starting with a bloom in Phytoplankton, tiny plants trapping solar energy by photosynthesis. This tends to turn the water greener. This plant life then supports a bloom in zooplankton, small animals and jellyfish, which then turns the water a slightly milky blue colour as they grow and eat the phytoplankton. Mantas and whale sharks complete the cycle by eating the zooplankton. So, without some days of poorer visibility, Mozambique would not have the charismatic megafauna that makes it such a fantastic place to dive.
- Best time of year to come It’s difficult to recommend a ‘best time’ in Zavora as all times of year have positive attributes. Mid-December to mid-January and Easter are the peak tourist times due to South African school holidays. All other months are quieter. November to March have warmer water and usually better visibility with mating manta ray events, but with December to March being cyclone season, some dives are aborted due to rough conditions or bad visibility, although this is seldom the case. The temperature on land can get up to 40 degrees C in January and February, while it can get as low as 15-20 degrees C in June-August. June to October is colder and the visibility is lower but the mantas love the green, plankton filled water.
June to October is humpback whale season and we can see these magnificent animals daily from the shore, from the boat, and even on SCUBA. August and September are peak months for humpback whales.
- Water temperature In the summer temperatures average 26-29 degrees and in the winter 19-23 degrees. Cold minimum temperatures during the summer months are usually a result of upwelling which forms a thermocline, though this phenomenon normally only lasts for a couple of days.
- Current The Agulhas current runs through the Mozambique Channel from north to south creating a mild current on offshore reefs. There are over seven kilometres of inshore reef lying parallel to the Zavora Bay shore; on the days when the current is strong, drift diving is the order of the day.
- Equipment MAR works in partnership with several local and regional dive centres. All the boats are equipped with a GPS chart plotter and sonar sounder to provide accurate navigation and exploration. A full range of safety equipment is always on board including life jackets, first aid kits, flares, and oxygen. Though we recommend that you bring your own wetsuit, there are 5mm full length/one piece wetsuits available at the dive centres. The cylinders vary in sizes 10L, 12L and 15L accepting both DIN and International regulators.
- What can I expect to see? Zavora is a world class dive destination with miles of pristine sub-tropical reef, much of it still yet to be explored. Zavora marine life is extremely rich in mega and macrofauna. Over 250 fish species have been identified to date, and MAR fish assessments have added 17 new species to the fish species record in Mozambique, proving that there is still lots to be discovered!
Can I study marine biology and improve my dive skills? For those wanting to combine the internship with some quality diving education, a variety of options are available: novices can spend the first two weeks of an internship going through the Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses, as well as getting in some practice dives. Weeks three and four will focus on scientific diving.
- Mantas mate from November to January, however, winter months (July-November) are the busiest manta period with mantas spending long periods at cleaning stations.
- Humpback whale season is June to October and to see these 16+ meter long animals from the boat or even on SCUBA is a real thrill. Every year divers encounter these whales in the water: their song can be heard continuously on most dives. They come to Zavora Bay to calve and breed so we regularly see young calves as well as jostling bulls. The whales were observed in groups, alone or with calves and we witness some spectacular behavior, such as breaches, tail slaps and rolls.
- Sharks and rays have unfortunately suffered a drop in numbers of sightings likely due to increased use of fishing nets, longlining, and the market for shark fins, but we do still get encounters with zambezi, spinner and hammerhead sharks on our off shore reefs. We can also see bow mouth guitar, leopard, nurse and white tip reef sharks. Whale sharks are also seen from time to time, more frequently in our summer months. Mozambique was the first country in the world where a live small eyed stingray, the largest stingray in the ocean, was captured on film, and here in Zavora it’s occasionally observed. Other rays to look out for are jenkins, fan tail, shovel nosed, devil and eagle rays, to name but a few.
- Sea turtles are abundant with five of the seven species observed regularly in Mozambique waters. Encounters with loggerhead, hawksbill and green turtles are frequent, whilst the olive ridley is less common. Massive leatherbacks have been spotted in Zavora a number of times, particularly in November. November to March is the nesting season–one might be lucky to see a turtle coming up from the water during a night patrol.
- Macrolife in Zavora is stunning with over 210 species of nudibranchs recorded, 30 of them yet undescribed, this is definitely “nudi heaven.” On our top nudibranch inshore reef, scientific data shows an abundance of 1.2 nudibranchs per 2 square metres. That equates to a lot of sightings in a single dive! Mantis shrimps, octopus, pipefish, gobies and many other little creatures are also often seen on the reef tops or hiding in a hole, including the rare Zavora pipefish, described from a specimen found here.
- The Klipfontein is a big draw for technical divers: 10,500 tons, 160 meter long ocean liner, lying in 53 meters of water, she is more than your average wreck. Brindlebass, mantas and large schools of fish are often seen here and there is plenty of opportunity for penetration for the adventurous (and qualified) diver. At 6 km from our launch, she is on the doorstep, and as no one else dives her, exclusive. Please note that diving the Klipfontein requires either previous certification in decompression diving (to a minimum of 45 meters), or as part of an IANTD Advanced Nitrox, or higher level course, conducted here in Zavora.
- The Rio Saiñas was sunk in March 2013 and lies intact with a starboard list in 33m of water. A 35m long steel fishing vessel, she has quickly become a stunning artificial reef, which we have been lucky enough to study since she sank. Sitting in recreational diving depth, technical divers will still get a thrill penetrating the tight but intact engine room and cabins.
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