Exclusive Thanda Island Partners with Marine Megafauna Foundation Supporting Whale Shark Research

Thanda Island

Exclusive-use Thanda Island off the coast of Tanzania is an ideal setting 
for whale shark safaris, with activities for guests to participate in scientific research

For abundant chances to experience whale sharks in Africa, Thanda Island, the luxury exclusive-use island located off the Indian Ocean coast of Tanzania, is a rewarding setting to start or finish a safari with sea life. Thanda Island recently joined in partnership with the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF), whose world-leading Global Whale Shark research and conservation program is protecting the largest fish species in the waters of the Shungi Mbili Island Marine Reserve.

With Thanda Island’s ownership and onsite team committed to conservation, the partnership with MMF is enhancing programming developed by resident marine biologist Rianne Laan to open the eyes of guests to efforts to preserve the gentle, plankton-eating giants lumbering beneath the waves.

With knowledge gained through the Global Whale Shark program, MMF scientists have literally written the textbook on whale sharks. A U.S.-registered non profit with operations based in Mozambique, the organization has teamed with various groups over the years to engage in whale shark research and conservation at Thanda Island’s neighbour, Mafia Island. Through those efforts, begun in 2012, Mafia Island has become one of the world’s most important sites of whale shark research while also dramatically increasing local ecotourism focused on the gentle leviathans.

The population of whale sharks around Mafia Island is small but unique, numbering just over 200. Through monitoring efforts, including satellite tagging and collection of tissue and excretion samples, MMF scientists have been able to identify individual whale sharks that return to the region season after season. With funding from Thanda Island and other partners, MMF is getting amazing updates and increasing knowledge of the whale sharks of Mafia Island while simultaneously working to reduce risks from boat traffic and near-invisible gillnets used by local fishermen.

Not surprisingly, respectful, and careful interaction with whale sharks is always a thrill for guests of Thanda Island. Customized safaris from the island typically begin with a brief lecture by marine biologist Laan detailing MMF’s important research efforts. Touring by boat, guests search for whale sharks in the waters near Mafia Island, with the crew well-equipped with a versatile GoPro camera and other equipment to capture imagery of the sea creatures and the inevitable excitement of sightings.

While the local season for whale sharks runs from October to March, chances of seeing MMF researchers in action are particularly high from November through December. The researchers are usually happy to detail their work, and if timing is right, may invite Thanda Island guests to join in.

With their impressive size, calm nature, and tendency to swim at the surface at known sites, whale sharks have become a focal species for marine tourism in the area. They can be observed from boats as well as via snorkelling or scuba diving on outings arranged and customized by the Thanda Island team.

For more information or reservations at Thanda Island, please contact T: +27 (0) 32 586 0149 or email reservations@thandaisland.com