US $5,900*

Per volunteer

* Tax deductible in the US. Eligible for employer matching to reduce participant cost.
Single supplement $245

25% due upon booking

7 nights

6 activity days

A unique opportunity to advance tropical marine research in Cabo Verde, West Africa

MarAlliance invites you to immerse yourself in a once-in-a-lifetime experience among the incredible islands and waters of Cabo Verde. Join our team of marine biologists, guides and fishers for an unforgettable week helping to research critically endangered sharks, rays, turtles and other charismatic marine megafauna. You will be on the front line of marine megafauna monitoring and directly contribute to the conservation of these iconic species within Cabo Verdean waters.

Dr. Rachel Graham and her team will train you to be directly involved in each aspect of field work, including launching Baited Remote Underwater Videos (BRUVs), conducting in-water snorkel surveys, setting longlines with hands-on work to capture, measuring and tagging sharks, and mega-planktivore (whale shark & manta rays) monitoring, where you will swim with and witness satellite tagging of the biggest fish in the world!

We are excited to have the opportunity to share our findings with you and the field work will be complimented by presentations by our research team during the course of the week.

The Details

Why are marine megafauna important?

Megafauna play an essential ecological role within marine communities, helping to balance and maintain fish and reef populations. Throughout the world these important creatures face multiple threats, and populations are in decline due to overfishing and destruction of their habitat. Knowledge of the diversity and abundance of marine megafauna and how their populations change over time is crucial to managing and conserving these populations.

Monitoring through fisheries-independent methods enables researchers and government officials to understand the status of marine megafauna populations and the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas, as well as filling in gaps in our knowledge of their life history, including their habitat use and movements throughout their life cycles.

Our work in Cabo Verde

The archipelago of Cabo Verde provides key habitats for many species – both resident and migratory – including giant manta rays, whale sharks and tiger sharks, yet scientific data is in short supply. In recent years shark populations have become the focus of foreign-industrial fishing efforts, and West Africa has one of the highest rates of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU) globally.

Boavista, known locally as the island of dunes (ilha das dunas), is where the cascading sands of the Sahara meet the rich turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Such abundant white sand beaches and guaranteed sunshine have made the island the focus of the recent tourism boom; nonetheless, fisheries and environmental regulations are lagging behind. It is not known to what extent rapid development may be affecting the marine environment, including artisanal fisheries and critical nursery habitats.

Recent studies conducted by MarAlliance have indicated Cabo Verde contains a rich diversity of marine megafauna as well as potentially important nursery habitats for endangered species, including several species of hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini and S. zygaena). Furthermore, it is believed to contain significant aggregations of ‘mega-planktivores’ (whale shark, oceanic manta ray and other mobulidae spp.). In spite of their vast sizes, very little is known about the mega-planktivores in this region, and possible connections between populations in West Africa and elsewhere in the Atlantic remain unknown.

By working with traditional fishers we aim to investigate these current shortages, establish baselines and promote the protection of threatened marine resources. Through a combination of scientific monitoring, education and capacity building we strive to raise awareness of the importance of marine megafauna to marine ecology, and in doing so, safeguard these populations and the communities that depend on the sea for their survival.


Travel and accommodation

On August 5th you will arrive at Rabil international Airport on the island of Boavista, Cabo Verde. Once at the airport, transfer will be arranged by Orquidea Guest House to take you and your luggage to your accommodations. Orquidea guest house is a true tropical oasis, steps from the beach. The rooms are centred around a courtyard bustling with life and the owners maintain a family atmosphere without sacrificing any of the elegance. The guest house is sited in lush tropical gardens filled with hibiscus, palm trees, and flourishing banana trees, which add to Orquidea’s overall Cabo Verdean charm.

You will stay in Ocean Front rooms, which include double beds, a large bathroom, AC, flat screen TV, minibar, in-room safe, balcony with sea views, and free Wi-Fi can be found in the breakfast area of the guesthouse. During down time, enjoy a short stroll to the beach and relax, or explore the capital of Boa Vista, Sal Rei and all its charm. The Guest house offers breakfast in the morning and can accommodate most dietary needs and requests. Orquidea serves the freshest fruits and vegetables all of which are grown locally on the island. Evenings will be spent dining at Orquida or enjoying the culinary scene of Sal Rei, so be prepared to be well fed, enjoy communal meals with the team, and good company discussing the amazing things you experienced during the day’s work.


Your objective is to assist MarAlliance’s Cabo Verde-based research team to undertake annual monitoring of marine megafauna around the island of Boavista. To prepare for your trip and help us collect the most valuable data, we will provide you materials in advance to assist you with species identification and size/distance estimation. On your first days in Boavista we will hold training sessions to review the methods and fine-tune your size and distance estimation skills (on land and in the water).


African hind

Species identification of sharks, rays, turtles and West African fish

Identifying marine megafauna and mega-planktivores by species is an important part of assessing biodiversity. Species ID will be used during in-water visual transects, analysing Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) recordings and Mega-planktivore monitoring. We will further ask you to familiarize yourself with species prior to the trip to improve identification in the field.

Mega-planktivore identification and monitoring

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are the biggest fish in the world, and oceanic manta rays (Mobula birostris) the biggest rays, reaching lengths /widths in excess of 16m and 7m, respectively! Yet, in spite of their huge size, their diet consists almost entirely of plankton (microscopic animal and plant organisms floating in the water): hence the name mega-planktivores. In the last couple years working with local fishers, we have identified an area of high abundance and recorded over 30 individuals.

Whale sharks are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Species ( and are protected in Cabo Verde, yet in the Eastern Tropical Atlantic (ETA) very little is known about their populations. Both species are known to migrate huge distances and in certain areas are the basis of long-term studies, however, in Cabo Verde there is almost no information on their status or behaviour. Thus understanding what they are doing in Boavista, where they go and ultimately how many there are, is key in compiling global information for these global wanderers.

Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) surveying

Baited Remote Underwater Video monitoring is a relatively novel and non-invasive method of monitoring marine species, particularly sharks, remotely. BRUVs consist of a frame constructed from PVC or metal, a camera , and an extended arm with a bait cage. BRUVs are deployed on to the sea floor at various sites around the Island of Boavista for 65 minutes in order to assess species diversity and relative abundance of elasmobranchs (sharks and rays). These videos are later analysed to record the species and number of individuals and assess diversity and relative abundance. We will collectively review videos taken and annotate these to record target species and frequency of occurrence.

Nocturnal scientific long lining capture and tagging of juvenile sharks

Scientific longline is another method to assess shark and ray diversity and abundance, especially over long periods of time. This technique involves setting a line with baited hooks in order to capture individuals and collect more specific measurements. Once captured, we tag the animal with a marker that will identify them in future capture sightings, and collect tissue sample for DNA and contamination analysis. You will assist with baiting and setting the longline, collecting environmental data, and will learn proper handling techniques for safely tagging and releasing sharks and rays.

Turtle patrol 2

Night patrol on the turtle nesting beach with Turtle Foundation

Boavista is world-renowned for its breeding population of loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta). Although the species was reclassified as ‘Vulnerable’ world-wide (IUCN, in Cabo Verde it is given an ‘Endangered’ status due to the high level of poaching that still occurs. The Turtle Foundation has been working in the protection of these populations since 2008 alongside the local community. Between June and October dedicated rangers and volunteers patrol the beaches nocturnally, monitoring these animals and protecting them from poaching. Together with trained volunteers and rangers you will be able to observe the protection of these animals, see the nesting process and learn the scientific methods used to monitor their populations.

Picture taken in Belize: Rachel Graham

In-water visual transects and West African fish identification

Transects are a non-invasive method for assessing diversity and relative abundance of marine megafauna using in-water observers. Each transect involves four snorkelers positioned side by side in the water 15 meters apart. Snorkelers then swim along a bearing and for a predetermined length (usually 1km), observing and recording sightings within their 15 m transect area. Throughout the transect each swimmer is responsible for recording species identification, quantity, the distance each animal is from their transect line, and a size estimation for the sharks, rays, turtles and piscivorous fishes they see within their transect area.

Swimming transects are a common research method conducted by MarAlliance, however this will be our first time using this practice in Cabo Verde. You will pioneer data collection by swimming transects for the first time in the region.

Our research vessel

Our research for the week will be carried out aboard the Maximus, a 12m catamaran owned and captained by a local sailor, named Tilo. Tilo is originally from the island of Santiago and has over a decade of experience sailing all around Cabo Verde. He is an adept sailor, has extensive knowledge of the waters around Boavista and embodies the island’s laid back motto of ‘No Stress’.

The Maximus is a luxury catamaran designed for harbour cruises, fishing excursions, whale watching, snorkelling expeditions and of course research expeditions. While completing our work be sure to take in the breath taking scenery and landscapes of beautiful Boa Vista.

Sal Rei and the Island of Boavista, Cabo Verde

August 4-11th, 2019

Day 1

August 4th, 2019


International flight arrival at Rabil international airport. Pre-arranged transfer to Orquidea Guest House


Relax and acclimatisation / time to explore


Overview of the coming week’s research and Species ID instruction and/or review, instruction on survey methods and data collection.


Pre expedition dinner with Dr. Rachel Graham and Cabo Verde based research team.

Day 2

August 5th, 2019


Breakfast on board the Maximus or at the guest house


Mega-planktivore survey in the South (1)


Lunch in the field


Continue mega-planktivore survey


Dinner with the team


Presentation by Dr. Rachel Graham, Executive Director, MarAlliance

Day 3

August 6th, 2019


Breakfast at Orquidea


Capture and tagging of neonate hammerhead and spinner sharks near Sal Rei


Lunch in the field


Continue neonate capture and tagging near Sal Rei


Return to guesthouse


Dinner with the team


Night Patrol with Turtle Foundation at Ponta Pesqueira beach

Day 4

August 7th, 2019


Breakfast on board or at Orquidea


Mega-planktivore monitoring in the South (2)


Lunch in the field


Continue mega-planktivore monitoring


Dinner with the team


Presentation by Alexander Seymour, Cabo Verde Coordinator, MarAlliance

Day 5

August 8th, 2019


Breakfast on board or at Orquidea


Mega-planktivore monitoring in the South (3)


Lunch in the field


Continue maga-planktivore monitoring


Taxi to Sal Rei from Ponta Pesqueiro


Dinner with the team

Day 6

August 9th, 2019


Breakfast at Orquidea


Taxi from Sal Rei to Ponta Pesqueira to meet boat


Snorkelling transects (2) at Ilheu de Curral Velho


BRUV surveying on the East Coast


Lunch in the field


Continue BRUV survey on the East Coast


Taxi from Ervatão to Sal Rei


Dinner with the team


Review of BRUV videos, data entry

Day 7

August 10th, 2019


Breakfast at Orquidea


Taxi from Sal Rei to Baía das Gatas


Scientific long line sets on the north coast between Gatas – Derrubado


Lunch in the field


Continue scientific long line sets on the north coast


Taxi from Derrubado to Sal Rei


Final dinner with the team/wrap up party

Day 8

August 11th, 2019


Breakfast at Orquidea and check out


Transfer to Rabil International Airport for travels home

If you wish to extend your stay in Cabo Verde, we would be happy assist you with activity planning and travels throughout the country.

Agenda may be subject to change

Travel tips

  • The official currency of Cabo Verde is the Cabo Verde Escudo (CVE). One US dollar is equivalent to CVE 103.5, and one Euro equivalent is equivalent to CVE 110.26 (fixed, non-variable exchange rate). Exchange counters are located at international airports, but not at domestic airports. Every county has a bank that is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition, there are exchange offices that also exchange currency at the official rate. You can sometimes pay with euros in stores and taxis, but change will be returned is Escudos at a less favourable rate of 1 euro to 100 Escudos. Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted at major hotels and banks. You must present your passport when exchanging money or paying with a credit card (so you should always have it with you).
  • Electrical sockets (outlets) in Cabo Verde are one of the two European standard electrical socket types: The “Type C” Europlug and the “Type E” and “Type F” Schuko. If your plug doesn’t match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in.
  • Tap water is not potable in Cabo Verde; drink only bottled water. In the field and at the guest house we will provide you with filtered bottled water.
  • If you plan on using your cell phone, standard roaming charges will apply and rates will be carrier dependent. The guesthouse will supply free Wi-Fi, and some cafés and restaurants are equipped with free Wi-Fi for paying customers. You will have the opportunity to buy a local sim on your first day (if your phone is unlocked)
  • The official language of Cabo Verde is Portuguese; however, Cabo Verdean Creole (kriolo) is a Portuguese-based creole language spoken as the native language by the Cabo Verdean diaspora.

Skills requirement

  • Comfortable on large and small boats
  • Confident swimmer
  • Comfortable snorkelling for 20-50 minutes at a slow-moderate pace


Safety is our top concern and MarAlliance has an emergency plan for field work conducted at all its sites on Boavista. Comprehensive first aid kits will be held on board the Maximus and at the guesthouse.

Emergency contacts for Boavista, Cabo Verde

Police Station: +238 2 511 132
Health Centre: +238 2 511 167
(Private Medical Clinic – Clinica Esperança Medica): +238 2 511 416

What to bring

If you need any of the below items, you can help sharks and rays by choosing MarAlliance as your nonprofit on Amazon Smile. Amazon donates a few cents from each purchase to help us to conduct research, education and conservation for sharks and rays and fight for these awesome animals. It all adds up and it really makes a difference. Thank you for your support!

For the sun and sea








Swim wear (at least 2 suits), for women: quick dry shorts




Lycra bodysuit/pants

socks site

Water socks


Hand coverage

* Make sure your sunscreen is coral/reef safe and doesn’t contain oxybenzone, octinoxate, 4-MBC and the common preservative butylparaben, all of which kill coral.
** Polarized are recommended as they cut down the glare on the water.
*** We will have these for sale too (The tropical sun is strong; full coverage is important)



2-3 T-shirts


2-3 pairs of shorts


One long-sleeved shirt and one pair of long pants *


1 large regular towel (if you have space)


Large quick dry towel


Pareo or wrap

* To take out on the water in case you start getting too much sun



Mask, fins and snorkel (test equipment before arrival)


Rain jacket/poncho (just in case)


Underwater or splash-proof camera/GoPro


Headlamp with rechargeable batteries


Dry sack for keeping camera gear and other items water-free


Re-useable water bottle

Health and wellbeing


Bug spray


Sea-sick? Dramamine or meclizine**


Own medicines


Snacks, e.g. hard candy‡


Books to read

‡ Always good to have following the snorkel transects

**Bring a supply of Dramamine or meclizine to ensure you are comfortable while out at sea.

IMPORTANT: Please bring enough money to cover your time before and after your time on Boa Vista. $300-400 USD should be more than enough if you won’t be staying in Cabo Verde after the expedition.

Can we invite others not working with our company (e.g., significant other, family member, friend)?

Yes! Note, however, that the quoted trip cost is made possible by your company’s 100% donation matching. Non-company employees would pay the quoted trip cost AND ask to make a donation for the same amount (in other words, their total cost would be 2x the company cost).

*A prospective volunteer pointed out that if he pays for both himself and his +1, then the entire payment is a donation and should be eligible for matching.

I’m confused by the pricing. Is our company covering part of the trip cost?

The price quoted are the prices that you would pay. MarAlliance is relying on your company’s gift match to cover its total costs, so if you were to sign up for Panama, for example, they are counting on $2990 from you + $2990 from company matching.

Employee $2990
Company gift match* $2990
Total Cost** $5980

*Due to the purely volunteer nature of the trip (not a tourist venture), the price you pay for the trip can be considered a donation to MarAlliance (a nonprofit) and is thus (a) tax deductible; and (b) eligible for 100% gift matching.

**Non-company employees whose companies do not offer 100% gift matching would pay the full, tax-deductible $5980. If you’re bringing a +1 and elect to pay for both trips yourself, the full donation should be eligible for gift matching.

I’ve already used my full company-gift-matching benefit for 2018. Can I hold a spot?

Yes, you can either elect to forego gift matching (and make a separate donation to cover the incremental match price). Or, you can work with MarAlliance to reserve a spot on your trip of choice and hold payment until January 2019, when you’ll once again be eligible for gift matching. Email

What are the main differences between the four expeditions?

  • Belize -Very remote, on a small island with no cell service or internet. Glamping accommodations in yurt style tents, private cooks, and the focus is on sharks and turtles.
  • Honduras – Located on a sparsely populated island, with all-inclusive (except alcohol) hotel accommodations. Our primary focus in Honduras is on sharks, rays and fish.
  • Panama – All-inclusive (except alcohol) hotel accommodations in a remote area of Isla Bastimentos. Our primary focus is on sharks, rays and fish.
  • Cabo Verde – Accommodations will be Guest house style with field work completed on a catamaran. Our primary focus will be Whale sharks, Manta Rays and sharks.

What is the day to day time allocation of volunteers during the expedition?

Volunteers will spend most of their days in boats, out on the water participating in one of three activities; typically, from 8am until sunset.

Data entry & presentations will follow in the evenings.

What can I expect during my time on the expedition?

  • To work side-by-side with MarAlliance staff and local fishermen as part of the expedition team
  • To contribute to critical marine conservation and monitoring/research efforts
  • To learn new skills
  • Learn about marine animals, the reef, the countries culture, politics, and about the local fishermen’s livelihoods
  • Enjoy tropical island life for a week
  • To be well fed and enjoy good company!

What if I might be uncomfortable seeing animals in pain, such as tagging & taking samples of sharks?

The only way we can measure and tag sharks is if we catch them. We minimize our handling time and sharks have little to no feeling in their dorsal fins where we place the tag. By comparison millions of sharks are killed yearly and we are trying to reduce these deaths.

Will time be allocated for an optional dive?


  • Optional dive locations will be decided by the resort or tour operator in country.


Diving is an optional activity and at the cost of each volunteer. You can expect a 2-tank dive in Honduras and Panama to be around $50-$70US and the Blue Hole trio-$260US.

Can we do a night dive?

No, evenings comprise of data entry and presentations.

Can you accommodate vegetarian meals?

Yes! Most if not all dietary needs can be accommodated.

How many spots are available per expedition & how many spots are left?

Belize, Honduras, and Panama have 10 spots allocated to each. Cabo Verde has 8 spots.

We will update our website to list how many spots are left as they fill up.

Are teenagers welcome?

18+ years

Do I need to buy travel insurance?

Yes, MarAlliance does require participants to have travel insurance, however if your company

Provides travel insurance you may consider whether coverage is sufficient.

Note: Company provided travel insurance-things to consider

  • Does it cover medical (including evacuation)?
  • Does it provide trip cancellation insurance?
  • Does is cover me on paid leave?
  • Does it cover me on unpaid leave?

Are there other ways I can get involved?

Yes! Whether you join one of the expeditions or not, MarAlliance is always looking for donors to fund satellite tags that will track the migration patterns of sharks, rays and turtles.

  • Amount $3000 (covers 1 sat tag and a portion of the satellite transmission time). You’re welcome to go in on a tag with a group of friends!
  • Donors who fund tags will get to choose a name for the animal tagged and receive daily updates on its movements (tags may remain with animal for weeks, months, even years).
  • Donated tags may be deployed by MarAlliance and expedition volunteers during this years’ expedition.
  • Receive weekly updates

*Donated tags are also tax deductible

Price includes


  • Double occupancy room for 7 nights at Orquidea Guest House. *Private rooms are not available at Orquidea Guest House


  • Transfers to and from Rabil International Airport and around the island to various research locations


  • All meals including full breakfast (includes coffee, tea), lunch and dinner


  • On-site training from our team of expert biologists and research staff
  • Donation, which provides all the resources necessary for our monitoring and research methods, local fisher and boat captain salaries
  • Day excursion in Boa Vista
  • Sailing aboard the Maximus
  • Swag bag!
  • Unforgettable, once in a life time experience and memories

Price does not include

  • International flights
  • Tourist tax of 2 Euros per day to a max of ten days payable at the hotel when you arrive
  • Travel, health or cancellation insurance
  • Personal items and incidentals
  • Alcohol and tips for hotel staff
  • Gratuities for hotel staff