June Update: NEW: our 5-star PADI dive center, first humpback of the season & a new team member

First Humpback Whale Sighting of the Season

BCSS team encountered their first humpback whale in waters northeast of Benguerra on the 19th of June. The whale displayed spectacular behaviour, breaching multiple times while heading north. The sighting represents the start of humpback whale season in Mozambique, which typically begins in July and ends in October. The whales use the Bazaruto Archipelago’s waters for breeding activities. BCSS collects data on sightings alongside spatiotemporal and environmental parameters, aiming to shed more light on the humpbacks’ occurrence, distribution, and habitat use. 

BCSS to Host Maeva Terrapon’s PhD Research on Humpback Whales’ Behaviour

This August, BCSS will be hosting three marine mammal researchers from the Sea Mammal Research Unit (University of St Andrews, Scotland). This team will join the BCSS field station on Benguerra Island for a month to conduct research on humpback whales, as part of a project lead by PhD candidate Maeva Terrapon. The aim will be to temporarily tag whales with a small device, recording their movements around the Bazaruto Archipelago providing important habitat use data for this species on their breeding ground. In addition, the research team will also play some pre-recorded killer whale vocalisations to the tagged humpback whales so they can better understand how humpback whales react to this predator in tropical waters. More information on this exciting project to follow next month.

Introducing Karolina Högberg, BCSS and Kisawa Sanctuary’s Sustainability Manager

We are excited to share that we have recently expanded our team with Karolina as our Sustainability Manager. Specialized in sustainability management, Karolina comes from an interdisciplinary background of social and environmental sciences. With broad experience from across the hospitality, retail, travel and IT sectors, she incorporates expertise within regenerative development, project management and sustainability reporting. She holds a BSc and MSc in Tourism and Sustainability Management from Lund University. Passionate about supporting people and planet ocean, she is dedicated to support her mother country by uniting community and marine conservation. Both Kisawa Sanctuary and BCSS have been thrilled with her contributions to the organisations thus far.  

Wildlife Highlights

Being out in the open ocean almost every other day, the BCSS team came across a wide array of incredible wildlife last month. The first sightings of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) have been recorded this month, indicating the start of humpback whale season. See below for a detailed list of last month’s encounters. 
• 7th June: Four Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) were encountered on the surface while the team was on the way to a dive site northeast off Benguerra Island. Once at the destination, two endangered green turtles (Chelonia mydas) were sighted while diving.  
• 8th June: While cruising through the archipelago, the team came across two vulnerable loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) on the surface, followed by a sighting of five Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). At a dive site south of Bazaruto Island, a green turtle was seen.  
• 10th June: Five bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops Sp.) swam past the BCSS boat, and a green turtle (C. mydas) was spotted at the dive site south of Bazaruto Island.  
• 12th June: Both on the surface and underwater, a vulnerable loggerhead turtle (C. caretta) was seen, followed by an encounter with a vulnerable Jenkins’ whipray (Pateobatis jenkinsii). 
• 14th June: A group of five spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) were seen on the surface, followed by a singular Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus).  
• 17th June: Ten Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) swam past, whereafter the team sighted two different species of turtle on the surface: a loggerhead turtle (C. caretta) and a green turtle (C. mydas), alongside a Jenkins’ whipray (P. jenkinsii). 
• 18th June: The team sighted ten bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops Sp.) a loggerhead turtle and a rare and vulnerable leatherback turtle (Dermiochelyis coriacea). 
• 19th June: After the first humpback whale (M. novaeangliae) sighting of the season, the team sighted an endangered grey reef shark (Carcharinus amblyrynchos) and a Jenkins’ whipray (P. jenkinsii) while on a dive south of Bazaruto Island. Once on the surface and heading back, they saw a pod of 16 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) and a vulnerable sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) leaping out of the water. 
• 20th June: While diving off the northern tip of Bazaruto Island, the team encountered a blue spotted ribbon tail ray (Taeniura lymma), Jenkins’ whipray (P. jenkinsii), a spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari) and a vulnerable reef manta ray (Mobula alfredi). 
• 21st June: Northeast off Benguerra Island, twelve Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) were seen while diving, and at the second dive site of that day the team spotted a critically endangered hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and a blue spotted ribbon tail ray (T. lymma). 
• 22nd June: A dugong (Dugong dugon) was seen on the surface.  
• 24th June: An Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) was encountered on the surface.  
• 26th June: At dive sites south from the Bazaruto Archipelago, the team encountered eight Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus), two loggerhead turtles (C. caretta) and two hawksbill turtles (E. imbricata). 
• 27th June: On the way to the San Sebastian area, south of the Bazaruto Archipelago, the team came across eight humpback whales (M. novaeangliae), and while diving they encountered a hawksbill turtle (E. imbricata) and eight Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus).  
• 28th June: At dive sites east off Benguerra Island, a Jenkins’ whipray (P. jenkinsii) was seen, alongside a blue spotted ribbon tail ray (T. lymma). On the way back, the boat was accompanied by twelve Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus), whereafter the team counted two humpback whales (M. Novaeangliae) in the distance.

New: Recreational diving in Support of Marine Science

At BCSS, we value awareness building and communication regarding marine science. Hence, we are excited to share our knowledge and years of experience widely, ensuring that our facilities, surrounded by unparalleled marine biodiversity are accessible to those who feel passionate about supporting wildlife while exploring.    

To facilitate this concept, we have launched recreational diving activities, including diving courses and diving packages via our on-site 5-star PADI center, for divers without scientific or academic background. More information can be found here.

All funds collected through recreational diving directly support marine science and conservation in Mozambique. 

Recreational diving while based at a marine research station is a unique and highly valued concept worldwide, and we represent one of just a few facilities in Mozambique, with many truly unique features. Joining BCSS, divers visit research verified dive locations and enjoy the advantage of our scientific knowledge of the area and its wildlife: a result of years of exploration and research. Our 13 dive sites are topographically visualized, as our on-site scientists have carefully 3D-mapped them, using high resolution technology. Our strategic location and our affordable yet comfortable, sustainably designed accommodation allow us to cut unnecessary costs, making diving with BCSS exclusive yet affordable. 

Scientific Training Programs & Dive Master Course

“My experience as a dive master trainee at BCSS was incredible and I couldn’t be happier with my choice to do it here. The place and staff are wonderful and my dive instructor Mauro did an amazing job with the dive master course. Would 100% recommend! – Anni Malinen 
As we are at the start of European summer, we are excited to host the upcoming scientific training participants and dive master trainees over the coming months. There are only a few spots available for later in the year, and we recommend booking early if you are wishing to join us on Benguerra Island next year. For more information on our scientific training programs and dive master courses, click the buttons below.

The Bazaruto Archipelago National Park (BANP) Reveals Vital Habitat for Vulnerable Pelagic Sharks

The study, titled “A Mozambican Marine Protected Area Provides Important Habitat for Vulnerable Pelagic Sharks”, was published in April 2023 in The Nature Scientific Reports. It represents a significant milestone in marine science and contributes to our understanding of the ecological importance of MPAs in safeguarding endangered species. 

Led by Calum J.G. Murie, the research team, that included BCSS scientists and research assistants, conducted an extensive investigation through acoustic monitoring around the perimeter of the BANP. Their efforts were supported by cutting-edge technologies and rigorous data collection methods, revealing importance of the waters off the BANP for both bull and oceanic blacktip sharks. Importantly, relatively high residency scores of these sharks indicate a healthy marine ecosystem, demonstrating the effectiveness of the MPA in preserving biodiversity. 

Find the full research paper, “A Mozambican Marine Protected Area Provides Important Habitat for Vulnerable Pelagic Sharks,” here. 

Two poster presentations, authored by BCSS’s cetacean researcher, Ekaterina Kalashnikova, were presented at the Conference of the European Cetacean Society

Ekaterina Kalashnikova of BCSS, Davis G. Orio, and A. Akkaya presented the initial results of their research on humpback whale population in Tanzania at the 34th Annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society in O Grove, Galicia, Spain, held in April 2023. 

The study focused on addressing data deficiencies in Tanzania, where the waters serve as crucial breeding and nursing grounds for humpback whales between June and December. The research team aimed to develop a comprehensive photo-identification catalogue that will enhance our understanding of regional whale assemblages, subpopulation boundaries, and regional connectivity. 

To assess movement patterns between subpopulations, the team utilized the “Happy Whale” platform to compare identified individuals from Tanzania with the global dataset. The analysis revealed a remarkable long-distance match between a whale sighted off Zanzibar in 2022 and sightings outside of the West Indian Ocean region. This discovery emphasizes the complexity of migration routes and population dynamics. 

Tanzanian catalogue will be complimentary to photo ID data sets generated by whales monitoring at BCSS and will shed more light on site fidelity, residency time, and the movement range of humpback whales within East African waters.  

The second poster represents an acoustic study, led by Isabel C. Avila, and co-authored by A. Akkaya, E. Kalashnikova, J.E. Carvajal and P. Lyne sheds new light on the vocal communication and breeding behaviors of humpback whales in the Southern Hemisphere. 

The study, named ‘Humpback whale songs in the Colombian Pacific and in the Tanzania Indian Ocean: same subpopulation and season but different song pattern’, explores the captivating world of humpback whale songs, focusing on their occurrence in the Colombian Pacific and Tanzania Indian Ocean. These Oceans serve as breeding grounds for the humpbacks, where they engage in various reproductive behaviors, including the mesmerizing songs produced by male whales for courtship. 

To explore potential differences in song patterns between Stocks G and C, the researchers conducted an analysis of song acquired in Colombian Pacific, and the one recorded by E. Kalashnikova in Zanzibar, Tanzania Indian Ocean. The songs were standardized and characterized using the RavenPro program, revealing the difference between the main themes between Colombia and Tanzania whales. 

Results of this research highlighted the importance of the cross-boundary collaboration for identification of the cultural links between the animals from different ocean basins. 

Photo of dugong (cover photo) by Mirko Rattin.

Sign up to get the latest news and updates

Scroll to Top

Stay in the know

Receive monthly updates about our research, projects, new papers and spectacular wildlife encounters, straight into your inbox.