The best moment of the entire trip had to be seeing my first manta ray on scuba. I'd seen the videos, I'd seen the photos, I'd been told all about them...but nothing compared to the reality of actually seeing one.
It was only about 5 minutes into the dive and the manta ray came gliding out of the shadows. It was so beautiful and majestic I had to remind myself to keep breathing.
It was bigger than I'd ever imagined, yet moved so gracefully through the water. And when you turned to look at your fellow volunteers, you knew you were all thinking the same thing: WOW.
Before I knew it, the manta had drifted back into the shadows and I had to ask myself if that had really just happened. It was such an alien experience.
When we got to the surface after the dive we were all still so excited about our encounter, and we ended up talking about it most of the day. Even the dive leaders were excited, though they must have seen hundreds of mantas over the years.
It was a moment I will never forget.
My worldview has definitely changed as a result of the trip.
I had a passion for marine life before I embarked on the project, but I learned so much more while I was there and was really inspired to get more involved in protecting our oceans.
Since I returned, I've been trying to learn more about our local marine conservation projects, get involved, and follow all the latest developments in the field. I learned a lot more about the practices of finning on the trip, and why the local people feel the need to do it.
I learned a lot about the country of Mozambique as a whole. And I developed an even deeper respect for our oceans. It is one thing to learn about the ocean, but it is another thing entirely to head under the waves and spend time there.
It felt so peaceful and really put things in perspective for me. It made me realize how small we really are in respect to the planet as a whole, and how alien the ocean is to us.
Heading underwater was like catching a glimpse of a whole other world, and I found that so fascinating and so relaxing. You feel a thousand miles away from all your problems and your everyday life.
Now I keep wondering when I'll next get to head underwater!
Firstly, I would advise booking to stay for more than 3 weeks. It may sound like a long time, but honestly the time travels so fast that I wish I had stayed for 3 months...maybe a year or two...maybe forever...
I would also advise bringing a fair amount of extra money with you for some weekend dives or snorkelling trips. The weekend dives tend to be double dives, so you get 2 dives plus an ocean safari for a great price.
As a new diver, I found that the more dives I went on, the more comfortable I felt in the ocean. Not to mention the more dives you do, the better chance you have of seeing some really cool things under the water!
But I'd also say don't push yourself too hard. Spend some of your free time relaxing and recuperating. Diving can be tiring and you don't want to wear yourself out to the point of getting ill, because then you wouldn't be able to participate in any dives.
Enjoy the company of your fellow volunteers - they may end up being your dive buddies on future trips! And withdraw/exchange your money as soon as you arrive because there are no ATMs or banks in Tofo.
Learn to be flexible - the weather isn't always on your side, and the same goes for wildlife. You cannot expect to see something spectacular on every dive, but just try and enjoy the experience of being underwater.
Oh, and BRING AN UNDERWATER CAMERA. Trust me, you'll regret it if you don't.