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My meeting with the whale sharks of Mafia
© WWF Tanzania
Peter Ndaki

Let me take this rare moment to congratulate and throw a million thanks to the Marine and generally the Conservation team at WWF Tanzania for organizing such a memorable event - the Fisheries Day that we celebrated in Mafia, Last November.  Special vote of thanks to our honorable coordinator Mr. Paul Kugopya aka the man of the sea and the Mafia office team for making this event a success.
I have learnt a lot from each of the team members. They showed me that teamwork and networking is not only working together but being able to think alike and aim for the same things while enjoying the journey that takes us all to that same goal. My thinking was transformed completely, again! I have learnt that there is truly no limit to innovation!
We flew to Mafia midmorning. The trip was amazing, and this is because of the team. This was one of those rare moments that even us the supporting units at the office like procurement and Human resources got to join the programmes team and really work together. The levels were well considered and represented! I could see specialists and generalists in various areas of conservation, operation and drivers, working together, for an outsider you couldn’t tell the difference. That’s the beauty of TEAMWORK.

© Masunga Samwel
Peter Ndaki on a boat

Then the fun began! Searching the popular whalesharks of Mafia! To me going around searching for the whale sharks was such an amazing, memorable and wonderful experience. For the first time in my life I was out in the ocean in a small boat, holding tight to my life jacket, ahaaaa and praying hard for two things; My safety and seeing a whale shark! I was not disappointed; there was the whale shark:  huge (Nothing like anything I have seen in water in my lifetime, and I have been there for quite some time, half a century to be precise!) ohhh it is beautiful, in its majesty grandeur, I had to pinch myself to be sure I was not dreaming! My thinking changed and my passion on the biggest fish changed complete. I have heard a lot about it, I have supported making things that portray the whale shark but nothing had prepared me to see it in flesh and what I saw.
We were not alone at Kilindoni several boats were moving around with us looking for the shark, you could see different nationalities working together for one purpose; to see the sharks.
Although it is called a shark, there is nothing dangerous about this mammoth fish. It is a fisherman’s friend.  I was happy to hear from the small scale fishermen on good story about how they relate with sharks and the benefits that come from sharks. It was good to know that, where there is a shark, there is also a cloud of other fish because it is believed that, where the shark is, there is safety and no danger! Hence fishermen get big catches when they work with the sharks.
Fishermen have nicknamed the whale shark a savior in times of danger, the reason is that sharks love to stay close to where people are, that is where they feel safe, so fishermen will usually follow the whale shark or is it the other way round? When there is a boat accident fishermen will usually get a ride on a whale shark’s back to safety. One fishermen says, “brother we don't want to kill these huge fish because of a number of benefits they bring, for instance you are here and we are leading you along in the sea, we are earning good money, said Mr Mtego who was our guide into the sea.
Some courageous colleagues dived in to play with the whale shark, I couldn’t, but indeed I had fun seeing the shark in such close proximity. We had so much fun but unfortunately it was time to leave the sharks alone and go back to the shore.
Did you know that the whale shark is the biggest fish in the ocean? And that they have been there for the past 60 million years? Did you know that an adult whale shark can weigh up to 20 tonnes and measure up 
to more than 12 meters? And that in Tanzania they are only found in Mafia? Well its time to get yourself a ticket and enjoy them in Mafia!

© Japhary Kiwanga
Whales harks in Mafia

This trip made me understand how much we are doing as an organization in protecting our nature, we have made a great investment to make this rare fish safe and therefore draw both local and global attention to our Mafia Island. I am so proud that I am part of WWF; it now makes a lot of sense for all the hours that I put in in supporting programmes people execute their initiatives. All the hours are indeed worth it!
 Being part of the trip helped me understand more what the programmes teams and the organization as a whole is doing. I have a new perspective now, I will be an ambassador and I hope more people will be good ambassadors if they get to understand and see firsthand what we are doing. Am grateful to my leaders for granting myself and all who joined fisheries day in Mafia this opportunity.
 Ahhhh, time to go back to my work; till next time, next place and next event. I don’t know where that will be, it could be in the Selous to see and save the elephants, to Tunduru or Kilwa to plant mangroves and enjoy nature or to the Mara River or Ruaha to see the beauty of my country and of course save these rivers from Drying. I will surely be joining you guys.
 For Now Adios Amigo
Asanteni sana Wana

Peter Ndaki, Senior Procurement Officer WWF Tanzania