Whale Shark Retreat

TBC 2020

***Ask to join our Whale Shark waiting list to be the first to hear when the 2020 expedition is live – [email protected]***

Love Her Wild is organising a retreat like no other! We will be spending 10 days on the little-known island of Mafia, a small slice of untouched paradise a short distance from mainland Tanzania. There will be daily yoga sessions, as well as workshops focusing on setting your goals and intentions for the new year. But this is not just a retreat, this is also a conservation project!

Our mornings will be spent swimming with huge whale sharks to gather data, contributing to important research on these protected animals. You will have an opportunity to learn about the whale sharks and conservation issues that the island face, as well as taking part in other environmental efforts like beach cleans.

Swimming with whale sharks is considered one of the most memorable experiences we can have with nature. We believe that through close encounters and connections, we can build our knowledge and passion to help protect the planet and its inhabitants.

When we swim with the whale sharks we will be snorkelling so no diving experience is necessary!

Collecting data on whale sharks

Whale sharks are the largest fish on the planet, believed to reach lengths as big as 20 metres! We know very little about these sharks as they spend most of their time in the deep sea, but experts think they may live as old as 100 years old. One thing we do know about the population is that they are decreasing due to various threats such as fishing and pollution. Scientists are working to gather information on whale sharks so that we can better understand their habits and behaviour.

Now is your chance to be part of the mission to help save these creatures!

Most days we will be heading out on a private boat to search for whale sharks. They are wild creatures so there is no guarantee we will see them, but our guides and captains are experienced locals who have spent their whole living alongside these sharks, so they know them well. Some days we may see none, other days we may be lucky to see 5 in one go, we don’t know what we will find.

When we spot a shark we will enter the water and have an opportunity to swim nearby. We will be collecting data on each shark; estimating the size, noting scars, attempting to identify the gender and also taking a picture so that the shark can be identified. These roles will be shared amongst the team and it will be a group effort to ensure our data is accurate as possible before it is uploaded to the international database.

Once the data has been collected, you will be free to swim with the sharks for as long as you like! The weather is hot and the water a comfortable temperature to swim in so wet suits won’t be needed!

Ocean conservation

This expedition is an opportunity for you to learn about the whale sharks and threats that the marine environment currently faces. Alongside gathering data on the whale sharks, we will also be doing our bit to tackle another big issue our waters face – plastic pollution. There will be organised beach cleans which you can join to help collect plastic from the shore. It can seem like a daunting and frustrating task, but we believe that every effort helps makes a difference.

Yoga and workshops

Alongside our conservation efforts, we will be running daily yoga classes. These classes will be suitable for beginners so no experience is necessary. This is a chance for you to relax and rejuvenate and will really set you up each day to make the most of the moment when swimming with the whale sharks.

There will also be workshops throughout the week that focus on setting goals and intentions for the year ahead.

Where will I be staying

We will be staying at the beautiful and quiet Bustani Lodge. You will get a private air-con room and we will have the place exclusively to ourselves! There is a pool and relaxation area. This is one of the most comfortable lodges and luxurious on the island: http://bustanimafia.com/accommodation-at-bustani-bb/

Yoga sessions will be delivered in a sister hotel which has a beachfront studio.

Mafia is a poverty-stricken and cut off Island so although we will be staying in a very comfortable place, you should prepare yourself for the realities of life there. Malaria is present so you will need to check with your GP about prevantative measures and vaccinations you will need. Many of the islanders still live in mud huts with no running water and electricity. They are friendly and reserved people and part of the enjoyment of Mafia is getting to know the locals and the way of life there which is so different to ours.

A typical day

Most days we will start early for yoga, followed by a light breakfast before jumping on the boat. Morning is a good time to spot the whale sharks when they are most active. Usually, we will be out looking for or swimming with the whale sharks until 12-2pm when we will return for lunch at our hotel. There will be snacks and water available on the boat.

The afternoons will be yours to relax and enjoy the island. Some days we will organise an optional beach clean.

Before dinner is a great time to go for a walk along the beach to watch the sunset. We will then have dinner together as a group followed by a workshop or conservation talk.

Midway through the retreat, we will take a day off to visit the other side of the island and the marine park where we can snorkel and visit a lagoon. And on our last night, you can look forward to a sunset cruise and BBQ on the beach!

The island is small and sleepy so there is not a huge amount to do. There is a small market and it can be nice to go for a walk through the villages to meet the friendly locals. A cultural tour can be arranged on request.

What is and isn’t included

Included in the price is…

  • 9 nights in private accommodation in Bustani Lodge
  • all meals from dinner on the day of your arrival to breakfast on the departure day (meals will be vegetarian so we aren’t contributing to animal mistreatment or overfishing)
  • An experienced expedition leader and yoga instructor (Bex Band and Catherine Edsell)
  • private boat for whale shark swimming and data collection
  • government fees to swim with the whale sharks
  • snorkel and fin hire
  • yoga, meditation and development workshops
  • day trip to snorkel in the marine park
  • beach BBQ and a sunset cruise on the last night
  • Expedition T-shirt

What is not included

  • international flights (you will need to fly into Dar es Salaam)*
  • internal flight to Mafia Island (estimate $240 return)*
  • drinks
  • insurance
  • additional activities not included in the itinerary
  • tips for the local staff (you may like to tip the ‘whale shark’ boat team, suggest amount is $20)
  • optional gifts for the local school (if you’d like to bring clothes, shoes or books for the local children we can arrange for these to be given to the school)

***Join the waiting list to be the first to hear about our 2020 expedition – [email protected]***

Cost: £1360

Dates: TBC 2020

Where: Mafia Island, Tanzania


For enquiries, please email Bex on [email protected]


This expedition is being led by Love Her Wild founder Bex Band. Bex has led a number of UK and overseas expeditions and worked on various conservation. You can find out more about Bex on www.theOrdinaryAdventurer.com. 

We have partnered with Inspired Ventures who specialise in adventure travel to support social and environmental projects around the world. Inspired Ventures is a UK travel company that ensures our trip has all the necessary insurance and complies with the necessary standards and laws in the UK.

Please do not book your flights to Mafia Island until you have received confirmation that we have received minimum numbers for this expedition to go ahead!

To book your place on the trip please use the form below to pay the £350 deposit: