• Volunteering in Tenerife on a dolphin and whale conservation project
Gain valuable hands-on experience in marine conservation
Enjoy life in Tenerife!
Tenerife is one of the top destinations in the world to observe free-living whales and dolphins. The canary islands are home to several resident communities of pilot whales and dolphins that remain in the area throughout the year - to which they can generally be observed 80% of the days. Not only this, but there is a busy migratory route that passes right by the island, allowing you to see a total of 24 other species at different times of the year, from the giant blue whale to the majestic killer whale.
As with a growing list of animals, whales and dolphins are under considerable threat like never before. The marine mammals in and around Tenerife are currently facing a number of threats, including habitat degradation, climate change, injuries from ships and commercial fishing equipment, prey depletion (caused by overfishing) and noise and health effects resulting from increased in-water pollution.
Over the last few decades, the local team have led the way in developing science-based research and conservation efforts to help protect whales and dolphins in the Canarian waters. This long-term dataset is uniquely valuable for understanding how to monitor these cetaceans and to help implement plans in the future to better protect them.
On top of this, the team have also collected information on the behaviour of cetaceans and their reaction to human interaction via tourism. With Tenerife being a major tourist hotspot, this has never been so important. All of the data collected will address the effects of human activities on marine mammals by assessing the cumulative human impacts and to help reduce potential threats through a combination of engagement and applied scientific research.
The role of the volunteer:
Your role while in Tenerife will be to collect vital research data and photographs of any whale and/or dolphin observations made while on the whale watching boats. The data collected includes population numbers and health, interactions with other vessels, as well as behaviour patterns, habitat conditions and more! This is your perfect opportunity to learn all about these fascinating creatures and to gain practical experience within this exciting field as you spend your days out at sea on one of the ethical tourist whale watching boats.
As you will be placed on several different boats with the potential to encounter so many different resident and migratory mammals, every day will be exciting and different.
Some of the activities you will assist with include:
- Data collection - As you will be spending so much time at sea to research and monitor the whales and dolphins in the area, there will be lots of data available to collect. For every interaction you will need to fill in a data sheet that collects important information about population numbers, behaviour patterns, interactions with vessels and animals, habitat conditions and so much more. At the end of the day and during your non-sea days you will then have the task of inputting everything onto our ever expanding database – one of the most complete sources of information on cetaceans in the world!
- Photo identification - Taking fin-shots are an extremely important part of the data collection as it is the only way we are able to identify individual cetaceans and their unique behaviours. You will be responsible for handling a DSLR camera and will be taught the basics about how to identify the animals by their dorsal fins.
Dorsal fins are used for identification because each fin is unique like the fingerprint of a human. Building a catalogue of fin-shots will allow us to create associations between individuals and determine connections between family pods.
- Assisting passengers - As volunteers are allowed on-board the ethical whale watching boats free of charge, we need to assist the crew where needed. This could be anything from pointing out any animals seen, teaching your newly gained knowledge about the cetacean species, helping serve drinks and assisting passengers wherever necessary.
- Raising awareness - As we come across many hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, we believe we can do a lot to raise awareness about important environmental issues. We are currently running a community outreach programme to highlight issues threatening whales and dolphins in Tenerife and also how plastic is having a devastating impact on our world.
The local coordinator will create a weekly rotation that will specify which boat you will be seated on and which days - from a small 15-person boat to a large 250-person catamaran. The range of boats gives you a fantastic and varied experience. When you are not on the boats, you will be assigned several tasks, which will be carried out in the Volunteer House in Arona.
The project is available year round with start dates every Monday (arrive Monday and leave Monday).
The project is located in the south of Tenerife, approximately 25 minutes from the Tenerife South airport.
Whale watching vessels operate from two different ports: Puerto Colon and Los Galletas. Volunteer accommodation is located in the small mountainous town of Arona.
Minimum 1 week, maximum 24.
A minimum of 16 years old is required. Children from 5 years old are accepted if traveling with a parent over 18 years old. Therefore the project is also open to families.
You will be staying within the volunteer house situated in the small town of Arona. Located up in the mountains, just a short drive from the coast and tourist areas, this is the perfect place to call home. Looking down across the mountainous landscape to the sea, you will not find better views on the whole of the island than outside of your window!
Enjoy the best of both worlds. If you’re looking to relax then you can enjoy the quietness that surrounds you, head off on one of the many treks nearby or head to a local vineyard to try some local wine and cheese. If you are looking for a more action packed time, then Playas de las Americas is just a stones throw away where you can find many restaurants and bars as well as a vast array of activities!
The volunteer accommodation is basic, but it is more than suitable for your time volunteering. You will be sharing your room with up to 5 other volunteers (same sex) in bunk beds – think dorm like living. There are several communal bathrooms that have western style toilets and hot water.
There is a communal kitchen where volunteers prepare and cook their meals and a great outside eating area where everyone congregates of an evening to share their stories from the boats that day.
A typical day:
You will generally be volunteering from Monday to Friday where your working day starts around 7am and normally finishes at 8pm. The weekends are free for you enjoy your surroundings and to explore everything Tenerife has to offer.
Although we will try to schedule you as often as possible on the boats, we cannot guarantee the amount of times each week you will be out at sea. The local team aim to get all volunteers to spend at least 3 days per week on one of the ethical whale watching boats, but this does depend on several factors.
During a typical boat day, you will head down to the harbour at around 8am and get picked back up at 6pm. These full on days will see you at sea for around 8 hours, with a 3 hour morning trip and then a 5 hour afternoon trip immediately after– no other programme offers this!
For all of the other days where you are not on a whale watching boat, you will start the day at around 9am with house chores and other activities. For the rest of the day you will assist with entering all of the data and photos as well as anything else required.
At the end of each day, everyone congregates to share their findings from the day and to have some dinner.
per week, from 1 to 3 weeks.
6+ weeks: 250€ per week
This price includes:
- 24-hour airport pickup
- Transport to and from the harbour
- Training, material, equipment
- Membership fees to the association
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