Having applied to volunteer for a project involving sighting and recording scientific data on wild whale and dolphin populations in the vast open Atlantic Ocean, my expectations before coming where; I might see something in the space of two weeks, maybe a single pod of dolphins or a few whales if I’m lucky but I found myself constantly surprised with each boat expedition.
I came to Tenerife at the end of February for two weeks. Having recently finished my studies in Environmental Conservation I figured that gaining more practical experience in actual conservation work would be a definite benefit for me (and a good excuse for an affordable, fun and exciting time in the sun away from the British winter).
On the third day after having arrived in Tenerife having had enough time to settle in and being given basic training from the staff I went on my first boat trip. The sun was out, the sky was clear and the sea was calm; as it always is in Tenerife and I was ready to start working but I wasn’t expecting to get any sightings of cetaceans on my first trip but as the boat headed out of port after about half an hour a massive pod of about 100 spotted dolphins started swarming around the boat. Suddenly there were dolphins everywhere, they were several dolphins bow riding in front of the boat, there were dolphins riding the waves alongside the boat and there were dolphins jumping out of the water left, right and centre. I was amazed, I only thought this kind of spectacle happens every once in a million but it happened to me on my first trip. There were so many dolphins that I found it impossible to record everything as everything was happening all at once. Then as I thought things couldn’t get any better, a group of pilot whales came towards the boat at the same time, so there were dolphins jumping, swimming and bow riding AND there were pilot whale near the boat all within the space of five minutes.
After two hours at sea; coming back to port I felt in awe of what I had seen. I had never seen anything like that before and I thought I never would again, I thought it was a case of beginners luck. However, the next day on my second boat trip the same happened again. It wasn’t as intense as the first time but I saw another family of spotted dolphin who came to interact and play with the boat and a group of pilot whales who this time came right next to the boat with one of the females guiding a whale calf next to her. I don’t think I’ve seen such a touching wild spectacle in my life.
With every boat trip I went on, I always saw something and every boat trip was a new experience with something different I had not seen on any boat previously, I even caught a glimpse of a fin whale on one trip which is rare indeed. Pilot whales, spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins are very common around the Canary Islands and you’re very likely to spot at least one species on every boat trip. So if you want to see whales and dolphins and participate in meaningful scientific research to aid in the conservation of marine mammals then this opportunity is definitely for you (it was definitely the right decision for……. trust me).
As for everything else about the project other than whales and dolphins, the accommodation is very nice, spacious and in good condition so if you’re worried about having to go basic and not having any access to electricity or the internet then don’t worry because all of your modern basics are here. Food is provided to you as part of the fee on weekdays and the nearest shops and restaurants are a small walk away and the staff are very friendly and helpful and are always happy help you with any problem. I came to view the staff as friends rather than staff members. They are all in their early twenties so the same age as I am and are really friendly, have a good sense of humour and are very passionate about the work they do here in Tenerife. The project felt more like a summer holiday with friends rather than work. So I’d like to say a very big thank you to all the staff; Rachel, Tasha, Macarena and Oscar and I’ll miss being in Tenerife with you guys.
By Iwan Pritchard - Tenerife Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer
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