An Interview with volunteer Jamie Lydon 

Jamie spent a week in Tenerife on our whale and dolphin conservation project to gain some practical knowledge of conservation techniques and marine animals – perfect for a wildlife conservation student! A week goes by very quickly… and although she had a unique experience, she would like to go back and stay longer.

Why did you choose this particular project?
I have just finished my degree in wildlife conservation and am a keen nature lover and have consequently always been interested in taking part in one of Frontier's wildlife conservation projects. I chose this project in particular as I had never seen whales or dolphins in the wild before and was excited to have that opportunity. I also wanted to further my knowledge on marine species and conservation techniques.

Which kind of work and activities did you do during your project?

During this project we boarded the whale watching boats in pairs. We gathered information on the species seen and the behaviours we encountered and tried to gain high quality fin shots in order to identify specific individuals within a species.

How did the culture and people differ to home, and what were the locals like?

The culture was similar to that of home and there was therefore no culture shock. The main thing I noticed was how friendly everybody was. We were soon recognised by our t shirts and fondly referred to as 'the Frontier girls'.

What was the accommodation like?
The accommodation was simple but pleasant consisting of a front room with a sofa and dining table, a small kitchen, 2 bathrooms and shared bedrooms. Mine consisted of 2 bunk beds and a double bed which could be shared by 6 people.

What were the staff and other volunteers like?
Since my time at the project was outside the peak summer period there was only a small number of volunteers. I found that because of this we clicked very quickly which made the project all the more enjoyable. By taking part in the project you already have a common interest in that particular area and you have plenty to talk about each day with what you have seen whilst on the boats.

What was your most amazing moment or your best memory?
I have many amazing memories from my time at the project. Seeing the wild whales and dolphins for the first time was a truly breath taking experience and I was also lucky enough to see a hammerhead shark. During my day off I went on 2 excursions. Firstly I went parasailing which was a completely new and totally incredible experience. I also went snorkelling with wild turtles which was amazing, as I never previously thought I'd be able to get so close to them. We also had the pleasure of speaking to a whale expert and one of the captains of the whale watching boats and it was fascinating to hear of their knowledge and experiences of the cetacean species of Tenerife.

Do you feel the work you were doing was worthwhile?
I feel the work we were doing on the project was very important as it is important for conservationists to know as much information as possible about the species in order to know how best to conserve them.

What sort of wildlife did you encounter?
On most boat trips you will encounter Pilot whales as they are a resident species to Tenerife. They are very cute and lots of them had calves with them. I also encountered bottle nosed Dolphins which whilst also a resident species are only seen in 50% of boat trips so I felt very privileged. I also saw sting rays, turtles, many beautifully coloured fish and a hammerhead shark.

What were you hoping to learn while on project, and have you achieved those goals?
I was hoping to gain more knowledge about marine species and I certainly feel I have by speaking with the experts, the captains and crew on the boats and reading the information booklets at the house. We also had the opportunity to share our passion about the cetaceans and the knowledge we had acquired with the tourists on the boats and it felt great to pass this along.

Any tips and advice you might like to pass on to future volunteers?

My only regret from the project is staying for just 1 week as I feel there was a lot more for me to experience out there so I would recommend staying for as long as you can. I would recommend talking to the crews on the boats as they have lots of knowledge about the species and are very interesting to talk to. I would also say to take part in as many excursions as possible on your days off and definitely go snorkelling with the turtles if you can, you won't regret it!

What do you have planned next?

I plan to find myself a job within my passion of wildlife conservation and hopefully save enough money to participate in Frontiers wildlife conservation projects in the future, possibly returning to Tenerife again.

Are you interested in going on a trip to Tenerife to work on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation project? You can also take a look at our other marine conservation projects here.


My Time With Frontier 

I have spent three week in Tenerife with frontier, working on the whale and dolphin experience and it has been such great experience. I would completely recommend it to anyone looking to do something new and different on their next holiday. I have loved my time in Tenerife learning about all the different whales and dolphin.

The boats where such fun and I found the crew really helpful and friendly, I really enjoyed the Peter Pan as it is so much fun seeing the Pilot whales swimming and other behaviours. Watching the whales was really intriguing and collecting the data was really enjoyable and interesting. I found the fin identification really fun and it was so exciting to find a match and identify which whale I had been watching.  

All the volunteers have been really nice and welcoming and I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone and getting to know new friends. I was so impressed with the wide range of volunteers and I loved hearing all of the different views and ideas. It was also great fun go on excursion with the other volunteers and the staff where very helpful in arranging trips and working out a seclude which could include everything I wanted to do, however the highlight of my trip was swimming with the turtles, and I feel it is definitely a must for any one visiting Tenerife

For anyone looking for a new experience this is the perfect project to wet your appetite and set you off to a perfect start to your gap year, but it is also perfect as a standalone project. Whether you stay for one week or ten you will love every second of Tenerife and the Frontier project.

By Rebecca - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

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What to Expect 

I spent two weeks in Tenerife and I wish I could have stayed for much longer. When I first arrived in Tenerife I was very nervous as I did not know what to expect, however as soon as I got to the house and met other volunteers I relaxed immediately.

Everyone was very nice and friendly and because of this my nerves quickly changed to excitement about what I was going to be doing on the project. On the first full day we had an induction about what we would be doing over the rest of our time in the country and once this was finished we went into Los Cristianos in the afternoon to get our bearings and soak in some of the sun.

Tuesday was the first day we got to go on the boats, we went onto the boats in pairs and had to record data and take photos every time we had an interaction. Every time we had an interaction with a species we had to record the GPS location, species present, number of adults and calves, what other boats were present, environmental conditions and what behaviours we saw displayed by the species. As well as this we had to try and take photos of the species present, particularly focussing on the fins of the pilot whales. These fin shots could then be used later for identification of that particular individual. In total I got to go on 7 boat trips and enjoyed every single one of them!

On top of going on the boats we had the opportunity to carry out many different activities. During my two weeks I visited Santa Cruz for the day, went on an excursion to Mt Teide, did paddle boarding, snorkelled with turtles and went to the waterpark Siam Park. I would definitely recommend spending your free time wisely and doing as many different activities as possible as it made the whole experience even better.

Anyone who has an interest in marine mammals would love this project, you don’t have to have much knowledge of the different species prior to going as you will learn so much during your time there. The two weeks I spent there flew by and I can’t believe it’s all over, I had so much fun out there and definitely will not forget this experience.

By Jenny - Whale & Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

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My Memories Of Tenerife 

I am Qi Wang and I come from China.I am an exchange student in Germany now. I went on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Tenerife Project from 6.Sep 2015 to 13.Sep.

On the day before I came to Tenerife I got a heavy fever and cold, very uncomfortable. And that was the time I really missed my family in China and wanted to go back as soon as possible even if I had planned well two-week travel to Italy and Spain after the project. I did not know what I should do.

On 6th.Sep, the day I took part in the project I disliked Europe when I knew no medicine store was open because it was Sunday. I thought I was so stupid to torment myself as my ears ached seriously and could not hear anything. But at the moment when I saw the unimaginable scene through the window of plane and the man sitting on my left smiled to me friendly with his thumb up and the grandma sitting on my right was so warm-hearted she asked for some medicine for me, I loved Europe again and told myself; please try two days first and then decide:-) Hold on! You will never know what would happen in the next minute and you will miss many nice things if you do not try. I think it was one of the best decisions I have made:)

I ate a very delicious muffin at airport. Xiana picked me up and took me to the home. With three levels, there are four rooms in the house. After Tracy guided me, showed me the house and introduced me to the other volunteers, the only thing I wanted to do was to sleep. 

At 8pm the dinner began. Simple home-made food by volunteers, which was very tasty. Two girls (Tracy and Elli) were always talking and laughing, others were listening and chatting. The atmosphere was very good, however, I did not understand British English and Spanish English very well. I was just sitting there with few words. I regretted I did not study English well enough:( But I began to like the place and these interesting people who were all friendly and always smiled at me. After the dinner, Xiana told us something more about the project and then let us play games and introduce ourselves. To be honest, I could only understand 1/3 what she said and always guessed and guessed, totally like a fool. And I could not understand others either but only knew they were happy :) That's enough maybe.

The next day was Monday. Tracy taught us something about Frontier and the marine animals. It was the first time I thought I was a bad student, the worst one. I could not integrate with them well and I sometimes could not help crying :( I told my friends how unhappy I was although it was really unique experience which I wanted to cherish. However, at the same time I indeed enjoyed it. It was a quite strange feeling. On that afternoon we went to beach.

We went on boat three times a week and I saw pilot whales and a dolphin.

I enjoyed the time people chatting at the table although I did not take part in it well due to my poor English. But it was true that I was willing to watch them laughing:) I like the atmosphere that each volunteer was so nice, active and positive. It maybe usual for European people to hear others say "Are you ok" "morning!" and something else polite and warm. But to me, it happens not so often. Thus, every time these nice friends sent their regards to me I was moved. I like here and these people increasingly. My favorite period was the fielding part after the dinner. I like the questions Xiana or Tracy asked us: Something about the interactions; Did you help; Did you talk to visitors. Then we shared our experiences. It seems we are a family:)

On 9.Sep I went on boat with Tracy and Elli. Pilot whales appeared but several minutes later they dived and did not swam up any longer. I was taking pictures at that time and did not know what happened, just feeling it was a pity that they left in such short time. When we went back home, Tracy and Elli told others the thing and then I knew it was because several illegal ships were hitting against the whales. I felt shamed about my foolish thought. Xiana was very angry with these ships' behavior. She was so boiled to express her anger with the non-behavior of Spanish government and then asked for suggestion from the volunteers. They talked ardently and I really hoped to understand them totally but I failed. However the situation shocked me heavily. People in my country lack environmental consciousness seriously and we need true education about our earth. We also lack and need environmentalists and volunteers to raise our sense and work for our environment .I really admired Xiana and these volunteers. That night, I was insomnic and thought about many things.

Volunteers made dinner in turn and I enjoyed the food. I appreciate getting the chance to taste home-made English food :)

We were asked to do something for the project. I translated the introduction about six kinds of whales and dolphins into Chinese. I was happy to know that Xiana likes it.

On the other two days, we went to Siam park and national park. It was also good experience:)

Now I was in the plane leaving Tenerife with so many valuable and nice memory. Thank you all for everything.

Qi Wang – Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

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A Great Sense Of Community 

Arriving at the volunteer house I was pleasantly surprised - the house is really clean and modern, with great facilities and a lovely pool, where you can cool off after a long day in the sun. Everyone was friendly and welcoming, and there is a great sense of community within the house, with everyone sharing chores like cooking and cleaning. The volunteers also spend lots of social time together, relaxing in the house, going out for dinner and even going on snorkeling and diving excursions.

Going on the whale-watching boats was amazing! Each day we were assigned to a boat in pairs, allowing us to record data about the whales and dolphins. We also got to talk to the tourists, telling them all about the animals that they were seeing. We spent the first day learning about Tenerife marine life, meaning that it was easy to engage with tourists as we knew what we were talking about!
As well as project work, we did some great extra-curricular excursions. For example, we all went on the Bonodea II, one of the whale-watching catamarans, as tourists and watched the whales without having to collect data. It was really fun sharing the experience with all of the other volunteers and we had some great close encounters with both pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins.

We also had the opportunity to go on a snorkelling trip. We got really close to a number of huge turtles in a beautiful bay. In our spare time we also went for drinks in San Blas, the small town near where the volunteer house is. They host some strange but entertaining nights like fake christmasses and ABBA tribute nights! We also had time to go into the bigger towns, like Los Christianos, where there are are a variety of great yet cheap restaurants and cafes, as well as great shops to pick up souvenirs.

Overall, I've had a really great time in Tenerife. I've loved being in the sunshine and seeing whales and dolphins up close has been amazing! I've also made some great friends and know that this is an experience I will never forget!

By Rachel - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

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The Wildlife, The Friends, The Dream

Arriving at Tenerife Airport I didn't have a clue what to expect I had no idea what the house would be like or how many people there would be, all I knew was that I was going to see some fantastic wildlife and make some fab memories.

I arrived with two of my university friends and we got picked up from the airport by Xiana and we were really excited to finally be here, months of planning and waiting were finally over. The house is fab and way better than the hostel I had in my head, it's new and clean and has a fab pool, just what you need when its really hot. The house has a great system and everything runs smoothly with cooking, cleaning, health and safety briefings etc. Everone is really helpful, enthusiastic about conservation, and super chatty so it's great when you're a newbie.

Day to day the project varies, the aim is to get everyone on a boat 3 times a week but because we go out on tourist boats and they can be busy it's not always possible, but that's the just the way it is with conservation, it is a hit and miss thing to do and it's just a case of fingers crossed and hope for the best, but you just have to remember that everytime you're out there and collecting data you're making a difference.

Once you're on the boat you can just have a great time and enjoy it, you just have to remember that you're a representative of frontier, so politeness and good behaviour is expected, make sure you're speaking to tourists about the wildlife you're seeing and engage people so that they have a great time and you do too. Once you have an encounter with the Whales or Dolphins you have to make sure you take loads of pictures and get in some profie fin shots as you'll need these to ID the whales once you're back at the house.

I love going out on the boats its such a brilliant place to be and you can get really close to the Whales, they're so beautiful and it's just great to see these animals in their naturual environment and not on a documentary!

Once you're back at the house after the bus journey you can pretty much do what you like, there always data to be input and photos to download, there's the pool and you can always pop into San Blas if you like. Theres a briefing at the end of every day and cooking to be done but it's all very relaxed, and once you've finished dinner you can do what you like, we've had a quiz night, documentary evening watching Blue Planet and we've all been out to dinner and just generally had a great time!

I've only been here for a week and it sucks that I can't stay longer, the people are lovely, the wildlife is amazing and the weather is wayyy better than England! I hope that everyone has a great experience with Frontier in Tenerife and that you get some great snaps and make some new lifelong friends. :D

By Coral - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

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The Best Two Weeks!

This is an absolutely wonderful experience! I have always been an animal lover and always known that I had to help to protect them somehow, so decided this summer was the time for me! 

Little did I know how much this experience would have me completely hooked for life! I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about moving into a house for 2 weeks with complete strangers but that only added to the experience. It’s so great to share your experience with like-minded people and was blown away by how people, some of whom only half my age, could inspire me so much to continue pursuing wildlife conservation.

The Wildlife Coordinator Xiana and her assistant Tracey were absolutely excellent and always ensure everything runs to plan. Being out on boats with enthusiastic crew members seeing Pilot Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins was positively amazing and if that didn’t blow my mind enough I was even lucky enough to see a Bryde’s Whale too. It was so nice to feel I was helping to improve the future for these astonishing mammals. Also, being a primary school teacher I want to pass on my knowledge to the kids I teach in the hope that they too will appreciate the importance of wildlife conservation.

Overall the experience was really fun and something I will never forget. Amazing animals, great people, fun times, beautiful island – what more can I say!

By Alison Cooney - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

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A Change In My Career Path 

From the moment I stepped out of the airport on my very first day in Tenerife I knew I was going to have an amazing time. I had always loved dolphins and so I knew that this project would be perfect for me!

I had originally wanted to study forensic science at university and I never even imagined that this project would potentially change my entire career path, as I am now looking at studying zoology at university. From my first day on the project until my last day five weeks later Xiana was always there to help. Going on the boats everyday would not be possible without Xiana’s amazing work and the captain’s talk that I got to experience my first week will be something I will never forget. The best part of my trip was definitely going on the boats every day. Getting to see some of the beautiful marine mammals; pilot whales, many species of dolphins and turtles was just one of the best parts. Being able to spend such a long time on this magnificent island will be an experience that is never forgotten. This was my third time travelling alone and it tops off all the previous trips! Being able to scuba dive and snorkel with the turtles was an unforgettable experience and I recommend everyone does it!

As you begin to meet all the people on project for the first time the nerves you originally had begun to fade and you see that everyone else is there for the same reason. The first Sunday night briefing is always daunting with the ice breakers but soon it becomes one of the funniest parts of the week. Watching everyone cook is always funny, and sometimes like me you will never cook often. (I can take that as a hint Xiana that I’m a bad cook!) Or you can end up with amazing cooks and the food is delicious!

Even back at the house we still had fun, playing in the pool, movie nights and the nights out of course. The pool was always a welcomed sight after a long day on the boats in the heat, whether it be playing with Rodrigo our inflatable Orca or doing our pilot whale impressions! As a group we all went to the monkey park, snorkelling with the turtles and to Siam Park. We also went to a Spanish Festival in Los Abrigos which is a night to never forget. Both the atmosphere and the music were incredible.

During my five weeks on the project I will never forget the first time I saw my first dolphin (Atlantic spotted dolphin) and the fact that I squealed like a child for the entire interaction! Throughout my time here I was able to see pilot whales, atlantic spotted dolphins, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and turtles. My last boat trip was on the Eden and I was able to catch some remarkable underwater footage of a Pilot Whale and even though I got soaked lying on the floor of the boat it was totally worth it! After several attempts of previous underwater footage this was definitely the best video. Whilst we were on boats we would record their behaviour, take pictures of their fins for identification and take note of the GPS. On some of the boats you would be able to jump in which was always great because of the heat. The crew were always lovely and always made everyone feel at home.

There is such a friendly atmosphere on this project and you will truly meet some amazing people. I have made an incredible group of friends and it made the experience even more memorable. I have gained some valuable experience on this project, not only about the whales and the dolphins but life experience that will stay with me. I will never forget my time here and if you ever get a chance I recommend doing this project. I will always miss the late night talks and the notable experiences in Las Americas! I will take away from this project the friendships I’ve made and the knowledge from my experience here.

By Alexandra Earl - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

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Such A Worthwhile Trip! 

From my volunteer work carried out in Tenerife of 'Conservation of Whales and Dolphins' not only have I taken away knowledge and experience from completing the project but made friends and memories that I'll never forget.

Coming out to Tenerife (from Scotland) has been one of the best experiences of my life. I personally participated in this project for life experience, an adventure and to do a form of volunteer work. The work involved includes a bus journey (or two) to either Los Cristianos or Puerto Colón where you will share a boat with tourists whilst taking notes of what time you spot a pod, how many are there, their behaviour etc, whilst photographing the fin in particular to be able to identify individual whales or dolphins.

Although I had little knowledge on whales and dolphins I quickly picked up information which helped me successfully complete the voluntary work, this shows you don't have to have expert knowledge on the creatures to take part as you learn so much when you get to the house. Not only do you learn about whales and dolphins but Spanish is encouraged and you learn so much from your fellow house mates. The house you stay in is quite a cosy but comfortable fit for everyone.

I've made friends that I plan on staying in contact with a very long time. Xiana, who's in charge, and Tracy, her assistant, run the programme efficiently and make it fun for everyone. I'd recommend anyone who perhaps wants to pursue a career in Marine biology/wildlife/conservation and to those who want to gain life experience and help wildlife to go for taking part in this project, creating a really amazing adventure.

By Kirsty - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

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Completely Surpassing My Expectations

My expectations of Tenerife were of sun, volcanoes and British tourists but these were most definitely surpassed during my 3 weeks on the project as I discovered the beautiful variety offered by the island.

My late arriving flight meant that upon arrival at the volunteer house (which by the way has an awesome pool perfect for inflatable orcas and amazing views of Mt Teide and the arid landscape of the South) I was met by all of the other volunteers who had already arrived and went immediately to the nearby town for sangria- a perfect way to get to know everyone and I felt at home straight away. After just one week I was already referring to the volunteer house as home!

By far the most incredible parts of the project for me as a biology undergraduate were spent on the boats in the Canarian waters. It’s not possible to properly describe the feeling of seeing pilot whales or bottlenose dolphins for the first time- I think the words breath-taking and beautiful and the fact that I had goose bumps despite it being over 30 degrees pretty much sum up the experience. On whale watching trips in the past, all that I had glimpsed was a lone whale in the far distance, a blast of water or the flash of a tail, yet here in Tenerife every boat trip yielded multiple sightings of whales or dolphins or both at the same time and a few turtles if you were lucky. And these were not just individuals but whole pods of whales which could be up to 20 individuals in number including calves. I could have watched them for hours on end (tip - wear sunglasses as sunburnt eyes are not the most attractive thing to see). Short-finned pilot whales are resident around the Canary Islands and so one of the main aims of the project is to gather data on the different family groups present and the individuals that make up these groups, identified by the unique notches and scratches on their dorsal fins, a little like human fingerprints. Photographing the fins at the correct angle proved challenging but very enjoyable- scurrying all over the boat to get the best shot- although lying on the floor to take a photo between two tourists may have been a little too far (but hey, I was enjoying myself).

The location of the project and of the boat trips was perfect- we were able to lie on the beach enjoying one the world’s best smoothies whilst waiting for the boat or see the magnificent cliffs of Los Gigantes from the ocean. On some of the longer trips, the boats would stop and everyone would jump into the ocean and you’d look around you at the blueness of the water and the sky and spot the mountains in the horizon and just wish you could freeze the moment.

Other than the boat trips and data collection, the daily life of a volunteer would include data input, personal projects, cleaning and cooking (the food was delicious) and of course the all-important sunbathing by the pool. Weekends were spent exploring the island with the other volunteers and immersing yourself in the vibrant culture of Tenerife. An excursion to Mt Teide National Park was a highlight with scenery like you have never seen before- lava flows, strange rock formations creating ‘el paisaje lunar’ (lunar landscape), cacti and lizards everywhere you looked, followed by swimming in a natural pool created by the lava flows with an underground cave section. Other trips included a day to Siam Park (best waterpark ever) and snorkelling with loggerhead turtles which came so close you could touch them. I think I’m running out of superlatives to describe my experience. So to sum up, if you are thinking about joining this project, do it. You will meet amazing people and gain a multitude of experiences and memories and want to do it all over again.

By Elizabeth Heard - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

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