Whale and Dolphin Data Collection

On arrival in Tenerife there seemed to be slight ambiguity as to what to expect on board the whale watching vessels, the construct of the project was fairly fresh as the project was in the early stages resembling grassroots.

This was refreshingly new to me as previously conservation remained merely a continuation of collective efforts of researchers before, however being faced with an active, more dynamic participation has given the project an additional dimension.  

Whilst on board the whale watching vessels, each volunteer was paired with a partner for data collection including fin ID images for cataloguing. Observing the waters initially seemed fruitless with few results in fairly calm waters yet after 45 minutes we were virtually surrounded by a sea teeming with cetaceans.  Dolphins were spotted from the bow, immediately the crew coerced us to observe from the front of the boat.  Our attempts of harvesting such data were quickly abandoned.

Deducing the whereabouts of the animals proved exceedingly difficult, as quickly as they breached, riding the surf of the travelling boat, they recovered their elusive habit. As a consequence of witnessing these creatures on our first outing, this sighting served as a stark reminder of the motivations of undertaking conservation practices such as Frontiers cetacean conservation project and at a minimum impact an ardent memory compelling enough in its content for continued support for preservation of the marine ecosystems.

One of the most dramatic sites I had the privilege to witness was an interaction between a Short-finned Pilot whale adult female and her calf, as we were watching the pair appeared in stealth alongside the boat , both myself and Tiph failed to comprehend the proximity we shared with the couple, having previously witnessed sperm whales, witnessing the intimacy between mother and infant retains an incomparable charm as the initiation of a life cycle untainted by human constraint, yet sharing a sight with the captivated passengers provides an unparalleled sensation of scientific excitement.

A pivotal aspect of the project in catalysing relations with volunteers, the simplicity in sharing the motivations of each individual that strived to engage in the project and sharing responsibilities within the house brings individuals to friendships that extend beyond the boundaries of the project environment.

The component of public engagement within conservation efforts of the project was completely different; in all honesty I previously possessed reservations with involvement of the visitors of the island as a driver in conservation, as I have undertaken conservation where efforts to establish public cohesion seemed to have a glass roof.  I certainly will admit I have been shocked by the capacity the general public in their concern for the status of the animals below the surface of the resort boundaries.  I’ve realised there is great promise in the liaison with such individuals and through conversations whilst on board, there is far more substance in the excursions to peruse the animals than merely for a holiday pass time.

By Beth - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's Whale & Dolphin Conservation Project in Tenerife.

Check out what volunteers in Tenerife are up to right now!


My Tenerife Experience

The experience of Tenerife is one I will never forget, and one I know has had a deeply significant impact on my life.

I arrived at the Frontier house knowing no one, yet within seconds it felt as if I was already home. Every volunteer is united to the others by a shared sense of belonging and desire; the goal of conserving wildlife and learning more about the world.

It's surprising how much you learn when you're out on project, even by the end of day one I was full of facts about pilot whales and bottle nose dolphins, it was almost impossible to comprehend the vast array of knowledge I had before I had even set out on the boats.

When it came to my first time on the boats on Tuesday morning, I could hardly contain my excitement. Getting out to sea, and seeing the whales in such a close proximity was breath-taking- I was even lucky enough to see a fin whale, something that is incredibly rare to see in the waters surrounding Tenerife.  *(Short-finned Pilot Whale) That for me was a defining moment on the trip: it made me so glad that I had taken the plunge and gone out on my own to explore the world, for the rewards it brought me were more than I could have ever envisioned.

Whilst out on project, we also got to experience the local festivals, most notably San Juan. It was immense: thousands of people crowded the streets, a clear indicator of the strong community ties between those living on the island. This gave me hope that if one individual could be convinced to serve in the plight to preserve the delicate marine life that roamed in the waters surrounding them, then there was a chance that the whole community could be convinced to join in the effort of conservation

The data we collected on the projects will hopefully be used to help the local captains and conservation groups identify the native whales and their families, which is so important in the battle to conserve the species. Every image, video and comment from the captain is important in raising awareness; conservation must always be a local community effort in order for it to be truly effective.

One of the most incredible things for me about the project was the people I met. I can honestly say that I have made friends for life, and hope to keep in contact with them for many years to come. That sense of unity does not go away once the project is over, and neither does that desire to preserve marine life.

The Tenerife project has been one of the best experiences of my life, and has inspired me to go out and make a difference in the world- only then can things start to change.

By Charlotte Mann

Find out more about Frontier's Whale & Dolphin Conservation Project in Tenerife.

Check out what volunteers in Tenerife are up to right now!


Whales, Friends, Food and Fun!

So it's been a week since I arrived here at the whale and dolphin conservation in Tenerife and so far I've had such a amazing time.

We started the week with a introductory meeting where we got to know Xiana, the project co-ordinator, and also what it was that we would be doing with our time here. This briefing was our first insight of the relations we would be seeing here and how we would collect data. Although trying to remember all the species we may see out on the boats seemed overwhelming at first, it helped me so much on my first boat trip.

So far I have been on 3 different whale and dolphin boats and I have seen many pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins. When out on the boats we photograph the species we see, specifically pilot whales as these cetaceans are non-migrating and are also easier to take photos of as they travel quite slowly compared to dolphins.

Pilot whales are also data-deficient even though there is over 300 in Tenerife. To collect data we record key points of each interaction such as start and end time of each interaction, the GPS co-ordinates, species, how many adults and calves there are with each group, the behavior of the animal and finally the environment around for example – sea state, cloud coverage.

After we have returned to the house we enter our data into the data base and import pictures that are liked to this interaction. We try to take clear fin pictures so we can identify which whale has been spotted where and which group it is in.

Although the majority of my time here has been collecting data on cetaceans in Tenerife and encouraging members of the public to sign a whaling ban petition, there is also time to develop as a person.

At the frontier house we all work as a team and so take it in turns to cook. Although I was apprehensive at first I am really glad that I have been a part of cooking duties as I have learnt to cook many dishes from other volunteers and Xiana which I can take home with me. There is also many opportunities to go out and do excursions around the national park, mount Teidi, scuba diving, and many more.

Finally the most important thing for me that I will take form this experience is the friendships and bonds I have made with the other volunteers. I have mixed with people from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures that I would have previously, back at home in Liverpool never had the chance to meet. Through these friendships I have grown and developed as a person and I hope to keep in touch with them all!

By Bethan Blanchfield - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's Whale & Dolphin Conservation Project in Tenerife.

Check out what volunteers in Tenerife are up to right now!


My Journey To Become The Assistant Project Coodinator 

Everyone’s life is a journey, but for some it takes a long time to realise which path you wish to take and sometimes it involves retreating and trying a new direction. For some, they find their journey by accident and some seek theirs out. Along the way there a triumphs and pit falls, but nothing should stop us in achieving what our life holds for us.

My journey began in February 2015. It started with a holiday to Tenerife, after being on holidays before, this was something totally different, it changed my look on the path I had already chosen, it made me realise I had to turn around and try something else.

Tenerife is an incredible island, the biggest out of the 7 Canary Islands and extremely close to Morocco with endemic plants and lizards.
I decided a 10 night holiday would be good for me after 12 months of working flat out in my job as a cook, which I originally believed to be my profession. Currently this has been my job for 7 years, and the past 2 to 3, I’ve felt something is not quite right, like something felt out of place.

When in Tenerife on holiday we did many excursions including going in a jeep up mount Teide, which you cannot describe just how beautiful it is, breathtaking is an understatement of its beauty. On other excursions as well I felt like something belonged, something about this island felt right to me, but I couldn’t particularly put my finger on it. On the plane home I knew that my journey was to work along-side animals and look into moving abroad, hopefully to Tenerife. 

On leaving the island and getting home almost straight away I began searching for volunteer jobs within animal care, conservation etc. Unfortunately to work with animals unless you go to university or want to be a vet, around my home town in Birmingham it’s difficult to get a paid job, so i knew a few years ahead of pure graft was needed to get to where i wanted to be. After emailing around country parks, RSPCA and centres most got back to me regretting to inform me there was no volunteer placements available but they would keep my details on record. Then I found a wesbite that looked positive - www.frontier.ac.uk It is dedicated to volunteer work all around the world, involving animals, teaching English etc.

After giving this website much thought I decided to apply for a Wildlife First-Aid & Rehabilitation course which has proven so far to be insightful and extremely interesting putting me in the right direction of what I want to achieve. After much deliberation with myself I also decided to do some volunteer work abroad and if those of you believe in fate, I feel that this was, as they had just started a project for a Dolphin and Whale Conservation in Tenerife, so immediately I felt this was right for me to do.

To fly alone and head to a project house full of people I didn’t know was not only scary but terrifying. After getting through the airport and the flight heading out to the house put a pit in my stomach. Getting used to the way to live wasn’t difficult though as within minutes of meeting everyone you realise everyone’s in the same boat looking to make a difference.

After one day you can easily settle in to the routines of new life away from home and with people who want to achieve similar dreams and care and are as passionate as you are. The balance between being able to see and learn the culture and do your part for the project is perfect.

In my first week I went on a whale watching boat to try and gain the data the project needed, which are identifiers of Whales and Dolphins to see, which family circles are coming around the island whether they be migratory or residential. We do this by taking full pictures of the fins but they have to very precise photos with the profile completely out the water, close and not pixelated, and clear with no shadow or sun beam.

Four of us also took a trip to Teide to do a trek, this was nothing like the previous trip, they are so passionate about their culture and about the island.  I can honestly say it has been one of the best highlights of my entire life; we were able to see a natural swimming pool, which were under rocks, just like a lagoon and we were able to jump in for a swim. The sensation was crazy as every time the tide went out it felt like you were falling and might go under water, but when the tide came back in it just pushed you higher, it was incredible. For 12 hours we were able to experience the passion and beauty of the Canarians and the island.

By the end of the first week I’d made some incredible friends, but for those who had already been here it was time for them to leave. I’m already not good with goodbyes, but this I felt was especially hard due to the fact we had lived in the same room for 1 full week. There were many tears as the taxi left but I hope I really stay in touch with these people as they’ve already made a difference in my life.

Within this project not only do you gain incredible experiences learning about conservation and how the whales and dolphins habitat should be protected you also but you meet people from all walks of life, and gain some truly good friendships. I plan to stay in touch with everyone when leaving the project and look to make more new friends along the way. This evening after the older volunteers left we gained new ones and the cycle began again, meeting new people from different areas and different lifestyles.

What I found beautiful from this trip as well is that, when I went up Mount Teide on February I held a baby goat, and going up this time I held the same goat which had grown, this was touching, knowing it was the same goat I had seen only months before. Although, everyone told me it was a different goat, haha, but I’m keeping to my own hope that it was the same one!

I can only recommend that you choose to volunteer with conservation work, but the choice is yours. I find it hard to explain in words what a journey and experience like this can do for you as a person. The laughter and the emotional rollercoaster it puts you on is like no other, something you will only learn if you brave it and get out there to strive to achieve your goals and dreams.

(Getting to see Short-finned Pilot Whales this close is an incredible opportunity, especially getting to see the babies too!)

But this is not where my journey will end and I look forward to where the future decides to take me. Recently after finishing this blog I have had the pleasure of returning to Tenerife as an Assistant Project Coordinator alongside Xiana & I cannot be happier about where my life is taking me.

By Tracey Aldridge- Assistant Project Coordinator

Find out more about Frontier's Whale & Dolphin Conservation Project in Tenerife.

Check out what volunteers in Tenerife are up to right now!



Through The Eyes Of The Field Staff 

Xiana, from the snow in the peruvian Andes to the salty ocean of Tenerife!

Tenerife is an island. OK, you might say, we already know this. But it´s always worth pointing it out, because somehow, that physical isolation gives it some of its unique features: loads of endemic plants, many native reptiles (of the Lacertidae family -lizards- but surprisingly not a single native snake!), absence of natural predators (big issues due to introduction of cats, who unfortunately love hunting lizards)... and ocean, ocean and ocean. The blue ocean you see everywhere, saying hello and goodbye to the sun every day!

The particular physical characteristics of the aquatic surroundings here in South Tenerife makes the area ideal for cetaceans, so ideal that some of them stopped migrating! This is the case of the short-finned pilot whale (Globycephala macrorhynchus, calderón tropical in Spanish). This member of the dolphin´s family is the iconic species that attracts thousands of people from over the world. Actually, it is claimed that this is the place of the world with the highest number of whale-watching tourists of the world. This might be due to the nice weather all year round (even though winter is kind of chilly, especially if you are off the coast), but also because you just have to go a couple of miles off the coast to see whales, dolphins, bryde´s whales...

After my first boat trip I understood why this charismatic animals are so loved around the world, just to see a group of mothers swimming with its babies makes your day bright, and hearing them communicating gives a meaning to life! (Yes, I´m dramatising here, who says I can´t?)

But Tenerife land treasures are great also, I specially love plants here, because they´ve gone through. For example we have this, they look like cactus but they´re not, they are euphorbias. And many crassulaceas, plants specialized in storing water, like the celebrity Aloe vera (not putting it in the picture because it is a celebrity indeed).

This first few weeks have been hectic around here, hectic and fructiferous, going on the boats, training research assistants, organising talks with boat´s captains... and the most tiring activity of all: lying-on-the-beach-swimming-in-the-ocean. My best part was when after sailing for hours on the Bonadea II, trying to spot a bryde´s whale (Balaenoptera edeni), the captain decided to come back to port, and on our way back a beautiful calve of bryde´s whale emerged a few meters from the boat! Life is awesome.

Here my proof (the picture was taken by Sandra, one of our great volunteers):

And I´m ending with a picture of a real cactus, (sorry, don´t know the species right now!) around the project´s house, just because I love it (and notice the soil, so volcanic!)

By Xiana - Project Manager

Find out more about Frontier's Whale & Dolphin Conservation Project in Tenerife.

Check out what volunteers in Tenerife are up to right now!


I feel like I am making a difference

I arrived on the project on Sunday to find out I was the first volunteer on the project. I helped the staff get ready for the rest of the volunteers and also had some time to relax in the sun.

It was nice to meet the other volunteers and find out their backgrounds. Both staff members are very friendly and helpful which is great. We had an introduction to the project were I learnt about some of the different types of whales and dolphins. This made me excited to go out on the boat. My first trip on the boat was amazing as I saw both Pilot Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins. It is lovely to see them in their natural environment, instead of in aquariums. Although they did not come close to the boat, you could still see them clearly.

The project has the right balance of work and leisure. In my free time I am able to go to the beach or stay by the pool. At the weekend I will be going snorkeling, which should be fun.

I wanted to do this project as I have a huge love for all animals and dolphins are one of my favorite animals. I also wanted to gain experience volunteering and feel like I have made a difference. I am enjoying the project and would recommend it to my friends and family.

By Emma

Find out more about Frontier's Whale & Dolphin Conservation Project in Tenerife.

Check out what volunteers in Tenerife are up to right now!


I’m learning a lot!

I always wanted to study marine biology so I thought this project would be a great opportunity for me. I wanted to work as a volunteer for this summer and I found this great company which is Frontier. I’m really keen on animals and its conservation so that’s another reason why I choose this project.

The volunteer’s house is great! It’s quite big and really nice, we keep it pretty clean. I share room with other volunteers and each of us can get their own food and prepare their meals; however, from Monday to Friday we take turns and cook for the rest of us, we have a great time while cooking and it gives you the chance to learn new recipes. The staff and our coordinators are amazing, they are always there to help and suggesting new ideas or activities. There are volunteers from different cultures so we can learn from them and make new friends! People here are so friendly.

We are trying to find out how boats affect cetaceans behavior, we go sailing and take some data as well as pictures of the different cetacean species and this allow us to know how many residents we have around the island. We also inform tourist about these incredible animals to raise awareness among tourists of the importance of their conservation.

In our free time we do different activities such as parasailing or scuba diving. This project allows you to combine work and leisure living new experiences that you will never forget. We also have some time to look for some information and work in personal project as well as doing some trips about the island and get to know Spanish culture better.

To sum up, I’m learning a lot with this project and I’ll be able to apply new knowledge in my personal career. At the same time, I’m feeling so great about myself because I feel I’m helping to protect animals and its natural habitat.

By Sandra

Find out more about Frontier's Whale & Dolphin Conservation Project in Tenerife.

Check out what volunteers in Tenerife are up to right now!


Life out in Tenerife

Why did you choose this particular project?

We chose this project because it was only a short flight from Irish airports and the currency and time was the same. We also were drawn to this project because of the age profile of 16+, but what made us decide definitely to go here was the opportunity to work closely with cetaceans and have a positive impact in their lives.

What kind of work and activities are you doing during your project?

We spend some days on whale watching boats observing and photographing the animals. We are monitoring their behaviour towards the boats and also trying to identify family groups and new individuals. When we are not doing this we are in the house uploading the photographs and working on personal projects about the island’s wildlife and the cetaceans.

How does the culture and people differ to home, and what are the locals like?

All of the local people we meet are very friendly and happy to help us out E.g. on buses and in shops. Most of the people here speak English and are very happy to have tourists. A lot of the people here were on holidays from the UK or retired from the UK. Everyone is very laid back and there is always a brilliant atmosphere.

What is the accommodation like?

The house we are staying in is very spacious. The bedrooms have bunk beds and hold 4-5 people. The bathrooms are clean. There is a roof terrace and balcony with lovely views of the town and countryside. The ocean, town centre, supermarkets and bus stops are only a 5-minute walk from the house. The kitchen is well equipped and there are lounge chairs and a swimming pool outside.

What are the staff and other volunteers like?

The frontier team are very informative, helpful and on-hand to deal with any problems and organise activities and day trips for our free time. The other volunteers are brilliant, interesting people who make the trip so enjoyable. Although we were of all ages and ethnicities, we have become like a big family.

What is your most amazing moment or your best memory so far?

We can’t even start to pick a favourite memory from our trip. In our free time we are able to explore the area and find beautiful coves to swim in. We have done a range of activities from scuba diving to site seeing. We definitely have to say that seeing the whales and dolphins in their natural habitat is spectacular and unforgettable.

Do you feel the work you are doing is worthwhile?

We feel that 100% that the work that we do here is worthwhile and beneficial to the animals and future volunteers. We are gathering a large amount of data whilst being here and have also collected signatures for a petition against whaling. The more we observe the animals the more motivated we are to get people to sign and stop these intelligent creatures from being killed.

What sort of wildlife do you encounter out here?

We encounter many different types of cetaceans like short finned pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins and many other animals such as lizards, indigenous birds and turtles.

What are you hoping to learn whilst on the project, and are you achieving these goals?

We are both hoping to make a positive impact on the lives of the amazing animals that live here and we definitely hope we can achieve this goal. Also we want to gain independence and life experience for the future and the freedom of the project allows us to achieve this.

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

Bring lots of sun cream and wear it even when it’s cloudy, learn a few Spanish phrases such as “where is the bus station” or “I don’t speak Spanish”. You will have a lot of free time so bring books, movies and cards to entertain yourself.

By Orla Walsh and Katherine Battles.

Find out more about Frontier's Whale & Dolphin Conservation Project in Tenerife.

Check out what volunteers in Tenerife are up to right now!

Page 1 ... 7 8 9 10 11