In her first solo travel experience, Emily wanted to volunteer abroad and help wildlife yet stay relatively close to home. This made Tenerife the perfect destination for her to volunteer; here's how she got on:
1) Why did you choose this particular project?
I decided to choose this project because I had been wanting to do some volunteering abroad for a while and definitely wanted to try volunteering with animals. As this was my first time abroad by myself, this project seemed like a good one to start with as it wasn’t as far from home as some of the others.
2) Which kind of work and activities did you do during your project
During this project we went on whale watching boats and looked out for the different species. Our aim was to try and take pictures of their fins so that the individuals could be identified later. During the boat trips we also had to make some notes on the interaction, which included how many individuals were there, how many boats were gathered around them and what species they were. After this we had to upload this data onto the laptop back at the volunteer house.
3) How did the culture and people differ to home, and what were the locals like?
As the volunteer house is away from the tourist areas but the boats were by the beaches, we got a good sense of how each area differed. The locals were all very friendly wherever we went and we got along with them all very easily, which was helped by the fact that a lot of the locals know at least a little bit of English and some of our group knew Spanish.
4) What was the accommodation like?
One of the reasons I liked the volunteer house is that it was based away from the tourist areas. This obviously meant that there is a bus ride to the boats, but I preferred this as we had the chance to live amongst the locals instead of living near loads of hotels. The house is brilliant for what it is used for, however it can get a little crowded if there are a lot of volunteers in the house.
5) What were the staff and other volunteers like?
The staff and other volunteers were all great and it is very easy to make friends there, as you work and have free time together so it is very hard not to. The staff were laid back but also kept everything under control and were very organised, which meant that the experience was very enjoyable and everything seemed to work perfectly.
6) What was your most amazing moment or your best memory?
My best memory from the boat trips was when we were watching a group of bottlenose dolphins swimming past the boat. We were on the boat Peter Pan and I was stood at the very front of the boat, which gave me the perfect view to watch a juvenile swim away from his mother and begin to swim really quickly around the boat, as if it were playing with us. It was a funny and brilliant moment that I’m really happy I witnessed.
7) Do you feel the work you were doing was worthwhile?
The work we were doing seemed very worthwhile as we were monitoring the population of dolphins and seeing whether the whale watching boats had a negative impact on them. The work we did made me feel like I had had a positive impact on the whales and dolphins.
8) What sort of wildlife did you encounter?
During this I spotted pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins however some of the other volunteers noticed species such as fin whales and spotted dolphins. There was lots of other wildlife that our group spotted including lots of different fish and a turtle.
9) What were you hoping to learn while on project, and have you achieved those goals?
During the project I was hoping to learn more about the whales and dolphins but I was also hoping to learn a bit more Spanish, as I knew very little before I went to Tenerife. These goals were achieved as I learnt so much more about the different types of dolphins and some key facts about each one. I learnt a little more Spanish which has made me more confident to visit Spanish speaking countries in the future.
10) Any tips and advice you might like to pass on to future volunteers?
A tip I think people should follow is that you should listen to what the staff tell you as much as possible. This doesn’t just apply to learning the facts about the dolphins and learning what to do on the boat; it also applies to the little things they keep mentioning, such as putting on sun cream. They’ve probably seen it all so know more than you do about staying safe in Tenerife.
11) What do you have planned next?
I am hoping to get a job and save up some money whilst I am in university and then take a year out to do some travelling and I am planning for this to include some more volunteering abroad. One of the projects that has caught my eye is the turtle conservation project, which looks just as good as this one.
Find out more about Tenerife Whale and Dolphin Conservation