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Atlantic Whale and Dolphin Foundation

Museo Casa de El Capitán

03/11/2020

The Captains house is in a lovely location at El Calvario, San Miguel. The Town has become well known for its grand architecture, as it stands out from the vast desert landscape in the south. This house gives a good insight into the daily lives of the Spanish settlers of Tenerife in the 19th century. D. Miguel Alfonso, the highest ranked serviceman in the military, owned this house and him and his family were very wealthy. The architecture is what I envisioned for a military family. Crisp clean lines, industrial feel but with some decorative features to show success, such as the castle-like entrance and the canarian rose coloured window shutters.

The layout of the house was perfect for socialising as there is an outdoor courtyard in the middle and more outdoor space in the back. In the middle of the house was a very large fertility god statue linking to the pagan history of the island. As you travel around Tenerife you can find many smaller statues like these as it was typical in Guanche art. Unfortunately, the house suffered a fire in the 1970s, so a lot of the original contents were destroyed. However, the council have now turned the house into a museum and filled it with local antiques, manual agricultural equipment and handmade items typical for the era, to keep the traditional skills alive.

Pottery is the main theme in this house as there is an exhibition room full of pottery and the museum runs pottery demonstrations each week. When I visited there was a lady looking after the house proudly cleaning and showing us around. In the outdoor space are some pieces of equipment to make food. Along the walls of the courtyard are traditional farming equipment. It was amazing to see the variety of pottery that was made and on display. There was an interactive display giving information about the functions of each piece. There was another exhibition in the cellar that displayed rattan pieces and miscellaneous items.

There was also a traditional wine press in their wine cellar. The press was like the one I saw in casa de los Balcones (see blog), this was interesting as I was surprised to see a grand house in such a rural area of the island. Although the house is a mix of original items and new reproductions, it was still an interesting visit to compare mansions in the north and the south of Tenerife.

Written by Charlotte Taylor

Behold The Beauty of ‘Black Madonna’ at Basílica de Candelaria

03/11/2020

Close to Santa Cruz, there is a town called Candelaria, next to the coast this huge cathedral stands proud and magnificent. Inside the cathedral, depictions of scenes from the bible decorate the walls. In the center at the front in all her glory, the ‘Black Madonna’ stands, looking over the worshippers.

My immediate observation entering the church, was the silence, not in an uncomfortable way, but a peaceful meditative silence. This silence was respected by all as I walked around. The ceiling, with all the intricate gold embellishments, clearly symbolised heaven. To the right of the main entrance, are three doorways.

The first leads to a hallway with a painting of the crucifixion of Jesus on one wall. Against the wall were baskets of flower offerings to show gratitude. Through the hallway, is a room of candle offerings to say prayers for loved ones and donate to the church.

The next doorway leads you to the confession room. On each side of this room are the dark wood confession boxes typical for a cathedral such as this, but what isn’t typical is that in the center of the room is a large statue of Jesus on the cross with benches In front to sit and meditate. I found this interesting because Catholics believe Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins so sitting either waiting to confess or after confession, meditating on Jesus sacrifices, felt very apt for the room. The final room closest to the altar was a smaller prayer room depicting Jesus’ last supper with the disciples. Again with benches for services or to sit and think about life.

In the Main Hall, the alter holds the magnificent statue of the Virgin of Candelaria. She is the patron saint of the Canary Islands and is a black Madonna. Around her statue is my favorite painting of angels, admiring and protecting her. The stained glass windows were smaller than I expected so the hall felt dark and intimate. It felt almost like a grand theatre with an impressive amount of detail given to its decoration. I felt like I was waiting for a big performance, the star of the show taking center stage delighting me with a silent rendition of the past as I walked around looking at the scenes in the artwork.

I wanted to learn more about the story of the Black Madonna, so I purchased a book from the gift shop next door entitled “History- The Virgin of Candelaria” There are a few interpretations of the story often depending on the authors’ beliefs. This book starts with the Guanches (the ancient civilisation of Tenerife, see Guanche blog). They found the Black Madonna, or as she was named originally, Chaxiraxi (Mother of the sun). You can see large statues of Guanche warriors around the perimeter of the cathedral protecting Black Madonna as they promised. In the story, two Guanche shepherds found a wooden figure of a woman. Startled, they tried throwing rocks at her, but the rocks mysteriously made them bleed! Scared by the spiritistic nature of this figure, they ran away to the king to inform him. When the king heard, he concluded she must be a god and ordered her to be brought to his castle to protect her. The Guanches originally believed she was a sun goddess until one day, a young missionary visited the king and told him the woman was the virgin, Mary. This is when the Guanches learned about Catholicism. The book explains the statue we see today in the cathedral isn’t original but is a good representation of the Black Madonna with the emphasis being the light that illuminates from her.

Visiting this cathedral made me emotional. I felt a sense of togetherness with everyone present. Whatever the reasons were for visiting Black Madonna, everyone felt connected as if one community, one race, all equals that’s what, I believe, Black Madonna would want. I will never forget the Black Madonna, the beautiful cathedral, or the feeling of oneness. This was a fantastic memory to take from my trip to Tenerife.

Written by Charlotte Taylor

Discovering Guanche Life at the Museum of Nature and Archaeology

27/10/2020

I couldn’t visit Tenerife without learning about the first people to inhabit the island before the Spanish settled there. Since the Pyramids of Guimar are currently closed due to Covid-19, the next best place to learn about the history of Guanches is the Museum of Nature and Archaeology. This museum is extensive and takes a couple of hours to walk around. At the entrance of the museum are the ticket office (€5 non-resident) and a small gift shop. The staff were approachable and showed me how to use the online audio tour in English. The Audio guide, that I opened on my mobile, was basic, so I would highly recommend purchasing the book ‘The Guanches, survivors and their descendants’ as this book gave me all the information I needed to follow along with the archaeology exhibition.

Who are The Guanches?

There were two races of Guanches; Cro-Magnon and Mediterranean, and unlike common belief, they lived across the Canary Islands, not just Tenerife. However, since they had no forms of communication overseas, they had to be inventive and were very intelligent to survive and adapt to their environment. This is a brief overview of what I have learned about the Guanches.   

Home

They liked to live in the caves as little construction was required. Where there were no caves, the homes they built for themselves were usually like huts, made with straw or leather roofs and stone. They made beds from dried grass and blankets from animal skin.

Model of Guanche homes in caves*

Food

The diet of the Guanches was simple and wholesome. Barley, legumes, berries, local fruit, meat, cheese, and (wheat) porridge were often on the menu. They also ate gofio (Canarian flour made from roasted grains) in various dishes. This was believed to give them energy for the physical demands of daily life. They weren’t known to drink wine, but they did have a drink made from molasses that they believed had magical properties.

Hand Mill to make Gofio

Crafts and Activities

The Guanches were excellent potters. Throughout the museum are many decorative items of pottery. The garments they made were well made, considering they were using fish bones for needles! They were made from goat skins that would be good to keep them warm on cold nights (even Tenerife gets cold nights). They also used art to communicate this was shown by the carvings that were found inside the caves and on rocks from the Guanches.

 Weapons and Tools

Being mainly peaceful people, the weapons seen in the museum are mostly for hunting for food and defence. I could see from the collection that the Guanches were resourceful people. Knives were made from a hard stone called obsidian (formed from cooled lava). Spears were carved from wood and sharp stones (Tabonas) were used in conflict.

Morals

The Guanches had high morals for their time, preferring a quiet life upholding their religious beliefs. They didn’t have a place of worship like we see today, but they made fertility Idols out of stone and clay to worship and ask for good health and many offspring.

Burial

Guanche people had elaborate ways of burying the dead such as preservation using lard, rock dust, and various herbs and wrapping the corpse in fine leather and fur. They dried out bodies in the sun, then they were buried in caves. It is believed the more layers that covered the corpse, the more respected the person was in society.

So, what did I take away from this museum? The Guanches are the ancient civilisation in the Canary Islands. They made tools out of stone, weapons out of bones, and clothing out of leather and fur. I assumed, being ancient civilians, their lifestyle would be basic, but, interestingly, the Guanches knew many crafts and were more emotionally mature than I had realised. The museum’s collection was large, but as they said in the audio guide, most of the remains of Guanche civilisation are still owned by people with private collections. There’s much more to I could write about what I learned from the museum but cleverly I was still left wanting to learn more. Hopefully, with time further private collections will be donated to the museum, because this definitely is an intriguing part of Canarian history.

Information was sourced from the ‘Museum of Nature and Archaeology, Santa Cruz’ and also from the book ‘The Guanches, Survivors and their Descendants, by Jose Luis Concepcion- 22nd edition’. Photo of Guanche homes taken from https://clubcanary.com/en/guanches-in-tenerife.

Written by Charlotte Taylor

Shakespeare, Pirates and a Glass of Red in the Evening

23/10/2020

A crisp cool glass of white wine (or red if you prefer) is a perfect way to end a day of roasting in the sun here in Tenerife. There is no better place to buy local Spanish wine than Casa del Vino (House of wine) in El Suazal.

I visited the museum one hot weekend and took advantage of both the wine and the new honey museum, followed by a wine tasting session. The building at Casa del Vino was originally an old country house “Hacienda de san Simon” (Estate of St Simon) to use for farming and food production but was then sold to the council in 1959. The wine museum was small but packed with history. Signs were nicely arranged around the room like a timeline of firstly the history of winemaking in Tenerife but also the process of making wine. I was impressed by the amount of detail given and the translations in both English and German, the museum obviously attracts many tourists.

Here are a few interesting facts I learned about wine history and production in Tenerife….

  1. Because Tenerife has many mountains and orchards in the steep terrain, farm work is mainly still done manually.
  2. Vines can adapt to many terrains and can live hundreds of years.
  3. Wine was introduced to Tenerife by Spanish and Portuguese settlers; however, history tells us the Guanches (Aboriginal people of Tenerife) used to make and consume a drink made from molasses and berries of the Mocan tree, that was said to have magical properties.
  4. Pirates came to Tenerife with the sole purpose of stealing the wine, and in doing so, spread the word about Canarian wine around the world.
  5. William Shakespeare was partly paid for his work with a barrel of Tenerife Malmsey wine each year. Perhaps this sweet wine even inspired some of the writings we still love today.

After I had looked around the wine museum, I was directed to the next exhibition about Honey production. This display is fairly recent and isn’t translated into English, but it still was still a nice addition to my trip. The best part about the addition of a honey exhibition, in my opinion, is being able to purchase the local honey products at the gift shop.

After seeing both exhibitions I sat down and relaxed as the tour guide and wine connoisseur prepared the tasting session. Boards of cheese fruits and bread were lovingly arranged on the tables. Maria was very approachable and knowledgeable so when I admitted I knew very little about wine, it didn’t faze her she just smiled and taught me all the basics. Maria gave us four wines to taste; A dry white wine or sweet white (I chose the sweet wine), A rose wine, and a red wine. Maria had told us they change the wine selection each visit so when tourists visit a second time, they can try more of the wine Tenerife has to offer. I thought that was a thoughtful idea. The wines were all delicious but the Red wine ‘El Ancon’ from Ycoden-Daute-Isora, was my favourite. It had an unusual herbal taste like the smell as you walk into a health food shop. I purchased a bottle from the gift shop after the session.

The Gift shop sold a wide variety of Canarian food. From honey to aloe cosmetics, banana liquors to mojo sauce, and fresh goats’ cheese, I could see an abundance of homemade and/or local produce. To the left of the gift shop was the wine room where I could buy any wine from my tasting session or many others local to the area. I asked Maria for the red wine from the tasting session and was surprised to find it was only €8! Bargain! I thought as the wine was of such high quality. I was impressed to see that there were wines for all price ranges. At the end of my trip, Maria led me to the door and wished me well for the rest of my stay in Tenerife. She was a lovely lady as were all the staff and I will definitely visit again to try some more wines.

Written by Charlotte Taylor

A Tenerife Pilgrimage to Cueva del Hermano Pedro

18/10/2020

St Peter de Betancourt was born on 19th March 1626 in Tenerife and died on 25th April 1667 in Guatemala. His humble beginnings, and heroic life, moves many from all faiths to visit this sacred place. 

St Peter de Betancourt was a Spanish saint and missionary in Guatemala. His short life was full of noble acts of kindness, that touched the hearts of so many in the Canary Islands and beyond. As a young boy he worked on his family’s farm in El Médano as a shepherd, his family were very poor and ended up having their farm taken by moneylenders to pay off some debt. The rest of the debt Peter had to repay by working for the moneylender until he finally was relieved of his service when he turned 23. He used his freedom to sail to Honduras then walked from there, nearly 500km to Guatemala City. In Guatemala City he became an apostle for African American slaves, promoting equal rights and supporting them with housing and health. St Peter gave alms to the poor, built small chapels in poor areas for children and, also converted a hut into a hospital for the poor. St Peter gave all he could to help those who had been abandoned as he empathised with their sufferings. His view of women was inspirational too, rather than condemn prostitutes in the city, he empowered them by guiding them towards a better life, finding them jobs, and in turn their dignity.

The Cave Pictured here was where St Peter took refuge in the cold winter nights working as a shepherd and upheld his daily worship. In respect of St Peter, this cave has now been made into a memorial and church. Mass is conducted here every Saturday. Its location is across the road from the beach along a convenient road through the desert land, about 5 minutes. Opposite the entrance of the cave, benches are placed to sit and meditate. Inside the cave, worshippers and observers place gifts all around and write prayers on notes in his memory.

His cave brought tears to the eyes of all the visitors, lighting candles on the altar, and remembering all the sacrifices St Peter made for the lives of others. Catholics of Tenerife believe St Peter is ‘The saviour of the island’ and by visiting the place and praying to God, prayers can be answered, and miracles can happen. No matter personal beliefs we can all learn a lot from St Peter’s life. The cave is a magical, emotional place for retreat and well worth a visit.

(Cueva Del Hermano Pedro (Cave of St Peter) is open 7 days a week and is free entry)

Written by Charlotte Taylor

From ‘Landfill to Paradise’ at Palmetum Botanical Gardens

02/10/2020

When researching ‘Things to do in Tenerife’ before my visit (like a typical tourist) I came across a botanical garden in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is the capital city and beautiful as it is (a concrete paradise), I was curious where this botanical garden was located. To my surprise Palmetum is right on the coast of the city centre next to a car park and a short walk from the big chain stores! I browsed the website for more information and was pleasantly surprised to find out Palmetum was built by the community and transformed from a rubbish dump! With excitement and intrigue, I made the trip to Santa Cruz on a beautifully sunny day perfect for strolling gardens.

Behind the car park are the entrance gates and the visitor information centre. Inside you can buy your tickets (a reasonable €6 and €3 for locals) and buy souvenirs from the gift shop including locally produced Aloe vera skin care products great for soothing sunburnt skin. The lady that gave me a ticket and a map (€0.50) explained the routes I could take around the garden starting from the spiral staircase.

Walking along the bridge at the top of the staircase, I could see Banana trees across one side and the tops of palms on the other. I felt mixed emotions seeing the multi-story flats and car parks in the distance. I felt a sense of achievement that I found an oasis in amongst the hustle and bustle of city life, but also, I was sad knowing the whole island was once covered with fertile land.

The garden was finally open to the public in 2014 after over 20 years of hard work (see timeline). In 1983, the Landfill where the garden now stands was closed and €4 million was invested to clear all the waste, re-turf, and build paths. In 2007 the government-funded this project and local charitable organisations came together to finish the project. It’s a fantastic example of commitment to the community. Looking at the exotic garden myself in 2020 it’s difficult to imagine it being a smelly landfill 20 years prior.

I followed the map that took me around, but there were also helpful signs in English directing me to different continental palms and other plants from around the world. The walk around took 2hrs at a leisurely pace on flat ground so it’s suitable for most fitness levels. The variety of plants and trees was immense and fascinating. In the collection are around 3,000 species of plants and 600 species of Palm trees. Obviously, the garden specialises in Palm species, it’s in the name Palmetum, but also, they have a nice collection of non-Palm plants mainly for educational and conservation purposes.

Did you Know Palm trees are used in many ways, to make rattan, sugar, oil and for medicinal purposes?

Just a few of these are species of Aloe, cacti, Hibiscus, and succulents. With all that this little piece of paradise has to offer, I would recommend Palmetum to anyone interested in botany and gardening, but, also to those who just want a peaceful pretty place to relax away from the shops. If you are interested in learning more about the story of this garden please visit the Palmetum website or even better why not book a guided tour* for your visit and connect with the locals that look after this amazing place? you won’t be disappointed!

*((info@palmetumsantacruz.com)

Written by Charlotte Taylor

Experience 17th Century Tenerife at Casa de Los Balcones

16/10/2020

La Orotava has to be my favourite city in Tenerife. This picturesque town is situated north of the island and boasts charming, Canarian architecture some as early as the 17th century. Walking down the narrow-cobbled streets I travelled back in time, to Canarian life, centuries ago. The smell of coffee and baked goods enticed me to follow, leading to the little artisan coffee shops with outdoor seating, that are well used by local families and friends, soaking up the glorious sunshine. As you will see upon visiting, Orotava residents love to keep their city immaculate. I found colourful flower beds dotted all over the city and hand-painted signs directing me from a beautiful house to a beautiful house. One of the most magnificent houses, and the most popular for visitors, is La Casa de Los Balcones (house of Balconies). The House is well advertised, but if you do struggle to find your way, ask one of the friendly locals as they will proudly point out the crown jewels of their hometown.

The three-floor mansion was built in 1670 by the best Canarian carpenters of all time. The estate is owned by Mr. Carlos Schönfeldt Machado, an inspirational man who is dedicated to promoting traditional Canarian culture and has been doing, for the last 50 years.

On approaching the house, I was impressed by the thought that had gone into the design from the start. The heavy, dark pine contrasted the delicate floral design on the forged iron bars over the windows. The first room from the entrance is the gift shop and ticket desk. Here I purchased an audio guide (Highly recommended) in my chosen language for €1 and was directed to the ‘snail-like’ spiral staircase. Inside were a few perfectly preserved room exhibits; The Living quarters, Kitchen, Bathroom, and Dining room. The only room in the house that wasn’t in its original location was the bedroom, that’s furniture was moved to another, more accessible room. However, the audio guide explained the room is a replica of the bedroom with all the original furniture. Next, I went down the stairs to the wine press room. I was shocked at the size of the winepress, and I could imagine the large quantities of fruity Canarian wine that could be produced and enjoyed by the family and friends.

Following the wine cellar is the grand courtyard. This area was full of exotic plants relaxing water features and the pièce de résistance – The astounding central balcony.

The outdoor area was spectacular. I sat back and listened to the birds singing and the trickle of the water features, as the sun beamed down on the architectural masterpiece. The carving of this heartwood pine is so intricate, it’s no surprise why the locals are so proud to have this building open to the public for so long. After a long time of sitting in the courtyard, I made my way to the final room. The Craft studio. In this room, you can see all the traditional handmade products, made lovingly by local artists. Wicker basketry, lacemaking, pottery, and little dolls wearing old customary clothing are just a few of the things you’ll find in this room.

Final Thoughts- AMAZING! Not to be missed. It was a delight to visit and the audio guide was very informative. The museum will make anyone fall in love with the Canary Islands. You can buy tickets there or online at https://casa-balcones.com/en/ …. Enjoy.

Written by Charlotte Taylor

My inspiring volunteering journey

By Toria Hateley

When I volunteered for a couple of weeks at the Atlantic Whale and Dolphin Foundation  in the Canary Islands , I was excited to find out I could get involved with lots of local charities on the island of Tenerife – including spending time at a local dog shelter. I made the decision to spend some time on this beautiful island volunteering between placements as a first year student veterinary nurse.

During my time with the AWDF I learnt about the resident whales and dolphins, helped conduct and collect research out on the whale watching boats, joined campaigns against the captive dolphins at some of the biggest parks on the island and walked , groomed and helped with re homing of the local shelter dogs.

The Atlantic Whale and Dolphin Foundation (AWdF) , is a UK Registered charity. It was founded to continue the work of Spanish environmental agency, Proyecto Ambiental Tenerife, some twenty years ago and runs the volunteer programme on the island’s whale watching boats, one of the largest whale watching centres in the world.  The AWdF runs cetacean educational awareness, research and conservation programmes. Its volunteers act as ‘Research Guides’ on the whale watching boats. The AWdF also works with the tourism industry in Tenerife, promoting cetacean conservation and promoting responsible whale watching and other eco-tourism opportunities on the island and works with local charities and animal shelters.

 When I was changing placements I desperately wanted to use the two week gap gaining some experience in a different part of the world, I wanted to use some of my student veterinary nurse skills in this but also wanted to experience something completely different to anything I had before. After weeks of searching I came across the AWDF website online and within half an hour of being inspired by their campaign I had booked a volunteering placement and flights to Tenerife.

As the plane was coming in to land at Tenerife South Airport I could see a sheet of blue ocean below us and a range of tall mountains in the distance with the sun creeping down behind them.  I was feeling exited and eager to get off the plane, one of the co-coordinators was waiting to take me back to headquarters to meet the rest of the team.  Lots of things were running through my head but I couldn’t stop thinking about the sheer size of the ocean below us, the creatures that inhabit it and the exiting time I had ahead working with them.

After driving up the windy roads of Arona we arrived at AWDF headquarters in the hills, known to the locals as “The Dolphin House”. The buildings were old, rustic and beautiful with a giant dolphin sculpture looking over the sea. I was shown to my room in the “back apartment” where I met my new roommates – who were also exited as it was their first day too!  I dumped my bag on the bed (bunk beds – think hostel not hotel) and headed into the main building for a tour. Everyone I met on this amazing journey was from all areas of the globe , it was amazing listening to everyone’s stories and backgrounds – we all have one thing in common , we love animals and were brought together to help them and the planet by this amazing foundation.

Over the weeks I learned about the different resident species of whale, dolphins and sharks on the island, how to track their co-ordinates, their behavior and how to take fin shots (this is how they identify the different families – called pods). The experienced volunteers could tell them all apart by the shape of their dorsal fin! The aim was to collect data to monitor their movements, their population and to see if the human traffic on the oceans were affecting them.

Going out on the boats was so exciting for me, I loved being out on the ocean and I can’t describe the ecstatic feeling that I felt when I saw my first bottlenose dolphin in its natural habitat; they were so playful with the boats! I saw Atlantic spotted dolphins, pilot whales, sea turtles and even a hammer head shark. We would spend each day, all day on the boats filling out data sheets of our encounters and taking fin shots to uploads on the data base back at the dolphin house. The AWDF also have a petition to try to ban single use plastic, so at the end of each trip we would collect signatures off the different tourists from around the world.  The majority of marine waste is single use plastic pollution, combines of lots of different household wastes from humans.  The AWDF organize beach cleanup campaigns around the island to collect and correctly recycle single use plastic and waste on the shores – I was lucky enough to get involved with one of these while I was volunteering with them.

When signing up to volunteer with the AWDF they encourage you to conduct a personal project to help the foundation. I decided to write a day to day blog to post to my peers on social media to highlight the work and encourage others to volunteer, as well as offering to help at the local dog shelter in Arona, the local village. The shelter was really close by the house so one of the coordinators would drop us of there for a few hours. The set up was high in the hills, housing around 30 dogs – all handed in as strays on the island. They would be vet checked, trained and re-homed if they were all signed off. They also had a cattery with some cats and kittens. There was lots of volunteers every day, sometimes the dogs would have already had two or three walks through the hills so we could spend time in the kennels grooming or keeping them company, the volunteers would sometimes be tourists with a love of dogs who just wanted to help , or locals who had been there for years.  When walking the dogs we would go in pairs with a dog each, usually I would choose my favorite dog to walk – Scar, a large cross breed with the biggest eyes and the waggiest tail.  We would walk them on a designated route up the sandy hills with water stops on the way. The re homing of the dogs was fairly difficult for the shelter however sometimes external charities aboard would re home them with some even coming to live with new families in the UK!

The  AWDF also encourage  volunteers to take part in other activities whilst with them such as surfing , diving , snorkeling , horse riding and hiking the third highest volcano in the world (El Teide).

I absolutely loved this experience and will definitely be returning whenever I next can, it has sparked a further love for traveling and learning for me. I believe this volunteering journey really helped inspire me as a student nurse because it opened my eyes to all the opportunities we gain from this journey. Understanding that learning about any animal is beneficial and knowing how important it is to look after our planet and everything living on it, as well as experiencing different cultures.

The main thing I learnt is how important it is to meet like minded people, from anywhere in the world and let them inspire you to be the best person, and student veterinary nurse, that you can possibly be!

Toria

Swimming with Dolphins

by Emma Chereskin

Today, we set our alarms for 5:45 in the morning.

Arming ourselves with coffee in water bottles, we set off for the village of Moro Peixe with Maxime, owner of Sao Tome’s Paradise Tours for a morning out on the water.

At the village, just 20 minutes north of the city, we were brought to the Turtle Museum and Hatchery. A part of Project Tato, the hatchery trains eco-guards to patrol the beaches looking for turtle nests. By bringing the eggs safely to the incubation center at the museum, the baby turtles have a much higher survival rate when they are born.

The eco-guards and museum are doing amazing work for the conservation of 7 different species of sea turtles. We cannot wait to further develop a relationship with Project Tato and the Turtle Museum and Hatchery and to have our future volunteers experience turtle hatching season first-hand.

After getting to see the incubation room for the turtle eggs, we headed out to sea to find some mammalian wildlife, namely cetaceans. We scanned the horizon looking for any splashing or a glimpse of a dorsal fin. And finally, seemingly out of nowhere, we were surrounded by around 200 Pantropical Spotted Dolphins. We watched in awe as they breached, lunged, surfed, and porpoised all around the boat.

As the boat slowed down, we were able to get in the water with them, maintaining a respectful distance. One at a time, we put on our snorkels, jumped in the water, and held on to the boat as we meandered behind the group. Holding on to our swim suits with our left hand and the boat with the right, we lowered our faces down to see the world below us. And it was magical.

The dolphins swam so gracefully through the water, some with calves trailing beside them. We could even hear the dolphins click and whistle as they called to one another! It was an amazing experience, to see these animals in the open sea, where they belong. While we were watching the dolphins, we almost forgot to hang on to the boat!

It was sadly time to leave the dolphins to their own devices. It is so important to us that we only work with organizations that value and observe strict whale watching guidelines. Throughout our excursion with Maxime and Paradise Tours today, we maintained a safe distance, never interacted with the dolphins directly, and left after 30 minutes of watching these beautiful creatures.

On our way back to shore, we were able to stop for a brief swim in the shallows of Cabras Island. The crystal clear water was amazingly refreshing. As we headed towards home we snacked on fried sliced breadfruit and sat in awe of the amazing morning we were given by the dolphins of Sao Tome and Maxime.

 

 

 

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