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Atlantic Whale and Dolphin Foundation

Mount Teide – A tough yet rewarding challenge!

by Michael Panaretou

Mount Teide is the 3rd highest volcano on the planet and is located in the centre of Tenerife.

We started our ascent at around 0100 at the bottom of the Monta Blanca trail located just a couple kilometres up the road from the visitor centre and Mount Teide cable car.

At the bottom we quickly realised why the area was called a dark sky park as we were able to see hundreds if not thousands of stars. This was all possible as a result of a lack of light pollution in the surrounding area.

As we ascended up Mount Teide we saw views of all around the island, from the tourist areas of the south to the hills and mountains that make up the Volcanic landscape of the Island.

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As we climbed we began to feel the effects of the altitude. At around 3000m above sea level the lack of oxygen resulted in us feeling light headed and dizzy, because of this we had to take frequent breaks in an attempt to acclimatize which only slowed us down.

By around 5am we were nearing the peak and the temperature was quickly plummeting however due to us climbing up at a far greater speed than expected we had to stop for around half an hour.

During this half hour stop we were all exhausted and decided to lie down for a bit, however, due to a lack of sleep one out of the three of us managed to fall asleep, probably to surprise of many of the other hikers.

At around 0615 we started to notice that the sky was beginning to brighten up which was our indication to begin the final ascent to the top.

After powering up the final slope we had finally made it the peak of Teide.

The view was breathtaking. The feelings of the relief and accomplishment went abundantly clear at the top and almost helped to balance out the freezing temperatures and lack of oxygen.

We probably spent around an hour sitting on the peak and taking in our surroundings before eventually we decided it was time to begin our descent.

On the way down we walked down the same paths as on the way up but this time we were  actually able to see what was around us.

To our surprise the landscape was greatly varied with our initial surroundings being your typical volcanic landscape and as we got closer to the bottom the landscape resembled that of a desert.

By 1035 we had reached the bottom and our hike up and down Mount Teide was completed.

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My Experience as an AWDF Volunteer

By Rhiannon Jordan

The Day Before:

As my flight was on final approach to Tenerife, I found myself mesmerised by the beauty of this volcanic island. In between black basalt rocks were white sandy beaches, and amongst the urban sprawl of Los Cristianos were rural pastures and fields. The most awe-inspiring feature was rising above the layer of clouds as the volcanic peak, Mt Teide.

It was even more beautiful and impressive once I was on ground level. As my taxi was driving up the mountainous road to Arona, I could see falcons soaring above on the thermals, with jagged rock formations surrounding the roads and, in the distance, a neighbouring island about a mile off the coast of Tenerife.

My hotel for the night was in a quiet street not too far from the bustling town centre of Arona. The hotel owners were very helpful, which for me as a first-time single traveller made the start of my week-long holiday easier, more relaxing and stress-free. The local dish I tried at the hotel bar was huevos estrallados (eggs with chorizo, serrano ham and fries). It was very tasty, and I enjoyed every mouthful of the food.

The town of Arona is a peaceful and safe neighbourhood, much unlike the busy tourist area of Los Cristianos. Even though on the first day of my holiday I stayed close to the hotel, I could tell that the local culture of Arona was that of a relaxed and friendly place.

As I laid down for the night, I was feeling excited, nervous and eager to start my week as a volunteer at the Atlantic Whale and Dolphin Foundation (AWDF).

 

Day 1:

My day started off with one of the Co-ordinators, Katrina, picking me up from the hotel I was staying at. It was only a five-minute walk to where I would be volunteering for the next week, which was a beautiful Spanish townhouse with a statue of a dolphin on the roof.

After dropping off my luggage at the adjacent apartment, I was given a tour of the facilities. As I wandered around, I noticed other volunteers cleaning up the bathrooms and kitchen. It was lovely to see how much they cared about the AWDF headquarters, and that the volunteers were keen to get their hands dirty whilst cleaning up.

I had my induction to the AWDF at 10am, where I, as well as other new volunteers, were introduced the organisation and what our roles would be during our time here, which depended on how long you would be staying for. Luke, another co-ordinator, was presenting the induction. I expressed a lot of enthusiasm for my week here, as I was excited to be given the opportunity to make a difference for the better of the world.

After the meeting, Katrina took us on a tour of Arona, so we could familiarise ourselves with the walk into the town centre and the facilities available in Arona. She told us where we could find the small supermarket, nearby ATM machines and the local pharmacy, and she pointed out the bus stop and bus number that goes to Los Cristianos.

From 3pm until 7pm, we were given free time to ourselves. I decided to spend some time exploring a bit of Arona, saying hello in Spanish to the locals. The supermarket had everything I needed to keep me by, including a 1.5 litre bottle of water for 60 cents. It was a quaint and lovely place for me to sit down and enjoy the views.

At 7pm, we were given our evening meal. We had a local resident, Teresa, cook dinner for us. She prepared two dishes; a traditional Spanish soup and a homemade spaghetti bolognese. It was tasty and filling, and I finished my dinner feeling satisfied and happy.

We had a final meeting at 8pm to find out the plans for the next day, which involved finding out who would be going whale-watching on the boats, and who would be staying at the house and be working on individual projects. Afterwards, we were free to go to our rooms or grab a coffee before bed.

So far, my time as an AWDF volunteer has been amazing; not only have I had supportive staff, whom were approachable and helpful, but also met other volunteers who share a similar interest in protecting the environment and saving endangered species.

I would highly recommend volunteering with the AWDF, and I very much look forward to continuing the rest of my week here in Arona and in Tenerife.

I’m sure everyone reading this knows or at least has heard about the plastic pollution epidemic…

 

…but what do you think of when you hear about it? The straws pulled out of turtles, or a plastic bottle left on the side of a road. Of course there are plenty of people who have said to me that plastic degrades or a classic is “I can’t see any”. It’s true that plastic breaks up but it doesn’t disappear, it simply breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces until we can’t see it with the naked eye. Plus we have so much plastic around us that some people don’t realise it’s there. The Ikea furniture you bought the other day has layers of laminate (plastic) or perhaps your toothpaste you brush your teeth with everyday which contains silicone. In a world where plastic is seen as a convenience is also a world where plastic is seen by our environment and inhabitants as a poison, a trick or an obstacle.

So what is my point?

Well the AWdF is helping Earth Day, petitioning to ban single use plastics, the types wrapping your food in the supermarkets or from your favourite chinese takeaway. Not forgetting those drunken nights you may or may not want to remember, where a straw is always given to you which, let’s face it, it will be a miracle if that even ends up in the bin. The aim is to collect 1m signatures to take to the UN so that governmental action can take place. This will hopefully lead to the creation of legal action against plastic production, consumption and disposal. Most plastics are not recyclable and of the 6.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic produced, only 9% is recovered. The crisis has become so big that a 17yr old invented a floating rubbish collector powered by solar energy. The Ocean Cleanup have now got several of these operating systems around our seas.

https://www.earthday.org/end-plastic-pollution-petition/

You may be wondering how you can help. Public awareness is one of the greatest challenges. There are so many ways that you change how you live your lifestyle. For example if you find yourself at starbucks or costa often for your coffee or chai latte fix (like me) buy a travel mug, you also save on every drink too! Go to the counters in the supermarket and ask for how much you want rather than picking up a pre-packaged item, the price is the same or if you don’t have that ensure the plastic packaging can be recycled. My family had no idea about the real impact of plastic pollution until I explained it. Take a look at this website for little tip bits on how to reduce your plastic consumption. Telling friends and family is also a great way to spread the word.

Just remember to have fun! (plastic-free).

Tips -> https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/get-involved/what-you-can-do/category/getting-started/

Marina Godin is on a funded placement with the AWDF – for more information on our funded placements please email us now!

A Day on the Freebird One

freebird-one-catamaran-tenerife1cKnowing that I was going on the Freebird 1, I was awake and ready by 8:30 to set off for Puerto Colón, early but excited for the boat trip. On arrival, we had an hour to relax at a café and get something to drink before the first trip. At 10 am, we took off for the boat, not knowing what to expect, we had heard good things about the boat, and when we spotted the boat, we were not disappointed!

The Freebird 1 was a large white boat, with a really nice outside area for the passengers to sit on and an aesthetic inside area with a bar and nice sofa seats. When we boarded the boat, the staff of the boat were extremely welcoming and came straight to talk to us and make us feel comfortable on the boat.

The boat set off for the first trip of the day just after 10 am with a large number of excited passengers ready to see some whales and dolphins. The passengers were welcomed with a few sandwiches at the start of the trip prepared by the staff. The first encounter did not take too long to happen with a family of 3 pilot whales showing up first. The whales stayed around the boat for about 20 minutes, making it for a fantastic first experience of seeing whales.

The second encounter did not seem to come that much later! This time it was a family of bottlenose dolphins that were seen swimming and playing around the boat for around 10 minutes, giving off a small show for the passengers when they decided to breach the
water a few times. After these small encounters, the boat took a small break at an area with an impressive view for a small swim break for the customers. The staff at this point approached us and were very generous, offering us the opportunity for a swim. For the rest of the trip, no whales or dolphins seemed to want to surface, but
nonetheless, a great trip.

After the trip was finished at 1pm, we had a nice talk with the staff and helped them set up the boat for a second, longer trip by cleaning and setting up the boat with towels.
The second trip started at 1:30 pm and was a longer trip. The sea had seemed to become a lot choppier by this point and seemed to cause a few problems for the passengers. Even if there was this problem, the staff did all they could to keep all these customers happy and did a great job at it! As the sea was so choppy, the boat had to take a shorter trip closer to the shore, but still did not stop the great views and atmosphere, with them taking us to around the most beautiful areas of the coast, including the great
cliffs of Los Gigantes, which was also the swim site for this trip. The boat staff were very happy to let us have another swim. About half an hour after the swim break, the staff provided food for the customers and us which we helped with giving around. They
cooked some fantastic food, really filling us up!

The only small problem with this trip at the moment was that we had no encounters with any whales or dolphins. At this point we were called to the captain’s area and given binoculars to search for them which was an amazing experience. After about 45
minutes, we managed to find a family of Pilot whales, giving the customers great joy. This encounter seemed to have a really large number of individuals, giving us a great experience seeing so many of them around us. The boat then went back to the pier where all the customers got off. At this point we did a full clean of the boat, the least we could do for the staff providing us with such an adventure.

Just before we left, the staff called us over and offered us refreshments, which we all took with gratitude. Overall, this trip was an amazing first experience of the boats in tenerife!

“Myself and 5 others squeeze into skin tight wetsuits, which quickly reminds me to cut down on fast food”

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Turning up to the beach with our surfboards, which had seen better days, and seeing people effortlessly gliding over waves made me think ‘this is going to be embarrassing’.

Myself and 5 others squeeze into skin tight wetsuits, which quickly reminds me to cut down on fast food. Before entering the sea, the instructor (with stereotypical long surfing locks of hair and body like Zeus – weep) runs through a tutorial on how to surf.
We lie flat on the board and practice paddling and standing up on the board, strongest foot first followed by weakest foot which is placed in front. Right foot behind is called regular, left foot behind is known as goofy.

Now all experts on how to stand, we enter the water. We swim out on our boards, getting bashed by oncoming waves as we go further. It comes apparent that catching a wave is much more difficult than I thought. “Paddle like your life depends on it” are the instructions shouted by a friend, who has surfed before.

With his advice I catch the next wave and have an image of myself gracefully skimming over a wave like a cool scene from surfs up. In reality, I attempt to stand and instantly get flung upside down beneath my board.

Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who struggled to stand. Each of us took it in turns to catch a wave and attempt to ride it. It usually ended up with the person falling head over heels followed by a roar of laughter from the rest of us and themselves once they resurfaced.

Nick, one of the other surfers, managed to ride several waves and so he took home the honour of being surfer of the day. The rest of us managed to stand up for a few seconds but would usually end with us being thrown off the board like ragdolls.

The day was filled with laughter and each of us thoroughly enjoyed trying to learn something new to us. With a bit of practice, I could easily see us all riding 50ft waves in the near future (by that I mean being dragged by the attached surfboard and we skim off the water like pebbles).

Finally, we leave the water and I realize that looking like David Hasselhoff in Baywatch, running down the beach, really only happens in the movies.

Time to Saddle Up!

Now, to anyone where horse riding does not come naturally to them, believe me you`re not the only one. For some, riding a horse is like riding a bike, it comes naturally to anyone who has rode before. However, as a first-time rider, all I can tell you was that I was definitely not a ´natural`.

While others found it easier to rein in their nerves, my terrified expression was undoubtedly seen by the instructor, the seven other people that I was with and maybe even the horses.

The Bonanza Ranch is a family owned business, ran by Oscar, a man that instantly greeted us with warmth and hospitality. With over 50 well trained and qualified horses to choose from, it was no surprise that shortly after arriving, we were soon paired with a horse that would match the most basic beginner to the most experienced rider.  

Being an amateur rider, my faith, trust and life was essentially in the hands – or rather hooves – of Teide; a tall black and white gelding, that although realistically was around 15 hands high, felt similar to Mount Teide`s 3718 meters.

As a proclaimed leader of the uncoordinated, ungraceful and quite honestly clumsy; my only real fear was falling off the giant animal and how much it would hurt if I did.

Strolling along the sandy landscapes of El Desierto, Granadilla; when I finally remembered to breathe and not look down at the floor, it was great to be surrounded by natural reserves of South Tenerife.

Lead by Oscar, his daughter and another staff member, we were lead through diverse volcanic areas that have existed for millions of years.   

Despite the stress I felt at the beginning of the excursion, the views and the feeling of accomplishment afterwards was undoubtedly worth it. Now don’t get me wrong, while i’m sure the sense of achievement I felt, was clearly shown on my face, I was definitely ready to get off my high horse!    

Earth Day: Endangered Species

To commemorate Earth Day in 2019, AWDF have identified 14 species that are key to their ecosystems and face endangerment from human activity, including..

BEES: Worldwide populations of these insects are in decline, as they face threats from the use of pesticides, neonicotinoids, and GMOs, as well as climate change, habitat loss, pests, and disease. Beekeepers in the U.S. and Europe have reported annual hive losses of 30 percent or higher in the last decade. A colony of 25,000 bees can pollinate 250 million flowers in one day, making them an irreplaceable link in ecosystems and agricultural production.

GIRAFFES: The world’s tallest mammals have declined in population, from 155,000 in 1985 to just 80,000 in 2018. The curious creatures drive ecotourism and conservation, which help protect other wildlife in their ecosystem. The herbivores also play a key role in plant growth, spreading seeds from the fruits and plants they eat. Acacia trees, their main source of food, are under threat from climate change and habitat loss. Giraffes are also poached for their tails and meat, and hunted as trophies.

CORAL REEFS: These tropical and subtropical features, found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, are home to more than a quarter of the planet’s marine life – and have a key role for eco-tourism and fisheries. They are threatened by ocean acidification from climate change; pollution from sunscreens, agriculture, sewage and chemicals; coastal development; overfishing; and tourism-related destruction from stepping and anchoring on reefs. Twenty-five percent of reefs around the world are considered damaged beyond repair, and close to 65 percent are under serious threat.

 

GREAT APES: Gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos are the four species of great apes, which possess DNA that is closest to humans. They have shown great intelligence, displaying altruism by sharing food, using tools and saving them for future tasks. Great apes are sources of tourism, generating revenue for local communities and funding protection for the creatures and their habitats. They are threatened most by: habitat loss from agriculture, logging and development; deforestation for palm oil; fires, droughts, and rainfall from climate change; and illegal trade and captivity.

SEA TURTLES: These marine reptiles are some of the oldest creatures on Earth, and can be found around the world in tropical and subtropical areas. Though they lay their eggs in sandy coastal areas, they spend their entire lives at sea, feeding on seagrass and foraging in coral reefs. Demand for their eggs, meat, skin, and shells has led to a rapid decline in their populations. Sea turtles are also threatened by coastal development and human disruption of nesting sites, becoming bycatch in fishing nets and lines, mistaking plastic pollution for food, and global warming.

INSECTS: These tiny creatures collectively make up 80 percent of all the world’s known species — with 200 million insects for every human on earth. But overall populations have declined 45 percent over the past four decades, causing risks to plant pollination necessary for food production. Insects are a key component of global ecosystems: some insects keep other bugs from destroying crops, while others are a food source for other species. Insects are the most vulnerable to climate change, and are also endangered by habitat loss, pesticide use, and invasive species.

BIRDS: There are roughly 11,000 species of birds, with nearly 40 percent facing significant decline. Birds are scavengers, eliminating waste and remains and eating unwanted agricultural pests. Migratory birds help move seeds and nutrients during their travels. Among the threats to these creatures are habitat loss, deforestation, climate change and severe weather, plastic and pesticide pollution, and illegal trafficking.

CRUSTACEANS: These creatures with exoskeletons are some of the oldest animals on Earth. More than 50,000 known species can be found in fresh and saltwater habitats, playing an important role as food sources for marine animals, recycling nutrients as filter feeders, and decomposing dead organisms. They are threatened by ocean acidification which weakens their shells, loss of habitat on coral reefs, overfishing, and plastic pollution – ingesting microplastics that can travel up through the food chain.

SHARKS: Humans are the greatest threat to these apex predators, which have no known marine predators. Sharks maintain the balance of marine populations below them in the food chain. Without sharks, mid-level species would overconsume creatures at the bottom of the food chain. It can also affect human food supply: when sharks disappear, fish stocks that humans rely on for industry also collapse. Between 2000 and 2010, some 100 million sharks were killed annually – many hunted for their meat and fins or caught by trawling boats as bycatch. Climate change alters their habitats, affecting their ability to reproduce and find food.

PLANTS: There are more than 380,000 different plant species on Earth, that provide us with food, herbal and pharmaceutical medicine, and oxygen. Climate change degrades the soil they grow in and raises sea levels. Invasive species create competition for resources to the detriment of native plants, while habitat loss comes in the form of urban or agricultural development and fires. Pesticides and insecticides can harm plants and their pollinators, while crop patents reduce biodiversity.

ELEPHANTS: The world’s largest land animals are capable of complex feelings and thoughts, and have great memory storage and recall in their five-kilogram brains. They attract eco-tourism, which protects wilderness for many species, and are an important link in ecosystems, creating watering holes and spreading seeds for new growth. Elephants are under threat from poaching – over 20,000 are killed for their tusks and skin every year – as well as habitat loss from expanding human populations and climate change.

FISH: There are an estimated 32,000 different species of fish worldwide, 33 percent of which are being fished at unsustainable levels. Overfishing is a destabilising force in marine ecosystems that affects the entire aquatic food web. Fish are also an economic driver, with some 120 million people dependent on these species for their incomes. Climate change disrupts their migration, reduces their sizes and threatens the reefs and other habitats that they shelter in. Pollution is also a major threat, with chemicals, waste, fertilizer and oil spills causing harm to fish populations and affecting the seafood that humans eat.

TREES: Forests play a vital role in ecosystems: regulating and maintaining carbon balance; providing shelter for animals; creating nutrient-rich soil; and contributing to the water cycle. Trees are also a major economic contributor through the forestry industry. They are under threat from deforestation, climate change, invasive insects and fires.

And last but not least… WHALES: Our favourite marine mammals are facing steep population declines worldwide. Their role in ocean ecosystems is complex: they recycle nutrients by feeding at lower depths and releasing them near the surface, and become food for bottom-dwelling species when they die and sink to the ocean floor. Their faeces provides nutrients for photosynthesising plankton – scientists estimate that nearly half of the oxygen we breathe comes from this process. Research suggests that whales possess intelligence comparable to humans, with social organization, empathy, speech, and knowledge-sharing. Whales are threatened by water and noise pollution, becoming entangled in commercial fishing equipment, commercial hunting, collisions with watercraft and climate change.

A Day at K9 Dog Shelter

K9 Tenerife is a volunteer run charity that is associated with the AWdF. It is an animal shelter in the south of Tenerife that takes stray animals off the streets of Tenerife and aim to protect them and bring them back to health while also taking full care of them. The charity is fully run on the donations of the public with no official government funding to help. The organisation was first formed in 1993 by three ladies who were saddened by the number of strays that were neglected on the island and therefore started housing strays in home-built kennels and fundraising from local bars for the development of the charity. And over the years the charity has definitely grown! It has now expanded in kennels and also has connections with other large charities like the RSPCA. Now, it has also got a very hardworking committee working to improve the welfare of every animal that comes in to the shelter, that not only being cats and dogs, with instances of animals such as birds ranging all the way to big cats! Ther are many ways YOU can help out. Firstly, Donations for our associates are highly appreciated and can be made by straight donations at the main rescue centre in Las Chafiras / San Miguel area or through card payments. Also, if you are thinking of a new pet, why not consider adoption from the charity. More information about the organisation and the animals they care for can be found on their website

 

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Today three of our volunteers went out to K9. While they were there they got to meet all the dogs. They even had some puppy cuddles. This was their experience.

The people running the rescue centre were very friendly and enthusiastic towards the us. First we then were assigned a dog each to take on a 40-minute walk around the beautiful area. we walked the dogs on a scenic route amongst the mountains.

The first dogs we walked were Rocky, Jones and Sarafina. These were three very friendly dogs who loved a long walks and lots of fuss! The second group of dogs we walked were called Sprite, Sally, Olga. Spite was a very timid dog and had to be walked by one of the female volunteers as she was afraid of males due to her past owners. However as the walk went on she gained trust towards us all and became much more confident. On the same walk Olga was walked by one of the male volunteers and she had a special interest in finding lizards in every bush she walked by.

The third and last group of dogs that we walked were Nepo and Chacho. We found it quite funny as Chacho had very large ears and Nepo had very small ones, so they were quite opposite but were the best of friends. We found the walks quite enjoyable as it was warm but there was clouds overhead making it not too warm for us or the dogs. While waiting for our second group of dogs to finish their breakfasts, we were aloud to cuddle a few of the puppies they had at the centre. This was our highlight of the day.

Even though we were not allowed to run away with the dogs we had fallen in love with, we were very happy to walk the dogs and in doing so help the K9 rescue centre.

 

Winter is Over – Hello Spring!

Our Winter internships have come to an end, and what a season we have had. Students from around the world have been with us in Tenerife, with amazing workshops, research and conservation activities taking place. We have also had some fantastic sports and tourism groups taking advantage of all thar Tenerife has to offer. We will miss you all, and we hope that you will come back!

Our Spring/Summer intake is now underway, and we have lots of fantastic opportunities to get involved, from volunteering as Research Guides on the whale watching boats, through to our new Cetacean Acoustics Research Project. So please head over to our website and explore all the ways you can get involved with AWdF this year!

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