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Atlantic Whale and Dolphin Foundation

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!

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“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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Some Exciting News!

mola mola

(Pictured Right: Paige Sammons, Head Coordinator, Left: Jessica Jarvis, Coordinator).

In recent events, AWF are proud to announce a new alliance with Mola Mola Sailing Tenerife! As of next week, our experienced coordinators and volunteers will be joining Mola Mola on their excursions to broaden our research and give quality tour guide information on board, and within the Mola Mola office.

This will be available to tourists taking part in whale watching excursions, supporting responsible environmentally sustainable interactions with Cetaceans and marine life. Information will be available on the resident and migratory marine life surrounding Tenerife and the Canaries. The information you receive will come from a member of the AWF team, with either a Marine Biology or Zoology Degree background, with years of experience and knowledge in their field.

The Mola Mola operates from Puerto Colon, and all their vessels are blue boats, meaning they are government licence whale watching vessels, ensuring responsible and sustainable interaction with wildlife.

We are very excited to work with such an incredible company!

-Jess, AWF Coordinator

Roque Imoque: Local Climb

In preparation for the Teide Challenge, some of our volunteers attempted a climb of a local mountain, Roque Imoque. At 1107m high, the climb is quite challenging for one of the smaller mountains in Tenerife, in comparison to the more popular Roque del Conde both situated in the Adeje area. Both a short walk from our Research Base in Arona.

The peak of Imoque requires more scrambling and climbing to reach as apposed to just an uphill hike, so was chosen as a more appropriate preparation climb for the difficult challenge ahead of climbing Teide, the third highest volcano in the world at 3,718 m, with an altitude of 7500m above sea level. Here’s what Beth, one of our volunteers had to say about the experience;

‘It was a good walk and well worth the leg ache, the views were amazing and are a must see if you are in tenerife!’

Roque Imoque is one of three peaks in the Adeje area, local legend states it was named after the Daughter of a Guanche King. It was said to be named after the princess in honour of her physical attributes and beauty. Offering panoramic views, it is the perfect place to watch the sunset  while here with the AWF, and Coordinators will facilitate the climb for you should you wish to complete it.

We can even take your photograph at its peak from our Research base (albeit with a decent zoom lens) once you have reached it!

 

– Jess, AWF Coordinator

Horse Riding FAM Trip

 

Today a group of our volunteers were taken on a popular excursion we run weekly, Horse Riding. Or as Mama, our driver would say “El Caballos!” The trip is organised with a local stables owned by Oscar, a good friend of the AWF.

You will have the option of a one or two hour ride, depending on your preference, during which you are taken out onto the dirt tracks surrounding the stables, and take part in a trek or hack depending on your riding ability. Here’s what one of our volunteers had to say about the experience;

‘Horse Riding is something I have done at home before, but it had been a while since I had been in the saddle. However on arrival I was greeted by Oscar and fitted for a helmet, and was put straight on a suitable horse. During the first part of the ride Oscar was watching how competent everyone was and once we’d reached a certain point we separated into two groups, of experienced and inexperienced riders. Oscar made me feel right at home and helped me ease back into the saddle, within 15 minutes I was galloping away through the winding dirt tracks like I was in the wild west! If you want to give horse riding a try as a beginner, or are an experienced rider, I would highly recommend doing it during your stay with the AWF!’

Horse riding is a weekly excursion we plan here at the AWF, and if it is something you are interested in we will make sure your needs are accommodated for. It is great fun for people of all riding abilities and the views are incredible! Just be sure to bring your sunscreen and some change for an ice cream should you choose a two hour trek.

 

– Jess, AWF Coordinator

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