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Atlantic Whale Foundation

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July 2016

Snorkelling in El Puertito

The beach of El Puertito in Adeje, Tenerife is a beautiful retreat and change of pace from the overcrowded tourist beaches of Las Americas and Los Cristianos.

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Not only is it separated from the hoards of sunbathers and beachside drinkers, it is a protected bay perfect for snorkelling in, as it boasts crystal clear waters and a resident group of sea turtles who have become quite friendly with visitors.

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Tenerife offers a lot more than a beautiful landscape. There is a breathtaking underwater world with an amazing flora and fauna along with many different marine species, including incredible turtles, three different types of turtles exist on Tenerife, Atlantic Green Turtles, Leatherback Turtles, and Loggerheads. The most common one to be seen is the Atlantic Green Turtles. Their length starts at 90 centimetres and can measure up to 2,70 meters! These incredible ocean turtles can be found very close to the coast and are often a common companion when you are snorkelling. At El Puertito, also known as Turtle Bay, the ocean has a depth of up to 12 meters. Turtles can be seen at a depth of eight meters all year round. The terrain is made up of a rocky reef, which also brings in many different types of fish and sea life.

I would definitely recommend snorkeling in Turtle Bay. It is one of the best experiences i have had. Being able to be so close to such a peaceful creature is truly amazing. During my time snorkeling i saw two atlantic green turtles, one very large one and one slightly smaller, i was able to swim alongside them as well as touch their shell! In turtle bay you are almost guaranteed to see a turtle. As well as snorkeling with turtles, i also snorkeled a little closer to the shore near the rocky reef, where there are so many colourful and strange fish to see, it is fascinating.

I would recommend this trip to everyone! I was able to see so many different animals as well as having a nice day at the beach, and swimming with turtles completely topped it all off.

Snorkelling in El Puertito is a fam trip that is frequently organised by the AWF. A day spent in El Puertito gives volunteers the opportunity to see marine life up close, learn about the different organisms found around Tenerife and inspire them to to pursue scuba diving if they enjoy interacting with marine life and wish to take it further.

The AWF has plenty of mask and snorkel sets for volunteers to use, but if they do have their own and have space in their luggage, it is encouraged that individuals bring their own equipment if they can!

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We also make sure that there is a trained lifeguard coordinator with the groups when they go snorkelling, and we have lifejackets to give to volunteers who are not strong swimmers or wish to take extra precaution.

There are several small bars and restaurants in the coastal town of El Puertito for volunteers to eat at for lunch, but the selection is a bit limited so packing a lunch is advised for groups that are going to be out swimming all day.

We hope you come see the turtles with us!

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Geographical Information Systems

This article was written by our volunteer Kieren Massie, who has spent the past two months at AWF working on a geographical information systems project!

GIS (Geographic information systems) is software that uses GPS (Global positioning systems) to map out points of interest in an aerial map of your choice.

At the AWF (Atlantic Whale Foundation) in Tenerife we are using this technology to map out areas in which the named individuals of dolphin (Pilot Whale/ Bottlenose) can be found and located. This helps us to learn more about their migratory routes as well as pod behaviour.

The named dolphins are identified by the shape of their fins in conjunction with the database present at the AWF where we have over 32 resident Bottlenose individuals being tracked and identified, 300 resident Pilot Whales also monitored and have been identified as well as numerous migrant dolphins to the area to make up our database.

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Fin shot of Indio the Pilot Whale

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Petition: Save the Vaquita Porpoise

One method of conservation activism regularly employed by the Atlantic Whale Foundation is circulating petitions around the whale watching boats to further educate tourists on different cetacean-related issues from all corners of the world. Petitions are an excellent way for our volunteers to break the ice and start conversations with tourists, whom, more often than not, are very interested in getting involved and are more than happy to sign a petition for a good cause.

Our current petition in circulation is raising awareness about the plight of the Vaquita porpoise, the rarest species of cetacean found only in the Gulf of California. It is especially important that action is taken to protect these creatures, as it is estimated there is only 58 remaining in the wild. The Vaquita have been pushed to the brink of extinction due to the illegal use of gillnets by fisherman trying to catch endangered Totoaba fish in the Gulf. The Vaquita become entangled in these nets and often die from shock and stress after being unable to free themselves.

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Despite the ban on using gillnets, fisherman still continue to employ these practices to harvest the swim bladders from the Totoaba fish, which can sell for up to $3.6 million for 200 swim bladders (2013 prices) in Chinese markets, where they are considered a delicacy.

Organisations like Sea Shepherd have recently done a lot of work to remove illegal gillnets as well as partnering with Mexican officials to ensure that this illegal practice does not continue, but still the Vaquita remain critically endangered, and more needs to be done to ensure that they do not go completely extinct within the next few years.

To sign the current petition click here

For more information about the Vaquita, please check out

Viva Vaquita

Save the Whales

Save Our Species

Greenpeace

Volunteer Fam Trips

Throughout the summer months and for volunteers that select the activity package for their experience, AWF coordinators organise several trips during the week for volunteers, which they sign up for based on personal interest. Here is a list of some of the activities that AWF puts on for volunteers, helping groups discover all the magic that Tenerife has to offer.

  1. Snorkelling in El Puertito to see the resident sea turtles
  2. Surfing Lessons & Board Rentals
  3. Go Ape: A high ropes course and zip-line experience
  4. Hiking in the Laurel Forest of the north of the island
  5. Exploring the capital city of Santa Cruz
  6. Kayaking from Los Gigantes to Masca Bay

These are just a few examples of the amazing excursions AWF offers to volunteers.

The foundation provides the transportation to the excursion locations free of charge, and some excursion activities are completely free, while others are charged at a discounted rate for volunteers. Sign up sheets with information will be provided at meetings, so individuals can decide what they want to do during their time at AWF.

Come explore Tenerife with us!

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Gran Canaria

The second most populous island of the seven Canary Islands is a stone’s throw away with just 68 kilometers (42 miles) separating the port cities of Santa Cruz (Tenerife) and Agaete (Gran Canaria). For those wishing to head straight to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (the island’s capital), there are also direct ferries with Armas. This trip is rather slow taking approximately 2 and a half hours but is comfortable none the less.

Las Palmas itself is much larger than Santa Cruz and is believed to have the best climate in the world with an average annual temperature of 21.3 °C (70.3 °F). The city has a few urban beaches, the largest, and most popular one being Playa de Las Canteras. These warm waters are visited by many tourists as well as locals living and working in the city.

The city is divided into a few districts containing a number of smaller neighborhoods such as Triana, Vegueta, and Guanarteme. When not at the beach, many tourists walk through parts of the city, exploring the historical buildings and charming streets. There are numerous restaurants to chose from (especially if you love fresh seafood) and many bars to enjoy a refreshing cocktail.

I would recommend trying out one of the restaurants in front of Playa de Las Canteras such as La Casa de La Playa (4,5* on tripadvisor) and then head over to La Azotea de Benito in Triana (4* on tripadvisor), a great rooftop cocktail bar with some cool city views.

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If you are visiting the island for just a day or two it’s probably best to remain in Las Palmas. A day at the beach and a day for exploring the city is a good itinerary. For longer stays, consider heading down to the south of the island for something different.

Bottlenose Dolphins

The waters of Tenerife are home to large family pods of resident bottlenose dolphin species. This incredible creatures are commonly spotted around the cliffs of Los Gigantes or feeding near the fish farms. They are very friendly and often interact with the boats; demonstrating a number of behaviours including wake riding, surfing or jumping right in front of the boats for the tourists to see.

Bottlenose Dolphins are the most common and well-known species of dolphin and are very intelligent creatures. They are known to display a variety of behaviours showcasing their intelligence. Some of these include mimicry, self-recognition, comprehension of artificial language, comprehension of gestures and a solid memory.

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Volunteers on the whale watching tours will have the opportunity to see bottlenose dolphins thriving in their natural habitats several times during their stay at AWF. Seeing these magical animals in the wild is an incredible experience, and it is far better than contributing to captivity companies to see artificial dolphin shows or swim with the dolphins at overpriced resorts.

There is a pod of about 34 resident individual bottlenose dolphins right here in Tenerife, and many others pass through on their own migratory routes.

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Pilot Whales of Tenerife

The most commonly sighted cetacean species off the coast of Tenerife is the short-finned pilot whale. Pilot Whales are actually a species of dolphin, and range in size, with males usually being around 5.5 meters and females 3.7 meters. They are very social animals, and stick in pods with typically 10-20 individuals.

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On whale watching tours, tourists generally have several interactions with groups of pilot whales, which can last up to 15 minutes. The boat captains are specially trained to navigate appropriately around the pods, so that tourists get a good view but the whales are also protected. Boats with captains who have special whale watching certifications have a special flag to denote their qualification.

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Over the years at AWF, our volunteers have collected fin shots and behavioural data on several of the pilot whales, whom we’ve identified through photographs over the years. The whales are identified by the shape of their dorsal fin as well as any notches or marks in the fin, either from fighting other whales or boat impact.

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The pilot whales seen on the tours off Tenerife are friendly and curious animals. Often they are seen diving and surfacing near the boats, swimming in the waves made by the boat and checking the tourists out with behaviours such as spy-hopping (pictured above).

These creatures are truly incredible to encounter in their natural habitats, and in Tenerife, tourists are especially lucky because they generally will see many during a boat tour of just a few hours.

Anaga

Anaga is the lush, green mountainous region in the north of the island of Tenerife. With peaks of up to 1,000 meters in places, it’s hard to miss when venturing up north. Some of our volunteers who have gone camping in Taganana have also gone hiking in Anaga. It is truly the best way to escape the summer heat while simultaneously enjoying spectacular views of the surroundings. There are various hiking trails that range from a couple of kilometers long (close to Taganana) to the route from Chamorga to La Laguna which is 34km long. Just make sure to take good hiking boots, plenty of water, and a light jacket as it often is a bit chilly up there.

Most of the region is accessible by public transport leaving from Santa Cruz:

To Chamorga (bus 947)

To Igueste de San Andres (945)

To Taganana (946)

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Taganana & Camping Up North

The charming seaside town of Taganana is situated on the northern tip of the island, on the doorstep of the Anaga mountain region. Like most of the north of Tenerife, the area is generally cooler, greener, and less crowded than the south which makes it a great weekend escape.
Many of our past volunteers have travelled to Taganana quite easily by bus on the weekends. There is a direct line that leaves Santa Cruz station and takes you right to the coast. Taganana is well recommended for those who love to watch sunsets, surf, and camp out under the stars with friends.

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