This weeks volunteer story comes from Lucy, a returning volunteer!
Why I Came Back
My first trip to Tenerife with the Atlantic Whale Foundation was with college in 2015. I studied travel and tourism and had a large interest for ecotourism and conservation tourism, so this was the perfect place to come and experience. At first I didn’t know what to expect or what it was going to be like. I was already arriving with a large group of college friends so my nerves were calmed. However, when I arrived I knew I had nothing to worry about, and everyone welcomed us with open arms.
During my two week stay, I was able to see different species throughout my time, such as Bottlenose Dolphins, short-fin pilot whales, Bryde’s whales, Atlantic Spotted Dolphin and even flying fish.
There are many reasons I decided to come back; the people are so nice and welcoming you feel at home right away, so I didn’t have to worry about arriving after everyone else. The people we met became friends for life, even if I only met them a few days before leaving.
At AWF, you learn so many new things, and are able to do many new and exciting things you couldn’t normally do anywhere else (such as diving, snorkelling with turtles, parasailing, surfing, kayaking, jumping off boats to swim in the ocean, camping and so much more). This helps improve things like CV’s, skills, and experiences, as well as letting you realise what you are really good at, as well as discovering new interests you may not have had before.
In 2015 I stayed with AWF for two weeks, and now I am here for four. With my time I plan to complete an open water diving certification, and hopefully see and experience even more. This experience is a one in a million, and it has allowed me to learn new things, not only about marine conservation and endangered species but also new things about myself and what I am capable of.
Located right in Puerto Colon, the AWF visitor centre is our headquarters during the work week. We have computers and full wi-fi access for individuals to conduct research for the AWF as well as their own personal projects.
The Visitor Centre is where volunteers who are having a boat day meet in the morning to be informed about which boats they will be working on for the day. It is also where they can input data and fin shots after the boat trips.
We also host a Kids Club for tourists with children as well as the kids of employees of the local businesses in Puerto Colon. We have games and activities for them to do that incorporate lessons about the importance of marine conservation. The Kids Club helps us to further our education mission and instil awareness about the importance of conservation.
We also have a variety of leaflets with tourist information, and occasionally we have tourists pass through the centre to find information about different activities that they can do on the island.
Our visitor centre is meant to be a place of productivity. We have a variety of resources to help our volunteers find inspiration and information for their personal projects. It has a great location with access to everything in Puerto Colon, the perfect workspace to further the mission of the foundation.
El Teide is the third highest Volcano in the world and casts the longest shadow on the planet. The volcano and it’s Crater, Las Canadas, is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Teide Challenge is organised by volunteers who want to experience the views from the top and the gruelling but rewarding climb.
In order to climb through the official AWF, groups of 4-6 volunteers must organise fundraising for AWF projects beforehand, done through our Just Giving page.
All proceeds will go towards the AWF Cetacean Awards, a scheme designed to support the conservation of whale and dolphin species across the Atlantic Oceans. The minimum fundraising target to take part in the challenge is £350. A monthly competition will be held for fundraising totals and the top fundraiser will be featured in our Newsletter!
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Those who rise to the challenge can stay at our Whale and Dolphin research station in the Arona, Tenerife for up to a week, at no cost. Individuals pay for their own flights and we will arrange airport pickups, provide accommodation, food and all logistical support.
Individuals and small groups can join one of our set dates throughout the year, as long as they do their own fundraising. The climb will normally take place on Thursday nights, with a fun week of activities and training available beforehand, including a day on the whale watching boats and a practice climb of one of the beautiful local mountains of Arona.
If you can’t make the whole week, arrival dates are flexible and up to you, just as long as you arrive in time for the safety briefing and Thursday night climb. For more information on dates and full itinerary email us at email@example.com.
Groups of six or more people can come out at any time and also stay for up to a week. Please email us to arrange a date that best suits you. (Note: we have a maximum capacity for groups of up to 11 if you would like to be joined by a guide, or 12 if you are happy to complete the ascent without one)
Teide Example Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrival and transfer from Tenerife south airport, tour of local village
Day 2 – Induction and information workshops on the project and whales and dolphins of the Atlantic
Day 3 – Practice climb of a local mountain
Day 4 – Rest and preparation for climb, taken to shops to buy supplies for climb, full safety briefing and equipment check. Leave for Teide around 8pm
Day 5 – Return to Arona after descent and rest after the climb!
Day 6 – Free day to explore the island
Day 7 – Return home with certificate of completion
So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and come out to Tenerife to experience firsthand what it is like to volunteer with AWF.
This post will give you an idea of what it’s like, a snapshot of the day in the life of an AWF volunteer.
The first couple of days as a volunteer serve as the induction period, where volunteers learn about expectations at AWF, what they will be doing as volunteers, and about the various research and educational projects that they can dedicate their energy to during their time at the facility.
For days that the volunteers are scheduled to be on the whale watching boats, wake up is around 7-7:30, depending on how much time the individual needs to get ready in the morning. Our driver takes two van loads of volunteers to our Visitor Centre in Puerto Colon, at 8:00 and 8:30.
Boat trips start between 9:30 and 10:30, and last from 2 to 5 hours, depending on the boat and the specific trip. Coordinators get the volunteers situated on different boats and walk them to the docks.
Each boat has a different atmosphere, but the general components of the trip are the same for each of the whale-watching companies. Volunteers will collect data in each cetacean interaction; whether it be bottlenose dolphin, pilot whale (the two most common species found on tours) or a migratory species of whale or dolphin, such as a Bryde’s Whale, Atlantic Spotted Dolphin or even rare species such as Blue or Fin Whale.
On the boats, it’s crucial that volunteers not only collect data, but interact with interested tourists to spread knowledge about the importance of ocean and cetacean conservation. We have educational resources in all the folders that volunteers take aboard the boats, and oftentimes we have anti-whaling or anti-captivity petitions for people to sign to take action. Volunteers are also vital for our #AWFdelfie campaign, a social media campaign designed to get people involved in spreading the word about the importance of conservation.
We assist the crew on the boats by helping with cleaning and taking out the bins at the end of the cruise. Almost always, volunteers are able to eat the provided meal on the boat after the tourists have gone through the buffet line.
After all the boats are back in the port for the day, volunteers meet in the visitor centre. Using the computers down there, they can enter their data and fin shots if time allows. Pick-ups to go back to the house in Arona start around 5:30. Volunteers are scheduled to be on the boats 3-4 days a week.
On days in the house, volunteers must be ready at 9:00 for a cleaning meeting, where daily cleaning tasks are divided up. Cleaning takes 45 minutes-1 hour. After, the house group of the day meets in the research room with a coordinator to discuss and set goals for the day. For volunteers who are at AWF as part of their university or college studies, these days are perfect for doing work on personal projects, such as writing a dissertation. If volunteers do not come to AWF with a personal project, the coordinator can help them find a project they would like to contribute to and work on for the day. Volunteers can take a long lunch break to walk into town to buy food or cook in our kitchen. The day ends around 5:30/6 when the boat volunteers return for the day.
Dinner is cooked by coordinators or volunteers every night and is served around 7:30. Two volunteers clean up each night (on a rotation basis) and a brief evening meeting follows. After that, volunteers are welcome to work on personal projects, relax in our Dojo, go out for drinks in Arona, or do whatever else they like!
This is the inaugural post for the Atlantic Whale Foundation blog, the first of many posts to highlight the volunteering experience in Tenerife for the Atlantic Whale Foundation (AWF).
The Atlantic Whale Foundation is a UK based charity organisation, founded to continue the works of Proyecto Ambiental Tenerife, a Spanish environmental agency. The AWF was founded over 20 years ago, running a volunteer programme on the island in conjunction with whale watching boats on the south side of Tenerife.
In addition to collecting behavioural and migratory data on board the boats, the volunteers contribute to the goals of the foundation by educating the tourists on the importance of ocean conservation, taking a stand against illegal commercial whaling, and spreading the word about the importance of cetacean conservation.
The AWF also collaborates with cetacean based projects across the Atlantic, contributing to organisations with research, conservation, or educational missions.
For more information, and to apply to become a volunteer, check out our official website