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Cultural Trip to Santa Cruz

Cultural Trips are important excursions organised by the AWF for our volunteers. Our founders want all volunteers to have the opportunity to see some of the important historical and cultural spots of the island. One of the cultural trips is a day trip to visit three important sights of Tenerife: Candelaria, Güimar and the capital, Santa Cruz.

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Candelaria

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The trip begins in the little town of Candelaria. Start the day with the coffee in the plaza, of views of the ocean, the beautiful church and the famous Guanche statues.

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Candelaria is a nice town to make a quick stop in on the way to Santa Cruz. It has a lot of Catholic significance, as it is seen as the place of the veneration of the Virgin Candelaria.

The church is a beautiful stop to do a brief tour through, and there are many cafes surrounding the main plaza, where the Guanche men statues stand in front of the sea.

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Güimar

After the stop in Candelaria, the trip drives further north to Güimar, where volunteers can visit the famous pyramids of Güimar. 

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Santa Cruz

The capital city of Tenerife and 1/2 the capital of the Canary Islands (the other half is in the Gran Canaria, the 2nd largest of the 7 islands) is Santa Cruz. Located in the north of the island, Santa Cruz is a beautiful city to spend an afternoon in to see a bit of the island different from the endless beaches of the south.

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The main Plaza de España in Santa Cruz is right next to the commercial streets with shops and restaurants.

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Overall, Santa Cruz is a small, vibrant city with a much more “Spanish” feel to it than the tourist traps of the south. It is a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean, and a good place to see during a stay in Tenerife.

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Kayaking w/ Teno Activo

Ocean Kayaking is a popular activity among volunteers that come and work here at AWF.

We have partnered with Teno Activo  based in Los Gigantes in Tenerife for our kayaking excursions. For a very reasonable price, volunteers receive a two hour kayak rental, complete with a guided tour and photographer as well as a beer or non-alcoholic drink halfway through the journey.

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Each kayak had two people paddling, the seats were comfortable with back rests and came with one life jacket per participant. The guide also brings masks and snorkels, but we advise our volunteers to bring the ones we have at the foundation, so that they can fully enjoy a little swim during the break.

The water in this area of the island is really crystal clear, and swimming beneath the giant cliffs is an incredible experience. The ocean conditions are fairly mild, but it is a good workout for active volunteers!

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Scuba Diving

One of the activities we most encourage our volunteers to try while they are here in Tenerife with us is scuba diving. For volunteers who have never been diving, we are able to schedule try dives through Zero Gravity, a dive shop right in Puerto Colón by our Visitors Centre.

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Try dives are an excellent way for volunteers to become familiar with scuba diving. The dive masters start the session with a briefing in the dive centre so the divers understand basic functions of the equipment. They are then taken to El Puertito, the same location of our snorkelling trips, in order to see the turtles. El Puertito is a sheltered bay, so it is never rough or dangerous conditions for the divers.

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Once in the water, the dive master holds onto the diver as they descend 5-6 meters to become acquainted with the incredible sensation of breathing underwater. In the bay, divers can see the turtles and different beautiful fish species.

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After completing the try dive, volunteers have the option of completing a PADI course through Zero Gravity. Completing the Open Water Diver or Advanced Open Water Diver is a very feasible task that a volunteer could do during their time at AWF, even if they are only here for a week. We make sure to take their diving priorities into consideration when making our schedules, so that they will be in the port at the correct time.

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Image from Zero Gravity

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Masca Bay Walk

Masca Bay Walk

Masca is one of the most picturesque parts of the island and is located northwest at the foot of the Teno Mountains. This beautiful little village is a bit difficult to reach but it’s definitely worth the trip! A popular activity among tourists is The Masca trek. This track is a 7.5 km hike following a streambed down a ravine that leads to the sea at Masca Bay. After an approximate three-hour walk you will finish your hike in the Masca Bay where you can enjoy the beautiful beach with black sand and crystal clear water of the Atlantic Ocean. You can choose to walk back up to the top or you can take a boat that will transfer you to Los Gigantes. The boat will cost you 7 euro’s. On the boat you can enjoy the view of the Atlantic Ocean and the cliffs of the neighbouring island la Gomera.

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The Masca walk is done by so many tourists that we as volunteers also wanted to take a look at this beautiful path. So we walked the masca walk with six volunteers. With a lot of courage and a lot of energy we started the walk with a lot of enthusiasm, wondering what we would see along the path. The path is bumpy, has a lot of rocks (some are loose), is very narrow and high sometimes (little bit scary), but the view and the setting is absolutely worth it! You walk past beautiful rock walls, cliffs, streams, caves and many kinds of colourful flowers and plants like bamboo, spiny cactuses. Your climbing paths with rocks and you need to slide down over rocks down again. Halfway down the gorge it becomes quite narrow and spooky, with occasional rock falling down. At some point you use a ledge above the cliff while you need to hold onto a wire rope for safety, which is a little bit tricky for someone who suffers from vertigo. Be safe and don’t rush, we stopped a couple of times and the trek took us around three hours. And as a reward you can take a refreshing swim in beautiful Masca bay. We took the water taxi back to Los Gigantes, which took about ten minutes.

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I would really recommend the Masca walk to every one. Even if you do not like hiking or nature or exercise, Go for it! You wouldn’t regret it!

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This post brought to you by volunteer Kelly, who went on the Masca walk fam trip with AWF.

Forestal Park

Forestal Park, situated in the north of the island of Tenerife, within the biodiversity rich area of Las Lagunetas, boasts the largest treetop adventure park in the Canary Islands. This “GoApe” style woodland climb offers a variety of courses of varying difficulty and will keep you busy for at least 2-3 hours, depending on the size of your group.

If you are one who is particularly beset on heights, then this is a great place to chase that adrenaline rush and can be incredibly rewarding! If not, then hanging 30m above the forest floor and ziplining 230m might just do the trick!

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We recommend that our volunteers arrive at the centre with some time to spare and explore some of the surrounding woodland before engaging the course; with the lack of greenery in the south of the island where we are situated, traversing beneath the illuminated canopy of Canary Island pines is a refreshing sight, just don’t get lost!

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This post brought to you by our volunteer, Rhys.

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.

A Day in the Life at AWF

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and come out to Tenerife to experience firsthand what it is like to volunteer with AWF.

GREAT!

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.

Boat Days

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.

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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.

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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.

House Days

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!

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Welcome to the AWF Blog!

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

http://www.whalenation.org

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