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Atlantic Whale and Dolphin Foundation

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ecotourism

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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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.

Lisanne: Why I Chose Volunteering with AWF

This weeks story brought to you by our lovely Dutch volunteer, Lisanne!

I studied Environmental Biology back home, in which I focused on ecology and the behaviour of animals. In my study I did internships about the behaviour of birds, large felids and terrestrial mammals in general, but I did not do any project about sea animals. So when I finished my study, I was looking for a project with sea animals to get more experience about the behaviour of this group of animals.

I was also looking for a long holiday in a warm place! I wanted to combine my holiday with volunteering work, but unfortunately, most volunteering work quickly gets very expensive. I found AWF just by googling and was surprised by the projects they offered and the low costs. I also really liked that it is an organisation with many students and that they organize many trips in Tenerife, such as visiting Santa Cruz and snorkelling. I felt it was everything I was looking for!

One week at Tenerife and it is still everything I was looking for 🙂 So far, I have been on the boats (with very nice crew and food), went snorkelling with the turtles at Turtle Bay, went diving for the first time (very exciting!), had much fun in the water park Siam Park and relaxed on the beach of Los Cristianos. While being on the boats, I have already spotted numerous bottlenose dolphins and short-finned pilot whales, but was also lucky enough to see common dolphins, atlantic spotted dolphins, flying fish and even a Bryde’s whale! There are many people at the AWF house and that is really nice, because there is always someone you can talk to and go with on trips to explore the island. I would definitely recommend volunteering at AWF and I am excited for the rest of my stay at Tenerife!

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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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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