Search

Atlantic Whale and Dolphin Foundation

Tag

whales

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!

Advertisements

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.

doph4.jpg

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.

dolphins1.jpg

 

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.

pw2.jpg

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.

whalewatching.jpeg

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.

pw1.jpg

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.

IMG_5507.jpg

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.

11053440_1055993717773442_8957097934617563033_o

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!

volunteer2

 

 

AWF Delfies Campaign

One of the most fundamental aspect of the Atlantic Whale Foundation is our commitment to raising awareness about illegal whaling. We’ve launched our social media campaign, #AWFdelfies, in order to educate tourists on whale watching boats about the illegal whaling activity that still continues to this day, despite the ban that has been in place since 1986.

The goal of the #AWFdelfies campaign is to get the tourists involved and interested in taking action. The volunteers circulate petitions on the whale-watching boats, answer any questions the tourists may have, and then ask for permission to take their photo with our delfie sticks, which we then share on our social media pages. This gives them the opportunity to tag themselves and share the photo, further spreading the word about cetacean conservation.

11053440_1055993717773442_8957097934617563033_o11696592_1056007574438723_6505844327948109887_odelfie1.jpg

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

dolphin.jpg

 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑