The Tenerife Whale and Dolphin Conservation project brings volunteers up close and personal with numerous cetacean species. Here's how Iwan Pritchard got on during his time in the Canary Islands.
1) Why did you choose this particular project?
I chose the Tenerife whale and dolphin conservation project to gain more experience in practical conservation work having studied environmental conservation in university and I chose this project in particular because I have a particular interest in marine mammals and because the project was affordable and not too far away in terms of flight travel from the UK.
2) Which kind of work and activities did you do during your project?
In terms of work, we spent three days of the week on whale watching boats; taking surveys of whales and dolphins seen and on one day of the week we conducted coastal surveys; observing and recording sightings of cetaceans from ashore. For activities, I did all kinds of things you would imagine on a holiday island. Hiking, swimming, surfing, kayaking, sunbathing and i even went partying to the yearly carnival in Santa Cruz.
3) How did the culture and people differ to home, and what were the local people like?
The culture was amazing. Everyone there just has a more positive and upbeat outlook on life and everyone is really friendly and happy all the time. I suppose you would be if you lived in a sunny warm climate like that all year round.
4) What was the accommodation like?
The accommodation was great, much better than I anticipated. The house is spacious, clean, and quiet at night and has all of your modern appliances.
5) What were the staff and other volunteers like?
Awesome, all the staff were super friendly and helpful. All the staff were young and around the same age as me (early 20s) so I saw them more as friends than staff and the experience seemed more like a holiday with friends rather than work.
6) What was your most amazing moment or your best memory?
My best and most memorable experience was my final boat trip on shogun; the largest and longest boat trip of them all. Although I didn't see as many cetaceans as previous trips, the views of the giant cliffs of Los Gigantes and the experience i had on the boat was amazing. The sea was flat, the sun was really strong which gave me a really good tan, the crew on the boat were hilarious and on the return to port me and Tash (staff) were the only ones on board which gave us time to take awesome selfies.
7) Do you feel the work you were doing was worthwhile?
Yes, certainly. We were responsible for gathering and recording the data collected into the project data record so we were made responsible for part of the project's research and were taught a lot about how our data was used and how it was used to advance the cause for conservation of whales and dolphins in the canaries.
8) What sort of wildlife did you encounter?
The most common species seen were pilot whales, spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. I did catch a glimpse of a turtle although I’m not sure what species and the back end of a fin whale. On land I saw plenty of lizards and i even had a gecko who would visit my room on occasions.
9) What were you hoping to learn while on project, and have you achieved those goals?
I was hoping to gain more practical experience in conservation work as an extra experience in conservation to add to my list of experiences and in this sense I definitely achieved what i set out to do.
10) Any tips and advice you might like to pass on to future volunteers?
Having a steady hand definitely helps when trying to take a good shot of a whale or dolphins fin with a camera, especially when there are wave on the sea, I certainly didn't have a steady hand so i missed a lot of good shots.
11) What do you have planned next?
I'm still planning what to do next but this experience has inspired and reignited my passion for conservation. I am now seriously considering a career in conservation and I want to continue on this path. So far I’ve considered either going to Australia to gain diving qualifications so that i can pursue jobs in marine conservation or go on a long term internship with a conservation NGO after this summer.
12) Anything else you would like to add?
No, I could describe all the details of my time in Tenerife but it would probably take up a whole book's worth.