Get up-close with the biggest animals on Earth and contribute to a greater knowledge of Azores whales and dolphins.
The Great Whale Project combines a touristic whale watching operation with research, involving guests and volunteers in a philosophy of sustainable, research supportive Eco-tourism.
Our primary focus is on collecting photo and behavioural data on blue and sperm whales. You will enjoy regular trips to the sea (4-5 hours per day, some days even longer) and will be integrated in all aspects of the operational daily workload. You will spend your days on board a 9m RIB spotting, observing and photographing whales and dolphins.
The Azores Islands are one of the world’s best destinations for encountering whales and dolphins. Attracted by the deep waters that occur close to shore and the abundance of food, more than 25 species of whales and dolphins are reported to the Azores waters, about 30% of all the cetacean species known. Considered a sperm whale “hotspot”, it is also on the route of some migrating species, such as the blue, fin, humpback and sei whales.
The project is run by a team of marine biologists who have been conducting whale photo- ID studies in Azores for over 15 years and focuses mainly on the individual identification of blue and sperm whales. It comprehends two research periods: spring months, mainly for blue whale research (fin, humpback and sperm whales as well) and summer for sperm whale research.
Long-term photo-ID studies can provide important information on whale movements, life history and population size and it is one of the most valuable whale research techniques. The Great Whales Project gives you the chance to experience field research and to meet whales and dolphins in their natural realm, while learning about whale biology and conservation, species identification, photo-ID and behavioural data collection.
On joining this project, you are sure to have an unforgettable experience, getting involved and contributing to the cetacean research that is being undertaken in the North Atlantic and that will lead to a greater knowledge of Azores whales and dolphins.
Free time will be arranged with volunteers based on the weather forecast and weekly workload. On free time volunteers will have the chance to explore the island and be involved in a range of activities offered (additional cost) which include scuba diving, hiking, visits to museums, bird watching. Volunteers are welcome to join our diving boats, whenever there is availability, to snorkel on their free time (with no costs).
Volunteers enrolling in this project will be educated in an informal environment, learning about cetacean biology and conservation and research techniques. Duties may change from day to day, but volunteers will:
- Gain knowledge and experience on cetacean biology, conservation and identification at sea
- Gain experience of field work and collection of research data
- Gain essential whale photo-ID skills
- Develop whale watch naturalist skills and assist with the education of the whale watching guests and the public in general
- Learn basic boat skills and assist with boat duties, including boat check and post- trip cleaning
Conduct office-based work cataloguing and analysing collected data
Enjoy unique wildlife encounters and have the opportunity to take great pictures
Wifi – Yes
People per room – Up to 3
Single sex rooms – Yes
Nearest ATM & shops – 5 minute drive
Airport Transfers – 2 hours
No meals are included in this programme, as it is on a self catering basis. There are many supermarkets nearby, so a couple of times a week volunteers can all go and do the shopping for their food, meaning that nearly all dietary requirements can be catered for besides Halal.
What are the requirements to join?
We welcome all volunteers from any background, religion and nationality. In order to join the programme you need to be at least 18 years old on the programme start date.
Individuals need to have a good level / understanding of English but it dose not need to be your first language. As some programmes can be quite strenuous, we recommend that you should be physically fit.
What date should I arrive and leave?
Are there any age restrictions?
The only age restriction in place is that you have to be at least 18 years old before your programme start date. Anyone over this age is welcome. Generally the average age range for our programmes is 18 – 25, although this is by no means definitive.
When should I apply for the programme?
You can apply for this programme at anytime, however we advise all volunteers to apply as soon as possible to have the best chances of securing your placement on your selected dates.
Generally speaking, you need to book at least 60 days before your programme start date, although if you are wanting to apply after this, please contact us and we will do our best.
What duration would you recommend?
On gaining feedback, we believe 2 – 4 weeks is the ideal time to get settled in and really involved in the placement. This also allows you to make the most of free time and explore the local areas and participate in any activities.
Can I volunteer if I live outside of the UK?
Yes of course. We welcome volunteers from around the world, no matter how far away from the programmes you are.
The majority of volunteers that we host, come from the UK, US, Canada and Australia.
Can I go with my friend / partner?
You can travel and volunteer with friends, family and / or your partner.
If you are wanting to request to stay in the same accommodation please outline this in the special requirements section within the application form.
Is it safe to travel to these destinations?
We regularly visit and participate in each and every one of the programmes we offer to rigorously check all aspects of the project and accommodation are safe and that all procedures are being followed. These include but are not limited to checking the living conditions within the volunteer accommodations, checking the neighbourhoods you’ll be staying in, tasting the food you’ll be eating and going on any weekend trips recommended by us or our local team.
We monitor the stability of all of our volunteer destinations on a daily basis and have constant contact with our overseas teams to ensure that our volunteers are safe.
All volunteers will receive a comprehensive volunteer handbook when you choose to join us on one of our programmes. This detailed document addresses a large range of issues such as health, safety, visas, as well as going into details about local cultures and traditions.
When you arrive in-country, you will be given a safety briefing during your orientation that will cover things like emergency procedures, how to use local transport and any cultural differences.
Our in-country team are on hand to help with any issues or to answer any questions and please do not forget that our UK office is available 24/7 in case of any rare emergencies.
While we can never guarantee your volunteer experience will be 100% trouble free, we have taken all of the necessary precautions to minimise all risks and to ensure the programme is as safe as possible.
Before You Depart
When do I pay?
To confirm and guarantee your placement on one of our programmes, you need to pay the registration fee of £129 within 7 days of receiving confirmation that your application was successful. The remaining balance is then due to less than 60 days prior to your programme start date.
Payments can be done all at once or be spread out over several months and can be paid via BACS (bank transfer). We do accept additional payments methods, such as debit and credit cards, although there may be additional fees.
Do I need any vaccinations and / or malaria tablets?
As we are not trained medical experts we cannot tell you exactly what vaccinations or other medication you may need for your trip. You will need to consult with your local doctors or travel clinic.
You can also find additional information on the NHS Fit For Travel website.
How do I arrange my flights?
All flights need to be booked by you, although we can point you in the right direction on where you may be able to find the best prices.
Before booking any flights, we strongly recommend that you wait to have confirmation that your application was successful.
How do I arrange my travel insurance?
We have teamed up with Endsleigh to create an affordable and comprehensive travel insurance policy that is suitable for all of the programmes we offer. You will receive information about this policy along with your volunteer handbook.
If you decide to purchase your travel insurance from an alternative provider, please ensure it covers you for everything you will be doing. Adequate travel insurance must be in place no less than 60 days before your programme start date. Without proof of this insurance, we will not be able to accept you onto the programme.
When will I receive my volunteer handbook?
You will receive a welcome email from us as soon as you have paid the registration fee and your placement has been confirmed. The welcome email will include the volunteer handbook that provides a wealth of information that will help you better understand all aspects of your upcoming trip as well as details about our insurance policy.
Please note, that all material is sent via email and hard copies cannot be sent.
On Your Trip
Can I arrange a private room?
The majority of our accommodation only offers shared rooms that are usually same-sex. However, if you would prefer a private room please let us know and we will at least try for you.
Can you cater for my dietary requirements?
We will try are best to cater for any dietary requirements. When you submit your application please include any required details within the dietary section and we will liaise with our local coordinators.
Are there any public holidays that would effect the project?
Although we try to be as clear as possible of all holidays that effect project availability, due to the nature of some countries, holidays can often be sporadic or prone to change.
If such a holiday falls when you are on your placement, this is generally a good time to experience unique festivities where you can join in with the locals.
What is the dress code at the projects?
We ask that all volunteers take the approach of a smart and responsible image during your time in the communities and on projects. It is best to also take some older clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
Generally, it is best to avoid tight and very short clothing and anything that may have offensive slogans on it. Its recommended that you take some nicer clothes for weekends or any free time you may have.
We do not wish to impose strict regulations, however we do ask that you respect the local culture and do your best to adhere to the clothing guidelines within the volunteer handbook.
How much spending money will I need?
For general expenses and some travelling, you should find that £50 – £100 per week is sufficient. However, this can vary greatly depending on the amount of activities or trips you do and if you are eating out during the week..
Will I be able to travel whilst on the programme?
There should be plenty of time to travel while on your placement and we actively encourage that you do! The local coordinators will be able to give you lots of travel tips and provide any help needed for your independent adventure.
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