Mediterranean Whale and Dolphin Conservation

Project name:

Oceanomare Delphis Onlus (ODO) - Ischia Dolphin Project

Project purpose:

The main goal of the project is the conservation of the habitat used by whales and dolphins, habitat which is always more corrupted and threatened by human activities. The Ischia Dolphin Project has also an educational purpose, with the goal to increase knowledge of the general public to meet the needs of conservation of cetaceans in the Mediterranean. Field courses are open to everybody who wish to share and work enthusiastically on the field. Anybody can participate. The project is almost exclusively supported by the financial contribution of project participants. The money you pay to participate in the program will be used to cover the project running costs. The financial contribution of project participants is essential to allow ODO study and conservation activities to continue.

Project activities:

  • community awareness

  • data collection/analysis

  • habitat restoration/management

Marine

Italy

Europe

Weekly cost (approx USD):

$

1200

Direct benefits you gain:

  • cultural integration

  • data/statistical skills

  • field research skills

  • gain a qualification and/or credit

  • remote scenic location

Noteworthy conservation points:

  • contributes to environmental policy

  • publishes peer-reviewed science

  • publishes work

Accommodation:

Shared accomodation on board of Jean Gab, the research vessel (historical wooden sailing boat of 17.70 m)

Requirements:

  • Good physical conditions, comfortable in hot weather and with spending relatively long periods under the sun

  • Be steady on your legs and comfortable on a boat.

Facilities:

accommodation included, cooking facilities, electricity, local shops, near-by medical, refillable drinking water, hot shower, western toilet.

Details of the day-to-day life on the project:

Participants live on board of the research vessel Jean Gab that preferably navigates under sail. 
During your staying days will be almost entirely dedicated to the research activities and all participants will take part in the fieldwork. 

Every day, except for the arrival and the departure days, will be spent at sea. Survey tracks are laid out to provide a coverage of the study area, but might be adapted to prevailing weather conditions.

Participants will be asked to help researchers in the collection of data and sailing activities. They will rotate, together with the researchers, in watching shifts of one hour each during the whole navigation period until dolphins/whales are sighted. There are two observers on duty on every shift. 

Besides whales and dolphins, we record also the presence of sea turtles, tunas, swordfish, manta rays, large school of fish and sea birds. The acoustic system helps in the localization of the animals: the hydrophones detect any sound produced by cetaceans at an average distance of 3 nm and the software indicate the direction of the signal. It is then possible to approach the animals. 

In the evening, the boat go back to the harbour. Sometimes nights can be spent in a bay at the anchor or, for research reasons, out at sea.

Everybody have a role to play during sightings. A good teamwork is key to an enjoyable experience and a good data collection, such as filming dolphins with the underwater camera under the bow of the vessel, collecting behavioral data, recording sounds, filming and photographing the animals for their individual identification, and steering. A sighting can last several hours and in the meantime, normal duties on board such as cooking and washing dishes have to be carried out.

Please consider that we are looking for whales and dolphins in the wild, they are not always in the area and we cannot predict their moves, thus the encounters are not guaranteed.

How long can I stay?

Minimum 1 week

When does the project run?

May to September

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Reviews & ratings

Agnes Akerhielm

My travelling companion and I formed an unusual couple because I am 68 and my grandson Edoardo is only 11. We decided to join the Oceanomare team for a week because I love dolphins and we could learn a lot from this kind of important experience.
I was aware that it was to be an experience on a small sailing boat with basic conditions and little privacy. Having accepted this, I will admit that I appreciate my home comforts more than before!
However, it made me and my grandson realise the importance of other aspects of life because we got the chance to be sailing all day, every day, while we looked for marine animals all together, taking turns to keep a watch for any fins or whale “blows”. It was both very peaceful and very exciting. We had to learn to be patient and realise that wild animals are totally unpredictable.
We didn’t see any big fish, whales or dolphins for the first few days, except manta rays and a lot of tuna that were migrating from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean.
Then suddenly our patience was rewarded when we had a close and magical encounter with a group of bachelor sperm whales that were very curious and as fascinated by us as we were of them. They were not afraid or in a hurry to swim away. We observed them until it started getting dark when we had to head back to the port of Casamicciola. It was the happiest day of the week for us all.
My sincerest thanks, admiration and best wishes go to Davide, the cetacean researcher who was on board the boat during the week we were there. He gave Edoardo and me a presentation and information that conveyed his enthusiasm and knowledge about these wonderful mammals that are so special. My grandson was totally absorbed as Davide patiently explained so much that neither of us knew about whales and dolphins. How they communicate and how they form social groups. Unfortunately we didn’t see any dolphins, which was of course disappointing especially for me, but I hope to have other opportunities to see my favourite animals in the ocean before I get too old to travel. Angelo, the captain told us that seeing that group of whales was very fortunate, so we can count ourselves lucky. Angelo’s stories about his many years on his boat studying cetaceans were fascinating and unforgettable. I deeply admire his dedication to these mammals and I wish him a happy future and a lot of satisfaction in connection with the research project.
The other members of the crew were equally as important for the smooth running of daily life on board. We all helped with the chores and we cleaned the boat on the last day. Our special thanks go to Angelo who made us delicious and healthy food for lunch and dinner, which were always special occasions for laughter and enjoyment.
I can highly recommend this adventure to anyone who loves whales and dolphins and who doesn’t mind sharing a cabin with others that are strangers.

volunteer

An unusual couple

Harsha Nagaraj

One word. Astounding. From the moment I excitedly stepped on the boat to the last moment when I stepped off the boat for the last time, it was a glorious experience. The project resounds with me because I am a keen conservationist and I study marine biology. I could not have come to a better place than ODO. Going out into the Mediterranean sea to spot the cetaceans every day for almost 12 hours was exhausting yet so fulfilling. Spotting a large pod of whales continuously for 8 hours was a mesmerising experience and one that I will cherish forever. I will be coming back to visit the whales year after year. A must go place if you want to experience real marine wildlife. Thanks, Ischia Dolphin Project and Oceanomare Delphis!

Volunteer

8th Wonder of the World