- posted on Feb 18, 2017
- by Leanne Sturrock
Learn about World Whale Day, and see how you can help towards the conservation of this incredible animal.
Help to assist a team of marine biologists in important whale and dolphin conservation projects
Faial Island is one of the best destinations for encountering whales and dolphins in not only the Azores but also in the whole world! 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 be within the Azores waters - about 30% of all the cetacean species known. Considered a sperm whale “hotspot", it is also on the route of other migrating species, including blue, fin and sei whales!
The Great Whale Project combines a touristic whale watching operation with whale and dolphin conservation research, involving guests and volunteers in a philosophy of sustainable, research supportive Eco-tourism. This whale and dolphin conservation project is run by a team of marine biologists who have been conducting whale photo- ID studies in the Azores for over 10 years and focuses mainly on the individual identification of blue and sperm whales.
It comprehends two research periods: the spring months are mainly for blue whale research (with fin, sei and sperm whales also passing through), whilst the summer months are focused on the individual recognition of sperm whales – who remain here all year round.
This whale conservation project gives you the unforgettable chance to experience field research and to meet whales and dolphins in their natural realm, whilst learning about whale biology, conservation, species identification and photo-ID and behavioural data collection techniques.
The Great Whale Project is primarily focused on assisting a team of biologists collecting photo-identification and ecological data on blue and sperm whales (depending on the time of year) for wider research of whales in the Azores region. You will enjoy regular trips to sea and will be integrated in ALL aspects of the operation daily workload.
By enrolling in this project you will be educated in an informal environment, learning about whale and cetacean biology, whale and dolphin conservation and research techniques. Activities may change from day to day, but you can expect to take part in the following:
Please note that itineraries are subject to change and what follows is simply a guideline.
Although it is possible to join for 6 nights, as the activities taking place are dependent on weather and sea conditions, we recommend taking part for 13 nights or more if possible.
To secure a place on this project a deposit of £195 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.
Select a duration below to see the available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project!
This is a fantastic whale conservation project offering the opportunity for volunteers to experience spectacular volcanic landscapes, friendly people, great diving, and of course plenty of whales and dolphins!
During your time as a volunteer here, you will be based at 'Dive Azores' -a PADI Dive Resort and Whale & Dolphin Watching Eco-operator. Owned and run by Joana and Tiago, both marine biologists, conservationists and diving instructors, you will know that you are in the best possible hands to carry out this integral research. They say:
"Environmental responsibility is a top priority to us. We firmly believe that we must educate, involve, and inspire people about the world's marine ecosystems and their amazing inhabitants, and in this way helping to create a worldwide awareness of whale and dolphin conservation issues."
By joining this volunteer placement, you are supporting vital cetacean research, data collection and whale conservation efforts within the Azores, which in the long run will help in cetacean research and conservation strategies worldwide.
Learn about World Whale Day, and see how you can help towards the conservation of this incredible animal.
As you may well know already, whales are migratory creatures which means they don't stay in one place all of the time! Use our handy guide to find out here when the best time to see them is on The Great Whale Project! We can't guarentee a sighting, but we can certainly help a littlle!
Accommodation during your time here will be within a twin shared room in an apartment or a house – only a walking distance from the Dive Azores building from where all volunteer activities will occur. All accommodation options have a kitchen attached where you can cook and prepare all food for the day, as well as all the usual mod cons (LCD Tv's, free WiFi, a washing machine, fresh linen etc.)
Couples, friends or families volunteering together who would like private accommodation should let us know in advance so we can arrange it
All meals (except for the welcome and farewell dinners) and beverages are NOT provided during your time on this project. This is something that will need to be arranged by yourself during your stay here.
This project does not involve much in the way of physical labour, but all volunteers should have a basic level of fitness when taking part. No specific skills or experience are required, just commitment to the project and its aims. You must be prepared to work alongside other members of the team, and to bring an upbeat, positive attitude to the endeavour as a whole.
The vaccinations required will depend on your medical history of each volunteer. We recommend that you consult with your GP regarding your own immunisation needs. In conjunction with this, we would also recommend that you check Fit for Travel’s website.
The best time to volunteer on this project is between March and August. During these months you will be able to see sperm whales and dolphins, however, the 2 seasons that this period of time includes also offer additional marine wildlife sighting possibilities.
Spring (March until the end of May) – This season also offers the opportunity for seeing many more species of whale including the blue, fin, sei and humpback whales. The daytime temperature in these months averages between 13 and 17°C (55-63°F).
Summer (June until September) – During this season sperm whales are in abundance as it is their peak season and there are also a lot more varieties of dolphins including the Atlantic spotted dolphin. The daytime temperature in these months averages between 21 and 25°C (70-77°F).
Getting to the Azores will generally require a stopover via Lisbon, from where you can catch an onwards flight direct to Horta on Faial island where you need to arrive between 9 am - 5 pm on your project start date. TAP Air Portugal is usually the best airline for this. Alternatively, you can fly direct to Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores, and transfer to Faial using an internal flight. Please note that to get to Horta on Faial island where the project is based, you will need to take an internal flight.
If you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flights page and fill out the form. A member of our team will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
Visa requirements in the Azores are the same as for mainland Portugal. Citizens from the UK, the EU, the USA, Canada and Australia are not required to get a visa in advance for stays of up to 90 days. Nationals not referred to here are advised to contact their Portuguese embassy/consulate to check for their visa requirements. Please note that ALL citizens travelling to the Azores are required to have a passport with six months validity.
As the Azores are a part of Portugal, an EU country, the money used here is the Euro
If you have any questions about this project or would like help finding the perfect project for you then please feel free to give us a call or send us through your enquiry and we will be happy to help.
Nikita & team.
Seeing a Blue Whale swim beside our boat was the best thing ever! I saw so many amazing animals and loved it. The team were so knowledgeable and their enthusiasm and passion was inspiring. I can't thank them enough!
Carol Williams, 2016
My favourite moment has to be when we saw a pod of over 50 false orcas and bottlenose dolphins! Also, when 2 fin whales came within 5 feet of our boat and spent hours besides our boat on a sunny day!
Megan Wringe, 2016
I was lucky enough to meet many Blues, including two mother and calf pairs. On our final trip, we were graced with the sight of a fluking mother Blue. It was as if she was waving us off on our trip home. Some people will travel the world to see a Blue fluke. I feel so lucky. I wish I could go back and stay longer. Two weeks from home was scary, but by the time they were over, I was sad to leave.
Jessica Lindberg, 2016
There are many favourite moments of mine. I will remember my first sighting of dolphins in the wild and watching whales fluke up and staring at the footprint left behind as it disappears into the depths. A favourite moment can't be distinguished from it all. I had an amazing time and will have to return.
I had hoped to just see one blue whale before my 3 weeks were up, and I ended up seeing blue whales almost everyday. Nothing beats that feeling. The first time I saw one, I cried. But as time went on, you would have re-sightings and that was exciting to see. Aside from all the great times I had with Joana and Tiago and the Dive Azores crew, I'd have to say my favoritie moment was on my last day when we had the most relaxed blue whale just hanging out by the boat with us for what seemed like forever. I got great underwater footage of it and the whale was so relaxed that it fluked 3 times! (brought it's tail fully out of the water, which is pretty rare for blue whales) The whole experience was magical and I already want to go back! I saw a total of 9 cetacean species: Blue Whales, Sperm Whales, Fin Whales, Sei Whales, False Killer Whales, Common Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins, Striped Dolphins, Risso's Dolphins. oh and Loggerhead Turtles!! It was unreal.
Ashley Hutchins, 2015
It is so hard to pick a favorite moment because all moments were simply awesome and inspiring! But if I had to choose, I'd say seeing a juvenile sperm whale breach out of the water was definitely one of my most favorite moments. I wish I would have added another 3 months to my two weeks! I absolutely loved my time in Horta and I honestly wish I could have extended my stay. Time flies when you are having fun! And being around Tiago and Joana I learned so much and their work is truly inspiring! Everything was perfect! I never imagined the program being so great but it really was one of a kind experience!
Jessica Kimberley Giannoumis, 2015
There were so many amazing moments, so many incredible memories. If I had to pick one it would be watching a Blue Whale, just metres away from the boat, fluking up... twice!! It was one of the most special moments of my entire life.
Jessica Barrett, 2015