Azores conservation holiday, whales, dolphins and turtles

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Volunteer travel - what's it all about

Are you looking for an adventurous trip with a purpose, or on a gap year or career break? If you want to make a difference in some of the world’s most important conservation areas - and in community projects - then volunteer trips are for you! Volunteers tend to have a sense of adventure, and come from a range of different backgrounds and from all over the world.
Edward Abbey said 'sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul'.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Azores conservation holiday, whales, dolphins and turtles


The Azores archipelago is one of the prime whale and dolphin hotspots in the world and around 30% of the world’s known cetacean species have been recorded there. For management purposes the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has included the Azores archipelago in the East Greenland and Iceland stocks, but there is little evidence to support this.

The expedition initiated the first long term concerted study on baleen whales in the Azores. These animals in particular have not been studied around the Azores and accurate knowledge of the origins of the baleen whales passing the archipelago during April and May will help to determine which stocks they come from and assess more accurately their true numbers (which are often inflated in efforts to set hunting quotas).

The expedition will also continue existing sperm whale, bottlenose and Rissos’s dolphin studies. The sperm whale study is part of a larger migration and social study, and the dolphin study is in the early stages of assessing animal numbers and migratory behaviour around the archipelago. Loggerhead turtles will also be studied and tagged as part of an international research project studying their life history and migration around the Atlantic.

We are a multi-award winning (including multiple awards from Responsible Travel), not-for-profit organisation committed to running real wildlife conservation research expeditions to all corners of the Earth and says

Our projects are not tours, photographic safaris or excursions but genuine research expeditions, promoting sustainable conservation and preservation of the planet's wildlife by forging alliances between scientists and the public. Our goal is to make, through our expedition work, an active contribution towards a sustainable biosphere. We believe in empowering ordinary people by placing them at the centre of scientific study and by actively involving them out in the field, where there is conservation work to be done.

We always work in close conjunction with local people and scientists and try our best to ensure that the fruits of our expedition work benefit our local helpers, their society and the environment they live in. Adventure, remote locations, different cultures and people are part and parcel of our expeditions, but also the knowledge that you will have played an active role in conserving part of our planet's biosphere. We exist for those who, through their hands-on work, want to make a difference to the survival of the particular species or habitat under investigation, and to the world at large. We invite everyone to come and join us out in the field, at the forefront of conservation, to work, learn, experience and take responsible guardianship of our planet.

To achieve this we will wherever possible: + collaborate with reputable scientists, research institutions and educational establishments (wherever possible from the host nation) who are experts in their field + collaborate with organisations and businesses which operate in an ethical and/or sustainable way + operate in an ethical and sustainable way, minimising negative impacts on local cultures, environments and economies + publish results and recommendations based on collaborative work together with those who helped gather data and draw conclusions.


Our main partner on this project is Whale Watch Azores, a whale watching and research group founded by our scientists and operating from Faial Island. Other partners include EUROPHLUKES (a European cetacean photo-ID system and research database), the University of the Azores, POPA (the Observer Programme for the Fisheries of the Azores), the University of Florida (Turtles) as well as the local community of whale spotters (vigias).

All missions are developed with local partners and scientists, as well as community representatives where appropriate. This consultation serves to minimise negative impacts on local cultures. This is often developed through a more complete integration into the local community, by working alongside them to achieve a conservation objective.

Accommodation varies from fixed camps, jungle lodges to tents. Where applicable, these will be owned locally.

Where possible food is sourced from locally supplied produce and ideally from organic sources.

Where applicable, team members are encouraged to spend their relaxation time using local facilities and resources.

We always work in close conjunction with local people and makes sure that the fruits of our work benefit local helpers, their society and the environment they live in.

Briefings before the start of the mission and leaders during the mission highlight relevant social issues and offer best practice examples to team members.

Reviews of Azores conservation holiday, whales, dolphins and turtles

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 17 Apr 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

There are so many to choose from. I'll always remember holding the loggerhead turtle when our scientist tagged him. But when we spotted sperm whales socialising, that was spectacular! Rubbing themselves against each other, they were putting on a nice show for us to watch. On another day we spotted a sperm whale group of probably over 20 individuals. They were feeding and one by one they popped up at the surface to breath. We spend over 2 hours with them. The scientists are just great! We had many talks about the animals and about the research, I learned a lot.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Bring warm clothing, but in layers. It can get nice and hot, but it can also get chilly and wet. Waterproof trousers and jacket is an absolute must, though I hope you won't need them. And on a sunny day, put sunblock on the back of your hands.... trust me!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Absolutely! The scientists really make sure that you know why your there and what you mean to them and their research.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

9/10. Just because I never give maximum...

Reviewed on 20 May 2008 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The diversity of cetaceans is really high in the area. Imagine where else on earth can you encounter 8 cetacean species (blue whale, fin whale, sperm whale, humpback whale, Cuvier's beak whale, pilot whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin) in 7 boat trips? And what's more, some of they appeared in huge numbers and in high frequency! It's really happy working and playing with a group of like-minded people from different parts of the world. The researcher, the boat captain and the expedition leader are all very professional.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

The waves and wind in the mid-Atlantic can be very strong. If you have seasick problem, it may not be very suitable.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes, we bought food from the local market and dinned at local restaurants.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It's really a wonderful working holiday. I learned a lot and enjoyed it very much. I'm also happy to have contributed to scientific research.

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