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By Guest Blogger Angie Raab

Step on Jean Gab, a cutter built in 1930, and dive into the blue world of whales and dolphins!

The first time I decided to do just that was in 2009- a daytrip with a wonderful crew and a handful of nice volunteers. We encountered a large pod of striped dolphins and I was instantly hooked!

Dolphins in Ischia, Italy

As soon as I saw dolphins, I was hooked.

Since then I have ended up on that boat almost every summer as a volunteer; part of an exciting adventure, not as a tourist, but as a crew member, navigating the beautiful Italian Island of Ischia.

Not only have I learned from marine biologists about the different species swimming in the blue waters off the Italian coast, and their different behaviors, I have also learned how to monitor the waters for a blow or white capped waves that could be porpoising dolphins!

Trust me, once staring into the big blue, you’ll start seeing all kinds of interesting things.  They may be only waves at first, but once you realize that the white cap is a jumping dolphin- the action starts!

Ischia Dolphins

The action begins!

Long quiet sunny days, mingled with sheer excitement and hectic running and yelling while observing the dolphins and their behavior. Whenever there is wind, the engine is shut off and the sails are set! Want to steer? Most welcome- the only advice you’ll be given is “Feel the wind”…I did manage more than once to stay on track although I still have yet to really feel the wind! Maybe one day.

Species in the waters off Ischia are the playful striped dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, Sperm whale, Finwhale, manta rays, mola mola, swordfish and tuna!

And you’ll see most of them in the week spent on the boat…striped dolphins are a joy, and Berta, the boss (a rather opinionated little dog- but the best dolphin finder on this planet), usually finds them before we do!

Berta on the look out for dolphins and sperm whale.

Berta on the look out for dolphins and sperm whale.

Fishing for Tuna is a favorite pastime. I cant remember if we ever have been successful- you know, the biggest ones pass the boat and somehow just ignore the hook dangling in front on them- but then again, they are to beautiful to be eaten anyway…(and not too healthy either with being so high up the food chain).

The main focus of the project is on the sperm whale- we have been encountering them on a regular bases and they have been giving us beautiful memories- playing, feeding, clicking and coming really close while watching us, watching them!

Catching sight of a Sperm Whale.

Catching sight of a Sperm Whale.

The evenings are spent either visiting the island of Ischia, shopping  or celebrating sea life and exciting encounters on board, singing into the early morning hours and keeping everyone up in the harbor…when you go take a shower and listen to someone next to you whistling the same song you have been playing just an hour ago at two o’clock in the morning, you know you have been successful!

Once in a while overnight stays on the island of Ventotene are a given. Pristine waters, island life and starry nights are the ingredients for unforgettable memories!

And of course dolphins, dolphins and more dolphins!

The project runs annually from mid May to mid October with biologists who are monitoring the marine protected areas surrounding the islands Ischia and Ventotene!

On board the Jean Gab

On board the Jean Gab. On the look out for sea life.

Sleeping on board is part of the adventure but of course there is always the option in staying at the partner hotel with breathtaking views of the harbor, Naples and the volcano.

Day trips are possible! Click here to learn more about the project and apply yourself.

Oceanomare Delphis is a company which emerged out of a passion for whales, dolphins, the ocean, horses and nature itself.

Contact their team to find out more about their camps and projects run out on the deep blue sea!

    20 Comments

  1. This soudns amazing, Angie – a fantastic summer experience!

    How long did you volunteer for each summer? What were your volunteer duties? How much did it cost you?

    Sorry – lots of questions. I’m always interested in volunteer trips / projects!

    • Hi there Katie!

      I am always trying to stay at least a couple of weeks, but applied now as a research assistant- so it will be for a month at the time.
      Guests who want to experience life on board a research vessel usually stay the week and return for two weeks the next time ;)
      Ischia itsself is a pretty island and has lots to offer- a beautiful castle, some nice beaches and really good food and shopping in tiny streets of Ischia town…

      All info about the project and the pricing, that includes project support, electricity, gas, water, accomondation on board, lectures about cetaceans and marine life as well as scientific guidance by marine biologists and insurance are found here:
      http://www.researchthelife.com/www.researchthelife.com/Italy_Ischia_english.html

      We used to have food and drink included but some people eat more, others only need breakfast and dinner so we decided to share it amongst all of us- guests and crew alike, because sometime no one want to cook and we want to go out and spend a night in town, other times we cook and buy fresh produce instead of keeping it all onboard…(usually comes to about 20/30 Euro per week if at all)

      If you have any more questions, just email me at info@researchthelife.com :) Or find me on FB- Angie Ra- the albums are all public!

  2. Hi I have the same questions as Katie too :)
    I’d really love to try volunteering. thanks! :)

    • Hi there!

      I replied in detail to Katie :) and just saw you had the same questions- please read my reply and here also the link to all the details about the project :)

      Ischia Dolphin project has established a marine protected area around Ischia and Ventotene and is well known and liked on the islands…Angelo and his crew always try to interact with fishermen and people in general in a friendly and respectful manner.

      For them, guests who want to learn and support the project by “volunteering” are worth a lot and they love to share their knowledge and their love for the dolphins!

      You ll never be bored on Jean Gab :)

      http://www.researchthelife.com/www.researchthelife.com/Italy_Ischia_english.html

  3. This is amazing. I’d SO love to do this -thanks for sharing this opportunity!

    • You are very welcome- I am glad you like it and support my post!
      Thanx to Megan I was able to share this with you!

      Angie

  4. I have only been whale watching once before, and it was an absolutely amazing experience. I didn’t think of the volunteering side of it, so thanks for the enlightenment

    • There are a lot of projects all over the world, that need and live from people who either come for Whale Watching or “paid Volunteering” as a form of eco- traveling and vacation.
      I support two projects Ionian Dolphin project and Ischia dolphin project as well as always visit my dolphin friends in Hawaii and in Norway…
      Hawaii is one of the very few places where you can actually swim with wild dolphins and whales :)
      ANd if you are fascinated by sea life and our oceans in general, volunteering and spending time amongst marine biologists is very enlightening :)

    • No courage needed ;)
      All you really need to do is book a passage on Jean Gab and hop on board for an amazing week of fun and dolphins as well as whales!

  5. This looks incredible, I had no idea you could volunteer doing this sort of thing!
    I am going to look in to it. Thanks for the article :)

    • Glad we could provide some inspiration! Feel free to email myself or Angie if you need any further advice or tips on organizing the trip :)

    • Volunteering is an amazing way to travel – highly recommend checking out some different programs; there’s such a range of projects available to suit every passion and interest :)

    • Hi there!

      It is more than rewarding…that sperm whale was a bit pissed with us but once you log one, as a scientist you have to stay with them and observe the behaviour until they decide to leave us…we also had to ID him, since no one was sure who that guy at first (with his antics- not easy) he calmed down and interacted with us, getting all curious and friendly!

  6. Hi. Do you have a current link for this volunteer project? I tried the ones above and they didn’t work

    • Hi Andie, thanks for bringing my attention to the broken link – it looks like the company is now
      http://www.oceanomaredelphis.org/ – under “projects and activities’ on the homepage there is info about joining the Ischia Dolphin Project :)

      Hope that helps!

  7. Hi, this seems amazing. However, my degree is far related to this. Would it be possible to apply for this even if I’m studying Accounting?

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