The Great Whale Project

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Program Description

Volunteers working on this project 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. The Great Whale Project relies greatly on volunteers for vital research, and their donations also help to cover fuel costs during the blue whale season in spring. Blue whales are one of the least researched species, so to be able to conduct research on them throughout this period is essential!

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 Whale Project gives you the chance to experience field research and to meet whales and dolphins in their natural realm, while learning about whale biology, conservation, species identification and photo-ID and behavioural data collection techniques. 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.

The 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 (Balaenoptera musculus) and sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). The Great Whale Project combines a touristic whale watching operation with project research, involving guests and volunteers in a philosophy of sustainable, research supportive Eco-tourism.

Few people know the Azores as a blue whale destination, but in fact it is one of the best places in the North-East Atlantic to get up close with the biggest animal on Earth. The Azores Islands are one of the world’s best destinations for encountering whales and dolphins in the wild. 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 and sei whales.


Volunteers enrolling in this project will be educated in an informal environment, learning about whale and cetacean biology, conservation and research techniques. Potential volunteer responsibilities include:

• Enjoy unique wildlife encounters and have the opportunity to take great pictures
• Assist with the day-to-day operation of our station, including cleaning, taking bookings and assisting guests where needed.
• Conduct office-based work cataloguing and analysing collected data • Gain essential whale photo-ID skills
• Conduct cetacean surveys from land lookouts
• Learn basic boat skills and assist with boat duties, including boat checks and post-trip cleaning
• Develop whale watching naturalist skills and help assist in the education of the whale species to tourists on board and the general public
• Gain experience of field work and will collect research data
• Gain knowledge and experience on cetacean biology, conservation and identification at sea


No special skills or qualifications are required - just a minimum age of 18 and a willingness to get involved with all activities are required.

Volunteer Types

What`s Included

• Airport transfers
• Accommodation (on a twin shared room in an apartment or house with a kitchen and only a short walking distance from the project site)
• Tutoring and all project activities
• Welcome and farewell dinners
• Couples, friends or families volunteering together who wish private accommodation should let us know in advance so we can arrange it (with additional costs or even a reduction of price, depending on the type of accommodation chosen).

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Program Locations

Horta, Portugal

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Program Details

The Great Projects
  • Portugal: Horta
Throughout the year
Program Duration:
1-2 weeks, 1-3 months
English, Portuguese
American, Asian, Canadian, European, Kiwi, South African, Worldwide
From £830.00
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