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Canary Islands Marine Conservation Global Citizens

Explore the marine environment and culture of Tenerife as groups work to support whale and dolphin conservation projects.


Program Information

Join GVI and discover Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands and a paradise of white sandy beaches, charming villages, and sweeping mountain views. Here participants will work as a team throughout their time in Tenerife. The exact roles and responsibilities will be discussed between the faculty leader and participants prior to departure and confirmed once participants have arrived in-country, with the spirit of teamwork remaining a strong focus. Participants may interact with our potential partners the Atlantic Whale and Dolphin Foundation (AWdF), which promotes cetacean-based conservation through its research, education, and volunteer programs focused on sustainable ecotourism and whale watching. The AWdF has a long history of working with volunteers from many walks of life, and the mix of nationalities joining its programs in Tenerife adds to a unique cultural experience on the island.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

GVI’s hub is located on Tenerife Island, the largest and most populated of the Canary Islands, just off the coast of northwestern Africa. A popular travel destination, Tenerife hosts an estimated average of five million international visitors each year.

This program has been specially designed for school groups. Throughout their trip, students will have access to 24/7 supervision, training, and world-class leaders in the field - who have each been carefully selected for their unique experience and ability to mentor and inspire young adults.

The team may take part in the following service activities:

  • Collecting data on tourist and research boats

  • Photographing for fin identification

  • Collecting population and behavioural data

  • Assisting on boats, educating tourists

  • Collating and inputting data

  • Learning how to report on and analyse data sets

  • Educating tourists at marinas and resorts

  • Beach clean-ups and surveys

  • Environmental education and awareness (a mobile classroom environment)


But it’s not all hard work, as there will also be time to be immersed in the cultural mix and enjoy the coast along Tenerife and its surrounds. From visiting the beaches, snorkelling and diving, to stopping at local vineyards and museums, or learning about Tenerife’s volcanoes, the choice is vast. The team may decide to head to Teide National Park; this UNESCO World Heritage Site Boasts the highest mountain in all of Spain, Mount Teide or the Pico del Teide volcano.

*This overview is an example of the activities and project work that students might get involved in on this program. More specific details of the program are finalised several months before each start date and can be discussed further with your GVI Programme Coordinator. The overview shown here has been followed by our staff and student groups in the past.

Program Details

Program Type: Schools , University

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Main Guardian Details

Covid-19 Response

Health and Hygiene

For over 20 years, GVI has prioritised the health and safety of our staff, participants, partners and local community members. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, GVI has created the GVI health and hygiene team to put in place new standards of cleanliness, norms and behaviours that meet or exceed international recommendations to ensure the ongoing safety of GVI’s participants, staff and communities around the world. Internationally recommended practices, such as advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the governments Australia, UK and US, continue to be monitored and the standards are likely to change if and when international advice changes.


The work GVI is contributing to across the globe remains important and the following measures allow our participants to continue to join GVI’s programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. The following changes to our existing protocols have been made by the GVI health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities.


Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19
pandemic – including destination ratings, flight bookings, and tests.

What's It like?

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.


We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.


Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.


Live Updates

Follow GVI Volunteer-In-Tenerife's Facebook page for live updates straight from the field. Get an idea of the types of projects you might be involved in, meet our staff and participants, experience life on this GVI base, hear about free time activities, and learn about the local culture and environment.
 
GVICanaryIslandsTenerife

Your Impact

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.


Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. Then, once on base you’ll learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.


Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.


Tenerife is a popular tourist destination seeing up to five million international visitors a year. Many come to experience the biodiversity of this island. The region is known for its large population of whales and dolphins. The presence of sea turtles and other marine species make it an appealing location for tourists.


While tourism is the island’s largest source of income, the influx of tourists can lead to boat traffic, overfishing and excess waste on the island. GVI works with local whale watching tour providers and other local organisations to monitor the impact of tourism on the marine environment to ensure that it’s managed in a sustainable and ethical way. In addition to tourism, the impact of other human activities on marine life is also monitored. The team in Tenerife collects data, inputs the information into databases and submits reports to local authorities to assist them with making decisions concerning marine resource management.  


Whale and dolphin surveys


Our team monitors and collects data on whales, dolphins and other marine species spotted in the waters surrounding Tenerife. Movements and behaviours are recorded and photos are taken of sightings for later identification and cataloguing. The location is also mapped. All data collected is inputted into databases that contribute to ongoing research used by the government of the Canary Islands for local decision-making. Data analysed over time show trends which can be used for making further recommendations on tourism practices, fishing regulations, waste management and other factors impacting the marine and coastal environments of the Canary Islands. GVI produces quarterly and annual reports to communicate research findings and other relevant updates. 


Marine plastic pollution and beach cleanups


The GVI team in Tenerife maintains an ongoing commitment to contributing towards waste management initiatives in the Canary Islands. They work with local communities and tourists to minimise plastic and other waste products. This work includes removing marine debris while on coastal surveys, and organising beach clean-ups. 


Sustainable tourism and community awareness


Contributing to sustainable tourism by raising environmental awareness is a critical element of the GVI program in the Canary Islands. Since tourism is the largest industry in the Canary Islands, it’s important that local communities and visiting tourists understand the impact of tourism on the environment and how they can contribute to sustainable practices. One of the ways in which this is actioned is for our staff and participants to join tourists on their whale watching tours and speak to them about ethical, sustainable and responsible ecotourism practices. The team also joins local communities on the beach and gets involved in local beach clean-up efforts.


Community engagement and environmental education


GVI works with local communities to increase community engagement and awareness regarding local environmental initiatives. The team arranges beach clean-ups with the local community and facilitates environmental education workshops and mobile classrooms. Topics covered in these sessions include marine conservation, science and research; marine mammals and marine and coastal plastic waste pollution and management.


The main United Nations Sustainable Development Goal the GVI Canary Islands team contributes towards is #14, Life Below Water.


Project Objectives

GVI Canary Islands long-term objectives


1. Provide a long-term and consistent collection of data, assessing the populations and behaviours of whale, dolphin and other marine species in the waters surrounding Tenerife. This is to be used for local sustainable tourism practices and coastal marine management and for a larger international understanding of changing marine ecosystems.


2. Increase the scientific output and awareness of the project through the publication of findings.


3. Assist with local marine and coastal waste management efforts through data collection, cleaning up beaches and other habitats and raising awareness around the importance of marine and coastal conservation as well as best practices in sustainability.


4. Raising awareness through marine conservation efforts, about sustainable and ethical tourism practices.


Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.


 


We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.


 

Our 10 Ethical Commitments

 

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.


 

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.


 

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.


 

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.


 

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.


 

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that every participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.


 

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.


 

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.


 

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.


 

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.


Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.


However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.


Cultural Immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.


MARINE LIFE AND WILDLIFE

The waters of the Atlantic surrounding the Canary Islands are home to resident species of whales and dolphins such as short-finned pilot whales and bottle-nosed dolphins. They also act as a passage for other migratory whales and dolphins species such as striped dolphins. These volcanic islands boast a series of distinctive microclimates which has led to the formation of a characteristic biodiversity. There are many endemic species such as the Atlantic Canary bird, the Tenerife Blue Chaffinch bird, the Canary Big-eared bat and the dragon tree.

CRAFTS AND MUSIC

The Canary Islands have a strong tradition of creating local crafts, with the different islands often specialising in a particular craftwork. On the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera you can find basketware and pottery made in the Guanche style, as well as Vilaflor lacework. Also on La Gomera and the islands of El Hierro and La Palma you can find woven rugs. On Gran Canaria and Lanzarote islands you’ll find a small ukulele-style instrument known as a timple, that’s a symbol of the musical heritage of the Canary Islands, and can often be heard at traditional parties and dances.

FESTIVALS AND CELEBRATIONS

There are many festivals held throughout the year in the Canary Islands. The most notable is the Santa de Cruz carnival, held on Tenerife in February. A different theme is chosen for this festival each year by a public vote. In January, music lovers can experience The Canary Islands Music Festival and those interested in local traditions and food can visit in November to experience the Festival of San Andrés.

LANGUAGES

The majority of Canary Island residents speak their own dialect of Spanish known as Canarian Spanish. However, these days, many people also speak English and it’s the second most commonly spoken language on the islands. Many people also understand German.

Example Itinerary 


Day 1-2: Say hello to Greece

Welcome to sunny Greece. After a long flight, it is time to catch up on some rest. Wake up to the sights, sounds of the capital, Athens. Vibrant and modern, Athens is also an ancient city; the birthplace of western civilization and home to some of the world’s most important archaeological sites.

Day 3-7: Adventure component

Explore the Ionian Islands! On day one you will travel to Lefkada Island and spend the first night in a guesthouse in Nydri. A 4 day kayaking experience is to follow, swimming with dolphins and wild camping on secluded islands. The Ionian islands are famous for their pristine beaches of golden sand and turquoise waters. But there is so much more to these beautiful islands. They are graced with a stunning natural environment of lush green forests and seas teeming with wildlife. Endless olive groves, pine and fir forests are home to a wide diversity of flora and fauna in a mild and pleasant climate. Sea turtles, dolphins, rare birds and a variety of unique plants!

You will visit well-hidden sea caves of the area, swim in calm crystal blue waters and explore the seabed with snorkeling gear. This is the ultimate sea adventure.

Day 8-12: Service Learning and reflection

Get familiar with our Mediterranean beach research camp in Giannitsochori and complete some training that will get you ready for monitoring endangered loggerhead sea turtles. Exact roles and responsibilities will be discussed with the group and decided upon once you have arrived. You will be supporting the local community by participating in a variety of ongoing activities including beach cleans or helping with maintaining local turtle nesting sites.

Your typical day starts with you helping to protect sea turtle nests. In the afternoons, your team will clean plastic and other trash from the beach. In the evenings, you might assist with tagging mother sea turtles.

Day 13-14: Cultural immersion

It's now time to explore Greece and you may want to start by visiting the closest town, Kyparissia, then take a bus to Olympia, where the original Olympic games took place. The team can take part in a Greek cooking class, visit iconic monuments or decide to stay on the coast and relax on the beach.

Day 15-16: Travel home

Time to head back to Athens for your return trip. Cram everything back into your rucksack and set off for the airport. Check-in, sit back and reflect. You’ve just experienced something incredible. You’ll be bursting with stories and cherished moments to share with your favourite people back home.

Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

Support & Safety

We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.


 

COVID-19 Safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures are in place throughout each GVI program. Learn more.

Support

Once a participant books, our support team will oversee their pre-departure journey. This helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. We will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Safety

Once a participant books, our support team will oversee their pre-departure journey. This helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. We will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19
pandemic – including destination ratings, flight bookings, and tests.

Health & Safety Case Studies

19 Nov

HOW GVI UPHOLDS HEALTH AND SAFETY

It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays just can’t achieve. This is why thousands of people around the world participate in paid GVI programs.


1 Nov

GVI’S COMMITMENT TO SAFETY AND SECURITY

As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the health and safety of our participants, staff, and local community members at all of our 20+ bases around the world.


6 Nov

HOW GVI REMAINS PREPARED FOR NATURAL DISASTERS

The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes a nasty turn, we are prepared to respond to stormy situations.


5 Nov

HOW GVI MANAGES PARTICIPANTS EXPECTATIONS

Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations around a program are created, the GVI team takes immediate action to ensure that the situation rectified.


What's Included

General
Groups

A rest and relaxation activity/excursion

24/7 backup and support

A dedicated trip co-ordinator

Access to local medical facilities

Comprehensive health and safety procedures (Emergency Action Plans and Risk Assessments)

First aid equipment

All meals

Group leader and teacher

Highly experienced and well qualified GVI field staff

In-country transport is arranged

Pre-departure information

Up-to-date safety and country information

Exclusions