Canary Islands Marine Conservation Global Citizens

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

Critical science

Critical science

You'll contribute to vital conservation research targeted at protecting the earth's most valuable ecosystems.
Ethical engagement

Ethical engagement

Using the UN's SDGs as a framework, we've made a commitment to positive, constructive and sustainable impact.
Beautiful adventures

Beautiful adventures

You'll spend your days exploring some of the world's most breathtaking, exhilarating and remote wildernesses.

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.

Overview
Itinerary
Covid-19 Response
What's It like?
Your Impact
Our Ethics
Program ethics
Parent Info
Support & Safety
What's Included
Live Updates

Program 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
Location
GVI Europe, Canary Islands, Spain, Tenerife
Focus
Marine Conservation

Itinerary

The following itinerary is an example of the activities and project work that participants might get involved in on this program. More specific details of the program are finalised several months before each start date. The itinerary shown below has been followed by our staff and group volunteers in the past.

Sunday

Day 1

Say hello to the Canary Islands, Spain. After your flight, a GVI staff member will be waiting for you at the airport and will travel with you to your accommodation. Then it’s time to catch up on some rest and get to know Tenerife.

Monday

Day 2

Learn about the work GVI does with our local partners in the Canary islands and there will be a guest speaker from one of our partner charities, World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) and World Animal Protection. You’ll get an introduction to the local marine life as you learn about the family of aquatic mammals known as cetaceans.

Tuesday

Day 3

Discover the biodiversity of the Canary Islands and how to identify species for monitoring. Get familiar with how to conduct fin identification of whales and dolphins, complete acoustics training and learn how to collect data with a hydrophone on a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) boat.

Wednesday

Day 4

Stroll on the beach while conducting land-based monitoring of various marine species. Learn more about the best practices for entering the data you have collected, so it can be used by our partners. Perform land-based whale and dolphin spotting as you become an expert using a DSLR camera, telescope and binoculars, gaining hands-on field experience.

Thursday

Day 5

Put your training into practice as you take part in survey work on a RIB boat and then record and input the data into various databases to help grow our body of knowledge around dolphin and whale conservation. Join in a guided group discussion in the evening to share your stories and observations.

Friday

Day 6

Assist with coastal waste management efforts by doing a beach clean-up as well as monitoring cetaceans while on foot. Put your data collection skills to good use while monitoring marine life and taking part in ethical whale watching.

Saturday

Day 7

Hone your skills with more RIB boat survey work, using a hydrophone to determine the source of sounds underwater. In the afternoon enjoy a cultural enrichment activity such as a cooking class, where you can learn to make delicious Canarian dishes.

Sunday

Day 8

Walk the island shores as you clear the local beaches of plastic and keep a watch for pods of Atlantic spotted dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and other marine life like whales and sea turtles. Find some quiet during a reflection session.

Monday

Day 9

Today the team will decide which activity they would like to do. Some of the options available include taking in the views as you cable car to the top of the volcano in Mount Teide National Park, visiting the Pyramids of Güímar, hiking Masca Mountain and Valley, touring the Museum of Nature and Man or taking part in water activities such as diving, snorkelling and kayaking.

Tuesday

Day 10

Say goodbye to the tropical paradise of Tenerife and travel with GVI staff and your new friends to the airport for your return flight home. 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.

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.

Read up on our COVID-19 protocols

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.

Get a first-hand perspective

Meet us

Your Impact

All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (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 UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.

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

The aim of the program is to build up a database of information which will assist in protecting the wildlife of the Teno-Rasca Marine Reserve and the west coast of Tenerife. The corridor between Tenerife and La Gomera is also a migratory route for more than 20 cetacean species. The noise pollution from boats and island life is incredibly disruptive to their migratory patterns, but current data is insufficient to petition for this corridor to become a marine protected area. In an effort to make this happen, we share our information with the local authorities. 

Tenerife is a popular tourist destination, with up to five million international visitors arriving each year. Many come to experience the biodiversity of the island. Known for its large population of whales and dolphins, the presence of sea turtles and other marine species also makes the region an appealing location for tourists. Tenerife is home to many marine mammals in the cetacean family, including Atlantic spotted dolphins, Bryde’s whales, Risso’s dolphins, sperm whales, common dolphins, humpback whales, fin whales, blue whales and pygmy sperm whales. Green and loggerhead turtles are also seen in the region.

While tourism is the island’s largest source of income, the influx of tourists can lead to an increase in 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 – ensuring 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. This assists them with making decisions concerning marine resource management.  

Whale and Dolphin Surveys

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

Due to data deficiencies on short-finned pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins, we’re collecting pertinent information to fill this gap. We’re trying to get a better understanding of the habits and behaviours of cetaceans as they relate to the ecotourism industry, which we can feed back to local marine management schemes. We’d also like to determine the least disruptive amount of sea traffic and share this information with the ecotourism industry. In an effort to limit the impact on the cetaceans in the area, sharing our collected data assists in educating local boat operators and ecotourism providers. 

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. We work with local communities and tourists to minimise plastic and other waste products. This includes removing marine debris while on coastal surveys, and organising beach cleanups. 

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. With tourism being the largest industry in the Canary Islands, it’s important that local communities and tourists understand the impact of tourism on the environment and how they can contribute to sustainable practices. Our staff and participants often join tourists on whale watching tours and speak to them about ethical, sustainable and responsible ecotourism practices. Our team joins local communities on the beach and gets involved in local beach cleanups. To create as little disruption to the patterns and natural behaviours of the cetaceans as possible, we aim to work with ecotourism boat providers, educating them about responsible traffic patterns and noise pollution.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals

All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). We want to be able to measure our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, so all our staff and volunteers know which UN SDGs they’re making a substantial contribution to. This also helps our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Prior to your arrival on base, you’ll 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 insight into 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.

The main UN SDGs that the GVI Canary Islands team contribute towards is Goal 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 whales, dolphins, and other marine species in the waters surrounding Tenerife. This is used to promote local sustainable tourism practices and coastal marine management, and create a greater 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 and cleaning of beaches and other habitats.

4. Raise awareness about the importance of marine and coastal conservation as well as best sustainability practices.

5. Through marine conservation efforts, raise awareness of 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

01

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.

02

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

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

03

Impact Reporting

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

04

Working Against Dependency

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

05

Responsible Exit Strategies

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

06

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.

07

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.

08

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.

09

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

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

10

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.

Program ethics

No orphanage programs

We don’t support or allow participants to work in institutional residential care facilities, also known as orphanages. We partner with ReThink Orphanages and Freedom United.

Learn more
Child and vulnerable adult protection policy

Our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy requires all our staff and participants to complete a criminal background check and to learn why you shouldn’t reveal a child’s identifying factors in photographs. We support the ChildSafe Movement.

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No medical volunteering

We don’t offer any programs where our participants engage in medical treatment. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country. Our participants only assist with public health programs.

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No disability support programs

We don’t offer any programs where our participants work directly with people with disabilities. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country.

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Aligned to local objectives

Each one of our initiatives is aligned to objectives set by a local organisation or professional. Our staff and participants work to support these local actors in achieving their specific goals.

Local employees remain employed

Our participants don’t replace the staff employed by local organisations. Rather, they support currently employed staff with achieving their objectives. Our goal is always to increase local capacity to address local problems.

Local employees remain focused

Participants require training and support to ensure that they carry out tasks correctly. Our staff provide this training and support so that local staff can focus on what is truly important to their organisation at the time.

No entertainment-based activities

We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos

No orphaned animal sanctuaries

We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases

Guidelines for touching or movement restriction

When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Animal welfare guidelines

We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.

Local community empowerment

We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.

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No veterinary programs

We don’t offer any veterinary programs or animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. We don’t allow participants to do any work they would not be able to do in their home country.

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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.

Download parent pack

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 in place.

Learn more

Safety

Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.

Support

Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator 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 and safety case studies

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 ju...

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 heal...

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 ...

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 a...

What’s included?

What's Included
General
Groups
A rest and relaxation activity/excursion
24/7 back up 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
Medical insurance - unless otherwise stipulated (medical aid details will need to be provided)
Pre-departure information
Up-to-date safety and country information
What's Excluded
General
Groups
Pre-departure withdrawal insurance
Travel insurance - unless otherwise stipulated
Additional spending money - maximum of $200 allowed
Personal kit
Vaccinations
Visas
Flights - unless otherwise stipulated

Live Updates

GVI Tenerife is based in the Canary Island archipelago. Our participants and staff work in collaboration with local organisations to promote marine conservation and ethical ecotourism in the area.
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