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Italy - Dolphin and Marine Research

Volunteer in Italy and live the life of a marine researcher. Stay on a famous boat and assist with important data collection as you sail along the coastline.



Fast Facts

Location of ProjectIschia Island
Project LengthMin 1 week - Max 3 weeks
Arrival AirportCapodichino Airport of Naples
Volunteer WorkMarine life data collection and research
Number of Participants6 International volunteers
Age16 - 70

What's Included

Accommodation2 single bunks and 2 double bunks on board a 17.7 meter boat
SupportIn-country staff and 24hr emergency support
Pre-Departure Kit Full project details will be sent following registration
Orientation All necessary introductions and training will be provided upon arrival
Insurance Comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage

What's Not Included

Flights, travel to and from the project, travel health insurance, all meals and drinks, personal expenses


Ischia, often called the “Green Island” because of its lush flora and fauna, is located in the Gulf of Naples and is a volcanic island.  The island’s 46 square kilometers are home to about 60,000 people.  Many tourists flock to Ischia to enjoy the therapeutic healing offered by the abundant, natural thermal springs and thermal mud.   The region is a feeding and breeding ground for fin whales, striped dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and sperm whales and it is also considered a critical habitat for short-beaked dolphins.


About the Project          

This project has been operating since 1991 and it directly contributed to the establishment of the marine protected area known as Neptune’s Kingdom.  The main focus of the project is to collect data which can create an accurate picture of the cetaceans’ life including population sizes, social structures of the populations, habitat use and distribution and the acoustic repertoire of the animals. The project also evaluates the impact of the operations of local fisheries and vessel traffic upon the ecosystem..  

In addition to its scientific goals, the project promotes education and awareness activities for the public, publishes its results to the scientific community and aims to improve the conservation efforts in the area.  


Volunteer Work and Contribution                                                                              

Volunteers will be involved in every aspect of this project and will work very closely with the captain and crew.  This is a very serious research project. Participants should be prepared to learn about the research methods used by the team and assist with data collection as well as sailing the boat and helping with cooking and cleaning duties.

Weather permitting, volunteers will be out at sea every day and will work in one hour shifts to spot dolphins and whales as well as sea turtles, manta rays, sword fish, tunas, large schools of fish and sea birds.  Once there is a sighting, everyone on the boat will have a job to do.  This will include:

  • Filming the dolphins using a GoPro camera underwater but also to monitor surface behavior
  • Recording behavioral data
  • Recording bioacoustics through the boat’s underwater microphones
  • Photographing the animals for identification purposes
  • Steering the boat

Sightings can last for several hours but once the animals leave, the work is not finished. All of the data collected has to be entered into the navigation computer and stored on hard disks.  During the evenings, volunteers will have the opportunity to watch what was filmed that day or films from the archives.  

In the event that weather conditions prevent the boat from sailing, volunteers may assist with data entry and analysis, attend lectures given by the research team or explore on the island.

It is important to note that activities take place in the wild and that the animals behavior is unpredictable, therefore cetaceans sightings are not always guaranteed.

Travel Highlights                                                                                                   

Volunteers can choose to have one day off per week which can be used to relax on the sandy beaches, see the sights of the island or indulge at one of the natural thermal pools.  Some popular activities include:

  • Visiting the old village of Ischia Ponte and the Aragonese Castle 
  • Hiking to the top of Mount Epomeo
  • Visiting the other islands including Procida and Capri
  • Going scuba diving 


Living Arrangements                                                                                                            

Accommodations: Volunteers will stay aboard a 17.7 meter oceanic oak cutter which was built in 1930 by a famous French architect. There are 3 single bunks and 2 double bunks for volunteers plus a changing room.  There are separate bathrooms and showers (cold water only) for men and women.  There is also a solar powered, hot water shower on the boat or volunteers can use the hot showers at the port free of charge.

Food: Volunteers and crew members (except for the captain) will shop, buy and prepare food for everyone on the vessel.  There is a kitchen on board and room for food storage.

Laundry: Laundromats can be found on the island.

Internet: Internet cafes can be found on the island.


Minimum Requirements                                                                                                      

  • Minimum age 16
  • Good physical health
  • Comfortable in hot weather
  • Comfortable on a boat
  • Good level of English
  • Highly adaptable

Here's an excerpt of Eudes's experience:


"When I arrived on the Casamiccciola’s harbor I was anxious. I had many questions on my mind: am I ready to leave my comfort zone and to adapt myself to a life on a boat? Will I be useful on the searches and in the sailing? Will the other crew members be welcoming and sympathetic? I was optimistic on this point and I was entirely right. "

Read the rest of his story on the GoEco blog!

Here's an excerpt of Ruslana's experience:


"Some nights we would go to restaurants and pizzerias in Casamicciola, Ischia Porto and on Mt. Epomeo. It was a great way to see the island. There was always such an energetic and happy atmosphere on board and everyone was just so fascinating and lovely to talk to; you really make amazing connections. Don’t even worry about learning Italian, ba bene (a phrase you’ll most definitely learn that means “it’s alright”), you can easily learn a bit on board!"

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!

Here's an excerpt of Nikki's experience:


"Nothing compares to sighting over eighty dolphins and spending two to three hours photographing their beauty, observing their habits, recording their acoustical data and filming them underwater. Whenever there was a sighting, everyone on board had a special task to do, whether it was sailing the boat, filming, photographing, recording sounds or just simply observing."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Lauren's experience:


"All volunteers took turns on one-hour watch shifts carefully scanning the horizon for sights of wildlife. When we were not on lookout duty we monitored the hydrophone and GPS scans of the area. Once we sighted a dolphin or whale we videotaped and photographed the animals for photo-identification purposes."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!

Here's an excerpt of Susanna's experience:


"When we did see the dolphins and whales it was exciting and definitely something I will take away with me. Now that I am back home I really miss the people, gelato, homemade Italian food, and boat living. I would recommend this project to anyone looking to get involved in something unique and fun!"

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!





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