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The bottlenose dolphin population in the Adriatic Sea has declined by approximately 50 percent in the last five decades. The decline is largely the result of deliberate killings in the 1960s when dolphins were perceived as pests. Though the practice is now illegal, a further decline might be expected due to the rise in anthropogenic pressures, such as overfishing.

The organization has been researching bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the North-Eastern Adriatic Sea since 2001. The appreciation of these creatures is very high from a scientific point of view. But moreover, they are also mammals like us, with the same organized communities as us, and facing similar challenges to humans. Therefore, the researchers have dedicated their lives to the preservation of these bottlenose dolphins by trying to better 'understand them'.

This organization is currently the only one conducting dolphin research in the sub-region. Its work is crucial to understanding the factors influencing the local dolphin populations and to educating the public about preservation of the bottlenose dolphin.
Location of the Project:  Zambratija near Umag
Project length:  Min. 11 days with option to extend
Arrival Airport:  Pula Airport (PUY) - Croatia OR Trieste Airport - Italy
Volunteer Work:  Dolphin conservation and research
Age:  18 - 35
Number of Volunteers:  1-6

What's Included

Accommodations:  Shared room in the research base apartment
Food:  All inclusive; Mediterranean style (vegetarian food available)
Airport Transfers:  Volunteers will make their own way, via public transport, to and from Umag, where they will be collected.
Insurance:  Comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage
Orientation:  At least one complementary volunteer excursion will be provided during your volunteer placement
Support:  Local in-country team and 24hr emergency support

What's not Included

Flights, personal expenses, transport to and from the airport, entrance fee for optional excursion to Brijuni National Park (22EUR to 28EUR)
Zambratija is a small seaside village in Croatia, located on the northern coast of the Istrian peninsula, just north of the Adriatic Sea. In March 2013, just 400m off the coast, diver’s discovered an ancient boat wreck dating back to 1200BC. Zambratija is laden with extensive olive groves that overlook beautiful views of the sea and has often been compared to the Italian region of Tuscany. A short bike ride along the coast, allows panoramic views of Slovenia, as well as Italy, with the Alps providing a stunning backdrop.  
Your work is important in helping to protect the dolphin population living in this sensitive marine ecosystem. During the first few days, you will attend morning lectures on topics such as the NGO efforts in protecting marine mammals and marine ecology.  Throughout your placement, you will learn how to read and understand research data and actively help with dolphin conservation. Some of your tasks may include:
  • Dolphin observation
  • Data analyzing 
  • Entering data directly into the catalogue, including observation notes
  • Learning how to distinguish between dolphin species 
  • Helping in outreach for the establishment of the Dolphin Education Centre
Please note: Going out to sea for research is dependent on the weather conditions. If the weather is not favorable or the sea is above 3Bf, there will be on-land activities arranged instead.

A Typical Day: You will volunteer about 4-6 hours a day, 8 days out of 11. Your days will begin at 9 a.m. with a briefing of daily tasks during breakfast. After, you will analyze data from the field work and potentially enter data into the main catalogue.

Depending on the weather and as per the daily schedule, you will depart for field research and spend the rest of the day gaining valuable hands on experience with dolphins, out at sea. On a really good day, you could be out there until 21:00 p.m. (depending on the encounter success) and will thereafter return to the research base. In the evening, you will help cook a light dinner with the team, followed by the opportunity to engage in social activities or relax. Please note that you will not volunteer on the first and last day of your placement or on the day of the excursion.
Internet:  WiFi is available for free at the research base until 10 p.m. each night.
Laundry:  A washing machine is available for 7 EUR per wash.
Accommodations:  You will stay in an apartment with other volunteers. There are only two shared rooms available, with one to three volunteers per room. Larger rooms may be shared with up to 3 other volunteers. Both rooms have a beautiful view over the sea and an open access to the terrace. Each room is equipped with bunk beds and a sofa-chair. There is also an air conditioner with cooling and heating capabilities in the apartment along with a western-style bathroom. The apartment’s entrance extends to a spacious terrace overlooking the surrounding area, which is a great place to hang out. In addition, there is a common room with a TV and computers for your use and enjoyment.
Food:  Three meals a day are included (mostly vegetarian). There will also be one night of grilling (a dinner party), and regular visits to a nearby supermarket to purchase snacks and other items for individual needs.
Please take note of the project's minimum requirements 
  • Minimum age: 18
  • Must be a swimmer
  • Language: basic English, German, Slovenian or Croatian
  • Enthusiastic and a team player
There will be at least one organized excursion during your project placement. Before or after volunteering you may have the chance to visit Brijuni National Park or Kamenjak National Park. There may also be an opportunity to visit one of these famous touristic towns: Poreč, Pula, Rovinj or Motovun (a typical Istrian village that resembles villages in Tuscany). In addition, there will be an organized walk under the stars on one night during your stay.

Lucky for you, Funtana is situated in an ideal geographical location as it only a few hours’ drive from most of the major European capitals. You can visit Venice, Dubrovnik (another Adriatic pearl town), Ljubljana (Slovenian capital) and Postojna cave (third biggest cave in the world). If you are interested in these particular adventures, you can ask your project coordinators upon arrival. 

You are also free to organize your own activities, such as morning exercises on the terrace or running on the beautiful pathways next to the sea. There may also be a bike or two available for your use (depending on availability). 
Volunteer Experiences
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