Italy – Liveaboard Dolphin Research Expedition

Live aboard a famous historic boat and assist with important dolphin data collection as you sail along the Italian coastline! This project has been operating since 1991 and it directly contributed to the establishment of the marine protected area known as Neptune’s Kingdom.


Program Highlights:

  • Live aboard a famous, historic boat for a unique experience
  • Sail along the coastline of the Italian island of Ischia
  • Be directly involved in tasks for dolphin conservation
  • Learn to study dolphin behavior and record bioacoustics
  • Spend all of your time out at sea (weather-permitting)
  • Enjoy the therapeutic healing offered by the abundant, natural thermal springs mud


Family Option: This program accepts families with children aged 12 and above.

Your Schedule at a Glance (Minimum one-week commitment):

Arrival Day, Monday: Arrive at Naples International Airport (NAP) and make your way by train or shuttle and then boat, to Piazzale dell’Ancora on Ischia Island. The “Welcome on board” program briefing and boarding of the boat begins at 4:00 PM sharp. Once the welcome briefing is completed, you will have time to rest and relax after your long journey on one of the beaches next to the harbor.

Days 1-5, Tuesday-Saturday: Rewarding volunteer work in the mornings/afternoons and fun evenings on the boat. Volunteers set sail every morning and return to the harbor to dock around 6:00 PM each evening.

Day 6, Sunday: Departure day for volunteers staying just one week. Free day on Ischia Island for volunteers who are extending their stay.

Remaining Weeks: Remaining weeks will follow the same schedule.


Location icon Location of the Project: Ischia Island

Project length Project length: Min 1 week – Max 3 weeks

Arrival Airport Arrival Airport: Capodichino Airport of Naples

Volunteer Work Volunteer Work:  Marine life data collection and research

Age Age:  17 – 70. This program accepts families with children aged 12 and above.

Number of Volunteers Number of Volunteers: 6 International volunteers

Important Note Important Note: The following weeks in the 2024 season will be closed for maintenance: July 8th -14th, & August 5th – 25th.


What’s Included

Accommodations Accommodations: A communal mixed-gendered space with 2 single bunks and 2 double bunks on board a 17.7 meter boat. Private rooms are available upon request in a nearby hotel for an extra fee (subject to availability). For those staying in the hotel, please note that during the week, the boat can move 1 or 2 nights in Ventotene, the nearby island where you would be required to sleep on the boat with the group.

Support Support: Comprehensive and professional pre-departure travel guidance, 24/7 GoEco emergency hotline, experienced local field team.


What’s not Included

  • Flights, visas (if required), travel health insurance, transportation to and from the project, meals and petrol (about 150 EUR per week, to be paid on site in cash), personal expenses

Ischia, often called the “Green Island” because of its lush flora and fauna, is 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 the endangered Mediterranean common dolphins.


The primary 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. Besides 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.

Volunteers will be involved in every aspect of this project and will work 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 and sea turtles, manta rays, swordfish, 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
  • Steering the boat

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

If weather prevents the boat from sailing, volunteers may assist with data entry and analysis, attend lectures given by the research team or explore on the island.

Please note: Activities take place in the wild and that the animals’ behavior is unpredictable, therefore cetaceans sightings are not always guaranteed. Volunteers’ involvement in data collection may vary depending on the nature of the sightings (i.e. brief encounters or evasive animals).

Internet icon Internet: Internet cafes can be found on the island.

Laundry icon Laundry: Laundromats can be found on the island.

Accommodations icon Accommodations: Volunteers will stay aboard a 17.7 meter oceanic oak cutter which was built in 1930 by a famous French architect. Volunteers have the option of 3 single bunks and 2 double bunks, as well as a changing room. Separate bathrooms (cold water only) for men and women. There are also bathrooms and hot showers at the port free of charge. Private rooms are available upon request in a nearby hotel for an extra fee (subject to availability).

Food icon Food: Onboard, volunteers and staff are expected to help with daily chores, including shopping, washing dishes, and general boat keep. Exceptions are for the skipper, who will only cook, and for the first researcher, who will not be able to take evening work shifts, as she must review and check the data collected during the day.


  • Minimum age of 17
  • Good physical health
  • Comfortable in hot weather
  • Comfortable on a boat
  • Good level of English
  • Highly adaptable
  • An additional 150 euros to be budgeted for weekly and paid in cash on board.

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.

Volunteer Experiences

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