GEMM

Bottlenose Dolphin Observer

Rangiroa, French Polynesia show on map

NGO | GEMM

We are looking for people to help with underwater observation, collection and archiving of data on a small community of bottlenose dolphins impacted by diving tourism.

THE TUAMOTU ARCHIPELAGO

Located in the middle of the tropical South Pacific Ocean, the Tuamotu Archipelago (population 15,000) contains 78 atolls spread across 800,000 square kilometers of ocean surface. It has 800 square kilometers of land for 20,000 square kilometers of lagoons (0.1% and 2% of its maritime area respectively): such numbers well demonstrate how fragile this oasis of aquatic biodiversity is. Indeed, the area is threatened by global warming and rising waters.

The Tuamotu atolls are remarkable for their height, shape, exposure to the ocean, population, and level of activity. There are small, closed lagoons, both hypersaline and brackish, and large lagoons open to the ocean like Fakarava, which features the largest pass in French Polynesia at 1,600 meters. The Tuamotu even comprise a raised coral atoll called Makatea.

RANGIROA ATOLL

About 350 kilometers northeast of Tahiti, we chose Rangiroa (“vast sky” in Paumotu), the biggest atoll in the Tuamotu, to establish our base. Rangiroa winds its 170 kilometers of coral reefs around a 1,600 square kilometers lagoon. The clear, fish-filled waters of this giant atoll attract impressive large wildlife and makes Rangiroa an oasis of biodiversity. Its two large passes, Avatoru and Tiputa, are among the world’s top diving destinations.

THE CETA'SCUBA CAMPAIGN

Since 2009, GEMM has been monitoring the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) community living on the Tiputa area. We are mainly working on the impact of human activities on the dolphins' behavior. The reception of volunteers makes it possible for us to perpetuate our independent monitoring campaign called Ceta'Scuba. We encourage everyone to interest themselves and support science whose aim is to share knowledge and satisfy curiosity.

THE BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN AND DIVING TOURISM ISSUE

The presence of common bottlenose dolphins has been recorded in the five Polynesian archipelagoes. However, it is in the northwestern part of the Tuamotu and mainly in Rangiroa that the species seems to be the most frequently observed. In French Polynesia, adult bottlenose dolphins measure up to 3.5 meters and weigh up to 400 kilos. They are easily recognizable thanks to their squat, greyish body, prolonged by a thick rostrum (beak) separated from the melon (forehead) by a marked furrow. The line of their mouth, curved upwards, gives them a "smiling" appearance. Nevertheless, this does not correspond to the reality of the species whose behaviors, and especially social life, are extremely complex and marked by both affiliative (e.g. play) and agonistic behaviors (e.g. intimidation, aggression). The many visible scars on the adult males' bodies illustrate these animals' strenght.

For several years, some divers have been looking for physical contact with Tiputa bottlenose dolphins, especially with very young individuals. This situation has lead to changes in the cetaceans' behavior, which make them vulnerable to human presence. Indeed, overconfident animals can easily become entangled in fishing gear, be injured by propellers (observed on the area) or even be eliminated in cases of depredation (conflicts between fishermen or marine mammals) or aggressive familiarity toward divers.

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE VOLUNTEER?

Since 2012, GEMM has involved volunteers in its annual monitoring of Rangiroa bottlenose dolphins. They help collecting underwater video data by scuba diving. These images are used in the long-term study conducted by GEMM on the risks associated with close interactions between dolphins and divers.

A minimum Open Water PADI diving level is required to participate in the campaign. It is possible to train on site but it is better to be operational upon arrival on the mission.

WHAT ARE THE VOLUNTEER ACTIVITIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES?

A mission takes place over two weeks with 10 dives per volunteer. As part of the survey, they will be invited to participate in the following activities:

1. Video shooting of the underwater behavior of bottlenose dolphins in the Tiputa area. On average, dolphins are observed during a dive on two at a depth of 15-20 meters. A briefing on the sea conditions and dive progress is led by the instructor. Volunteers follow their guide throughout the dive, which usually lasts from 40 to 70 minutes. The time spent at sea is approximately 60-90 minutes. Indeed, the observation area is located between 5 and 10 minutes from the diving center depending on the sea state.

2. Land sightings at ''La cité des dauphins''. Tiputa pass is traveled twice a day by a powerful mascaret (long breaking waves) created by an outgoing current. These exceptional conditions constitute a privileged socialization ground for bottlenose dolphins, which use to come to surf and leap in waves. Volunteers can train there to identify individual animals and associations between dolphins. This activity is led by the GEMM marine biologist. It usually lasts about one hour and a half.

3. Debriefing and data analysis. Part of the day, not exceeding two hours, is dedicated to debriefings, comments, debates, presentations and data analysis. Volunteers are supervised by the NGO biologist.

WITH WHOM WILL THE VOLUNTEERS BE WORKING WITH?

The volunteers will work with the marine biologist responsible for the program. She has been monitoring Rangiroa bottlenose dolphins since 2009 and knows the animals very well. The dives are supervised by professional centers and instructors.

WHAT DO WE EXPECT FROM THE VOLUNTEERS?

The presence of volunteers makes it possible for our NGO to multiply the diving effort and underwater data collection, thus the opportunities to observe particularly relevant behaviors.

WHAT CAN THE VOLUNTEERS EXPECT FROM US?

The GEMM team responsible for this campaign will allow you to meet, observe and better understand the bottlenose dolphins' habits in exceptional conditions. Volunteers are trained in basic dolphin underwater behavior recognition in the field. They work with well-known individual dolphins on an evergrowing issue: the impact of animal tourism on wildlife and ecosystems.

DO THE VOLUNTEERS HAVE TO BRING SPECIAL EQUIPMENT?

The whole diving equipment is provided by the center. However, we recommended you to take your own fins, mask and snorkel as well as a lycra or a light diving suit. It is also useful to bring a laptop and underwater shooting equipment. For your comfort, we also advise you to bring a hat or cap, polarized sunglasses, sunscreen, a seasickness remedy, a waterproof bag, a raincoat, a mosquito repellent and a tube of antibiotic ointment.

RECOMMENDATIONS

> Volunteers have to be in good physical condition. No heart disease or treatment requiring immediate proximity to hospitals or doctors.

> For those who have not been diving for more than a year, we recommend a safety visit to an otolaryngologist as well as a refresh dive.

> Do not forget to bring your diving level card.

> For those wishing to be trained in scuba diving, you need a medical certificate.

> Volunteers must be able to live in community and to participate in cleaning.

> Some cooking notions will be appreciated.

> Adaptability, patience, rigour and good mood are a plus.

> Watch out for sun and dehydration.

> Beware of mosquitoes for extended stays.

GOOD TO KNOW

> You will need a biometric passport and an ESTA form for stops in the United States.

> All field activities are dependent on the weather and current. The dives can take place in the afternoon during week 1. and in the morning during week 2.

> It is forbidden to dive less than 12:00 before domestic flights (24:00 for international flights).

> Fresh water is a rare and precious commodity in the Tuamotu archipelago. It is important to limit its consumption (e.g. showers, laundry).

> The internet connection is limited and does not allow important downloads or streaming.

> It is important not to feed dogs and stray cats to avoid familiarizing them near the bungalows or kitchen.

> For luggage, the limit for Rangiroa is 15 kilos from abroad.

> The voltage used is 220V.

> Drugs are strictly forbidden.

> The local currency is the Pacific Franc (XPF). It is indexed on the Euro: 1 € = 119.33 XPF. Some cash may be useful for buying a sandwich, a drink or to pay a taxi. You will find ATMs on most inhabited islands including Rangiroa (located at the airport). For information, a taxi takes 1000 XPF / 12 kilometers in Tahiti and 500 to 1000 XPF / person in the islands. A WIFI Internet connection package costs 500 XPF / hour and 12,000 XPF / 50 hours. A phone card costs 1000 XPF.

Typical day

WHAT DOES THE VOLUNTEER DO ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS?

Each mission starts on a Monday. We meet the volunteers at 10:00 a.m. at the pension for introducing the place and team. We then eat together and talk about Rangiroa atoll and the objectives of the mission. The following days are organized with one dive a day in the morning or afternoon for data collection. Before heading out, the trip leader will brief everyone about data collection. The dive guide will then go over sea conditions and how the dive will proceed. One and a half to two hours a day are also dedicated to training or data analysis. According to the current, a half-day may be devoted to land sightings. Ten dives are planned per volunteer per mission. Participants are free on the first Sunday and second Monday of each mission. A general debriefing is organized on the departure day to review the mission progress.

ARE THERE SPECIAL WORKING HOURS?

Daily dives typically takes about two hours. Training and data analysis takes one and a half to two hours per day. These activities usually take place somewhere between 7:30 and 11:00 a.m. and 13:30 and 15:30 p.m.

Details on Arrival

For international flights, the arrival to Tahiti often takes place at night. It is possible to spend a night at the pension Chez Fifi (http://www.pensionfifi.pf/) or at the Motel in front of the airport. From Tahiti International Airport, the participant must board a Tahiti-Rangiroa domestic flight (one hour for non-stop flights). Each mission starts on a Monday at 10:00 a.m. and ends on a Sunday at the end of the morning. Volunteers are free on the first Sunday and second Monday of the mission.

In 2019, volunteers can join the Ceta'Scuba campaign on the following dates:

> June 24th to July 7th

> July 8th to July 21st

> July 22nd to August 4th

> August 5th to August 18th

Free-time activities

SWIMMING

In French Polynesia, the water is always at ideal temperature (between 25 and 29°C). However, you must be careful with currents, mainly around the passes. Avoid bathing at night, wearing shiny jewels while swimming or diving near the reef (moray eels, barracudas). It is not recommended to swim in places where fish has just been cleaned. Watch out for stonefish and do not touch coral or other animals. Never pick up live corals or shells. It is best to use a neoprene suit and to avoid walking barefoot in the water.

SCUBA DIVING

It is possible to do exploratory and drift dives in the Tiputa area.

HIKING

Volunteers can visit Avatoru and Tiputa villages and do excursions on some lagoon sites. The ''reef island'' site is particularly popular. Depending on the current, it is also possible to go to "La cité des dauphins" to observe bottlenose dolphins from land.

Swimming
Diving/Snorkling
Hiking

Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level) and French (basic level)
Health Declaration
required
Required Documents
CV / Résumé
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
> Volunteers need to have at least an Open Water scuba diving certificate to participate in the mission.

> Computer skills are appreciated.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 07:30 - 15:30

Suitable for

Singles
Couples
Families
Groups
50+

Included Services

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We refund your fees if GEMM cancels your trip
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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by GEMM.

Before your journey

Profound consulting and ongoing support (free)
GEMM (your host organization) provides consulting and is keen to answer all your questions. Once you reserved your spot, you will receive the contact details of your volunteer project.
Online preparation course (optional, from $49)
Prepare yourself and become a confident and well informed traveler. Global Travel Academy takes you on a journey before you leave home, helping you to become one of the world's greatest travelers. Our trusted partner for online learning offers courses in "International Volunteering", "Travel Health & Safety" and "Travel Safety Abroad".

On-site services

Services by GEMM

Fees include accomodation, meals, local transfers, supervision, dives and the campaign operating costs.

Airport Pickup at Rangiroa Airport

Volunteers are expected at Rangiroa airport on the first mission day and dropped to the airport on the last day. The reception at the airport will be done by a member of the NGO team or by the pension. The round trips of approximately 6 kilometers last 5 minutes. In any case, the appointment will take place on the first Monday at 10:00 a.m. at the pension.

Accommodation
Volunteers are housed in a dorm in a clean pension located a few minutes walk away from the diving center, the "Cité des dauphins", two food stores and two snacks. They share a common bathroom equipped with toilet, shower and access to electricity (220V). For personal comfort, we advise participants to bring a mosquito net.
Dorm Room Bungalow
Food & Beverages

Breakfast and dinner are included as well as a common fund for lunches. Two food stores and two snacks are located a few minutes walk from the pension. Lunches can be cooked in the pension kitchen. Fruits and vegetables are rare in the atolls so it is difficult to cook vegetarian dishes. It is usually easy to get good local fish to cook raw Tahitian fish, sashimi, carpaccio or grilled fish. A meal costs about 1700 XPF at the snack and between 3000 XPF and 6000 XPF in a restaurant. Alcohol is not included in the fees.

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Rangiroa Airport (RGI) in Rangiroa. We assist you to find cheap flights to French Polynesia.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for French Polynesia provides security and is a plus to have.
Vaccines
If you are intending to volunteer in French Polynesia you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for French Polynesia.
Costs (Prices in USD)
2 weeks (min. stay)
$2,230.00
3 weeks
$3,345.00
4 weeks (max. stay)
$4,460.00
Average fees
$1,115.00/week

You can volunteer at the project site in Rangiroa/French Polynesia between 2 weeks and 4 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. GEMM will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Crowdfunding Service
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in French Polynesia.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with {project.name} during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.
  Oceania Polynesia French Polynesia  Rangiroa, BP 116 Tiputa
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