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The Great Projects

Whale Conservation Assistant

Help to assist a team of marine biologists in important whale and dolphin conservation projects.

Faial Island is one of the best destinations for encountering whales and dolphins in not only the Azores but also in the whole world! Attracted by the deep waters that occur close to shore and the abundance of food, more than 25 species of whales and dolphins are reported to be within the Azores waters - about 30% of all the cetacean species known. Considered a sperm whale “hotspot", it is also on the route of other migrating species, including blue, fin and sei whales! 

About the Project

The Great Whale Project combines a touristic whale watching operation with whale and dolphin conservation research, involving guests and volunteers in a philosophy of sustainable, research supportive Eco-tourism. This whale and dolphin conservation project is run by a team of marine biologists who have been conducting whale photo- ID studies in the Azores for over 10 years and focuses mainly on the individual identification of blue and sperm whales. 

Volunteers will enjoy regular trips to sea and will be integrated in ALL aspects of duties.They will be educated in an informal and casual environment, learning about whale and cetacean biology, conservation strategies and research techniques.

The project comprehends two research periods: the spring months are mainly for blue whale research (with fin, sei and sperm whales also passing through), whilst the summer months are focused on the individual recognition of sperm whales – who remain here all year round.

This whale conservation project gives you the unforgettable chance to experience field research and to meet whales and dolphins in their natural realm, whilst learning about whale biology, conservation, species identification and photo-ID and behavioural data collection techniques.

Prior to Arrival

Getting to the Azores will generally require a stopover via Lisbon, from where you can catch an onwards flight direct to Horta on Faial island where you need to arrive between 9 am - 5 pm on your project start date. TAP Air Portugal is usually the best airline for this. Alternatively, you can fly direct to Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores, and transfer to Faial using an internal flight. Please note that to get to Horta on Faial island where the project is based, you will need to take an internal flight.

Suitable for


Typical day

First Day

On arrival from your original destination to Faial you will transfer to your accommodation and will get settled in, before meeting project facilitators Joana and Tiago for a welcome dinner.

Regular Days

During your time here, you will be involved in a range of activities every day. You will spend time on the boat photo ID-ing whales and getting experience of field work and collecting research data. You will be conducting cetacean surveys from land look-outs and help in important blue whale research. Doing that, you will gain knowledge and experience on cetacean biology, whale conservation and identification at sea, as well as basic boat skills and boat duties, including boat checks and post-trip cleaning.

Furthermore, you will be conducting office-based work cataloguing and analysing collected data. You will also assist with the day-to-day operation of our station, including cleaning, taking bookings and assisting guests where needed. All these tasks will also help you develop whale watching naturalist skills and help assist in the education of the whale species to tourists on board and the general public.
There will also be time off during the week, where volunteers will be able to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Faial Island and activities including hiking, scuba diving (there is even a dive with blue sharks) and bird watching.

Last Day

After saying your goodbyes to everybody, you will head back to the mainland for your connecting flight or commence onwards travel plans.

Details on Arrival

Project Start Dates

1st and 15th of every month from April to October 2017 and 2018 (subject to availability)

Please contact us to check whether your preferred start date is still available!

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).
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
No specific skills or experience are required, just commitment to the project and its aims. But all volunteers should have a basic level of fitness when taking part.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

Any questions? Just ask. We at The Great Projects are happy to help you.

Free-time activities

In your free time you will be able to see and experience the surrounding areas.

Water Sports

Included Services

What's included?
  • Airport transfers
  • Accommodation (on a twin shared room in an apartment or house with a kitchen and only a short walking distance from our station)
  • Tutoring and all project activities
  • Welcome and farewell dinners
Airport Pickup at Horta

Getting to the Azores will require generally require a stopover via Lisbon, from where you can catch an onwards flight direct to Horta on Faial island where you need to arrive between 9 am - 5 pm on your project start date.


Accommodation during your time here will be within a twin shared room in an apartment or a house – only a walking distance from the Dive Azores building from where all volunteer activities will occur. All accommodation options have a kitchen attached where you can cook and prepare all food for the day, as well as all the usual mod cons (LCD Tv's, free WiFi, a washing machine, fresh linen etc.)
Couples, friends or families volunteering together who would like private accommodation should let us know in advance so we can arrange it

Bedroom (Double)
Internet Access
Good access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees. Food, snacks or beverages are at extra costs.

No worries, Volunteer World supports you in raising funds, checking your visa regulations and travel insurance. We also assist you in finding the cheapest flights for your journey.
Costs (Prices in USD)
1 week (min. stay)
2 weeks
3 weeks
4 weeks
6 weeks
8 weeks
12 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees

You can volunteer at the project site in Horta/Portugal between 1 week and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. The Great Projects will let you know about the final price during your application process.
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 The Great Projects during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Get ready to volunteer in Portugal

Check out first

Visa Regulations
Depending on your nationality, you have to arrange your visa for Portugal. Please check the visa regulations for Portugal.
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Portugal.

What's next?

The nearest airport is Horta (HOR) in Horta. We assist you to find cheap flights to Portugal.
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 Portugal provides security and is a plus to have.
Vaccine Checker
If you are intending to volunteer in Portugal you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Portugal.
Largo Dr. Manuel de Arriaga, 9900-026 Horta, Portugal

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