The NGO, established in 2002, is the research team dedicated to the conservation of the bottlenose dolphins off Istria, Croatia. This dolphin volunteer program in North-eastern Adriatic focuses on the relationships, group size, composition and population dynamics, as well as obtaining scientific data about the fishing industry and negative influence from nautical tourism on the dolphin community. To volunteer for the last marine mammals in the area one of the aims is to ensure that sustainable and environmentally safe tourism is accomplished by offering certified training programs for dolphin watching.
Why volunteer in protecting the dolphins off Istria, in Croatia?
It was only possible due to the help of the international volunteers that the first scientific article about the dolphin population: abundance and distribution off Istria was published. Dolphins play an essential role in maintaining balance, long term livelihood and sustainability for the entire marine ecosystem. Thus it is of key relevance that we help keeping the bottlenose dolphins in the area. With this dolphin volunteer opportunity you indirectly help in saving the functionality of the North East Adriatic itself. The mission is also, that more dolphin volunteer will help in education of the local people in Istria and will try to inspire them why conservation of these last residential bottlenose dolphins is important. Join us in this mission and get one of the best volunteer experiences for the bottlenose dolphins – dolphins in the need of conservation.
Zambratija near Umag and Funtana, Croatia
Airport of Arrival:
Pula (PUY) in Croatia; alternative Trieste (TRS), in Italy.
Data collection and protection of the last marine mammals in the area – common bottlenose dolphin
18 – 60
# of Volunteers:
6 International volunteers (e.g. USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, Austria, UK)
English, German, Croatian, Slovenian;
To be added.
What is included?
Volunteers will make their own way, via public transport, to and from the airport of arrival to Umag, where they will be collected.
Shared rooms in the research station
All inclusive; vegetarian, vegan also available; typical Mediterranean food.
Volunteers must provide their own comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage.
To be added.
There will be at least one excursion within the program; other attractive excursions are available prior or after the team dates.
24h emergency support and local in-country with the dolphin conservation team.
- Minimum age: 18
- Must be a swimmer
- Language: basic English, German, Slovenian or Croatian
- Enthusiastic and a team player
- No vaccines are needed
- No police Background check is needed
The country is one of the safest in the world however, like everywhere, precautions must be taken with your personal belongings.
Get live chat for the volunteer experience with dolphins.
I had such a great volunteering experience with Vivamar Society in the NE Adriatic. It was my first volunteering and I absolutely loved every minute of it. The project leader is like a little guardian angel for Dolphins. Its so nice to see someone who has given up everything in order to serve something bigger than herself. We had so many great adventures to nearby towns and villages and also on the water adventures. Going out on the research boat is a thoroughly enjoyable experience, seeing dolphins in the wild is one of the best things you’ll ever see not to mention doing it on many occasions. You really get to know each dolphin by the end of your time as you spend many hours trying to spot the fin. I learn’t so much and there was never a dull moment. The food was also some of the best I’ve eaten. It was a great chance to meet people from all walks and who all share the same goals. Thank you project leads and Vivamar for all that you do and I hope that Vivamar can continue to be an Ambassador for Dolphins in the NE Adriatic.
A great and memorable experience!
The time I spent with the project leader and the other volunteers was an experience I surely will never forget. You get a good insight into the life of the dolphins living in the adriatic sea and the threats that endanger them. This knowledge that we gained from this dedicated Dolphin conservation society Team we could apply directly on our trips on the research boat, while enjoying the sunset -and the dolphins of course- at the same time. On the days we didn’t visit the dolphins, a project leader showed us a part of the scienific work of dolphin research which was very interesting.
The atmosphere was relaxed the whole time, we all got along well. That’s why we also had a lot of fun during our free time which we spent snorkeling, laying at the beach and visiting some beautiful towns. I definitely recommend this volunteering project to anyone who is interested in helping the dolphins and keeping the sea healthy!
After a short search on volunteer opportunities I became quickly aware of the project for the bottlenose dolphins, which was, in my opinion, a total jackpot. From the first day on I got the feeling I was into something important. From the little tasks like washing the dishes to gardening I was always feeling the spirit. We did good work on research comparing dolphin fins on the pictures we took. In our free time we enjoyed the underwater world of the Adriatic Sea, snorkeling for hours! Of course, the most beautiful time I spent here was when we went out on our boat trip to get new pictures and data of our lovely dolphins.
I will always remember the first time when I saw a fin breaking through the surface of the sea and the joy I felt having a look into the eyes of an animal that is so intelligent and free!
I have always been into the sea and dolphins so I was really excited when I found out this project for dolphin conservation. I thought to volunteer for such a purpose would be a good thing. When I had to choose what to do for my matura, final work exam at school, I asked if I could do it about dolphins and from what they are endangered and the project leaders agreed with it.
By volunteering for dolphins I learned more about the research work. But not only this, I also had a good time during doing my work with the other volunteers.We went swimming in the sea, sunbathing at the beach or just drinking a beer and get to know each other better.
But what’s the best of all: you see dolphins in the wild. It’s so great to see them swimming in the wide ocean free and their movements. I can’t believe people are catching them and put them into an aquarium.
I would recommend this poject to everybody who wants to have a closer look at the researcher life and wants to do something good for the sea and its amazing inhabitants.
I have come to do the volonteering for dolphin conservation because I have been fascinated by the dolphins since my childhood. While volunteering we have learned so much about these wonderful creatures – and to see them LIVE in the nature was an absolute highlight!
Last but not least, especially our team was so unique because it team was the oldest ever J and we had one younger volunteer that we at once ‘adopted’ and called her »our baby«. So we have harmonized very well. We have worked together, cooked, cleaned, harvested even olives and did also the tours. Almost like in a family! We laughed until our bellies hurt! Everything fitted just perfectly! And then, of course, there is a team leader, who, by her cordial, open manner and her presence is a real personality! It is absolutely a joy, that you can, through the love to the dolphins meet even so dear people!
A dolphin research organization where I took part was like a blast for me! You can be a volunteer and have an amazing experience with other volunteers from all around the world and with a lot of fun. The work for dolphins comprises of team work everyday: every volunteer gets a task they have to do daily. Before we first went with the boat to the sea, we had two presentations about dolphins and on dolphin conservation. When we first saw the Dolphins on the sea everyone was excited about it. It was such an amazing moment when the first dolphin jumped out of the water. We also saw a dolphin with her calf. That was a really amazing and emotional moment. There are about 150 dolphins, and each dolphin has its name. When we helped in the analysis we compared the dorsal fins to know which dolphins we have seen. When we were at sea there were a lot of dolphin watching boats that drive very near to the animals whereas the research boat always stays a distance away to prevent the disturbance. And when they drive so near to the dolphins they don’t jump anymore and we can’t see them again because they are scared. It’s really important to solve the problem so the Dolphins can live in peace. It makes a lot of fun to work in a group of international volunteers and to learn biology of Dolphins, other languages and volunteering for the nature and the Dolphins.
Zambratija, 5km north from Umag
Zambratija is a small village in Croatia, situated in the northern part of Istrian peninsula in the north-east of the Adriatic. Just in March 2013, only 400m from the coast there was an ancient underwater discovery announced, of the world’s heritage importance: a boat wreck, dated back into 1,200 BC. The finding captures our imagination as it is wooden and literally sewn together with the ropes. The technique was used till Roman times. In the background Zambratija has extensive olive groves with beautiful views over the sea and the area resembles Tuscany. The bikes will be available for an even better volunteer experience to enjoy the scenery when not going out with the boat. Only 20 minutes bike ride along the coast to the north is a panoramic view towards Slovenia as well as Italy with the Alps in the background. Attractive combination of a volunteer vacation: an important work for dolphin conservation and a free time at the same time.
The bottlenose dolphin population in the Adriatic Sea has declined by approximately 50 per cent in the last five decades. The decline is largely the result of a deliberate killing since these marine mammals were in the 60.-ies perceived as pests. Though the practice is now illegal, and the animals are protected, a further decline might be expected due to the rise in anthropogenic pressures, such as overfishing and a rising nautical tourism, underwater noise and other disturbances.
An organization is active to protect and conserve these last remaining bottlenose dolphins. While their efforts began in Slovenia, they have expanded into Croatia where researchers found the same individual dolphins. The research area, which partially belongs to Natura 2000 (an EU-wide network of nature protection areas), is an important feeding and calving ground for more than 150 dolphins. These dolphins are the last constantly present marine mammals in the NE Adriatic and play a vital role in indicating the ecological state of the sea.
This organization’s work is crucial to understanding the factors influencing the local dolphin population and educating the public on their findings. Besides these species, they are also committed to preserving the marine environment to benefit all other marine life, starting with large marine vertebrates (turtles, sharks), which regulate the ecological balance of the marine ecosystem.
Each volunteer will receive orientation in the dolphin volunteering and research office in Zambratija. Volunteer work roles will be explained, why volunteering in dolphin conservation is needed and give helpful tips to help in obtaining the best possible volunteer experience.
Your dolphin volunteer work is important in helping to protect this last resident population living in the sensitive marine ecosystem. During the first few days, your marine volunteer tasks will be also to attend morning lectures on topics such as marine mammals and marine ecology. Throughout your dolphin volunteer opportunity, you will learn how to read and understand research data and actively help in dolphin conservation. Some of your tasks will include:
- Dolphin observation
- Data analyzing
- Entering data directly into the catalogue, including observation notes
- Educating the local public on bottlenose and their importance for the entire marine ecosystem
- Learning how to distinguish between dolphin species
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.
Typical Day: You will volunteer about 4-6 hours day, 8 days out of 11. Your days will begin at 9 a.m. with a briefing of daily tasks during the breakfast. After that, you will analyze data from the previous observations and enter them into the main dolphin catalogue. You might be also engaged with our social media platforms and learn some marketing tools. Following will be a lunch that you will prepare for yourself along with other team members. You will also prepare a snack to take it with you, when going out to the sea. In the early afternoon you will depart for the dolphin research which could sometimes last till 8:30 p.m. depending on the encounter success. In the evening, you will return to cook 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. Depending on the volunteer roles during your stay you might also be involved in daily house-keeping roles, such as gardening, cleaning and similar.
You will stay in an apartment for volunteers with two shared rooms available (with 1-3 volunteers per room). Each room is equipped with bunk beds. 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.
You need to bring your own beddings with you. If you bring a sleeping bag you still need to bring your own sheet. In case you don’t have anything an additional charge of 10EUR will incur.
Three meals a day are included (meals are mostly vegetarian). There will also be regular visits to a supermarket possible for to purchase snacks and other items for individual needs.
WiFi is available for free at the research base until 10 p.m. each night.
A washing machine is available for 7 EUR per wash.
There will be at least one organized excursion during your project placement. After or before dolphin volunteering you may have the chance to visit Brijuni National Park or Kamenjak National Park, in case you will prolong your holidays in the area. There will be the possibility to visit one of these famous touristic towns: Umag, Rovinj or Grožnjan (a typical Istrian village situated right at the top of the small hill with beautiful views right till the sea). In addition, there will be an organized walk under the stars into the inland of Istria on one night during your stay.
Lucky for you, Funtana and Zambratija are situated in an ideal geographical location as it only a few hours’ drive from most of the major European capitals. You can visit places like Venice, Dubrovnik (another Adriatic pearl town), Ljubljana (Slovenian capital) and Postojna cave (3rd biggest cave in the world). If you are interested in these particular adventures, you can ask your volunteer 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).