The NGO, established in 2002, is the research team dedicated to the conservation of the bottlenose dolphins off Istria, Croatia. This dolphin conservation volunteer program in North-eastern Adriatic focuses on the relationships, group size, composition and population dynamics. It also tries to collect scientific data on dolphin interaction with the fishing boats. On the other hand there is a big negative influence from nautical tourism on a dolphin community. To volunteer for these last resident marine mammals in the area is of great importance to keep the project viable. 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 dolphin conservation volunteers that the first scientific article about the dolphin population was published! The baseline about dolphin abundance and distribution off Istria is so 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 conservation volunteer opportunity you indirectly help in saving the functionality of the North East Adriatic. The mission is also, that more volunteers would help in education of the local people and will try to inspire them about the conservation issues. Join us in this mission and get one of the best volunteer experiences! Last dolphins that need conservation and more sustainable approach.
Zambratija near Umag and Funtana, Croatia
Airport of Arrival:
Pula (PUY) in Croatia; alternative Trieste (TRS), in Italy.
Dolphin conservation volunteer main contribution is 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;
There are following team dates for the year 2018: 16 Apr -26 Apr; 4 May-14 May; 21 May-31 May; 11 Jun-21 Jun; 25Jun-5 Jul; 16 Jul-26 Jul; 6 Aug-16 Aug; 3 Sep-13 Sep; 24 Sep-4 Oct; 8 Oct-18 Oct;
You can pay also in USD. After applying you will receive an email. Then please follow the guidelines about the price conversion.
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.
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.
Get live chat for the volunteer experience with dolphins.
- 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Beautiful views over the sea
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 for a dolphin volunteer conservation: an important work for dolphins and a free time at the same time – almost like perfect vacation!
Bottlenose Dolphin Population in the Adriatic
The bottlenose dolphin population in the Adriatic Sea has declined by about 50 per cent in the last five decades. The decline is largely the result of a deliberate killing since these marine mammals were perceived as pests in the 60.-ies. 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. Therefore dolphin conservation volunteer work is highly appreciated.
Dolphin Conservation Organisation
Conservation organisation is active to protect the last resident bottlenose dolphins. While their efforts began in Slovenia, they have expanded into Croatia. Actually with no bigger surprise the researchers found the same individual dolphins here but much more difficult times for them. 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 160 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.
Crucial to understand is…
The work of the organisation is crucial to understand the factors influencing the local dolphin population and educating the public on their findings. Besides the help of dolphin conservation volunteer work the organisation is committed to preserve marine environment in broader sense. It is to benefit marine life, including large marine vertebrates (turtles, sharks), which regulate the ecological balance of the entire 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 conservation volunteer work is certainly of the key importance to the protect. Even more so as we are talking of last resident dolphin population living in the sensitive and quite shallow and closed marine ecosystem. During the first few days, your marine volunteer tasks will be also to attend morning lectures. Topics will be inviting, such as marine mammals, marine ecology, marine mega-fauna in the Adriatic and more. Throughout your dolphin conservation volunteer opportunity, you will learn how to read and understand research data and actively help in dolphin conservation.
Dolphin conservation volunteer tasks will include:
- Dolphin observation
- Data analysing
- Entering data directly into the catalogue, including observation notes
- Educating the local public (mostly local children) 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.
A typical Day: You will be active as a dolphin conservation 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 analyse 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.
On the good weather days…
…in the early afternoon you will depart for the dolphin research which could sometimes last till 8:30 p.m. It depends on the encounter success. In the evening, volunteers will return to cook the 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 other volunteers in a room). One room is equipped with bunk beds. There is also an air conditioner with cooling and heating capabilities along with a western-style bathroom. The apartment’s entrance extends to a spacious terrace overlooking the sea and the surrounding area. It is simply 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 bedding 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 10 EUR 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 organised excursion for the dolphin conservation volunteer! 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.
Your own activities
You are also free to organise 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).
Apply now and secure yourself a place in this amazing volunteer project.