project review

La dolce vita!

Review submitted by Sophie Taglialavore
Review date 17 Jun 2018

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When deciding on what I wanted to do on my inter-rail trip around Italy I stumbled across the Dolphin Conservation programme on Frontier’s website. It seemed to have everything I was looking for - sailing, dolphin watching and living on a boat off a beautiful Italian island.

 I arrived in the small island port and made my way round the harbour to find the beautiful sailing boat and the crewmember and captain who welcomed me. I had got to the island so I decided to explore a bit before the rest of the volunteers arrived. I wandered around the small shops and sat with an iced espresso, read my book and watch the world go by. dolphin by boat

 When I got back to the boat the rest of the volunteers had arrived and we all introduced each other. There was a mixture of nationalities 3 Italians, 2 Germans, 1 Swiss, 1 Welsh and myself as the only English person. We began to unpack and settle into the shared cabin and set off for an amazing dinner at a beautifully secluded pizzeria on shore.

 The next day was too windy to sail but we were briefed about the different dolphins we may encounter and if we were lucky we may even spot some sperm whales. We then had the opportunity to explore the island or stay on the boat. I love boat life and decided to stay and enjoyed the warm sun with my book and a glass of wine and watched the sun set over the harbour. Dinner was cooked with the freshest ingredients and I was sure that it was the best thing I had eaten all year, and it was swiftly followed by singing Italian and English songs around a guitar with one of the captain’s closest friends.

Wednesday was perfect weather and we set off on the water. We spent all day at sea, watching and waiting patiently under the beautiful hot sun. It was immensely relaxing and cool with the sea breeze but to our disappointment the dolphins did not want to say hello. Our day was not a complete failure as we managed to catch some fresh fish which the captain prepared for dinner. I have never tasted anything like it and this trip was beginning to be a cooking trip as well as looking out for dolphins.

By Thursday the volunteers and I were eager to get a glimpse of some dolphins and just as the crew predicted they popped up just as we were eating dinner. 150 striped dolphins were swimming alongside the boat, doing flips, jumps and side slaps. They were beautiful and graceful; I was lucky enough to film some of their swimming with the underwater camera. I have never seen anything like it. They twisted and span in the water and made beautiful bubble trails after them. It was very exciting and we followed the dolphins for the next 3 hours. I managed to get some great pictures and that night we celebrated with an even more impressive dinner than the last, lots of home made wine and many more songs around the guitar. We even had some of the captain’s close friends come over with some of Ischia’s finest limoncello.

The next day we were unsuccessful in spotting any dolphins as the wind had picked up and the water was too choppy to spot any fins in the water so we headed back to the harbour early. I explored the island a bit more and did a bit of souvenir shopping and sat on the small beach for a while.

My time with the dolphin project was almost over, we had one more day at sea and then it was back to mainland Italy. I had become close to all the crew members, my Italian was improving and my time on the boat confirmed to me that I love living at sea. Life is so much simpler and the work that they are all doing our here is benefiting the dolphin communities and there are constant searches and studies into dolphin wildlife.

On the last day the dolphins were hiding, there was no trace of them on the underwater microphones so we decided to just do some sailing. We stopped in the middle of the sea for a swim and then back to port for the largest and most extravagant of all the dinners with the freshest ingredients. We sat on deck until the early hours of the morning swapping stories and translating them all between the four languages spoken on board and finishing off the last of the homemade wine.

On the last day I said goodbye to the other volunteers, crew and captain. The week on board gave me a chance to think about all the opportunities and work I could do after finishing my degree. Frontier gave me the opportunity to do some amazing work and I enjoyed every moment of it!

Read more about Italy Dolphin Monitoring & Sailing