• Marine Conservation

What to expect when you join a teen volunteer program in the Canary Islands

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: July 29, 2022

GVI offers several volunteer opportunities for teens, including a program in the Canary Islands. As a teen volunteer, you’ll have the chance to learn about international sustainable development, experience life in a different country, explore potential career paths, and meet awesome people from around the world. 

The Canary Islands is a Spanish archipelago off the coast of Africa, with lunar-like landscapes and eerie volcanoes rising above forests and beautiful, sandy beaches. Tenerife, the largest and most biologically diverse island, is home to both rugged mountains and delightful port towns. It’s the perfect base for volunteering, with the brilliant blue waters around the island home to both resident populations of whales and dolphins and migratory visitors. 

Volunteering in the Canary Islands means teaming up with other like-minded teens and contributing towards the conservation of marine mammals. You’ll play a role in identifying and collecting valuable data on the magnificent cetaceans swimming through the depths off the coast. 

Heading overseas to volunteer as a teen is a big leap, but there’s no need to be nervous. Here’s exactly what you can expect from the experience. 


First trip overseas by yourself? Don’t worry, you’ll never be alone



You, and your parents, can feel comfortable knowing you’ll be supported during each step of your volunteer experience. From planning your trip, to gearing up to depart and arriving into Tenerife, right up until you’re heading home again, you’ll be in safe hands. 

We take health and safety seriously, and have a Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy that aims to provide safety and security for all teens taking part in under 18 volunteer programs. Basically this means you will have the support of carefully trained staff, and your welfare will be our priority. 

This might be your first big trip away from home, so while on base our field team will take good care of you. You’ll always have someone available to help with questions both big and small. 


Spotting dolphins and whales will become part of your daily routine



During the whale and dolphin teen volunteering program, you’ll learn about the work GVI does with our local partners and the marine life found around the Canary Islands. Part of the training and education you receive will be how to conduct fin identification of whales and dolphins. 

You’ll spend days out on boats getting to know the mighty marine mammals swimming through the area. As you and other volunteers travel the waters around Tenerife, you’ll experience the excitement of spotting whale and dolphin activity and the thrill of identifying specific individuals. 


You’ll collect valuable data on marine megafauna



A lot of the work you do in Tenerife will be around helping to record data and grow the existing body of knowledge around whale and dolphin behaviour, to aid in their conservation. 

Collecting data could take the form of taking part in ethical whale watching and monitoring the marine life you see, or completing acoustics training and learning how to use a hydrophone from a boat as part of survey work. You will have the opportunity to take photos and gather information on the dolphins’ and whales’ behavioural patterns, health, and population numbers will teach you more about marine wildlife, as well as what’s involved in a career in marine biology and conservation.


You can help to keep Tenerife’s beaches clean and free of waste



You’ll also get involved with waste management efforts along the coast of the island, joining beach cleanups. As you walk the beaches, collecting plastic waste, you can also keep an eye out for passing bottlenose dolphins or sea turtles. 


The program will let you see the impact of your actions



Gaining real world experience means you can see firsthand the impact of your volunteering. 

For example, one group of teens in Tenerife rescued a turtle that was entangled in plastic and fishing gear. Getting to take part in initiatives like this is a powerful learning experience and a rewarding one. 

In the reflection session held throughout the project, you will be able to reflect on how your actions have contributed to sustainable development, and what this means to you on a personal level. 


You’ll enjoy the bliss of life in Tenerife



Teen volunteering with GVI isn’t just about the work you do – it’s also about being immersed in local life. Learn how to cook Canarian dishes, take traditional dance classes, or learn some Spanish with language lessons. You’ll be fully immersed in Canary Island life. 

There’s plenty of downtime, too. Our base is set up so you can get to know the other teens you’ll be volunteering with. Enjoy the swimming pool at the base, visit the billiards centre next door, or relax over a game of cards. Or, simply enjoy the view. From the base you can see straight out to the ocean – it’s a prime location for watching sunsets.

During your program, you’ll also have time to bask in a beach day, soaking up sun on the white sand beaches of Tenerife.


You can go on active adventures



With adventure on your doorstep, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to explore the island. Go hiking to Los Cristianos through the moonlike landscape, or take the cable car to the top of the volcano in Mount Teide National Park for epic views.

Or stick to the coast and learn to surf in the gentle waves.  


Still not sure? Hear what other teen volunteers have to say



What’s it like to join a teen volunteer program? Here is what two of our teen volunteers had to say about their time with GVI. 

“I loved the GVI Greece Under 18s experience. I met so many new people from around the world, helped the environment, and contributed to preventing the endangerment of loggerhead sea turtles,” says Jenna Zandstra, who joined the sea turtle and marine conservation teen volunteering program in Greece.

“When I signed up for the GVI under 18 project in Phang Nga, Thailand, it felt so daunting that I would be travelling alone for the first time! Yet as soon as I landed, I was greeted by the warm GVI staff and instantly felt at home. Everyone on the trip was so friendly, and I felt like I was part of a family within the first few days. The staff went above and beyond for everyone in our group during the trip, making sure we were safe, comfortable and happy, having a good time and learning whilst doing so! 

The trip was split into two weeks – the first being a service-based experience where we volunteered in a variety of places, from a sea turtle conservation base, to painting a fence at a local school to cleaning up beaches of plastic! During the first week, I learnt so much, not only in terms of learning about the effect of tourism and humans on the local culture and ecosystems, but also about working in a team, giving back to others and persevering to make a difference to the world. The second week was a cultural immersion and adventure-based week where we had an amazing time touring southern Thailand as a group and enjoying a variety of different activities. We visited stunning temples, explored caves, slept in treehouses, camped under the stars, watched beautiful sunsets, swam underneath waterfalls and so much more! 

I would recommend GVI to anyone who is looking to have an amazing experience meeting new people, experiencing a new country whilst also working to make positive change in the world. It has taught me so much about myself and the impact we have on our planet and has inspired me to make small changes in my own life that will make a big difference! 

The company itself and staff were incredible, and I cannot wait to return on another trip with GVI,” says Emily Hayden, who joined a sea turtle conservation and cultural immersion teen volunteering trip in Thailand. 

For more insights into what it’s like to volunteer as a teen, read all of our testimonials

Set the wheels in motion for your own teen volunteering experience. Get in touch today to find out more about how you can volunteer in Tenerife. 

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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