Dimitra Christidi saw her Summer dream come true in the National Marine Park of Alonissos, Volunteering with dolphins in Greece. “Ever since I can remember I was fascinated by marine life and the million different organisms that resided in the aquatic habitat. But my excitement for cetaceans could not be hidden and that’s when I realized I wanted to learn every little fact about the dolphin life that I could possibly learn! So, coming across the Dolphin volunteering holiday I didn’t have a hard time choosing what plans I’d make for the following summer!
The communication with the team was flawless and the arrangements for my travels were made without any labor on my part. The day came and I arrived to the mesmerizing island of Alonissos, together with a friend of mine. We came to offer our services to the conservation team! However, we could also benefit ourselves from the chance of observing these amazing creatures in their natural habitat!
Our stay was quite pleasant, in a small apartment offered by the NGO MOm that works for the protection of sea mammals. Located in the village that holds the main port of the island, yet situated in a nice elevated porch that offered a wonderful view of the rising sun in the morning.
In general, Alonissos is a Greek island with lush vegetation, as opposed to the norm of the Aegean landscape, blue-green waters and quite forgotten by the tourist industry. Thus, we got the feeling we were exploring rarely walked paths.
Aboard the vessel
Our days passed by aboard the Mom vessel, navigating through the waters of the Marine Park of Sporades, which is a Natura 2000 protected area. This is the point to mention- Do not forget to pack your sun cream! The sun is scorching hot in Greek weather, yet the clean waters make up for it in our breaks, visiting amazing secluded beaches.
During our time aboard, we were looking for dolphin pods in order to take photos of their fins and identify any known individuals later in the “lab”, as well as count the dolphins and see if their numbers have fluctuated in the recent years.
We were lucky to have Costas as our captain, who was a funny Greek guy, always making jokes! He was making us feel comfortable even if the weather was a bit windy, as he was very familiar with the waters around the islands.
The moment when you meet these formidable creatures is when you forget everything and feel an instinctive connection with nature. I, for one, never wanted to leave the boat!
In one case, of extra wind and bad weather, the trip to the open blue was postponed. We took the chance to discover the whole island and find amazing hidden beaches, and great paths to walk on and enjoy nature. We even practiced our nature photography skills, meeting lots of different lizards, geckos, butterflies and other insects, a rabbit once and of course lots and lots of summering birds, such as the rare Eleonora’s falcon!
After the boat trips
In the afternoon, after a little rest, we met at the information centre to compare our photos to the database, identify the dolphins and learn amazing facts about their behaviour and their ecology. Basically, a glimpse of what it is like to be a cetacean researcher. In the evening, we prepared home cooked dinners at home, enjoying local cuisine, but also exchanging recipes among us, from each different country the group was from.
All in all, a great experience and images I will hold dear for the rest of my life!”
Story by: Dimitra Christidi
Images by I. Gavriilidi ©
Want to know more? Head over to the Volunteering Holiday with Dolphins in Greece