Volunteer in Portugal and support Dolphin & Whale Conservation and Research

Volunteer in Albufeira, Portugal and support Dolphin & Whale Conservation and Research whilst exploring the scenic Algarve coastline. You will gain an insight into dolphin research, learn about different research instruments and techniques, study and learn about cetaceans and other marine species and gain awareness about their conservation.

We have places for Volunteers to join for 7 days or longer from May to October each year. 

Individuals, groups and students doing research internships all welcome.

Cost including lodging in volunteer villa, 3 meals a day, training by researchers, internet access, boat fuel starts from £830

Dolphin leaping from the waterStriped dolphin swimmingA conservation volunteer deploying a droneA group of volunteers & researchers on boardCommon dolphin swimmingFin whale splashingVolunteers on the research boat 'Ketos'Rissos DolphinAlbufeira town and the beachDolphins swimming in a groupVolunteer observing a dolphinCommon dolphin swimmingVolunteers collecting data on the boatAdult and baby dolphinsVolunteers can enjoy the town of Albufeira in their free timeSeabirds and dolphinsVolunteers and staff sharing a meal together
Seabirds perched on the coastVolunteers live in a shared villaThe volunteer villa includes a swimming pool
Dolphin research volunteers setting up photo equipment
Coastline in the Algarve

About the Project

Dolphins swimming Portugal

Through our fieldwork activities at sea, education and research, this project offers the opportunity for volunteers to gain experience of working at sea, learn new methodological skills, exchange, research and work with experienced marine biologists, and actively play a role in the future conservation of marine habitats in Portugal. The field research activities are conducted on our own research vessel, 'Ketos', and also aboard commercial whale watching boats that work in partnership with the project. Below are some of the activities you can expect to be involved with as a marine conservation volunteer in Portugal;

  • Volunteer Observing dolphins PortugalFor every cetacean group we encounter, we collect a range of biological, ecological and environmental data.
  • Volunteers will get to see several species of cetaceans, sharks, sea turtles and marine birds found in the South of Portugal (please note not all sightings are guaranteed due to local weather conditions)
  • Learn to identify and interpret cetacean behaviour and social composition
  • Increase your pool of knowledge through theoretical lectures and fieldwork training from experienced researchers
  • Learn about and use several of the most frequently used techniques and methodologies to study cetaceans
  • Learn about data collection, photo analysis (photo-id) and techniques in underwater and aerial videos, and more

The species most frequently sighted during the field season are the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) and common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Occasionally, we also see the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus), Orca whale (Orcinus orca), minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus).

Project Background

Dolphin swimming PortugalThis project was established in 2010, working in the region of the Algarve, specifically Albufeira, Portugal, in order to study and conserve marine mammals in their natural environment. The project aims to be a reference for research, education and conservation of the environment in Portuguese waters, promoting activities and partnerships which empower our understanding of marine-related issues, identifying threats and mitigating their effects on marine wildlife. The project also works closely with local stakeholders, such as dolphin-watching companies, administration and authorities, other NGOs and public environmental institutions. Together, we develop scientific research in environmental topics and try to promote a healthier and safer environment for marine species.

Dates & Costs

Cetacean research volunteer using drone6th to 12th May 2019
13th to 19th May 2019
20th to 26th May 2019
27th May to 2nd June 2019
3rd to 9th June 2019
10th to 16th June 2019
17th to 23rd June 2019
24th to 30th June 2019
1st to 7th July 2019
8th to 14th July 2019
15th to 21st July 2019
22nd to 28th July 2019
29th July to 4th August 2019
5th to 11th August 2019
12th to 18th August 2019
19th to 25th August 2019
26th August to 1st September 2019
2nd to 8th September 2019
9th to 15th September 2019
16th to 22nd September 2019
23rd to 29th September 2019
30th September to 6th October 2019
7th to 13th October 2019
14th to 20th October 2019
21st to 27th October 2019

The volunteer field season starts on the 1st of May and ends on the 31st October every year. We usually recommend that volunteers stay for a minimum of two weeks to get the fullest experience, but 7 days is the minimum stay. Volunteers should arrive preferably on the Monday morning of their first day and depart the day after their volunteering finishes. 

Our minimum stay is 7 days and the activities are planned on a weekly basis, but we can be flexible with start/end dates in order to meet your travel arrangements. However, we don’t recommend to arrive/depart on Sundays because of public transportation restrictions.

Cetacean research volunteers in Portugal


The cost to join this project volunteering with whale & dolphin research in Portugal is £830 for 1 week, £1480 for 2 weeks, £2130 for 3 weeks, £2480 for 4 weeks, £3060 for 5 weeks, £3640 for 6 weeks, £4220 for 7 weeks, £4800 for 8 weeks, and every extra week past 8 weeks costs £550.

The project costs include the following;

  • Accommodation in our shared volunteer villa
  • Project support from our trained research staff
  • Transportation to/from the marina
  • Meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  • Fieldwork activities on board the research vessel or commercial dolphin-watching vessel and fuel costs

Dolphin leaping Algarve

The following are not included in the project costs;

  •  Flights and Transport to and from the project base in Albufeira
  •  Meals in restaurants and snack-bars outside the volunteer villa (including the restaurants at the marina);
  •  Extra tourist activities you may wish to do during your free time
  •  Personal insurance (all participants must have health/travel insurance)
  •  Personal expenses
  •  PADI qualification (although this is available as an optional extra during your stay)

Accommodation, Travel & Requirements

Volunteer accommodation portugalVolunteers will stay with our researchers and assistants in a shared villa in Albufeira, Algarve, Portugal. Volunteers will share three rooms, three bathrooms, a living room, kitchen, office, garden, farm with a small crop of fruits and a private pool. The house has a TV, Wi-Fi and a laundry room. The rooms are mixed gender, however whenever possible the distribution will be arranged as to have separate gender rooms. The atmosphere is informal and friendly, and everyone shares the responsibility of doing household chores. It provides a great environment for exchanging ideas among the whole team. It is also important to keep in mind that the team is usually composed of various nationalities with different levels of English, so fellow participants need to be patient with each other.

Volunteer house Portugal

The project fee covers all meals prepared at the villa, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Any meals outside of the villa, as well as extra snacks, beverages and alcoholic drinks, are not included and are at your own expense. Special dietary requirements can be catered for (vegan, vegetarian, intolerances etc.), please just inform us of your requirements when applying.

The house is located in a quiet area, 10 minutes drive from downtown Albufeira, the marina and the beach. The train station, local markets, supermarkets and cafes are all within walking distance. Albufeira is one of the most attractive and touristic areas in the Algarve, known for its famous beaches. Several activities are available during your free time such as walking and hiking, exploring the beautiful coastline, birdwatching, city tours, and so on. If you are a budding diver, you can also pick up or improve your scuba diving skills. You can choose from a simple snorkeling tour or discover scuba diving course, up to becoming a PADI-certified diver. If you are interested in getting your scuba diving certification (PADI) while on your placement, please let us know as special prices are available.


Albufeira beach, Portugal

We advise volunteers fly into Faro airport (code FAO). Lisbon airport is also an option for flights coming from outside the EU. From Lisbon, you can catch a direct bus or train to Albufeira. After arriving at Faro Airport, you will need to take a bus that leaves from the airport and stops at the train station. After that, there are several ways to go to Albufeira including train, bus or private transfer.


In order to participate in this project, all volunteers should;

  • Be 16 years-old or older
  • Be able to stay for at least 1 week (7 days)
  • Speak enough English to be able to communicate effectively with other participants
  • Be in good health, physically fit and able to walk and climb easily
  • Be able to swim and feel comfortable on a boat
  • Be able to tolerate hot weather and long periods of exposure to the sun

Background Information

Below is a Map showing some key locations for the project:

Volunteer in Portugal Map

About the Climate of the Region

The climate in Portugal is temperate with mild springs and autumns, warm and dry summers and cold winters. During the field season, May to October, the temperature will vary on average between 17˚C and 29˚C.

The fieldwork is conducted from a dedicated research boat (time at sea from 4 up to 6 hours) and dolphin-watching boats with trips that can last up to 2 to 3 hours. During the fieldwork we are exposed to the sun with no protection from the elements, so participants should come prepared, however, even in hot days, it can get cold and windy at sea so it is advised to bring some warmer clothes as well.

What to expect day to day as a volunteer and during your free time

Whale & Dolphin research volunteers on boat portugalThe fieldwork usually starts at 8 AM and is mainly conducted from Albufeira’s marina. The practical component of the volunteering can vary between 2 to 8 hours each day spent at sea, according to the daily activities, boat availability and the weather conditions. During your stay you will have opportunities to participate in several dedicated research trips on the research boat Ketos, and also on the boats of the dolphin watching companies that collaborate with our NGO.

At the end of each day you’ll also be asked to introduce your trip data (e.g. behaviour, group composition, GPS position, weather conditions, reaction of the animals to the surrounding boats) in our database and participate in the photo identification work and preliminary data analysis. Every team member shares all the house chores, such as cooking and cleaning, so the office work is combined with the housework at the end of the day. Since days can get quite long and heavy, all the activities are distributed by the team leader to avoid any work overload. In case of bad weather, there may be a day off or an office day, which will be the team leader’s decision according to the project’s needs.

Cetacean research volunteers in PortugalYou will have 1 day off during the week, to relax, enjoy and to get the chance to do some local tourism. On the rest of the days, when all the tasks have been completed, participants have free time. The field base has a TV with USB reader so participants can bring movies or TV series to watch. Albufeira is a very touristic city with famous beaches, intense nightlife, cultural events, beautiful surroundings, amazing weather and food, and close from other interesting places like the natural reserve of Ria Formosa or the ancient castle of Silves, just to name a few.

Volunteer Testimonials

Dolphin swimming PortugalTiffany Fung, Volunteered for 2 weeks:

I was mainly involved in recording and entering data about the sea conditions (temperature, depth, wind direction etc.) and taking photos of the dolphins in order to examine their behaviour changes when a drone approaches, as well as for photo identification.

The project had very caring and thoughtful staff, and it was flexible to plan your own schedule at the weekend. It was also great to expand my marine knowledge during the project.

The accommodation was of a high standard, with a large bed, and there was a wide range of food choices.

Katy Sykes, volunteered for 2 weeks in July 2017

Algarve coast PortugalI was involved in a lot of activities at the project. On the RHIB, I helped to collect data about cetaceans, note down information, take photos that could later be used for photo ID and measuring the visibility of the water. I also went on commercial tourist boats to collect data. Back at the house, I attended lectures about taxonomy, laws, behaviour etc., helped transfer collected data onto a spreadsheet and sorted/used photos for identification.

I would say that the project organised everything really well. My trip was really easy to organise and everything I needed to know was in the information pack I received after subscription.

It was an experience of a lifetime, everyone was so friendly, making the learning environment really positive. It just felt like home away from home, where you could meet people with the same interests as you/who are like-minded. You learn so much that you wouldn’t be able to learn elsewhere

The standard of everything was really high, especially the food. The house was really nice with a lot of communal space where you could relax and get to know other volunteers, as well as your own private space in your bedroom. Loads of different dishes were made and volunteers help to prepare meals, clean up, wash up etc. All food allergies/diet requirements were also kindly accommodated to.

I would most definitely recommend this project to other volunteers.

How to Join the Project

Dolphins swimming near Albufeira, PortugalIf you are interested in joining this project, you will need to fill out the online application form (you can also print it out and send it to us by post) – to secure a placement on the project, please complete and submit the form including your application payment of £180. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we would reimburse this payment fully. For those who are accepted, 25% of the final payment is due within 7 days of being accepted onto the project, and the balance payment is due 2 months before arrival. Once your place is confirmed, you will receive a pre-departure package with detailed information on your project, travel info, suggested items to bring and so on.

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