Reports from the Field

Onboard with the Marine Biology Course in Italy

Marine Biology course


“I have for many years now harboured a desire to go whale and/ or dolphin watching. So earlier this year, April-May 2015, when I got an email from Global Nomadic offering me this opportunity, I knew I had to do it. It was an opportunity I would not likely get again and a dream come true.

Sarah Murray Dolphin Conervation Project in Italy 4As it happens I enjoyed the whole experience immensely and it was a dream come true! Italy is always a popular holiday destination probably because it is an extremely beautiful country no matter where you go. I have been only once before. This is the image of Italy I always carry with me and Ischia certainly does not disappoint which may be why german PM Angela Merkel chooses to vacation here 3 times a year. I was here July-August 2015. The other 3 volunteers I spent the week with were a lot of fun and up for doing things or just sitting chatting for hours after dinner, often having a sing along as there was a guitar on board which belonged to our skipper. The crew of the Jean Gab are fantastic. They made us feel really welcome and were always able to answer our questions. It is always wonderful to me to see people so passionate and loving their work. We all worked really well together as a team. The skipper Angelo loves his boat and has over 20 years experience of doing this. This man really knows his stuff. I had a good chat with him on my last night and it was clear he really cares about whales. I found him, his friends and in fact everyone I met here to be adorable, very friendly, fun and endearing. He is a great cook too. I would certainly go back again and recommend this marine biology course to anyone who is interested. There are many reasons for doing this and I’m sure you can work those out for yourselves. It was a priviledge to live on Angelo’s boat and is more comfortable than you might expect. I slept on a top bunk below deck whilst the others chose to sleep on deck. There was a rota of chores for us too and most of these are done before 8.30am. We set sail each day at 9am.

One thing I learned it that there is a difference between whale watching and whale research, they are not the same thing at all. Here, there is no guarantee that there will be any sightings at Sarah Murray Dolphin Conervation Project in Italy 2all. During my week, we tracked 2 sperm whales on the first day and were lucky enough to see the same one twice as it came up for air and then as it took a deep dive back down thrusting its tail up in the air. This was magnificent and breathtaking. My photo of that dive didn’t turn out but it is forever in my memory. Very exciting! I did get this photo of the sperm whale but you may have to zoom in to see it.

We spent the next 3 days looking for some dolphins who were in the area. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any. They know how to stay hidden from humans if they want to.

One particular afternoon we took a dinghy to the nearby small but beautiful island of Procida. A researcher who lives there had invited us for an aperitif. He showed us around his lovely home and all the collections and posters he had there made it seem like a mini museum.

Here we had a group photo taken. I am the one second from the left fully clothed having caught a bit too much sun on the first day. I have a volunteer on each arm and the lady in the purple top is our cetacean researcher Rosanna. Next to here is another volunteer and next to her is Vincenzo our skippers ‘first mate’ and finally next to him is the youngest crew member Ash.

I left Ischia feeling happy, refreshed and energised and of course the time passed all too quickly. On the morning I left, Ischia chose to gift me with a gorgeous sunrise beside Vesuvius.

Sarah Murray Dolphin Conervation Project in Italy 1I would just like to say a huge heartfelt thank you to everyone involved. To all the people at Global Nomadic and the project whom I had email contact with for their smooth and efficient organisation of my trip and for their willingness to help and answer any questions. Also to the crew of the boat for welcoming me into their home and giving me a brilliant week. To the other volunteers for the fun and great conversations we had talking about our various cultures and languages. All of this is very valuable and I will never forget anyone whom I met here.

I would highly recommend this course to everyone. It is an unforgettable once in a lifetime experience where you will ‘live differently’ for a week. I personally would do it all again as once is not enough. Sailing, meeting new people from other countries, learning about sailing and cetaceans is definitely very Moorish and addictive. There is still so much which is not known about cetaceans and their behaviour which makes projects such as this worthwhile and valuable. Every sighting and new piece of data is very important and useful to this project. You can’t fail to benefit from and enjoy it.”

Marine Biology Course in Italy


Nomad Rating
Project Impact
Extra Activities
Author Bio

Sarah Murray