Special Whale Watching and research program
THE TOUR IN BRIEF
The Cetacean Sanctuary Research project welcomes people willing to help with the collection of data and also
with various other aspects of the fieldwork. Every day will be spent at sea as long as the weather conditions allow it.
This is much more than Whale Watching: you will be involved in all activities conducted in the field and help collect
data at sea, although no previous knowledge is required.
The 6-day cruises take place between May and September during the sunny and warm Mediterranean summer.
Participants are hosted on the motor-sailer "Pelagos", a confortabable 68 ft (21-meter) motorsailer
which accommodates a maximum of 11 participants, 4 researchers and a skipper.
With weekly departures from Sanremo (Italy), you will be cruising around the Ligurian Sea between Italy, France and Corsica.
English is the official language on board.
The study area lies within the Pelagos Sanctuary, the world’s first High Seas marine protected area, which hosts
one of the highest concentrations of whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean.
The participants’ contribution not only represents the main funding source for the research; volunteers are also of
valuable assistance to the researchers and they are expected to help in all aspects of fieldwork, noting that they are
part of a scientific project.
The CSR Project is composed of highly qualified international team members. The fieldwork is usually conducted by an
experienced Principal Investigator, one or two researchers and one research assistant and/or intern student.
Life in the field and the daily schedule may vary depending on the sea state, weather conditions and research priorities.
Eight different species of cetaceans can be sighted in the study area; to investigate them many different techniques
Depending on the species, pictures of different body parts are taken in order to identify single individuals,
using a technique called photo-identification.
- Nicks, notches and whitish scars on the dorsal fin are the distinctive features used to identify individual Risso’s dolphins
- Sperm whales are identified by the trailing edge of their flukes, which the whales usually lift out of the water before diving, as well as by body pigmentation.
- Fin whales can be recognized by the dorsal fin and the “blaze” and “chevron” which are pigmentation patterns located behind the blowhole and on the right side of the body.
- Common bottlenose dolphins and long-finned pilot whales are mainly identified by the natural markings on their dorsal fins, while Cuvier’s beaked whales are mainly recognized on the basis of their pigmentation and white scars on their bodies.
When diving, sperm whales are tracked acoustically by a hydrophone array towed by the boat. By listening to their typical sounds, researchers can track the animals even for several hours. Vocalisations of long-finned pilot whales, Risso’s dolphins and striped dolphins are also recorded.
We can also estimate the body length of sperm whales thanks to a technique called photogrammetry, which involves the use of a digital camera and laser range-finder binoculars.
Sometimes, when Risso’s dolphins and long-finned pilot whales come to bowride, we use a sponge attached to the tip of a wooden pole to collect small fragments of skin for genetic analyses. This technique is totally non-invasive.
Occasionally we collect faeces of different cetacean species in order to study their foraging habits. We also monitor the presence and abundance of jellyfishes in the area, with occasional sampling.
ACCOMMODATION & FOOD
PELAGOS MOTOR-SAILER (liveaboard)
Cabins with private bathroom and hot water.
Food is provided for the duration
of the cruise. First dinner in Sanremo on arrival day is not included.
How to get there
Sanremo is a small town on the Italian Riviera, just a few kilometres from the Italian/French border.
If you are planning to arrive by plane, the closest international airports are Nice (France, 60km to the west) and Genova
(Italy, 140km to the east).
In both cases there are shuttles from the airport to the railway station, where you can easily find a train that stops in Sanremo.