Volunteer with dolphins and whales in the Hebrides, Scotland.

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust

Cetacean conservation in Scotland aboard a research sailing yacht


Who: Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

Where: The Hebrides Islands, Scotland (3 departure points – Tobermory, Kyle of Lochalsh, and Ullapool).

Focus: Dolphin and whale monitoring from the research sailing yacht Silurian (used as a filming platform in the BBC series The Blue Planet).

When: April – Oct | Specific expedition dates

Duration: 7-12 days

Suitability: 16+ | Great for students doing research.

Requirements:  No experience required as full training is provided. Volunteers need good eyesight and hearing.

Cost: From GBP 895 (includes accommodation, food (not drink), training by researchers and boat fuel).

As a volunteer, you will:

  • Experience life on board an expedition research sailing yacht and explore the Hebrides.
  • Gain experience as a marine mammal field biologist and learn from experts who’ve been conducting cetacean research in the Hebrides since the 1990s.
  • Conduct cetacean surveys and engage in wildlife identification.
  • Go ashore in the evenings to explore land-based wildlife, from carnivorous plants and orchids to rare bees and eagles. Each evening the yacht will anchor in a different location, usually off one of the many remote and uninhabited islands in the area.
  • Collect photographic and acoustic data on the various species of cetacean found in the survey area to therefore identify individuals using distinguishable marks on their dorsal fins.
  • Take part in research such as the differences between vocalisations; the impact of pollution and boat traffic on the animals; and international migratory route research.
  • Contribute to the trust’s excellent citizen science programme. Every sighting in the database has been collected by a member of the public.

The Base

Accommodation: Shared cabins for up to 2 persons.

Food: Full board. Cooking is done on a rotation basis to set meal plans.

Max. Passengers: 6 volunteers and 4 crew members.

Support: Remote project, with limited access to emergency medical services.

Departure: Expeditions depart from three different locations to explore specific areas around the islands of the Hebrides depending on the time of year and wildlife to monitor: Tobermory, Kyle of Lochalsh, and Ullapool.

Wildlife Spotting

24 species of whales and dolphins have been recorded in the Hebrides – that’s nearly a third of the global total. The most commonly encountered species, and target of specific research, include:

  • Minke whales
  • Harbour porpoises
  • Bottlenose dolphins
  • White-beaked dolphins
  • Common dolphins.

Rarer cetaceans can also be spotted, such as Orcas, Risso’s dolphins, White-sided dolphins, Humpback whales, Sperm whales, Sei whaless, Bottlenose whales and Fin whales.

In addition, non-cetacean species are also spotted and recorded such as, sunfish (by end-summer), basking sharks (May and October), seals, and seabirds.

About Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) is a marine conservation charity that takes action through a programme of community based research and education. They promote local stewardship and support change in the conservation of Hebridean cetaceans and marine life.

Volunteers train to become citizen scientists on research boat trips as well as have the opportunity to get them involved with the sighting networks. In addition to this, the trust provides educational experiences for schools in their dedicated Discovery Centre, on their research boat.

The trust has a pioneering Cetacean Research Programme which holds the largest database of its kind in the UK. As a result, they’ve been able to provide the evidence to really promote marine conservation efforts around Scotland.

Visit their website to learn about cetacean identification skills, explore their interactive map to find out where the latest sightings are, report your own sightings, sponsor an animal, donate, or book onto one of their programmes.

Headquarters: Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, 28 Main Street, Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland, PA75 6NU, UK.


The next step: Visit Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust for more info and to book.
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