I found GoEco by chance while preparing to spend a month in Italy on my own. I knew I wanted to find an ocean related volunteer opportunity for at least a week to break up my travels. When I read about the Dolphin Project, I was excited. I did a little bit of research ahead of time on the Mediterranean and cetaceans, but the information sent directly from the project was most helpful in preparing.
The Sunday we stepped onto the boat happened to be my birthday. The group was gradually introduced to each other and the crew as we each arrived. First mate, Rossana briefed us, the volunteers, on the purpose and the scope of the project as well as general operations, while we sat on the deck and munched on slices of sweet watermelon.
After the briefing, we walked to a private cove with a hotel and restuarant, where we swam in the sea and dipped in warm pools. While I floated on my back in the cool water I had to acknowledge, this was a perfect day. We enjoyed a lovely dinner and watched the sun set before walking back to the harbor. I slept on the deck that night and every night during my time on the Jean Gab.
Have I mentioned the beautiful Jean Gab? She is incredibly stunning and so lovingly maintained. It is hard to believe she is nearing 100 years old. I immediately fell in love with boat life as well. I loved how everything had a place and everyone had a job. I also loved the fresh air and the rocking that lulled me to sleep anytime I let it. Angelo, her captain is clearly in love with her as well. After seeing his garden in the harbor, I decided that I too could live on a boat. To think I had been nervous about spending a whole week on a boat.
I no longer remember exactly what I had expected prior to boarding the boat. I do remember being a little nervous about seasickness and preparing myself to be a little bored at times, knowing we would be on watch only in shifts. I struggled with neither.
With four native Italian speakers on board, I was able to listen, practice and ask and endless amount of questions, most beginning with "Como se dice...?". In the weeks following my time on the Jean Gab, Italians frequently commented, "Oh, you speak some Italian" and I would respond,"I DO?!" I also loaded my bag with books to keep me entertained and to give my eyes a rest between watch. I also did my best to learn as much as possible about Italian cooking from Angelo and others. When prompted, he would give lectures on olive oil, different types of pasta and seasonal ingredients. All in Italian of course!
From the moment we left the harbor that first morning, Rossana began educating us on the local wildlife. She has such an eye for spotting a bird or splash of tuna in the distance. She was easy to listen to because of her passion and so knowledgeable.
On our second day at sea we encountered a pod of 20 or more spinner dolphins. Time speeds up when you are watching these animals.
There were days where we saw only birds and tuna, but we enjoyed working as a team to document what we did see and we finished some of the slower days, anchoring in a quiet cove to cool off and swim. One day, while we were doing just this, a small motorboat with just a driver pulled up to the Jean Gab and called out to Angelo. Then he tossed up a whole, chilled, watermelon. It seemed that everyone knew Angelo. In the evenings, I usually had time to go for a walk or a swim or generally stretch my legs before dinner.
Our last day out, we had the opportunity to track down a young male sperm whale named, Brunone. It is a labor of love to find these beauties. We listened and moved and stopped and watched. Until finally, Rossana spotted his spray in the distance with binoculars. Our efforts were rewarded and we were fortunate to encounter him for a short period and log his activity.
By the time we said our goodbyes, our little crew had begun to feel like family. I felt lucky to have met such a great group. I gave myself a couple of days after the week of volunteering to explore Ischia and unwind. I hiked to the top of the volcanic island, bathed in the thermal pools and explored several picturesque beaches. I highly recommend giving yourself some extra time on either end of your trip to see Ischia. I plan to go back annually if possible. And I will definitely use GoEco to help me find opportunities on future travels wherever I go.
Helpful tips for the enjoyment of life on the Jean Gab-
I did not struggle with seasickness, but this could be in part because I took a non drowsy Dramamine the first day at sea. I think it still made me a little drowsy, but there was plenty of time to nap between shifts.
I slept great, but that would be due in large part to my eye mask and ear plugs. Sleeping on the deck was nice and cool, but there was light and noise from the town center. If you struggle with sleep, take precaution. I wish I'd brought extra ear plugs to share.
I also wore an all natural bug repellent to sleep each night to prevent bug bites. I still got a few, but they did not keep me up.
Sunscreen is an obvious one, but keeping it handy and plentiful is important. I also wore a sun hat to protect my face. I would suggest a hat with a strap for when the wind picks up.
Boredom will not be a problem if you enjoy reading, language learning, napping, chatting and cooking. Definitely bring reading material and ask for a job if you need something to do. I worked hard to earn the title of best sous chef from Angelo.