Expeditions in the Pelagos Sanctuary: A Study of Cetaceans and Biodiversity, France


These sailing expeditions aim to study the marine biodiversity of the open sea in the Mediterranean Sea, in the Pelagos sanctuary of marine mammals. The crew identifies and records sightings of whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other animals living off the coast. The expeditions last 7 days, by sailboat, and are supervised by an eco-guide and a skipper. No special skills are necessary to participate.

DUREE : 1 minimum week

DATES : June to September

ACTIVITY : Full nature (sea)

SPECIES : Cetaceans, turtles, rays and sharks ...


PHYSICAL LEVEL : Easy to moderate

INVOLVEMENT : Morning to evening

PUBLIC : All audiences over 18 (minor accompanied by an adult from 16), individuals, eco-solidarity leaves, students

TO KNOW : By sailboat


The expeditions to the Pelagos Sanctuary are organized from June to September. During these missions of 7 days each, with a departure and an arrival in Hyères (Var), the crew sails off the Var and the Côte d'Azur, in the Pelagos sanctuary for marine mammals, in search of the marine fauna: cetaceans, turtles, rays and sharks, ....

The ecovolunteers are supervised by an ecoguide and a chef de bord. The eco-guides all have a higher level of training in oceanology and have received training specific by Cybelle Planète. The entire crew participates in the collection of information at sea: behavioral observations, counting and computer entry. These expeditions for the study of cetaceans and biodiversity have been organized in the Mediterranean Sea since 2005, with around a hundred ecovolunteers participating each year!

The Mediterranean Sea is rich in biodiversity, the areas studied are all conducive to beautiful encounters with cetaceans, including bottlenose dolphins, sperm whales and fin whales, but also sea turtles, sea devils, sharks, fish…. The navigation program depends on weather conditions and scientific requirements. Usually the sailboat sails from sunrise to sunset. One or more nights at sea are to be expected, the sailboat can also stop for a few nights near the coast, in creeks.

scientific program

The scientific monitoring of animals living off the coasts requires large financial and human resources (boat, crew, observers, etc.). Without the contribution of ecovolunteers, nothing would be possible. Throughout these expeditions, the information collected at sea is entered into databases and will then be shared free of charge with the scientific community. The objective is to contribute to research on cetaceans, offshore fauna, and pelagic ecosystems of the Mediterranean. All of its data have already been used in several studies and have thus made it possible to highlight new strategies for better conservation of cetaceans in the Mediterranean.
logo CybelleMediterranee 16x9Data collected fully contribute to Cybelle Mediterranean program. This participatory science program, run by the Cybelle Planète association, is dedicated to monitoring animals living off the coast: cetaceans, turtles, rays and sharks, fish…. Cybelle Méditerranée brings together the observations of these species reported by volunteer boaters, but also by eco-volunteers participating in one of our sea expeditions.

Always with the objective of gathering and sharing knowledge, Cybelle Planète administers and moderates the OBSenMER network in the Mediterranean Sea area and thus manages common tools for collecting and sharing information on marine fauna: OBSenMER mobile app, collective database, etc. Cybelle Méditerranée also trains eco-guides for expert-level data collection.

In order to get a realistic idea of ​​your everyday life on board, read the synopses of previous years Missions

Location / Habitat

From June to September, the sailboat sails north of the Pelagos sanctuary, offshore between the Var, the Côte d'Azur and Corsica; between the Ligurian Sea and the Gulf of Lion. Stopovers are planned for crew changes and refueling the boat, every 7 days, in Hyères (Var).

this pelagosThe Mediterranean Sea is a semi-enclosed sea. It represents 0,8% of the world's ocean surface and 8 to 9% of the planet's marine biodiversity (10 to 12 species). Thanks to its rich and unique biodiversity, it is one of the most important biodiversity hot spots. The seabed is very diverse and gives rise to quite specific water circulation patterns, favoring high concentrations of marine fauna, such as marine mammals and sea turtles that live or migrate in its waters.

The Pelagos Sanctuary for marine mammals, in the northeast of the Mediterranean. This area is very productive and rich in plankton, it is very frequented by marine mammals. Its characteristics led to the creation of a protected area. The marine sanctuary is an agreement signed in 1999 between Italy, France and Monaco. The protection zone of almost 90000 km² extends from the peninsula of Giens, to the south of Tuscany and to the north of Sardinia. The entire west coast of Corsica is part of the sanctuary. Within this perimeter, 2 to 3 whales and 000 dolphins meet regularly.

The missions are also the opportunity to discover the coast and the islands of Hyères (Golden Islands), Porquerolles, Port Cros, or the Levant, and the Lérins islands further east.


The most commonly encountered species:

Grand Dauphin (Tursiops truncatus): The most familiar cetaceans in the Mediterranean. These dolphins live in small groups of 2 to 15 individuals in coastal waters. Species classified as "Vulnerable" in the Mediterranean on the IUCN red list. The Mediterranean population is estimated at 10 individuals.

Tursiops truncatus, copyright Cybelle Planète

whale Common (Baleanoptera physalus): Second largest animal in the world (after the blue whale). They usually live in small groups, on the high seas, in areas rich in plankton. Their distribution varies with the seasons, in the west and in the center of the Mediterranean Sea. Species classified as "Vulnerable" in the Mediterranean on the IUCN red list. The Mediterranean population is estimated at 5 individuals.

Balaenoptera physalus, copyright Cybelle Planète

pilot whale (globicephala melas): The most sociable of cetaceans, they live in groups of 10 to more than 50 individuals. This cetacean is present mainly in the western Mediterranean. Knowledge is insufficient to be able to estimate the state of the population in the Mediterranean Sea.

Globicephala melas, copyright Cybelle Planète

Risso (Grampus griseus): A widely distributed species that usually lives in deep waters, in small groups. The Risso's Dolphin is widely distributed in the Mediterranean. Knowledge is insufficient to be able to estimate the state of the population in the Mediterranean Sea.

Grampus griseus, copyright Cybelle Planète

Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus): Species mainly present at the level of the continental slopes where they can dive for more than an hour in search of food. Sperm whales are distributed throughout the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the absence of a reliable estimate of the size of its population, it is believed that the total number of sperm whales in the Mediterranean basin does not exceed a few hundred individuals. Species classified as "Vulnerable" in the Mediterranean on the IUCN red list.

Physeter macrocephalus, copyright Cybelle Planète

Dolphin Blue and White (Stenella coerueoalba): A very common species throughout the Mediterranean Sea, the blue and white dolphin often travels in large groups and prefers open waters beyond the continental shelf due to their richness in food. It is possible to find it also near the coasts, when the waters are relatively deep. Species classified as "Vulnerable" in the Mediterranean by the IUCN Red List.

Stenella coerueoalba, copyright Cybelle Planète

Three species of sea turtles are found in the Mediterranean. The Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) Is considered as a kind of way. The green turtle (Chelonia mydas) Et the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) lay eggs in the Mediterranean, mainly in localized sites from Greece to the extreme east of the Mediterranean. These two species are classified as “Endangered” in the Mediterranean by the IUCN Red List.

turtle, copyright Cybelle Planète

Le Sea DevilOr Mantis Mediterranean (Mobula mobular), is present only in the Mediterranean (endemic species). Species classified as “Endangered” in the Mediterranean by the IUCN Red List.

Mobula mobular, copyright Cybelle Planète

Finally, you will have the opportunity to observe many other species: sharks, swordfish, tuna, moonfish, many species of birds (shearwaters, oceanids ...), as well as many species of macro-plankton ( jellyfish).

Involvement ecovolunteer

As qu'écovolontaire you 3 roles for scientific work under the direction of eco-guide:

  • Visual observations: behavioral monitoring of cetacean groups, counts of animals encountered, monitoring of maritime traffic, macro-waste ....
  • Taking notes,
  • computer input of data collected: Using OBSenMER application level EXPERT.

Constant monitoring is provided on the deck, so as to obtain the most accurate information possible. In the day, and depending on demand, the eco-guide will give explanations about cetology and the marine environment.

The ecoguide is responsible for photo-identification of cetaceans: primarily Risso's dolphin, bottlenose dolphin and black Pilot Whale, Sperm Whale and Common. Photographs of eco-volunteers are welcome and will contribute to the development of photo-identification catalog.

The ecovolunteers fully participate in the life on board observations and data collection, using maneuvers the boat and bar shifts, meal preparation ...

The sailing time will be mainly devoted to the collection of information on the wide wildlife. Outside these times, you can swim in the sea or at anchor in the coves and islands (with the agreement of the crew).

quarters of 3 people are planned throughout the week for observations, preparing meals and washing dishes.

In order to get a realistic idea of ​​your everyday life on board, read the synopses of previous years Missions

Requirements and constraints

To participate in this mission you must have:

  • A covid-19 PCR or negative antigen test carried out within 72 hours before boarding (including for people who have already had COVID and people who have been vaccinated)
  • good visual,
  • The ability to work in a team,
  • A good ability to concentrate for several hours,
  • Respectful behavior towards nature and the environment,
  • The ability to live in a community, to be tolerant and positive,
  • Know how to swim at least 50 meters.

Before you register:

  • It is important to take detailed documentation for download (see right of this text).
  • You will need to return the medical fitness form (attached to the detailed documentation) completed and signed by you and your attending physician.
  • You will also need to send us an email regulatory information about you (list provided after registration).

Language (s) used (s)

French or English

Conditions for minors

Minors are accepted from 16 years accompanied by a parent. However this implies thatthey will participate in different tasks in the same way as the rest of the crew, irrespective of their accompanying parent. The crew members are not educators, and no special treatment will be made at participating youth, life on board is collective and constraints are the same for all. We therefore ask for his last show maturity and motivation to accept to live in an adult crew and to be considered as such.

Any request to participate from a person under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a letter of motivation from them, written in French.
For participants minors, parents must provide a disclaimer to Cybelle Planet.


All assignments begin and end at the port of Hyères. The meeting takes place at the port, the morning of the first day, at the boat. Once the preparations have been made (refueling, storage and organization races, etc.), the skipper and the eco-guide will present the life and safety instructions to you, as well as the scientific program. The departure, weather permitting, takes place the same afternoon. The end of the mission takes place 7 days later, at the end of the morning after cleaning the boat.

Persons involved two straight session: a 1 / 2 day "off" is provided between the two sessions. The eco-volunteers will sleep on board, however.

General Navigation: coast, open sea and nights off if necessary. Possible stops in coves along the coast. One or more nights at sea are likely. Depending on the purpose of the day and weather conditions, navigation plans are not expected before the night.

The project can not be held responsible for weather hazards. If time does not go out to sea, several solutions will be considered: anchor in a creek or a port where the crew can arrange tours, walks ...

For more information on the course of the week and the observations you can consult logbooks missions from previous years.

Specific provisions Covid-19 summer 2021

The summer 2021 expeditions will take place during the state of emergency in France. The pandemic is less present in France but we must remain vigilant and adapt the precautionary measures to be taken to the constraints linked to life in a sailboat.

Distancing: Given the constraints related to life on board a sailboat, and the minimum number of participants necessary for proper data collection, it is not possible to respect the recommended distances. You will have to share your cabin with another eco-volunteer, and the living spaces do not always allow to respect the distance of one meter between each person.

TEST: We will ask each team member for proof of a Negative PCR or Antigenic Covid-19 TEST carried out within 72 hours before boarding. This document will be provided when you board. In the absence of a negative test, the skipper may refuse you access to the boat. The test is mandatory, even for people who have been vaccinated or have already contracted COVID-19.

Crew: The crew will be made up of 7 eco-volunteers, an eco-guide and a skipper.

Wearing a mask: For practical and comfort reasons, we cannot recommend wearing a mask inside the ship.

Risks: Once the moorings have been released, the risks of contamination from the outside are very limited, if not zero. The major risk of contamination being during stopovers at the port and the arrival of new ecovolunteers.

So we decided to take the following measures:

-          No stopovers planned, except those related to safety (full of gasoline, water, medical need, or other emergency…). If the weather forces us to take refuge in a port, outings outside the boat must be limited to what is strictly necessary (essential shopping, registration at the harbor master's office, etc.) and with the wearing of a mask (please bring your masks).

-          Hand and forearm washing, compulsory whenever necessary (entry / exit of the boat in particular), with soap or hydro-alcoholic gel.

-          For hygiene reasons, we ask eco-volunteers to bring their own bottle of water / gourd. They can fill it as they go with the water available on board. We also ask them not to forget to bring a 1-seater fitted sheet, a pillow and a pillow cover.

-          The boat will be disinfected, in addition to the usual cleaning, with specific products, systematically, between each week and after having stored the races.

-          We will take the temperature of each person boarding, we reserve the right to refuse boarding to persons with a temperature of more than 37,8 ° C.

-          To allow the whole crew to sail as serenely as possible, we ask all participants to comply as much as possible with the recommended barrier measures https://www.gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus until they arrive on board to protect themselves and the other members of the crew.

Cybelle Planète cannot assume any responsibility in the event of contamination on board.


You are hosted on a boat that has all the equipment necessary for navigation in safe conditions. On board, 4 double cabins and a bathroom with toilet. Accommodation on board the sailboat imposes certain constraints: the use of water (including showers) is restricted by sea, and you have to share your cabin with one or another ecovolunteer (preferably the same gender as you). Comfort is therefore limited and the important promiscuity.
Life on board is friendly and warm, the preparation of meals, the dishes and the cleaning are done in turn in shifts of 3 people. Meals take place in the cockpit, or in the saloon. Everyone is required to participate in household chores, such as shopping, cooking, cleaning ...
Provisioning races are carried out on the first day or during a stopover. On a sailboat, storage conditions are limited, especially for the cost, and it is not possible to make a special menu for each passenger. Vegetarians are however welcome.


The number of eco-volunteers is limited to 7 week to allow everyone to actively participate in research projects and clearly identify the tasks entrusted.


All missions start and end at the port of Hyères, and last 7 days / 6 nights. These expeditions take place from June to September.

2022 Dates: 

The 2022 dates are not yet available, see you in early 2022 for registrations!

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Due to the pandemic, Cybelle Planète has set up specific conditions for participation. Please consult our conditions of participation before signing up for a mission.

See information related to Covid-19

Travel Information

The meeting place is the first day 10h the port of Hyères. You must reach the port on your own. The crew phone number will be communicated in advance and you can call them the same day to know the exact location of the appointment.

On the last day of participation, the mission ends at the end of the morning.

The crew will not offer accommodation on board before or after your mission. You will need to provide your accommodation.


Your eco-volunteering mission involves your voluntary participation in the project as well as your biodiversity donation. For each mission, the amount of the biodiversity donation is calculated according to the needs of the project and the time you will spend there. 70% of your donation is donated to the hosting project, it will largely be used to cover its material and personnel needs for its sustainability, and also to cover the hosting costs of eco-volunteer volunteers. Find out more about the Don Biodiversity

The costs of the ecovolunteers' missions consist of : your biodiversity donation and your membership in the mission, and non-tax deductible costs (ex: insurance, additional heating costs, over-classification of your accommodation - if offered)

Compensation for the impact of your trip

Cybelle planet pledges to reduceimpact of long-haul flights on the environment. In order to offset greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of your trip, Cybelle Planète has set up specific measures :

  • We no longer accept entries of less than two weeks involving long-haul travel.
  • Lump sum contribution of 200 € to a territorial compensation fund© and carbon for missions of less than 3 weeks.

We consider that a stay of at least 3 weeks, during which you have a positive action for local biodiversity (ex: eco-volunteering mission), and where you adopt a responsible mode of travel, partially offsets your emissions at the regional level. 

Amount of biodiversity donation

  • one week: 1400 €
  • per additional week: 1145 €


tax deduction : For individuals, participation entitles you to a tax deduction of 66%. So a donation of 1400 € will only cost you 476 €.

For companies, the participation of your employees entitles you to a tax deduction of 60%. So a donation of 1400 € will only cost you 560 €.

Annual fee

Cybelle Planète is a French association law 1901, eco-volunteering stays are reserved for adhering members up to date with their annual subscription of 50 €. This membership automatically gives you access to insurance (including civil liability, repatriation, medical costs). Membership of Cybelle Planète is subject to a tax receipt. Learn more about memberships

Your budget

The hosting project supports:

  • coaching on board the boat and the skipper,
  • logistics (sailboat, berths, fuel, etc.),
  • your accommodation and food.

He remains at your charge:

  • Travel A / R to the port of Hyères,
  • the possible surcharges caused by an unexpected change of itinerary (weather),
  • expenses incurred (drinks, restaurant, ....) that remain at your expense,
  • your complementary travel insurance (mandatory), including a Cancellation, Air / Train Delay, Baggage, Interruption of Stay.

Travel arrangements

You must organize your own trip to the project: transport, visa, vaccinations if necessary, ....

You will find on our website information concerning visas.

Cybelle Planet can arrange for you to book your airline ticketsThis service is optional.

Conditions of participation

The general conditions of participation in eco-volunteering mission from Cybelle Planet are available online.

Commitment ecovolunteer

Before committing yourself as a Volunteer, you must have read and accepted the charter of ecovolunteers.

Car insurance

In addition to the insurance included in your membership, you must take out cancellation insurance, loss or damage to luggage, and flight delay. Cybelle Planète will offer you insurance during your pre-registration or you can subscribe one by yourself. A certificate of insurance will be required before departure. To learn more about insurance

ethical commitments Cybelle Planète

The Cybelle Planet associationcommitted to the ecovolunteering charter. We have always chosen sharing, equity and solidarity for all our actions.

Tax deduction

Participation in our eco-volunteering mission is reserved for our "support" members.

Ecovolunteers pay Cybelle Planète a Biodiversity Donation in addition to their commitment in the field. 

Only the Biodiversity Gift and membership entitles you to a tax deduction (For companies or persons subject to corporation tax or income tax in France).

Medical fitness form

Your registration can not be validated unless we have received your medical fitness form completed and signed by you and your attending physician.

In order to avoid possible difficulties, we ask you to describe to us, as honestly as possible, your physical and emotional state.
Regardless of the medical situation, all projects are designed to accept as many participants as possible. For this reason, they remain attentive and are very understanding of the various health problems a candidate may have. All solutions are considered to enable the candidate to participate in the project, regardless of his or her state of health, and to the extent possible.
The consequences of misleading and / or omitted medical declarations can be very restrictive for the entire team involved in the mission, and in some cases dangerous (missions on the high seas, in very isolated sites, etc.). So, Any false declaration, omission or false information may be sanctioned by the immediate and definitive exclusion of the participant At its own expense and upon the exclusive and unilateral decision of the project. 

Download the form for a francophone mission

Download the form for an English speaking mission


An ECOVOLONTAIRE T-shirt is offered for any registration to an ecovolunteer mission.

Note that no resumption or exchange is possible, we invite you to consult the description and the size guide .

Testimonials for this mission ecovolunteers