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


These sailing expeditions aim to study marine biodiversity in the wider Mediterranean Sea, in the Pelagos sanctuary for marine mammals. The crew lists and notes the observations of whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other animals living offshore. Shipments last 7 days, sailing, and are supervised by an eco-guide and skipper. No special skills are required 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 : Any public over 18 years, individuals, eco-solidarity holidays, students


TO KNOW : sailing


Expeditions to the Pelagos Sanctuary are organized from June to September. During these missions 7 days each, with a departure and arrival in Hyères (Var), the crew sails off the Var and the Côte d'Azur, in the sanctuary Pélagos for marine mammals, looking for 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 100 ecovolunteers participating each year!

The Mediterranean Sea is rich in biodiversity, the study areas are all conducive to nice encounters with cetaceans, including bottlenose dolphins, sperm whales and fin, but also turtles, sea devils, sharks, fish .... The navigation program depends on weather conditions and scientific imperatives. Generally sailboat sailing from sunrise to sunset. One or more nights off are expected, the sailing ship will also stop a few nights near the coast, in coves.

scientific program

Scientific monitoring of animals living off the coast requires large financial and human resources (boat, crew, observers ..). Without the contribution of eco-volunteers nothing would be possible. Throughout these expeditions, information collected at sea are returned to databases and will be shared with the scientific community for free. The objective is to contribute to research on cetaceans, the wide fauna, and pelagic ecosystems of the Mediterranean. All data have been used in several studies and have contributed to highlight new strategies to better conservation of Mediterranean cetaceans.
logo CybelleMediterranee 16x9Data collected fully contribute to Cybelle Mediterranean program. This program of participatory sciences, led by the association Cybelle Planète, is dedicated to the monitoring of animals living off the coast: cetaceans, turtles, rays and sharks, fish .... Cybelle Méditerranée gathers the observations of these species reported by the volunteer boaters, but also the ecovolunteers participating in one of our expeditions at sea.

Still aiming at gathering and sharing knowledge, Cybelle Planète, administered and moderates the OBSenMER network on the Mediterranean Sea area and thus manages common tools for collecting and sharing information on marine fauna: mobile app OBSenMER, collective database .... Cybelle Méditerranée also provides ecoguides for the collection of expert-level data.


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 sailing boat sails north of the pelagos sanctuary, off the coast 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 of the boat, every 7 days, in Hyères (Var).

this pelagosThe Mediterranean Sea is a semi-enclosed sea. It represents 0,8% of the surface of the world ocean and to 8 9% of marine biodiversity in the world (in 10 12 000 species). Thanks to its rich and unique biodiversity, is recognized among the hot spots of the most important biodiversity. The sailors are very diverse background, and give rise to specific enough water circulation patterns, favoring high concentrations of marine wildlife such as marine mammals and sea turtles that live or migrate through their waters.

The Pelagos Sanctuary for Marine Mammals, Northeast of the Mediterranean. This area is very productive and rich in plankton, is much frequented by marine mammals. Its characteristics have 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 goes the Giens peninsula, south of Tuscany and northern Sardinia. The entire west coast of Corsica is part of the sanctuary. In this perimeter meet regularly to 2 3 000 25 000 whales and dolphins.

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


The most commonly encountered species:

Grand Dauphin (Tursiops truncatus): The most familiar of cetaceans in the Mediterranean. These dolphins live in small groups of 2 15 to individuals in coastal waters. Species listed as 'vulnerable' in the Mediterranean on the red list of the IUCN. Mediterranean population is estimated to 10 000 individuals.

Tursiops truncatus, copyright Cybelle Planète

whale Common (Baleanoptera physalus): The 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, west and center of the Mediterranean Sea. Species listed as 'vulnerable' in the Mediterranean on the red list of the IUCN. Mediterranean population is estimated to 5 000 individuals.

Balaenoptera physalus, copyright Cybelle Planète

pilot whale (globicephala melas): Most friendly cetaceans, they live in groups of more than 10 50 individuals. This whale is present mainly in the Western Mediterranean. Knowledge is insufficient to estimate the state of the population in the Mediterranean Sea.

Globicephala melas, copyright Cybelle Planète

Risso (Grampus griseus): Widespread species that normally lives in deep waters, in small groups. The Risso's dolphin is widespread in the Mediterranean. Knowledge is insufficient 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 continental slopes or they can dive for over an hour in search of food. Sperm whales are distributed across Mediterranean. Despite the absence of reliable estimates of the size of its population, it is believed that the total number of sperm whales in the Mediterranean does not exceed a few hundred individuals. Species listed as 'vulnerable' in the Mediterranean on the red list of the IUCN.

Physeter macrocephalus, copyright Cybelle Planète

Dolphin Blue and White (Stenella coerueoalba): Very common species throughout the Mediterranean, the blue and white dolphin trip often in large groups and prefers open waters beyond the continental shelf because of their rich food. You can also find near the coast, where the water is relatively deep. Species listed 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 in the Mediterranean, mainly localized sites of Greece in the far 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 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: shark, swordfish, tunas, Pisces moon, many bird species (puffins, Oceanides ...), and numerous macro-plankton species ( 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


The project accepts interns. Applications will be accepted on a case by case, depending on availability and the candidate's profile. Mission costs are the same for eco-volunteers and trainees.

Internship applications must be made to Cybelle PlanèteWe will help you in your efforts.

Requirements and constraints

To participate in this mission you must have:

  • good visual,
  • the ability to work in teams,
  • a good ability to concentrate for several hours,
  • friendly behavior vis-à-vis nature and environment,
  • the ability to live in community, be tolerant and positive,
  • to 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 for participation from a person under 18 years must be accompanied by a cover letter from him, 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 appointment to place the port in the morning of the first day to the boat. Once all the preparations (Fuelling racing, storage and organization ...), the skipper and the eco-guide will present the life and safety instructions as well as the scientific program. The departure, if weather conditions permit, held the same afternoon. The end of the mission held 7 days later, in the late 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 2020

The expeditions of summer 2020 will take place shortly after 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 on sailboats.

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.

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 cast off, the risks of contamination from the outside are very limited, or even zero. The major risk of contamination being during stopovers at the port and the arrival of new eco-volunteers.

So we decided to take the following measures:

-          No stopovers planned, except those related to security (full of gas, water, medical, or other emergency…). If the weather forces us to take refuge in a port, outings from the boat must be limited to what is strictly necessary (essential races, registration at the harbor master's office ...) and with the wearing of a mandatory 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 1 fitted sheet 1 place, and 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 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, food preparation, dishwashing and cleaning are alternately shift of 3 people, and meals take place in the cockpit, or in the square. Everyone is required to help with household chores such as shopping, cooking, cleaning ...
The fueling races are conducted on the first day or during a stopover. On a sailboat storage conditions are limited, especially for costs, and it is not possible to make a special menu for each passenger. Vegetarians, however, are 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 begin and end at the port of Hyères, and are of a duration of 7 days / 6 nights.

2020 Dates:

  • 13/06 - 19/06/2020 canceled cause covid-19
  • 20/ 06 - 26/06/2020 canceled cause covid-19
  • 27/06 - 03/07/2020 canceled cause covid-19
  • 04/07 - 10/07/2020 canceled cause covid-19
  • 11 07 - 17 / 07 / 2020 COMPLETE
  • 18/07 - 24/07/2020 COMPLET
  • 25/07 - 31/07/2020 COMPLET
  • 01/08 - 07/08/2020 FULL
  • 08/08 - 14/08/2020 FULL
  • 15/08 - 21/08/2020 COMPLET
  • 22/08 - 28/08/2020 FULL
  • 29/08 - 04/09/2020 COMPLET
  • 05/09 - 11/09/2020 COMPLET

Participation of less than two weeks

Cybelle planet pledges to reduceimpact of long-haul flights on the environment. For this, we no longer accept entries of less than two weeks (outside Europe). 

We consider that a stay of at least 15 days, 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.

This "acceptable" minimum can be associated with carbon offset of your greenhouse gas emissions.

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.

The last day of participation the mission ends in late morning.

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


For each mission, the amount of the Biodiversity Grant is calculated according to the needs of the project and the time you spend at the mission. Your donation will be used to cover his material, staffing and volunteer needs. learn more about Don Biodiversity

Amount of Don Biodiversity

Individuals and eco-friendly holidays *

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

* find out more about eco-solidarity leave

Students and job seekers *

  • one week: 1100 €
  • per additional week: 900 €

* The reduction of the Biodiversity Donation will be applied only if a receipt is received.

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 law association 1901, ecovolunteer stays are reserved for members who are members of their annual subscription of 50 €. This membership automatically gives you access to insurance (including liability, repatriation, medical expenses). Membership in 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 (sailing, port, fuel, ...),
  • 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.


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