Cetacean Research Center - Elba Island

Cetacean Research Center - Elba Island


Three days with the Cetacean Research Center
An experience of nature, sea and ... dolphins!

Note 1

Most of us can say we have been to the sea at least once in our lives, but sailing the dolphin route, living for three days on a sailboat, is certainly not an everyday thing.

The Cetacean Research Center offered me the opportunity to board the "Altair" and make this experience, immersing myself in a world little known to me.

It was not, in fact, the "usual" boat trip, but an opportunity to get to know the sea, navigation techniques and, above all, the dolphins, these extraordinary mammals, which have always fascinated and intrigued us. Who, taking a ferry or a ship, has never hoped to see a group of dolphins jump on their own? Or the spray of a whale alongside the boat? Sailing with the boys of the Cetacean Research Center this desire can become a reality.

So much so that, thanks to the preparation of these expert researchers, it took me a few hours of navigation to come face to face with a group of dolphins intent on eating behind the train of a fishing boat. Attracted by our presence, the sub-adults immediately began to interact and "play" with us, swimming and "whistling" chaotically to the side and under the boat, just like euphoric teenagers. A few meters away, the mothers with their children observed their "boys" having fun with us, giving the impression of keeping the situation under control.

I would never have thought I would be able to see dolphins so closely and be at the center of their attention, so much so as to strongly feel their liveliness and their marked sociability.

Note 2

Alongside the joy and emotion of the sighting, however, we must not forget research, the primary objective of the Center and fundamental in the knowledge and protection of our cetacean friends. Here, as soon as you return from the monitoring day, you move on to the actual study, through the analysis of the photos just taken for the identification of the specimens and theoretical lessons on the biology and ethology of cetaceans.

Reviewing the photos, comparing them with those contained in the database to recognize the characteristics of the dorsal fin and trace the identity of the individuals observed, makes you feel even more in tune with these beautiful animals. For example, imagine the excitement of discovering that the dolphin we have just seen was exactly the one adopted a short time before.

Surely, the encounter with the dolphins is the most exciting part of this adventure, but even in the event that bad luck persists, life on the "Altair" is not monotonous and between sailing lessons, tales of the sea and seminars on cetaceans. , boredom is a feeling that just doesn't seem to exist. Furthermore, living for several days in close contact with other people, collaborating at all times for common goals, represents an opportunity for cultural and spiritual growth for everyone.

If all this is inserted in the enchanting setting of Elba, with unspoiled landscapes and breathtaking sunsets, the experience can only be truly unforgettable.

Tommaso Marzolini


  1. Non-copyrighted image: Courtesy Photo Credit NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration);
  2. Non-copyrighted image: Courtesy Photo Credit NOAA.

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The experience of a weekend is an instructive immersion in our world, during which you can taste the emotions of life at sea guests of the catamaran, testing your attitude perhaps in view of a more important experience. Even if in a few days, there is never a shortage of navigation, sightings, a quick lesson, archiving of the acquired data, snorkeling in dream coves, sunsets and stars.

The nerve center of the experiences has the Island of Elba.
The purpose of the weekend is to monitor the largest possible slice of sea, also reaching the island of Capraia.

The port of embarkation and disembarkation is on the Island of Elba: the exact place will be defined based on the weather conditions and communicated by contacting the staff of the Center 24 hours before boarding.
The entire course takes place aboard the Ketos sailing catamaran always at sea.
The navigation will be daily and the nights will be spent in the harbor.

From 3:00 pm on every Friday, to 3:00 pm on the following Sunday.
By prior agreement it is possible to transfer this period of time to days other than Friday and Sunday.


- Mutual presentation of the participants
- Anchoring in different bays every day
- Daily navigation for cetacean sighting
- 2/3 hours of free time
- Snorkeling in different bays every day
- Generic lesson on cetaceans
- Archiving of research data of the day
- Evenings at anchor under the stars


The rates are for the course only and include everything, except the food of € 20 flat rate.
Boat accommodation is offered by the Center.

300 € - Adult weekend

200 € -Weekend under 14 accompanied


Cetacean Medicine Course

The cetacean medicine course, reserved for Veterinary Medicine students and graduate Veterinarians, allows you to acquire skills in the field of cetology in general and specifically in the medical field, while participating in field research.
This experience, unique in its kind, can be of great value in the professional growth of a veterinarian, who will never or rarely in his studies be able to approach this branch of his work.
At the end of the internship, a certificate of participation useful for curricular purposes is provided.

The course represents an opportunity that the Cetacean Research Center wants to offer future veterinarians to enrich their curriculum vitae with a knowledge base that few others have, and even more to raise awareness and train a new category of veterinarians prepared to intervene in various cases. of beaching of cetaceans, since they are legally called to the intervention before the biologists.

The area where the internships are held has the Island of Elba as its nerve center.
During the course the areas of Elba 1, Elba 2, Elba 3 will be monitored, with favorable weather conditions it will also be possible to sail towards the smaller islands of the Tuscan Archipelago such as Pianosa, Montecristo, Capraia, Giglio and Corsica.

The port of embarkation and disembarkation is on the Island of Elba: the exact place will be defined based on the weather conditions and communicated by contacting the staff of the Center 24 hours before boarding.
The entire course takes place aboard the Ketos sailing catamaran always at sea.
The navigation will be daily and the nights will be spent at sea at anchor.

Educational program

Theoretical activities

- Mediterranean cetacean species
- Anatomy and general physiology
- Sample collection methods
- Infectious diseases and zoonoses
- Non-infectious diseases and toxicology
- Emerging and re-emerging diseases
- Intervention in case of beached cetacean
- Intensive care
- Necropsy and sample collection-analysis
- Marine mammals: sentinel species

Practical activities
- Monitoring and data collection
- Sighting and data collection
- Data archiving and research management use
- Photo identification


The rates are already privileged for students, they relate only to the weekly course and include everything, except the food which is shared in the common fund.
Boat accommodation is offered by the Center.

700 euros - Students

750 euros - Veterinary doctors

Boys 11-16

The children who will participate in the summer courses of the Cetacean Research Center on the Island of Elba will discover the fascinating world of dolphins and whales. They will live 24 hours a day in contact with the sea on board the Ketos sailing catamaran, with the aim of developing self-awareness, practical sense, the concept of collaboration and resource management, all surrounded by practically daily sightings of dolphins or whales.

The staff of the Cetacean Research Center will accompany the monitoring outings in the most beautiful waters of the Elba Islands, Capraia, Montecristo, Pianosa and Giglio, where the chances of sighting are among the highest in the Mediterranean, because they are included in the Cetacean Sanctuary. Unmissable are anchorages in fairytale beaches, safe and well sheltered between the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, an excellent starting point for swimming and snorkeling.

A unique experience that will allow children to live a week as true sailors-researchers.


Week from Sunday to the following Saturday.

- Mutual presentation of the participants

- Anchoring in different bays every day

- Daily navigation for cetacean sighting

- Snorkeling in different bays every day

- Daily lessons "from the sea to the cetaceans"

- Archiving of research data of the day

- Evenings at anchor under the stars


The rates are intended for the weekly course only and include everything, including the welcome in Piombino.

Boat accommodation is offered by the Center.

International Cetacean Sanctuary

The Island of Elba and the other islands of the Tuscan Archipelago are the heart of the International Cetacean Sanctuary, an international marine protected area established in 1999 thanks to an agreement between Italy (in Italy the Sanctuary for Marine Mammals was established in 1991 as a Marine Protected Natural Area), France and the Principality of Monaco.

The Pelagos Sanctuary (so called in France) constitutes an area of ​​tripartite management in a coastal and highland territory which is configured as a "large ecosystem" of considerable scientific, socio-economic, cultural and educational interest.

Thanks to the considerable wealth of plankton and pelagic life, the area of International Sanctuary for Marine Mammals it is in fact the suitable habitat for the reproduction and feeding needs of Mediterranean cetaceans: Fin whales, Sperm whales, Dolphins, Pilot whales, Grampi, Bottlenose dolphins, Zifi and common Dolphins as well as the Mediterranean Manta ray, sea turtles and the Monk Seal it seemed to have disappeared.

Among the waters of the Tuscan islands it is not difficult in fact spot dolphins and fin whales. On the Island of Elba in recent years these wonderful encounters have multiplied and during the summer period trips and tourist excursions by boat are organized for the purpose of sighting cetaceans.

International Sanctuary for Marine Mammals is a marine area of ​​approximately 87,500 km² north of the Tyrrhenian Sea which extends from Provence to Sardinia, up to Tuscany: references on land are Pointe Escampobariou in France, Capo Falcone and Capo Ferro in the north of Sardinia and Fosso Chiarone in Tuscany.

The Sanctuary covers 124 French municipalities (between the French Riviera and Corsica), 87 Italian municipalities (in Liguria, Tuscany and northern Sardinia) and 1 in the Principality of Monaco.

The agreement entered into force on 21 February 2002 aims to promote concrete and harmonized activities between the three signatory countries for the protection of cetaceans and their natural environment.

This objective is pursued through the following actions:

  • intensification of activities against pollution of any origin that may have an impact on marine mammals and their habitats
  • progressive suppression of toxic discharges from ground sources
  • prohibition of intentional capture or disturbance of marine mammals
  • regulation or prohibition of motor racing
  • adaptation to Community fisheries legislation
  • regulation of whale - watching tourist activities.

The signatory countries undertake a promote scientific research programs and awareness campaigns, in particular as regards the prevention of collisions between ships and marine mammals and the reporting of specimens in distress.

Finally, on the international level, they undertake to request the registration of the sanctuary in the ASPIM list (Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance), to invite third countries to adopt similar protection measures in the areas, communicating the text of the agreement at the international level.

Cetacean Research Center - Elba Island

Cetus has been following the flock of bottlenose dolphins since 2000 Tursiops truncatus in front of the coast of Viareggio and Versilia. In all these years a photographic catalog of over 150 dolphins has been created, some of these have been seen many times while others less frequently.

Cetus also monitors the bottlenose dolphins living around Elba Island, Capraia Island and Giglio Island.

To support all our activities and allow the protection of the sea and cetaceans with a liberal donation you can adopt one of our dolphins and give it to friends and family.

You will be informed about his movements, herd interactions and we will allow you to protect him even better.

JUNE. Born this year in June, the month in which it was seen for the first time. Constantly accompanied by his mother Jenny. He lives in Viareggio. Age 7 months. Gender: indefinite

ZOE. He lives in Viareggio. She is a female and has already given birth 2 times. Age 18-20 years. Gender: female.

BILBO. He lived in Viareggio but for some years he moved between Elba and Capraia together with 70 other bottlenose dolphins. Age 8-10 years. Gender: male.

HOMER. He lives on the Isola del Giglio where the flock has about 25 bottlenose dolphins.
It has a large notch that distinguishes it.
Age: 15-18 years. Gender: male.

TO "ADOPT A DOLPHIN" send us an email to This email address is protected from spambots. You need to enable JavaScript to view it.

Founded in Viareggio in 1999 the CE.TU.S. Center is a non-profit association specializing in research on cetaceans within the Pelagos Sanctuary.

Consisting of marine biologists, naturalists and engineers, the center collects data on the presence, distribution, ecology and ethology of many species of cetaceans through self-financing by organizing and participating in research campaigns and scientific projects in collaboration with Italian and foreign entities.

The aim of the center is to increase knowledge on the distribution, abundance and state of health of cetacean species present in the Mediterranean Sea, especially within the Tuscan portion of the Pelagos Sanctuary, contributing to the understanding of the biology and ethology of dolphins and whales.
Dissemination and awareness are the fundamental matrices for correct information and to guarantee public support in the preservation of the environment and biodiversity. In addition to scientific research, the center promotes Environmental Education for students and universities through courses, internships and theses and Eco-tourism, the modern activity that involves the public in the observation of cetaceans.

For the love of dolphins

An independent research center, a small group of sea and cetacean enthusiasts

by Stefano Lamorgese 11 February 2015 A few days ago we reported on an interesting educational initiative (A school with dolphins) born on the island of Elba thanks to the collaboration between the municipal administration of Marciana Marina, the local school and the Cetacean Research Center.
Private research, in Italy, is a bit like the phoenix or the chimera: imaginary animals, in short. For this reason, intrigued, we asked a few questions to one of the managers of the Elban Center, Roberto Rutigliano.

Yours is a private research center. How was it born? How long and why?
The CRC is a private company that deals with research and scientific dissemination aimed at the conservation of the marine environment and cetaceans in particular. He was born in 2003, founded by the then 26-year-old Micaela Bacchetta (the president of the Center, a biologist Ed) who had gained his experience with cetaceans for 3 years in Sardinia, during the development of his degree thesis. Passion was born, she founded the Center equipped only with a rubber boat and a camera. In a few years with work and investments, the first sailing boat arrived and from 2014 the sailing catamaran Ketos, which represents a turning point in the quality and quantity of research efforts.

You do not have public funding. But offer services. Which?
It's true: we have no public funding of any kind. In fact, the services we offer are aimed at finding the necessary funds for research and for our subsistence.
We offer: theoretical-practical training courses for university students of scientific and veterinary faculties theoretical-practical educational courses for adults and minors educational meetings in schools sale of publishing gadgets and also the symbolic adoption of a dolphin.

As a research center, are you recognized by MIUR but are you also accredited by any public institution (university, etc.)?
Yes, we are registered in the National Research Registry at the MIUR.
Universities recognize our educational activities for students, so much so that every year we produce about ten degree theses with them. We are registered on the IWC (International Whale Commission) portal to update the cetacean census relating to our area.

Why does a marine biology student come to you?
Our internships are actually real training courses. No faculty is able to provide the theoretical and technical-practical notions necessary for this work. We introduce our "clients" to cetology in general (it may seem strange, but even the marine biology faculties do not go into the specifics of the subject), to the management and management of nautical vessels. The courses last between one and four weeks, with a program that explores physiology, cartography, meteorology, photographic technique.

Propose a very original business model, at least for Italy: "an integrated research-tourism-communication system". Can you explain the main aspects to us?
Research, today, is far from ordinary people just like the ecological struggles, which, if on the one hand they always find new supporters, on the other hand they meet the condemnation of many who consider them as actions of exalted extremists and spoilsport.
With the integrated research-tourism-communication system we want to reach these people from a direction they do not expect, positively contaminating their daily life.

Some concrete examples?
We have self-produced a book on Mediterranean cetaceans that is very "easy" to read. We always use a simplified language during courses and events, avoiding Anglicisms and using those few scientific terms that are really indispensable. Let's try to do research in the service of dissemination: with the concreteness of numbers, data, photos, videos and lots of practice, to help people open their eyes to what's around us.

Video: on my fathers side