Becoming a Wildlife Officer with ORCA

Categories // Bay of Biscay

Becoming a Wildlife Officer with ORCA

Wildlife Officer Placement Lily, gives her fool proof guide to becoming Wildlife Officer with ORCA!

I can’t believe it’s already my last week, its flown by. I remember my first day arriving in Portsmouth worrying about if I had brought too many snacks, as my suitcase was so heavy I struggled to wheel it up to the Brittany Ferries building. Luckily I was soon to discover that both Louise and Emma (the Wildlife Officers on board with me) were more than happy to help me work through a month worth of snacks, from then on I knew I was going to have the best month with the loveliest people…

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  • Remember to wear as many layers as possible even though its sunny outside. You WILL get cold in that sea wind. Lots of people would come out and call me bonkers for wearing three coats and a beanie hat, then run inside because they were too chilly!
  • Mastering how to stand on deck without falling during a massive swell, it reminds me of when chickens run but keen their heads still as that was essentially what we had to do while on look out. I’m pretty sure my legs and back are now the strongest yet stiffest they’ve ever been! It takes skill to stand and search for up to 8 hours in one day!
  • Don’t be afraid to shout! Patience has always been something that comes naturally to me while waiting for wildlife to appear however everyone else on deck wants to see it too, although it feels unnatural to shout near animals you must so everyone knows what’s happening! I have now lost my voice from shouting WHALE BLOW … DOLPHIN… or… MYSTERY SPLASH.
  • Oh and last bit of advice for a deck watch, eye drops! Sea salt makes your eyes sore, so if you don’t wear glasses eye drops are your friend.

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Meeting and working alongside our wonderful entertainment team who were nothing but welcoming made presentations feel so relaxed and normal. In time I began to speak with confidence in front of lots of keen passengers ready to learn about marine wildlife during our talks. I felt like I had learnt the facts off by heart, and the more animals I spotted during deck watches the more confident I felt to enthuse others about how amazing they truly are. Seeing any animal appear in the middle of the vast amounts of sea is a magical experience, even if it disappears that’s part of the magic. I felt this was definitely coming through in our presentations as I watched young children and adult’s eyes light up as we described these animals and played communication recordings through the speakers. Speaking in front of people is much easier when you love what you’re talking about.


Always bring colouring sheets. Have you ever seen a rainbow orca? I have it was beautiful, and it was coloured in before my very eyes. Working in a school for the past 5 years I’ve always known how amazing it is when a group of children enjoy a subject you present them with. I can hand on heart say every group of children I have encountered on this trip have loved learning about whales and dolphins. A firm favourite always being the tape measure which measured out how big each cetacean was, followed shortly after by the cetacean snap game. I really hope we inspired them to be involved with marine wildlife in the future.


The mess, the home of table bread. For those who do not know of table bread, it is bread provided on the tables of the canteen every day. 24hour baguettes what a dream. Sunday is croissant and pudding day which is delightful when doing an early 6am deck watch, a fresh warm croissant makes up for that early alarm.
As for ship life, I got my sea legs eventually and realised it’s only a really bumpy night if “all the draws and wardrobes are open in the morning” as Louise explained to me on my first night. Always make sure you’re not too tired for your mini 2hour holiday in Santander, I can recommend the mini baguette sandwiches from “that place that does tiny sandwiches.”

Overall I can honestly say it’s been a life changing experience.  I have pushed myself totally out of my comfort zone and been rewarded with so much more in return. I’ve seen whales so closely and clearly that I will remember them vividly for the rest of my life, I’ve watched the amazing intelligence of dolphins seeking out our ships bow waves, I’ve learnt so many facts that my brain could pop, and I’ve met some of the loveliest people to of sailed the seas! I’m going to miss it all so much! Thank you Orca for giving me such a great opportunity, one which I will cherish forever.


ORCA Wildlife Officer Placement  - The Bay of Biscay

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