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I want to make the world a better place for turtles!
May 21, 2014 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Since I love turtles, I thought I'd volunteer in a programme that protects them. I have found several, but have a hard time choosing, so if anyone here has done this before, I'd be thrilled to hear your accounts!

I live in Germany and can't spend a fortune on the whole thing, so I thought Greece would be the closest programme for me. I've seen Mexico as well (which I'm a little scared of) and other places, but I'm on a student budget. I'm also starting a new programme so I don't quite know yet when I can go. This summer, unfortunately, is already booked with other things, so it might turn into next spring, but I will go.

Things to consider:
- language (I can only speak English, German and Japanese, and a bit of rusty French)
- climate: I'm generally sturdy, but I am very fair and even with hats and tons of sunblock (where do I remove cleansing oil only sunblock at a camp with possibly no running water?) I'm afraid of sun allergy or heat strokes
- hygiene: especially if I stay longer than four weeks and aunt flo visits (I do have a Luna cup)
- food: I'm a vegetarian and my stomach doesn't like too spicy foods, will that be a problem?

I know I may sound too princess-y to volunteer, but I really don't mind hard work (I used to work with children, I've done summer camps etc.), but I need to eat properly to sustain myself and I'd also like to leave without melanoma.

I also will be going alone, which is part of my growing up and becoming accustomed to living on my own plan, but of course I want to get along with the people there.

I've found this programme and it seems legit. Has anyone ever done this, in Greece or somewhere else? What do I need to know?
posted by LoonyLovegood to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I share your love for our turtle overlords.

Do you also love frogs? Frogs do migratory crossings in spring & fall and get killed crossing roads. Communities often have local 'frog x-ing' volunteers that help usher them across.

Similarly you can volunteer for any wetlands-type preservation in your current country, or any group that is interested in water quality preservation.

Just an option if budget is tight.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:35 AM on May 21


Thank you!
Frogs are okay to me, but I would prefer turtles and I think I should do it from somewhere other than home to help my own growth in the process of helping those beautiful animals.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 10:38 AM on May 21


I know you don't speak Spanish and are a little nervous about sun/hygeine/suitable food, but I would still take a look at volunteersouthamerica.net, which has a ton of programs you can volunteer at in Latin America and the Carribean, many ecological. I think the sun/food/hygiene things could be worked around and many of the programs don't require that you speak Spanish.
posted by geegollygosh at 11:07 AM on May 21


Ok. Hawaii also has turtles. (a little far tho)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:09 AM on May 21


To clarify: While I'd love to visit Hawaii or even Galapagos, I'd like to stay a bit closer to home because a) flights are expensive and b) it's my first step outside of home since the big Japan fiasco of 2013.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 11:47 AM on May 21


I am ever so slightly befuddled by this question. I mean, if you look at the programme you linked it, it clearly states volunteers are needed over the summer breeding season and will be placed on Zakynthos. It's a big, populated island, it's not the remote outback. There will be running water, bathrooms*, etc. No programme in Greece expects international volunteers to arrive speaking Greek. The food is fantastic if you're a vegetarian and not spicy at all.

In terms of your heat concerns, you stay covered and stay hydrated and you will minimise any risk from sun exposure.

*Generally speaking you do not put sanitary supplies down the toilets in Greece; you use the bins provided or use a Luna cup as you mentioned.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:47 AM on May 21


DarlingBri. I read the website. I also says they need volunteers not only in the summer.

To clarify: I'm looking for advice from people who've done this (especially this programme) or something similar. I never said I needed to do this specific progamme, but something close to Europe would be nice.
(And I have never in my entire life flushed a female hygiene product.)
posted by LoonyLovegood at 11:55 AM on May 21


My graduate work was in sea turtles, so I've done the whole "living on a beach with turtles" - only in Turkey, and it wasn't with a volunteer organization. For your questions:

- language (I can only speak English, German and Japanese, and a bit of rusty French)

This depends on the field site. It also depends on the work. My Turkish is minimal - but there isn't a lot to talk about with nest monitoring and tagging. A lot of it will be "hold this tape measure," etc. Numbers will be good to learn.

- climate: I'm generally sturdy, but I am very fair and even with hats and tons of sunblock (where do I remove cleansing oil only sunblock at a camp with possibly no running water?) I'm afraid of sun allergy or heat strokes

You wear a large hat, you wear lots of sunscreen, you swim in the ocean to rinse it off.

- hygiene: especially if I stay longer than four weeks and aunt flo visits (I do have a Luna cup)

Yes, you bring a luna cup, or take birth control pills and skip the placebo so your period doesn't come.

- food: I'm a vegetarian and my stomach doesn't like too spicy foods, will that be a problem?

Depends on the area - ours didn't have refrigeration, so vegetarian every day was our only choice.

Here's what you must have for this type of work: you usually must be able to walk long distances in the sun or darkness on sand, work without complaining, be used to boredom (we would have three hours of intense activity, then all day long with nothing to do in the middle of nowhere), and not be at all emotionally fragile or unstable. Seriously - that last part is a must. This is grueling, exhausting work, living in close quarters with people you might not like, for long stretches at a time, perhaps with no outside contact - the people who shattered and became hindrances couldn't handle the solitude and boredom and then the intense activity, and we all wished they had never come. Take a long time to evaluate your physical and mental health before volunteering. (Now, of course, some sites aren't as severe, but be prepared for the worst.)
posted by umwhat at 12:00 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Conservation in Mexico has a volunteering program in Colima, a lovely state about two hours away from Guadalajara, the third biggest city in Mexico. They seem to receive German volunteers frequently, as there is a German phone number where you can apply.

This site mentions that there are two nightly shifts, so the sun would not be a problem. People living in hot areas such as Colima avoid doing hard physical work during the hottest hours of the day.

There are also turtle camps in Baja California and the Rivera Maya (Cancún, Yucatán). As they are famous touristic zones, they are safer than other zones of the country and most people in the hospitality industry speak English.

If you are interested in coming to Mexico, feel free to contact me. I'm also a Japanese student and I think we'd get along well. We Mexicans are always happy to receive visitors, specially if they are helping our local fauna!
posted by clearlydemon at 12:51 PM on May 21


There is a very small volunteer organization in El Salvador that is rescuing turtle eggs from poachers, and then hatching and releasing them. It's still on a shoestring budget so as far as I know they don't even have their own website. But if you contact George at Mizata Point Resort, he can put you in touch.
posted by vignettist at 1:08 PM on May 21


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