Sea Turtle Conservation

Sea Turtle Conservation

Volunteer in Mexico to save the endangered sea turtle
turtle conservation project
  • Collect & relocate turtle nests to ensure their safety
  • Assist with data collection for future monitoring
  • Enjoy the diverse culture and beautiful scenery of Mexico
  • Volunteer abroad safely & affordably

Project Summary

Have you always dreamt of saving endangered species and never got the opportunity to do so? Volunteer in Sea Turtle Project in Mexico and make your dream come true by working in a project has been assiduously trying to conserve sea turtles for over 2 decades.

Located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico on the beaches of Colima region, the project began approximately 24 years ago. It was started by local fishermen after they had personally witnessed dramatic decline in the number of nesting turtles on their beach over the years. The fishermen tell of the days when mass nesting sessions took place, with thousands of Olive Ridley turtles laying eggs on the beach in one night. There were almost as many people there to collect the eggs and sell them to market!

All species of sea turtle are endangered and protected by law, however, thousands of turtles are still slaughtered every year for their meat and eggs, often being cut open for the eggs and tossed back into the ocean. Thousands more die each year in illegal trawl nets and from the construction of homes and resorts on nesting beaches. The fishermen and visiting volunteers save approximately 4,000 nests each year. This effort needs to continue to maintain and hopefully increase population numbers in the future.

Volunteer activities

For the volunteers involved, this project offers hands-on experience in the sea turtle conservation camp in Mexico. Nighttime work involves taking turns patrolling the nesting beach, monitoring nesting activity in the incubation corral and releasing the hatchlings to the ocean. All nests found along the 10km stretch of beach are collected and relocated to the incubation corral, where hatchlings are collected and counted as they come to the surface of the sand. An important part of this process is data collection, allowing numbers of nesting turtles and hatchlings to be monitored over the years.

Daytime work at the camp includes cleaning out nests that have already hatched, saving any hatchlings that may be trapped at the bottom and preventing contamination of the area. Volunteers may also be involved in environmental education programs, and other wildlife monitoring in the area, such as compiling a species list for the area and monitoring the local crocodile population.

Skills/Qualifications

This project is ideal for volunteers studying or interested in biological sciences and/or community development, as well as anyone with a general interest in nature and the environment. No previous training is needed, as on-site training will be given upon arrival to the camp. Basic Spanish skills may be helpful for communication with the locals, but not necessary in order to take part in the project.

Food and accommodation

Volunteers on the sea turtle conservation program will be camping. Tents and camping mattresses are provided to make for a comfortable stay. The camp is located on a split of beach between a lagoon and open ocean, a truly breathtaking environment.

Three meals per day will be provided; breakfast and a light evening meal are prepared in camp by the volunteers/staff and a large meal is provided every day at lunch, prepared by cooks from the local community.

Other important information

The nesting season for the Olive Ridley turtles officially begins in June of each year. However, nesting numbers begin to show a rapid increase from August onwards. During the months of August through February, there is an immense amount of work to be done at the camp, due to the high numbers of nesting turtles followed by the rapid increase in hatchling activity (47 day incubation period). From March through July, work is underway in preparing for the following nesting season, as well as improvements to the camp itself, other wildlife monitoring projects and fundraising. This project may be combined with an intensive Spanish course (based in Melaque, before arriving at camp), as well as weekend breaks to local tourist destinations and tours to some of Mexico's highlights.

FAQ

  • Please provide a typical day schedule for this project.

    Volunteers work during the night patrolling the beach and then participate in activities around the campsite in the afternoon.

  • Where would I be placed? Where is the project located?

    The project is close to a small village called La Cumbre in the district of Tomatlán, Jalisco State.

  • Which airport do I need to arrive for this project? How far is the project from the airport I would be arriving?

    Puerto Vallarta Airport – the camp is approximately 2 ½ hour’s drive from the airport.

  • How will I be transported to the project site?

    Transfer is available with a cost of $110USD. Volunteers may also take a bus from Puerto Vallarta to La Cumbre and a taxi to the dock to meet with the biologist. When volunteers arrive after 1pm, transfer to the camp is usually the following day, so accommodations would need to be booked for one night in Bucerías or Puerto Vallarta (please speak with coordinator before booking flights and accommodations).

  • What are the activities involved at this project?

    Volunteers work during the night patrolling the beach on foot or on an ATV to collect the nests laid by the sea turtles and relocate them to a protected area close to the camp, as well as collecting and releasing hatchlings during the night. Volunteers will generally sleep late and participate in activities around the camp in the afternoon such as cleaning, cooking and cleaning the beach. Aside from working with the sea turtles, volunteers may have the opportunity to take part in a crocodile population survey – this includes boat rides during the night with the biologist to count crocs. Timetables change as volunteers work on shifts, so some nights they may patrol on an early shift and some nights the second shift.

  • Will I be handling the project on my own or will there be someone assisting me while working?

    You will be working alongside the biologist based at the project.

  • Do I need to bring any material?

    Volunteers receive placement details, which outlines equipment list, including sleeping bag/liner, travel pillow, insect repellent and toiletries as well as the appropriate clothing for the time of the year.

  • Is this project available all-round the year? If not, when does it close for how long?

    This placement is available from July through February (nesting season for the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle).

  • How safe is this project is?

    Volunteers are always supervised by the local biologist and there have never been any problems at the camp. However, please take into account that volunteers are in an isolated environment and must follow basic safety rules such as wearing shoes at all times, not swimming in the open ocean and not swimming in the lagoon after dark.

  • Any important information you want to share about this project.

    The sea turtle conservation project is run by a local fisherman’s cooperative and is the only project managed by the local community in our area. Volunteers will be interacting with the fishermen during their stay, a great chance to learn/improve Spanish.

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