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Callum H. – Sea Turtle & Coastal Conservation in Mexico

A crocodile enclosure before being cleaned by volunteers

My name is Callum H. and I went to Mexico for just under four weeks in July and August 2016. When I landed at Guadalajara International Airport, I was collected by a kind Projects Abroad driver, who waiting for me holding a Projects Abroad sign. Then, I was given the option of either going straight to the camp on another four-hour bus ride or staying to a host family for a couple of nights. I chose to go to the host family to get some well-needed rest before starting my project that Monday.

At my host family, I was greeted by a lovely lady and her dog. I was the only volunteer at the house at the time, so she and I ate some delicious Mexican chicken while talking. She was determined to improve her English and since I could only speak very little Spanish, speaking in English helped me a lot too! After eating spicy Mexican food and sleeping a lot to get over jetlag, two other volunteers and I went to catch our bus on the Monday morning to head to the Conservation Project.

Arriving at the Conservation Project in Cuyutlan

Before getting on the bus to Tecoman, where the project is based, we were given our emergency cards and the names of the volunteers who were already there, and also our Projects Abroad t-shirts (which made us feel rather special!) After a long four-hour bus ride, we finally arrived in Tecoman, which is a small town in Colima.

Baby turtles make their way to the sea on a Mexican black sand beach

We were collected by the Conservation Project staff at the bus station. They took us to the turtle camp in Cuyutlan, which was about a 30-minute drive, and they let us put on our music! They were fascinated with songs they had never heard before. When we arrived at the camp we were shown to our rooms. They were quite basic, which I wasn’t by, since we were practically living by the beach.

We were then given our induction where we got to go to the project and meet all of the hardworking staff that work there. We got taken there via the beach for the first time on the quad bike, it was invigorating. After being shown where the drinking water was and after we were made aware of all the other emergency details, we went to meet the other volunteers and eat a well-deserved lunch, prepared by our wonderful cook.

The rest of the evening was spent getting used how extremely different the climate was to Guadalajara. It was my first time putting on bug repellent and I can’t express how much it was needed! We then went to a restaurant in Cuyutlan to use the Wi-Fi, which was a brilliant opportunity to post about my travels on social media.

Working at the Conservation Project in Mexico

The next morning, we were given our timetables for the week ahead. My first activity was bird watching in the middle of the lagoon, using binoculars to pick out the birds from within the surrounding trees. I was given the Cormorant and Pelican birds to look out for and I spotted five Cormorants all together, I was very proud. This was a perfect opportunity to get to know the other volunteers on the boat with me, because there were four of us on a small boat doing some amazing bird analysis.

Burying turtle eggs in a safe enclosure

The next day, we went to the crocodile farm, an activity which happens every Wednesday at the project. The purpose of going to care for the crocodiles is because only staff members work there and they receive no government support or funding to help them care for the animals. So, they need our help to maintain the farm and clean the crocodile enclosures. We chopped trees, cleaned rather scary looking store cupboards and cleaned the enclosures. This was the sweatiest I have ever been! After the day was done, we all felt a sense of achievement because we had worked so hard. We treated ourselves afterwards with a trip down to the super store in Tecoman to buy snacks.

On my first Thursday at the camp, I was on the schedule to clean the turtle tanks. This was a great experience because we got up close and personal with the bigger turtles. We cleaned about six tanks that day.

My first maintenance shift was on Friday, in which I thoroughly advise that you take a full bottle of water with you, because you will drink the whole thing. Our main task on maintenance during my visit was to take down an old structure on the beach, ready for the next group of volunteers to build a new structure for a bigger placer to store the buried turtle eggs. During the current season, we were finding so many eggs on the night patrols, the old incubation center was becoming overcrowded. Other activities we did were painting the walls on the workers’ house, and oiling massive planks of wood to make them water resistant to rebuild the structure.

Cleaning turtle tanks in Mexico

The final day of my last week was also my first experience on the quad bikes, riding down the beach finding those all-important turtle eggs at night. I had a 2am shift so I was able to go to sleep and set my alarm to wake up on time (the staff expect you to wake yourself up). I made my way down to the quad bike with my eyes half closed, ready for my shift. They had a new quadbike and it really was quite comfortable to lean back and enjoy the breeze.

On my first trip down the beach, I didn’t find any eggs but the experience of being on the back of a quad bike made it so special for me because I knew I was never going to get that experience again. When I heard the next morning that some people had actually seen turtles laying eggs, I put my name down for many more quad bike experiences.

Traveling and sightseeing over weekends

Myself and four others went to Manzanillo for the weekend. We stayed at a hotel where we ate some amazing food and then went to a mariachi bar and listened to live mariachi music. We enjoyed days at the beach lapping up the sun, and many taxi rides were taken. I would advise anyone to go traveling at the weekend and experience tourist attractions in Mexico. This trip made my experience a lot more memorable and really enabled me to make great friends.

Overall, Mexico was the best experience I have ever had because I made lifelong friends who I will always be in touch with, and I did something that not many people can say they’ve done. I would recommend Projects Abroad to anyone who wants a new adventure and to have the greatest time of their lives!

Callum H.

This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.

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