Is sea turtle conservation volunteering in Mexico right for me?
If you have a strong interest in marine life conservation, and you want an adventurous experience outdoors, this is the project for you. You’ll spend your days patrolling black sand beaches, searching for turtle nests, and carefully transporting eggs to a more protected areas. You’ll release hatchlings, and watch them crawl over the sand to the ocean. You’ll sail slowly around a lagoon, taking notes about the different animals and birds you see for scientists.
The work we do here is important, and you’ll become part of ongoing efforts to protect marine and coastal life. You’ll do plenty of hands-on work outdoors, and learn a lot from our conservation experts. This is really useful if you’re planning on pursuing a career in wildlife conservation someday. It’s also a good fit if you’re passionate about the environment and actively want to help.
You’ll also have the chance to hone personal skills like communication and adapting to a different environment. You can apply these skills to any career you pursue.
You don’t need previous experience to join. You’ll be supervised by experts, and Projects Abroad staff are always available to provide guidance and advice.
Our Sea Turtle Conservation Project runs year-round, so you can join whenever it suits your schedule. The minimum duration is one week, but we recommend staying longer to experience as much as possible.
Your project will be divided into several areas:
Search for and move turtle nests to a protected area
Coastal erosion and poaching are currently the biggest threats facing turtles today. Once a turtle has laid eggs, poachers dig up the eggs to sell at local markets. To protect the nests, we do beach patrols every night.
When we find a nest, we move it to a safe location at the ecological center we work with. This is a protected area, and the eggs incubate in peace here. Once the eggs hatch, we release hatchlings into the ocean.
Ensure turtles tanks are clean and maintained
The ecological center we work with has permission from the government to keep turtles, especially those who have been injured and cannot be released back into the wild. They need your help to look after all the turtles living here. You’ll help clean the tanks, and make sure turtles are fed and cared for. Each turtle is also weighed and measured once a month.
Every week, you’ll spend time in the Palo Verde estuary and El Chupadero lagoon. Here, you’ll monitor the presence and condition of the local wildlife. We do this in various ways. We:
- Maintain a register through direct observation and trap cameras for night surveillance
- Monitor and collect data on the state of nearby mangrove forests
- Grow mangrove seedlings in a greenhouse
- Reforest areas where the mangrove forest has been damaged or removed
Working with mangroves is especially important, because they:
- Provide a habitat for marine life
- Protect coastlines from soil erosion
- Help in the fight against climate change
We need your help to plant as many as possible!
Educational and environmental outreaches
Education is a big part of the conservation work we do in Mexico. We work directly with the ecological center to raise awareness in local communities. We emphasize the importance of looking after the environment and animals, and preserving them for future generations. You’ll help us with this work by visiting schools and running awareness campaigns in nearby communities.
Community beach clean-ups
Reducing litter in our oceans is vital for keeping marine life safe. Rubbish, particularly non-biodegradable plastic, is hazardous. The sea turtles that nest here can get caught in the discarded plastic. Or, they may mistake it for food, which can hurt and even kill them. You’ll participate in regular beach clean-ups to remove as much rubbish as possible.
Work with crocodiles
You’ll visit La Colorada Crocodile Center, in Cofradia de Morelos, once a week. Here, you’ll help to clean and maintain the pens and the center’s facilities. You will also be involved in taking biometric data and marking the crocodiles in nearby lagoons.
Who are our project partners?
All conservation sites in Mexico are protected by SEMARNAT (The Department of Environmental Affairs and Natural Resources). In recognition of Projects Abroad’s commitment to conservation, they have entrusted us to manage a section of the coastline. One of the conditions of our agreement with SEMARNAT is that we undertake significant scientific research on the coastline.
We also work closely with El Tortugario Centro Ecológico de Cuyutlan, an ecological center in Cuyutlan. The center focuses on raising awareness in local communities about the importance of biodiversity and conservation.
Where will I work?
While you’re doing international wildlife conservation in Mexico, you’ll be based in Cuyutlan. With its black sand beaches, gentle waves, and laid-back attitude, Cuyutlan feels a world away from everywhere.
You’ll spend most of your time working at El Tortugario Centro Ecológico de Cuyutlan, and working directly at the beach or in a nearby lagoon. You’ll also work at La Colorada Crocodile Center once a week.
You'll stay in shared accommodation close to the beach. It’s a short distance from El Tortugario Centro Ecológico de Cuyutlan, so you have an easy commute to and from work everyday! The house is also only a few kilometers away from the center of the town.
Your accommodation has several single and shared bedrooms, as well as a communal kitchen and a swimming pool. Only volunteers of the same sex are permitted to share a room. You’ll all pitch in to help with some basic maintenance and cleaning at the house.
In your time off, you’ll have a chance to experience all that Mexico has to offer and socialize with the other volunteers.
What is a typical day on this project like?
You’ll work Monday through Friday, for about five hours a day.
Time on this project is split between work at the ecological center, on the beach, and a nearby lagoon. At the ecological center, you’ll focus on working with turtles, and do things like:
- Monitor nests in a protected corral
- Clean adult turtles and ensure they are well fed, and measured and weighed regularly.
- Patrol at night to search for new nests (you can expect to work on rotation for night patrols)
You’ll work at the crocodile center once a week, on a Thursday. Here, you’ll collect biometric data and mark the crocodiles in nearby lagoons to track local populations.
There is plenty of time to relax. This is especially true during the hottest part of the day, when we stop working because of the heat from the midday sun.
During the hours you aren’t working, and over the weekends, you can explore and socialize with other volunteers. Be sure to enjoy the famous open-air palapa covered seafood restaurants around town!
What are the aims of turtle conservation volunteering?
The aim of our Sea Turtle Conservation Project is to ensure the survival of endangered sea turtle species, and preserve the ecological well-being of the area.
The endangered turtles we work with can only lay their eggs on the beach. Unfortunately, these nesting areas are disappearing rapidly. This is because of climate change and increased human development. Poachers also take the eggs to sell at local markets. This is why we are working to protect as many of these nests as possible.
We work with several endangered turtle breeds in Mexico. These include:
- Green sea turtles
- Olive Ridley sea turtles
- Leatherback sea turtles
Leatherback turtles are critically endangered, and statistics about the leatherback turtle are especially frightening. There are only 2,300 female adult Pacific Leatherback turtles left in the wild!
In addition to protecting turtles, we’re helping with coastal conservation. We monitor the wildlife population, and collect scientific data for scientists and the local government. We’re also working to address coastal erosion by growing and planting mangroves. Not only do mangroves protect coastlines from soil erosion, they also provide a habitat for marine life, and help in the fight against climate change.
Join our Sea Turtle Conservation Project and become part of our long-term efforts to protect Mexico’s marine life.
We set out the aims and objectives of our projects in documents called Management Plans. We use them to properly plan the work you’ll do. They also help us measure and evaluate our achievements and impact each year.
Ultimately, our Management Plans help us make our projects better. This in turn means you get to be part of something that makes a real impact where it’s needed. Read more about our Management Plans.
Measuring our impact
Our projects work towards clear long-term goals, with specific annual objectives. Every volunteer and intern we send to these projects helps us work towards these goals, no matter how long they spend on our projects.
Every year we take a step back and look at how much progress we've made towards these goals. We put together a Global Impact Report, which documents our achievements. Find out more about the impact our global community of volunteers, interns and staff make, and read the latest report.
Leisure activities and free time
With beautiful beaches, arresting art galleries, and buzzing restaurants, there’s something for everyone in Mexico. You’ll have plenty to do during your free time on your project in this dynamic country.
There’s something captivating about touring through old buildings. If you’re into neo-gothic architecture, treat yourself to a trip to the Templo Expiatorio del Santisimo Sacramento. It’s a work of art with its ornate steeples and glowing stained glass windows.
There are also plenty of museums, giving you the chance to immerse yourself in the country’s rich history. For something different, you can spend the day appreciating the wildlife and lush vegetation of Las Peñas Ecological Park.
You can’t take a trip to Mexico without tasting authentic Mexican cuisine. You can spend an evening enjoying pozole or tamales at a local restaurant and watching the vivid orange-red sun melt into the horizon.
We have a host of different projects in Mexico so there’ll likely be lots of other volunteers in the area during your trip. So you can choose to travel and explore in a group or on your own.
Safety and staff support
Your safety and security is our prime concern. We have many procedures and systems to ensure you have the support you need to enjoy your trip with peace of mind. Our Projects Abroad staff are available 24 hours a day to help, and will be on-hand to make sure you settle in well at your accommodation and placement. If you encounter any problems, they will be available to help at any time.
Find out more about safety and backup.
Meet the team in Mexico
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