After Angela left we waited in Sayulita. It was sad to see her go, but we knew she would be in better hands at home and could get the care that she needed. Meanwhile as we waited the next day or so to hear news about how she was doing and how long she might be gone, we got the bright idea to look for some volunteer work. One thing that stuck out in our minds was the opportunity to work at the turtle camp we had been introduced to a few days earlier by our friend Virgilio Tamez Orozco. So we took the short trip over to the next town of San Pancho, met with the director and several other volunteers and offered our helping hands. Well, they where actually grateful to have us, and they got more work out of us than we ever thought. You see, working at the Turtle Camp http://www.project-tortuga.org/ proved not only to be hard work but a life changing experience. The hard work gave us a totally new-found respect for our creatures from the sea, the sea turtle. An average day consisted of getting up at either 2 or 5 am if you did not work the 10pm shift, driving a dune buggy out onto to the beach and looking for nesting turtles. Once you found a nesting turtle then the real work began. Retrieving the eggs, inspecting the turtle as she dig and lay the eggs, then digging up the eggs after she was done, marking the nest, bagging and tagging the eggs, taking all the eggs back to nursery and more and more work. Usually a 4 hour shift for us would wind up being 6 hours or more. Now this may not sound like a lot of work to you or many hours, but trust me it’s the nature of the job that wears you out, plus we where sleeping in our roof top tents out in from of the nursery on the street. So when we where off we usually didn’t get much sleep anyway and before you knew it was time for your shift to begin again. Some nights we had more turtles laying eggs on the beach than we could keep up with, and the weather would just be awful as well. Over all though we have to say that this was one of the top ten experiences we had while in Mexico. We would like to thank Frank D. Smith, Director and Joslin Bertrand for the opportunity to volunteer and make a difference. Also while there I wrote an article about my experience and would like to share it with all of our blog readers, and also encourage any and all of you to volunteer and give back. Also if anyone is looking for a great volunteer adventure you can reach then via their website or http://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Pancho-Turtles/179273792083463.
This week’s article is written by guest columnist, Bernard Barbour, the newest Grupo Eco Volunteer from Georgia, USA.
“Turtle Camp There’s Nothing Slow About It”
Some how someway I had this thought in the back of my mind that working/volunteering on a Turtle conservation project would be all fun and relaxing while still enjoying my vacation. Well, hello and wake up and smell the sand dunes, this is a lot of work! Let me set the tone right now! I really don’t mind working and have been most of my adult life. I’m quite used to hard work and manual labor but this is very different. And I might add that this is some of the most interesting and rewarding work I’ve ever experienced, saving the turtles. I guess it would best be explained like being in paradise but you get to work in the background. Remember in the movie The Wizard of OZ, when Dorothy, the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man got to meet the Wizard? Remember Toto, the dog, pulls back the curtain and they see the Wizard manipulating all the switches; making fire, thunder and lightning. Then he says, ” Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” well that about sums up my experience here. You just go about your job here making things happen because it’s all about the turtles. Up until this time in my life, whenever I saw a turtle release on the beach I had no idea what all it took just for that special moment. Now working behind the scenes, it’s a very eye-opening experience. A magical experience that I will always carry with me for the rest of my life. Watching and waiting for a turtle to emerge from the sea, make her way onto the sandy beach and lay her eggs, lay there and listen to her in labor, and then watch her return to the sea is one of natures most precious gifts. I am so glad I got to labor for it and to participate in this creature’s survival. The work here is 24/7 kinda work with a few naps in between. As we go day-to-day, hauling sand from the beach to the nursery, maintaining our vehicle, painting, doing electrical work, working in the rain and thunder storms in the middle of the night, it’s all in days and nights work. It’s funny how I think about it now. I never realized how much behind the scenes work went in to create that Kodak moment of watching the hatchlings crawl to the sea at sunset. I never imagined that to get to this point I would have to move many 75 pound coolers full of sand and baby turtle hatchlings around in a hot nursery to get them down here for this photo shoot. That I would have to be up all night working on the beach in the rain and the lightning gathering eggs. That I would be chasing poachers away from the nests at 3 am! The odds of survival for the turtles of San Pancho would be almost zero if it were not for the volunteers and many people who donate their time, money and additional resources to make this all happen. I had no idea before, but I certainly do now! It’s not slow work, it’s fast paced, interesting, fun, rewarding and most of all humbling. And lastly don’t pay any attention to that man behind the curtain.