Volunteer in the Caribbean on the stunning island of St. Eusatius, and join the St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation and help to protect and conserve their National and Marine Parks. You will often be divided into two groups, and will spend time doing various conservation volunteer projects as listed below.
The Quill and Boven National Parks
Two or three days a week working on the trail systems in The Quill and Boven National Parks. The first conservation volunteer crews finished the new Crater Trail, then the Bird Observation Trail was completed in early 2005. You will work mostly on trail maintenance including, clearance, erosion control and improving singage.
Sea Turtle Volunteer Programme
During the turtle nesting season which runs from March to October, you may be assisting with night patrols on Zeelandia beach monitoring nesting sea turtles (not applicable for November to March groups). Teams will be established and days rotated. You will assist with gathering data from sea turtles that generally nest between dark and dawn. Data gathered by the crew will be shared Caribbean-wide through a linked database which wildlife managers use to improve protective measures for endangered species. In general, you will be monitoring hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles. This programme may also be combined with beach sand monitoring. Please note that turtles don't nest every night and therefore you shouldn't expect to see turtles during every patrol. Please also note that our nesting population of turtles is small and we therefore do not patrol the beach every night throughout the season. Outside of turtle nesting season, there is an in-water survey in the Marine Park to observe turtle behaviour and volunteers may SCUBA dive and snorkel to assist on this survey (need SCUBA qualification and 10 open water dives).
You will also be working two or three days a week in the Miriam C. Schmidt Botanical Garden on projects, such as developing a Fruit garden and a Children's garden for Phase II. Work will also include giving tours to school children, pruning and planting cuttings, cutting grass, improving pathways, landscaping and control of invasive exotic species such as Coralita (or “Mexican Creeper”) which has taken over the island.
Two to three afternoons a week you may be asked to help out at the visitor centre or with other administrative related projects that STENAPA is involved in, or with educational projects.
Fridays are known as ‘Family Friday’ and are an opportunity for the whole group to work together with interns on a particular project, such as marking out a new trail, installing new signposts, cleaning the turtle nesting beach, planting a new garden or carrying out a survey.
Orientation & Free Time
At the beginning of the project, you will receive a 3 day orientation programme, including information about the island (and the general protocol of being a volunteer in the Caribbean and the culture specific to St. Eustatius) , national park management, and training in conservation and gardening skills, with an island tour from a member of staff.
During your free time, you also have the opportunity to get SCUBA certified (at your own cost) and spend some time diving in some of the Marine Park's designated sites. In your afternoons, if you wish, you can also help out in the Marine Park if you are SCUBA certified - this can include mooring maintenance, dive site checks and patrols, snorkel club etc. - see marine park volunteer on the right cleaning down a line.
You will work 5 days a week. A typical working day for trail work or botanical garden duties would start at 7am and finish at noon. Two to three afternoons a week you may be asked to help out at the visitor centre or with other administrative related projects that STENAPA is involved in, or with educational projects. The rest of the afternoons will be free and can be spent relaxing, diving, snorkeling, swimming down at the pier, obtaining diving certificates, bird watching, shopping, using the Internet, and enjoying the peace of Statia! For the sea turtle volunteer programme, you will work either in daytime (in-water surveys, nest excavation, beach clean ups) or during night patrols from 9pm until the early hours of the morning. You will then have the next morning off.
St Eustatius National Parks Foundation (STENAPA)
The Quill National Park was pronounced the first official National Park of the Netherlands Antilles on May 4th, 1998. The area is now a protected Nature Reserve, which consists of the dormant volcano, The Quill, and the limestone formation to the south of it, called White Wall. Within the National Park, there are several good hiking trails for visitors – you will be working on these trails. The Boven sub-sector comprises five hills in the Northern Hills of St Eustatius: the Boven, Venus, Gilboa Hill, Signal Hill and Bergje. This area has only been actively managed since 2007 due to a long running land ownership dispute.
The Statia National Marine Park is defined as the waters surrounding Statia from the high water mark to the 30m (100ft) depth contour. It was designated the Statia Marine Park in 1996 through the St. Eustatius Marine Environment Ordinance, with the objective to preserve and manage Statia's marine resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the people and future generations. STENAPA also manages the Botanical Garden which is located in on the windwardside of the island, at the base of the Quill National Park with a view of St. Kitts.
Objectives and Background of the Quill Crater Trail Step & Boardwalk system
The Quill, a 600 metre inactive volcano that dominates the landscape of the island of St. Eustatius, is home to many unusual and endangered species of plants and animals. The Quill is characterised by eight different vegetation zones, six of which are found on the crater rim and basin, including the Elfin Forest, the dry evergreen forest, evergreen bushland, each of which contains rich flora. The crater basin is dominated by giant Kapok and Sandbox trees, as well mango, wild papaya and mamee apple which share the canopy with endangered tree species, including Redwood Birds Cherry. Eighteen species of orchid are found in the Quill and on the Northern hills. In addition, many species of birds, some of them threatened live in the Quill, including Tropicbirds, Caribs and hummingbirds. Several species of reptiles, which are already extinct on other Caribbean islands can be found, including the Red Bellied Racer Snake and Antillean Iguana.
In the past, the Quill crater was accessible only by means of a hazardous, steeply eroded trail, that was fast being washed away. Absence of a reliable trail led hikers to wander off the path, destroying fragile ecosystems, threatening species and broadening the band of erosion along the trial. Sint Eustatius National Parks Foundation wished to balance preservation of the unique Quill ecosystem by maintaining safe access to one of the most beautiful sights on the island -- a goal that was achieved through the construction of the Crater Trail Boardwalk and Step System by the first and second volunteer crews. Improved access to the crater allows locals and tourists to develop an appreciation for the unique ecology of Sint Eustatius, thereby aiding further preservation efforts. An ethic of environmental conservation has yet to take hold on Statia, you can help with the progress that is being made. Providing access to the island’s natural attractions, especially to the young, aids in the development of ecological consciousness on which the lasting survival of the Sint Eustatius National Parks ultimately depends.
Sea Turtle Conservation Volunteer Programme
2014 marks the thirteenth year of the sea turtle conservation programme. Monitoring patrols for nesting turtles on Zeelandia Beach started in 2002, and increased in 2003 with a greater number of patrols due to the onset of the Working Abroad Volunteer programme. It was with great excitement that the first leatherback turtle was observed nesting on 17th April 2003, and a number of additional leatherbacks nested on Zeelandia during the year.
Today, the Sea Turtle Volunteer Programme Co-ordinator along with the Project Intern coordinates the monitoring patrols during the nesting season. Volunteers are expected to take part in these patrols when they are scheduled. Volunteers should also expect that many nights the beach will be patrolled without a sighting of a nesting female. Our presence on the beach should actually be seen as safe-guarding. Our role is the protection of the eggs until the hatchlings make it safely to the surf.
Patrols sometimes take place in inclement weather and are only cancelled if there is a thunderstorm present. Rest stops take place at the end of each walk so besides getting sleepy, patrols are not very tiring at all.
Volunteers make the sea turtle programme possible as STENAPA does not have the amount of staff in order to carry out the necessary patrols. It is highly appreciated that volunteers come with a positive attitude as everyone is expected to do their part to make the programme a success.
Hermit crabs, Johnson's whistling tree frogs, Lesser Antillean Iguanas and more in St. Eustatius. Read this blog from our WorkingAbroad intern, Nina and get first hand impressions of life, sounds and sights on this lovely Caribbean island known as the "Golden Rock" - at our Statia Conservation Project
Please click here
Oliver Selmoni from Lausanne, Switzerland aged 22 yrs old, volunteered for one month this summer with his two Swiss friends, and writes about his experience
I volunteered at STENAPA one month between July and August 2013. We were the first volunteers staying at the new house, which I guess changed a lot the way of living the island. The house is placed just above the Carribean beach. The location is great, close to everything, you can go to the office, to the dive shops or to town in 5 minutes (we were given bikes). The house has 3 bedrooms, livingroom, kitchen, bathrooom and everything is pretty comfortable. There is a huge garden were you can enjoy BBQing with a stunning view of the bay. Volunteers and interns live together at the house with Foxy the dog and Vinny the cat (lovely pets).
Volunteers work the morning from Monday to Friday. You have to be motivated in doing the work, it isn't difficult and volunteers aren't expected to rush. At the botanical garden we worked basically as gardeners, which was nice because we could see the results of our work. The work on the trails consists in cutting everything that is not supposed to be on the trails. What I enjoyed the most about these two projects was the chance of working in wonderful places in total freedom. There was always something nice to see, could that be the view to St. Kitts from the garden or the tropical vegetation inside the crater of the Quill. The turtle patrol is nice as well, of course you have to be lucky.
The afternoons we spent much of our time at the beach sunbathing, drinking, snorkeling or diving. The beach is very close (1 minute in bike), never crowded, the sea is warm and quiet, with lots of animals and stuff to see. I did the open water certificate at the dive shop. It costed 375 dollars and the only thing I regret is not having it done before. There are great dives and you can see again lots of stuff (from shipwrecks to sharks).
The weekends we hung out to the "downtown" of Statia (10 minutes in bike). The downtown consists in three or four bars where you can go drinking, dancing, karaoke and so on. The people from Statia are really nice and friendly. It would be pretty impossible to argue, people were pretty chill. There are not much tourists but when you easily find people from Europe or USA at the beach in afternoons or friday night downtown (some works at the dive shops or at the archeological sites).
To sum up, I had a great time in Statia. Of course you have to give up some comforts (cold showers, always feeling sweaty and dirty, mosquitoes) but it's all worth it.
Gaby Lieuw, who blogs about all things Dutch-Caribbean, has written a great entry on the Statia Conservation project and the Botanical Garden where volunteers will stay and work. You can read more at this link.
Raymond Phillip describes his experience on Statia last summer
Originally I was quite worried about catching flights and making my way to Statia but once I had arrived it was smooth sailing. The volunteers were very welcoming and most of the islanders were open to get to know you which meant it was quite easy to feel involved. As I wasn't working during the afternoons this gave a good opportunity to improve my swimming and learn how to snorkel. The reefs along the shoreline, near the office, were amazing to visit daily as you would always see different things.
I was upset that the sea turtles were not nesting during the time I was there, however seeing them in the water made up for this. I enjoyed helping out with the summer club and meeting the local children, even though some of them could be a hassle!
I felt this was a good investment and was a good choice as my first major trip away. Although a months stay was a good amount of time, I could have easily opted to stay longer had I not needed to be back in England.
Mat Wicks wrote about his time on Statia in February
My time on Statia was too short. After 3 weeks on the island I really started to feel at home and enjoy myself, but then I had to leave a week later! Living in the Botanical Garden was great, I spent much of my time lying in a hammock watching hummingbirds and lizards. The garden is a fantastic place and there is a good opportunity to work on it in a personal project, doing anything that takes your fancy that you think will be good. The staff and interns are very open to new ideas. I worked on trails which is good excercise in the baking heat, clearing the way and carrying signs, and I also helped with species surveys, birds and butterflies. It was a shame I was not there for the turtle season, but there is still so much to do. As a volunteer you have the afternoons off, and quite often I would hike 'round the mountain' to the office to check emails, then to the beach for snorkelling etc. Statia is a strange place but I liked it a lot. The nature on the island, on the quill, on boven, in the marine park was amazing- you really get to see a lot.
Tanya Saunders, who joined the project gives some other reasons why you should join the Statia Conservation Project:
1. For anyone who wants to work in conservation or gardening, this is a really good experience to add to your CV.
2. By joining this programme, you have the opportunity to learn to dive, and to spend plenty of time snorkelling and diving.
3. For anyone wanting to work in the voluntary sector, this also provides you with experience of working for a not for profit organisation - STENAPA is a Foundation representing the National Parks and Marine Park of St. Eustatius.
4. For those of us who don't need it for their CV, it is also ideal for those who enjoy living and working in the outdoors the whole time.
5. There are also some opportunities to work with kids and help to teach them about conservation.
6. Many organisations charge quite a bit for people wanting the opportunity to dive as a volunteer, but on this project, you can sometimes dive as a volunteer, so it is a really good opportunity for anyone who is keen to get more diving experience, without the excessive costs.
7. There is an archaeology non profit organisation also on St. Eustatius, and volunteers can also spend some time there in their free time.
Alexandrer Endresen, 30 yrs old from Norway speaks about his time on Statia January to March
Its almost a month since I left St. Eustatius after being a volunteer with Stenapa now. Please know that I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to visit St. Eustatius and working with Stenapa. It was an awesome experience and certainly also very unique.
I know that it must be a lot of work to organize the volunteer programme, but what you have achieved is very good and the reward for the people who participate in it is priceless!
I hope everything is well with you and your very nice staff. Thanks again for everything.
Matthew Tye, volunteered on Statia between March to May and wants to go back again for six months- read his feedback on the project:
1) your general feeling about the project & the work carried out:
- I really enjoyed it. Conservation is close to my heart, as I travel & seeing the world `off the beaten track`, & this combined them both pretty well I thought. I`d just quit my job of seven years in order to become a volunteer, & wanted the trip to get my mind off of working in an office, & also get fit & healthy. It achieved both, I am currently looking for further conservation work around the world as a result of this trip, including contacting STENAPA about going back for 6 months as an intern, I`ve been bitten by the `golden rock` bug! I also lost about a stone in weight & gave up smoking through being there, so it was very much a successful trip for me!
2) your relationship between you, the manager, interns, the volunteers & the locals
- I think it really worked. I got on well with pretty much everyone in all aspects, I didn`t really spend much time with some of the STENAPA staff such as the marine park rangers etc as I didn`t generally come across them in the course of my day. I think everyone got on really well though. There was the odd minor dispute between individuals, but I believe when you`re living together 24/7, you`re always going to get. None of it was major though, I think considering the close proximity we were living in we did very well! And speaking for myself I got on really well with everyone, staff, locals & in particular my fellow volunteers & the interns, which were a surrogate family to me!
3) Practical day to day – your experience camping in the botanical garden, living conditions, food, free time activities, the work involved etc
- Camping was good. To be honest, prior to this, my experience of camping stretched to a period in the Sea Scouts, & going to rock festivals. Had absolutely no problems though, the campsite was fine, my tent was fine apart from having a visit from a land crab, the sort of thing that could happen to anyone. It was also nice to have the pavilion & especially the hammocks available to us, as the heat in my tent was unbearable after about 6.30am. Food was all fine, apart from the huge cost of fruit & vegetables. The idea of communal cooking during the week with each person looking after their own needs on the weekend worked very well, & saved us all money. It taught me a lot as well, i`ve only ever cooked for one or two people, so to be thrown into the deep end with budgetary constraints & differing dietary requirements was quite a challenge, & being able to cook for 10 people without killing them is definitely a new string to my bow!
- My free time was well spent, it was nice to be not too structured for the afternoons etc, but I had to plan well in order to have a truck available when wanting to go to the beach or to the shops etc, & certainly took some good planning & negotiating skills! I was also lucky enough to have a couple of like minded individuals with me who wanted to utilise their free time as much as possible, so had no problem getting a partner for a quill hike, snorkelling in corre corre bay etc.
- The work involved was good, I think the difficulty & amount of effort required is set just about right for the trip, its not backbreaking if you`re fit & healthy, but with the climate & nature of the work you do have to put a lot of effort in which was good. I thought on the whole it was really well organised also, with quality training in what was required, & decent supervision with safety in mind which was a key thing.
4) Do you feel you have benefited from this experience?
- Yes, in many ways. I`ve learned lots of new skills, experienced the real Caribbean culture pretty much as a resident rather than a tourist, made loads of new friends, & also as I mentioned before, I lost a lot of weight, became much healthier & have a much sunnier outlook on life, now that i`ve seen how nice it can be! My friends here are extremely jealous of each story I tell them of my trip.
5) Do you feel you were well prepared for the project?
- Pretty much, yes. I think the Working abroad handouts were very good, they covered everything we needed to know, & that, coupled with my own research of the island was certainly enough.
6) Did you think the project cost was reasonable or not? What about personal spending throughout the project?
- In hindsight, I think the project was very reasonable & represented very good value for money, the best i`ve seen whilst looking for a further similar trip! I would certainly recommend it to anyone, & may also invest in going back for a couple of months as a volunteer myself in the future. My personal spending was a lot less than I expected for a trip also, which was a really nice surprise, going out on the weekend was a lot cheaper, combined with the `kitty` idea for everyone chipping in to buy food for the week, meant that I spent a lot less than I thought
7) Are there any recommendations that you can give to the next group of volunteers?
- Yes. Most importantly, do research. Read all the Working abroad info thoroughly & supplement it with a visit to the Stenapa website, if nothing else, so that you fully know what you`re letting yourself in for. Try & travel as light as possible within reason & don`t take anything in the way of clothes that you are desperate to bring back with you. The four most important things I would say to take would be a hard wearing pair of gloves, a decent headtorch for finding your tent at night, a decent insect repellent & a large, robust container for drinking water for use while working, one litre minimum, but I would recommend at least 2 litres. Try & contact Stenapa prior to attendance in order to find the local conditions on the ground & anything that may particularly be required or definitely not required as the case may be ( I brought a first aid kit with loads of stuff that there was already a lot of in the intern house, yet the house was crying out for some drying up cloths & cleaning utensils for the kitchen which could not easily be found on Statia, which I could’ve easily taken with me). Take something to keep you occupied, ipod, books, DVD`s etc. Be prepared for it to be hot, prepared to sweat & prepared to put your back into it, but to be rewarded accordingly!
Claire Thackray, volunteered on Statia between October to December and writes about her experience and gives some hints to future volunteers:
1. Your general feeling about the project and the work carried out.
I loved the project! I learnt so much about conservation, an area I knew nothing much about before my Statia Visit. The work was varied & the free time given to the volunteers was very generous.
2. Your relationship between you, the manager, interns, the volunteers and the locals?
Nicole's welcome was a very warm one. She explained the projects objectives, aims, hopes & expectations clearly. Carlton the gardener taught me so much about tropical gardening and the way of life on Statia- he was one of a kind. The 4 Interns were from different countries to myself and that was brilliant as I got to learn about the ways of life in those countries too. Try their special dishes etc! The Locals were amazing. Welcomed us with open arms- I felt extremely safe everywhere i went by myself.
3. Statia - the island, the environment, sea, climate, town etc - did you like it?
Statia is truely a gem of a place. Like nowhere I've ever been to before. Beautiful scenery, incredible views from the Bovan. You really have to see it to believe it. The climate was perfect for me- I love the heat! When it rained...it rained! But it dried up quick enough. The Town had the basics and the bars were on fire at night especially during Statia week! Its so laid back there. For me, Being out there, was out of this world! I miss that place so much! I love Statia!
4. Practical day to day - your experience camping in the Botanical garden, living conditions, food, free time activities, the work involved etc.
Camping was better than expected- great fun!, Always keep your mozi net up, to stop unwanted bugs n stuff entering your sleeping quarters! A good sturdy tent is needed as the wind and rain did come and batter us once in a while (the best fun!) The living conditions were made out to sound worse than what they were, which I think is a good idea. It was basic but we had everything we needed - just about. The Weekly cooking system was briiliant cheap idea. We ate like Kings and queens! Free time was very generous- we could island hop on the weekends, The work was so different to what I do for a living. I learnt a load of manual skills. Enjoyed every minute of it all.
5. Do you feel that you have benefited from this experience?
Yes! It was the best trip I've ever had. Lucky for me I got along with everyone. I really felt like I was doing something worth while, especially when we had visitors to the Botan, You would show them around and feel so proud of your work. Ive met people I hope to stay in contact with and learnt about another culture and a way of life I love.
6. Do you feel that you were well prepared for the project?
All the info Vicky gave me to start with was spot on! I arrived on Statia with just about everything, but I wish I had taken more T-shirts- I found hauling my tent out there difficult because of the flight weight restrictions - I couldnt pack everything. But I didnt need for anything -the stuff I didnt take I had help finding on the island and I bought it there.
7. Did you think the project cost was reasonable or not? What about personal spending during the project?
I think the Statia Project was very reasonable. Ive searched for other projects inthe Carribean and cant find anything else like it for roughly the same price. Food and drinks were incredibly cheap. I spent about £250.00 exta in 2 months. I thought that was good going, with all the trips away included!
8. Are there any recommendations that you can give to the next group of volunteers?
Take more T- shirts than you think you need, take good care of yourself when travelling on the backs of trucks. take waterproof bags for cameras, valuables etc- take a load of music out there to listen to. A good pair of hiking boots is a must. Play Pool at Chocolates Bar!
Lawrence Cook from the UK writes about his time on Statia volunteering from June to August:
Hi Vicky, I had a great time! Hi there here are my answers:
1. Your general feeling about the project and the work carried out.
Excellent project , really felt like I was giving something back, work was all worth while.
2. Your relationship between you, the manager, interns, the volunteers and the locals?
I got on really well with everyone! I've been to the Carribean before and never met locals so friendly, communication was sometimes an issue.
3. Statia - the island, the environment, sea, climate, town etc - did you like it?
Loved it, life is lived out there the way it should be!! Yes its hot but hey if u r going to the Carribean, u gotta kinda expect that!
4. Practical day to day - your experience camping in the Botanical garden, living conditions, food, free time activities, the work involved etc.
I takes a while to acclimatise to the heat/humidity, and when u r building the improvements there u make sure they're done well, food was excellent loads to eat in the garden as well, free time activities included: reading, sleeping, swimming, snorkeling, diving, exploring more of the park, local bars are very nice.
5. Do you feel that you have benefited from this experience?
Absolutely, I loved it so much im going back in January as an intern for 7 months!! (and hopefully never leave), the experience really improved my team work skills, as well as becoming more self dependent.
6. Did you think the project cost was reasonable or not? What about personal spending during the project?
The project cost is very reasonable, as for personal spending I seemed to spend about £20-£40 a week, sometimes less!
7. Are there any recommendations that you can give to the next group of volunteers?
Bring twice as many t-shirts as you think you need. The better you can adjust the the local lifestyle the better time you will have, some people couldn't handle it, and bring your own shower bag if you can.
James Eggleton, from the UK writes about his experience:
Well, what can I say, what a great experience and one which I won’t forget. This is definitely different to your average trip abroad and only for the steely minded and those who like being taken out of their comfort zone. But it’s a lot of fun and very relaxing.
The project is varied and everyone gets a chance to try different aspects of it. The work can be tough (moving big rocks for example) but it’s a great physical challenge and the trails are very peaceful and tranquil. Working in the garden is great – where else can u cut grass whilst trying to spot whales?! On the whole you put in what you want to get out and there is no one standing over you cracking a whip. The Stenapa staff are generally friendly and welcoming and well motivated from the top and Carlton (based in the garden) is great to be around.
The relationship between the volunteers and managers was very good. Stenapa generally take a hands off approach and let the interns and volunteers get on with it but are there to make suggestions and provide solutions where necessary. The garden provides enough space so that volunteers and interns don’t feel too crowded and people can take time out where necessary.
Statia definitely grows on you and by the time I left I really appreciated its uniqueness. Having travelled extensively, there are few places that can match the (old) style and (slow) pace of Statia. The town is very different but really chilled and you never feel rushed. It lacks a range of shops however and the food is mainly imported rather than fresh local produce. There are a few local bars and the tourist “strip” so nothing too hectic but some great Pina Colada’s to be had – choose your nights carefully - the interns always know where to go.
The climate is superb. It’s generally warm most of the time but not too warm (between Jan – March) that you suffer from the heat and the fresh sea breeze in the garden felt like it was doing me a lot of good!. Although the beach is small it’s not touristy and the sea is really good for swimming, snorkelling and of course, diving. Watch out for the sea urchin. I stepped on one and I am still picking out little black bits from my foot. You are only 10-15 minutes away from the beach by truck at any time. It’s hard to overstate how beautiful the botanical garden is with its view of St Kitts. It’s so removed that you literally feel like you own a corner of the island and your own special hideaway.
Camping was fun and the sunrises pretty spectacular. It can be difficult at times when the wind and rain hits and I think there needs to be a flat area cleared for camping as the current area is hilly. Make sure you bring a double mattress and a puncture repair kit and keep everything zipped up at all times would be my advice. There is a manual foot pump which needs to be used every couple of days. Otherwise, living conditions are what you would expect – basic but sufficient. Most people used the “camp” shower – boiled a kettle for hot water. But I found a cold shower is nice around lunchtime! We took it in turns to cook during the week and I think it works better doing it individually (means less cooking) and more autonomy! Having afternoons free was great. The scuba is really cool and two of us got our PADI open water whilst in Statia. We saw sharks, turtles, sting rays and much more. Dive Statia is the cheapest for Stenapa people.
Otherwise, you can go to the beach, sip Pina Colada at the Golden Era bar (with swimming pool), use the internet café (good rates) or just relax lying in hammocks and playing cards at the garden.
I have definitely benefited from this experience. I have learnt new practical skills and being from the city it was really cool to get back to nature – live outdoors and try some different activities. The climate really recharges your batteries and the balance between work and play is just right. I was well prepared for the project and the information prior to arrival helped in the settling in period. I think it helped that the information was realistic rather then salesy so I wasn’t expecting more than I got.
All in all I would highly recommend this trip to anyone!
Peter Smith from the UK writes about his experience:Hi Vicky, I had a great time thankyou, and am certainly glad I went. Many Thanks! Peter
- Your general feeling about the project and the work carried out.
The project was certainly worthwhile, you could see the appreciation of the locals and the tourists of the work we did.
- Your relationship between you, the manager, interns, the volunteers and the locals?
I thought we had a really good volunteer group, 5 Brits and a Canadian we all got on really well. 6 was a good number to have. I was the youngest at 22, and the eldest 39, but despite the age range everyone got on. Mike & Erin both Kiwis were great as interns, really knew what they were doing. The STENAPA staff were all quite freindly & approachable. Carlton the gardener was fantastic, he was the boss in the daytime working at the botanical garden, a real character. One rainy day, he made a goat curry!!! Tasted to be believed, but very good. The locals were quite freindly, having to wave at everyone was quite strange. Would never do that in the UK. Some real characters on the island.
- Statia - the island, the environment, sea, climate, town etc - did you like it?
Statia was completely different to anything I had experienced before. I went in january so it was ‘Winter’. Just about not too hot for me. The sea was lovely, I did as much snorkelling as I could, saw lots of cool stuff. Turtles, Rays, eels, barracuda… Scuba diving wasn’t my thing especially with the sharks! Am told they're harmless though. You could get most things from the supermarkets, and the fresh bread from bakery was good. There are banks, plenty of bars to choose from & Internet cafe. Only went in to the café long enough to send the odd message home. Happy Hour Wednesday at the Old Gin house was the best night out for meeting locals/tourists.
- Practical day to day - your experience camping in the Botanical garden, living conditions, food, free time activities, the work involved etc.
This was first time had done any camping. Couldn’t stay in bed after 8 am, as too hot in the tents. Food arrangements worked out fine, sharing the cooking and 1 or 2 meals out a week. Could make a decent meal for all for about 8 pound a day. The showers were cold, but were refreshing in the afternoon. Most days I went in the warm sea, which was enough to get by. Only working till lunch was good. A siesta was often required before heading to the sea. I found it just great sitting on the beach or the cliffs soaking up the sun. The work wasn’t too strenuous. Trail building was hard, but quite rewarding to see an end product.
- Do you feel that you have benefited from this experience?
This was my first trip away by myself so I think it was a good starting point. Its good to get a bit of independence back and experience a totally different lifestyle. Met some interesting people and got on really well with the other volunteers. It was good to get away and get a fresh perspective on life.
- Do you feel that you were well prepared for the project?
I was reasonably fit before I went, which helped working in the heat. I felt much better physically afterward being outside all the time. The first time up the Quill was tough but worth the effort for the views. Not stayed in a tent before, but was ok. Best to have a 3 man tent, as enough space to spread out. A good mattress is essential though.
- Did you think the project cost was reasonable or not? What about personal spending during the project?
On the whole the cost was reasonable. Can just about stay within your food budget $300 month. Can do scuba diving fairly cheap. The trip to St Kitts was most expensive, but after living in a tent, a nice hotel ( and hot shower) was welcome.
- Are there any recommendations that you can give to the next group of volunteers?
Camping won’t be for everyone. The town and people are very different, but if you go with an open mind, you will get on just fine. The speedboat trip is a must. But hang on tight!! Also on the flight to Statia, take the plane that calls at Saba. The runway & landing has to be seen to be believed!
Aline Frossard, a biology student from Switzerland writes about her experience volunteering on Statia:
"My general feeling about this project is very positive. These two months passing on Statia was a really great experience. I met some nice locals too. Everybody on Statia is very cool and relax and it's very easy to come into contact with them. Statia is a very small and quiet island. The views from this island is simply awesome. There isn't lot of beaches, but both (Carribbean and Atlantic side) are very nice and beautiful, with sand and warm sea water (31°C). The 3 most positive points were: the diving possibilities, the experience to live outside, in the nature and the turtle project.
For me, the thing I improved the most is my English. After two months listening and speaking English all the time, I improved a lot. Everybody told me that I was speaking more fluently at the end of my stay. I don't think this project needs a real preparation. You just need to really want an adventure and outside living conditions."
Some extracts from Sophie Butterworth from the UK writing about her experience living and volunteering on Statia:
"Statia is a beautiful island but really isn't the stereotypical Caribbean paradise. There aren't the glorious white beaches, which we enjoyed in Anguilla, and for me this was a benefit. It hasn't suffered from mass tourism and I liked it for that. You see the Caribbean rather than it being another American outpost like Philipsburg. The town is a bit ramshackle in places but everything you need is there and in fact I was shocked by how developed it is. The sea is perfect. Clear, warm, calm and with the most fantastic marine life you could ever hope to see. The climate was great while we were there, apart from one weekend of torrential rain, but being a Mancunian it seemed like a shower! I didn't realise rain could stop! In short I loved Statia and would go back tomorrow."
Some extracts from Luke Reynolds from the UK on the general experience on Statia:
"In my opinion the work carried out was the best bit for me as working on the Quill is truly amazing and very rewarding when you see what you are actually achieving. Our supervisor in the Quill was very supportive and let us be creative. You were not told what to do, you were given options of what you could do. The important thing was that you were allowed to use your own ideas.
Our relationship with everyone was very good. The majority of locals enjoyed us being there and all the local bars were always extremely kind to us. One even put us on the radio. Also the dive shop 'Dive Statia' played a very important part in my time there as they were extremely friendly and as a few of us spent a lot of time there, I recommend this place very highly for future volunteers.
Statia is a beautiful Island with many attractions. The sea is beautifully clear and diving is a must. A few of us were lucky because we saw the five big fish, sharks, moray eel, seahorses, stingray and turtles. The climate is also amazing. It is just at the right temperature without being too hot although I was burnt a bit but that was my fault. The town is also very fascinating. You could walk around there all day and with there being so many different restaurants and bars to visit you would never get bored.
I am still very young and maybe not overly confident so doing something like this was very important. Just saying that I am now a rescue diver is enough for me but when I think I have been working on volcanoes, swimming with sharks, meeting new people and then living with them for two months without one single argument. Although I have come back home missing Statia a lot. I am now itching to get back out of England which goes to show how much I enjoyed my time. I have actually been accepted for a job in Crete which Kaspar said he had done a couple of years ago. So I'm on the up thanks to you and Statia.
(Are there any recommendations that you can give to the next group of volunteers?)
Just to enjoy every minute, be open to the manager about everything, buy Gershon (Assistant Manager) some tequila and go diving with Nic and Caroline, they are legends. Volunteers should also do a food kitty which I am sure you are aware of as this saves a lot of money and gets the group working together. Thanks so much Vicky for all you have done, I am extremely grateful and hopefully if you will let me I would love to do another project with WorkingAbroad in the future."
Some extracts from Rose Strickland-Constable who volunteered with the first group Feb-March and then stayed on as the trail work intern supervising the next group of volunteers for April to June, giving some good advice for future volunteers:
"The crater trail project was a really new experience for me; I've never been involved in building something practical before, certainly not something so big. It was a great feeling when we would see hikers on the mountain, and they would say 'good job' or even 'thank you.' The work was physically challenging, but rewarding.
Statia is place that the people I've talked to either love or hate. You have to be prepared for a wholly different way of life, particularly living in a tent on the wrong side of the mountain from town. Personally, I loved it. It's a very beautiful island, and the whole atmosphere and way of life is relaxed and laid-back. There isn't a huge tourist industry, and so there are no McDonalds, no big chain stores, and no cruise ships stop there. There's great hiking, diving, snorkelling, or just sitting out on the pier in the sun; and the night life is pretty good too, as long as you're not looking for multiplex cinemas or expensive clubs. So I can see that some people would find it boring, but I'd say you just have to be open-minded.
The Botan is actually pretty well kitted out, certainly compared to what I was expecting. The kitchen is almost fully equipped - plates, cutlery, gas cooker, loads of cooking pots and pans, even a small somewhat unreliable fridge. There's a proper toilet (now with a seat!), shower, recently a kitchen sink. The main living space is the pavilion, which has tables and chairs, and a hammock. There's even enough electricity (solar powered) to have lights at night and stereo. The food situation is pretty good; there's a kitty system, which means each night 2 people cook, and the 2 who are cooking tomorrow wash up today. That ran for as many nights a week as we had pairs to cover. The days were very well structured; we worked in the morning, and had the afternoon off; normally we went into town, so people who wanted shopped, used the internet, went swimming down at the pier, went diving; then headed back to the Botan.
I feel I definitely benefitted from the whole trip; I've gained new skills, met new people, and got a lot of what are generally called 'life experiences'.
Essential gear: hiking boots, work gloves, day-pack type rucksack, head-torch, sunblock, sleeping mat or airbed, pillow. Don't economise on space with things like the airbed - you're going to be living in a tent for 2 months. If you plan on taking a lot of photos, bring a lot of film - it's expensive out there. And come with an open mind."
Some extracts from Marie Millingon on volunteering for STENAPA and working in the Botanical Garden on Statia:
"The Statia Conservation Project is governed by STENAPA (St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation) - this is a non profit making organisation which is funded solely by donations and grants. Without our help, STENAPA would not be able to maintain main areas of the island which we have been working on. The main aims were to complete the crater trail down into the Quill (volcano), which the first group had started, carry on with phase one of the botanical garden, and monitor, tag and protect sea turtles. The plan was to have 4 volunteers in the garden and then 4 up the quill for one month and then after a month we would swap round. The work in the Quill and the botanical garden started at around 7-8 in the mornings and ended around 1-2 in the afternoons.
The work in the botanical garden consisted of levelling the paths in order for wood chips to be placed there, and general weeding. The path project was a big achievement for us as it took a lot of team work and effort to finally accomplish it. I was very proud of the work that everybody put in - the work was manual and in very hot conditions but the constant breeze was a god send. We also lived at the botanical garden and I feel I should mention the views from where we were -we looked out onto miles and miles of ocean and we had a brilliant view of St. Kitts.
Our free time consisted of snorkelling and scuba diving. I am very proud to say that I was a part of a team that helped the local children to snorkel. I think that the new manager, Nicole is going to be very beneficial to STENAPA, and is going to make big changes to improve to the National Parks in every respect. My only recommendation would be is to go with an open mind and be prepared for the time of your life -.this is a once in a lifetime experience, I am definitely now going to take part in similar projects as this was absolutely perfect for me."