Protect the Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtle on this World-Famous Conservation Project in Grenada

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Volunteer in the Caribbean and take part in leatherback sea turtle monitoring, research, and community outreach programmes on the island of Grenada. Featured on ITV's series "Secret Caribbean" with Sir Trevor McDonald.

You can volunteer with sea turtles for 3 weeks up to 12 weeks from March to August every year. We have places all throughout 2014 & 2015 available.

Individuals, groups and students doing research all welcome.

Cost includes quality accommodation, food, airport transfer, training & supervision, project t-shirts, backup & support; starts at £895.

Daytime turtle with volunteers Anne Lise and Claire Turtle returning to the sea after nesting Volunteers day off at Sandy Island Volunteer Sean who wrote a turtle song with school kids Kate rescuing a hawksbill from fishing nets Turtle tracks on the beach Early morning watching the sun come up Night time turtle nesting Planting mangroves for Earth Day Hatchlings emerging from the nest Inaugurating a new sign at Levera Beach Refreshing coconut drink Day off hiking in the mountains View from the rock down to Levera School kids learning about the importance of turtles on their island Leatherback female in distress, entangled by fishing nets Ocean spirits staff to the rescue They managed to cut off all of the nets and she was now free to return back to the sea Excavating nests and looking for baby turtles Summer camp with school kids View from volunteer house Volunteers will be able top experience the beauty of nature Tropical flowers are scattered throughout the island Grenada is rich in biodiversity Levera Beach in its splendour Volunteers finishing off their night patrol Turtle tracks A baby sea turtle taking its first steps into the ocean A baby sea turtle underwater just off the coast Mona monkey

The Project 

A volunteer catching the eggs from the nesting female sea turtleResearch Assistant Leatherback Sea Turtle Volunteer Programme

Duties will include:
  • Night patrols of the main leatherback sea turtle nesting site
  • Flipper tagging of unmarked females
  • Data collection – carapace (shell) measurements, egg counts, nest relocation
  • Morning surveys (on foot) of adjacent beaches
  • Nest excavations
  • Maintenance and preparation of research equipment
  • Summer camp organisation and participation
  • Carnival ‘Turtle Mas’ camp – costume design and creation
  • Assisting with organised sea turtle watches for school/community groups & tourists
  • Camp maintenance and cleaning
  • Cooking 

Background

As we move into the 21st Century, marine turtles continue to face the foreboding prospect of extinction.  Legal and illegal fisheries, incidental by-catch, loss of habitat and the harvesting of eggs have all contributed to the demise of sea turtle species throughout the Caribbean region and the entire globe.  Working together with local communities, government departments and international and regional organisations, Ocean Spirits are working to ensure that the spectacle of a nesting or foraging turtle remains a key component of Grenada's uniquely vibrant biodiversity.

A sea turtle swims just below the water's surface in GrenadaYour experience as a Research Assistant sea turtle volunteer will:

  • Provide hands-on field experience with the world’s largest sea turtle - Research Assistants are not just observers but active members of the research team.
  • Directly help the reduction of illegal egg poaching activities - the presence of nightly research patrols has reduced this threat by more than 60%.
  • Contribute to the preservation of Grenada’s turtles through local educational events.
  • Increase community participation – The very presence of Research Assistants coming to Grenada to volunteer with sea turtles generates local interest in marine turtles and the significance of Grenada’s coastline to these species.

Ocean Spirits

Sea turtle volunteers will be able to help protect new hatchlingsOcean Spirits is a registered, non-profit marine conservation organisation based in Grenada.  From its inception in 1999, Ocean Spirits have focused primarily on the conservation of marine turtles found throughout Grenada's coastal waters and beaches.  As a member and the Country Co-ordinator of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (WIDECAST) for Grenada, we work at a national and regional level, with support and expert advice which ensures we are continually striving to meet universal, conservational objectives and make valid contributions to the international scientific community.
 
The Secret Caribbean features this sea turtle volunteer projectAs a result of the tagging programme, we have documented the interchange of tagged turtles from neighbouring islands (and one from Panama, more than 1,200 miles away!) and vice versa; this information is vital when we consider the varying legislations and international boundaries this species cross during their lifetime.
 
In early 2009, Sir Trevor Macdonald and ITV (UK television) filmed Ocean Spirits at work - and the programme "Secret Caribbean" was aired on ITV1 throughout 2009 and 2010, an inspiring documentary for anyone planning to volunteer with sea turtles in the Caribbean!

Volunteers can help rescue and rehabilitate injured or trapped sea turtlesResearch

2014 marks the 15th year of the sea turtle leatherback monitoring programme. During the nesting season (March – July) Research Assistants & Project Supervisors will patrol the key nesting beach at night for nesting females, assist in the application of tags and collect biometric data - this is very much a hands on sea turtle volunteer programme. You can expect to complete approximately three to four night surveys per week (8pm to 6am) during their three week stay.
 
During hatching season, beginning in May, night patrols will also include the possibility of viewing emerging nests. As with all turtle related duties, training will be given as to the correct protocols to adhere to when working with hatchlings. This aspect of night work will also coincide with the daytime work of excavating extinct nests to establish hatching success and/or reasons for levels of nest mortality. You will be carrying out nest excavations from May. Sea turtle volunteers will work alongside experienced conservationists
 
A newly laid nest of sea turtle eggs on Grenada's beachMorning surveys are carried out each morning at 6am on selected nesting beaches on the east coast of the island. You will walk stretches of beach each morning looking for leatherback (and occasionally other species such as hawksbill) tracks, nests and any hatchling activity (approximately 2 miles). The nesting activity will be recorded along with any disruptive activity such as egg poaching or sand mining and the tracks covered over. Morning survey can take between 45 minutes to over and hour to complete depending on activity.
 

Despite adverse weather conditions and long working hours the collection of general population and individual specific information is the programmes highest priority. Without this insistence of a scientifically rigorous approach our data would not be considered robust enough on which to base serious resource management recommendations that we may make. For that reason, you must be able to adhere to strict scientific guidelines to participate in this sea turtle volunteer programme.

Sea turtle volunteers can also volunteer to work in schoolsEducation

Another important aspect of the sea turtle volunteer programme is education.  You will be involved in any school turtle watching field trips or community groups who arrange to join us on our nightly patrols. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to introduce a leatherback sea turtle to someone for the first time.

Volunteer to teach children about the importance of sea turtlesThe Ocean Spirits Summer Camps (July/August) are focused on environmental issues and personal development with a heavy emphasis on hands-on activities (e.g. trial SCUBA, organic chocolate factory (solar powered), organic banana plantation, internet lessons etc). We aim to nurture their genuine interest and encourage these future stewards of Grenada to act responsibly with regards to their environment. You will be required to contribute towards summer camp programme events, preparation and assist in the day-to-day running of the camps. The cultural differences between the Caribbean and Western cultures make this experience and education for you too. You do not have to be a teacher, or have had any training or extensive knowledge of the environment (we have plenty of material to help with this); you need to be confident and prepared to help the students on a one to one basis and at group level. It is hard work – but great fun!

Carnival!

Volunteers party with the locals in GrenadaIt may seem like an excuse for a party, but our community relationships have been successfully built upon ‘doing the Grenadian ting’! Each year (August), Grenada like all the other Caribbean islands, have a Carnival. In 2004, Ocean Spirits took its turn by playing ‘Turtle Mas’ in the local villages. Alongside designing amazing turtle costumes and banners, the team and local fishermen danced their way through the night, bringing the problems of egg poaching to the communities in a culturally specific way. It was a major success and while it will take some planning and organisation, this year will again give us a chance to enjoy the celebrations with the communities we work with and contribute in a very positive way to the future conservation of sea turtles and their eggs in the area. Be prepared for paper mache, paint and lots of glitter! 

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Dates & Costs

4th to 25th July 2015
25th July to 15th August 2015

Project durations are for 3 weeks, but there are possibilities to join for 6, 9 or 12 weeks for experienced volunteers/research projects - please email: Victoria.McNeil@workingabroad.com for more details on this or about the possibilities for alternate placement durations.   Please note, the price for longer durations is discounted on the standard 3 week placement. Can be flexible with dates.

The nesting period for leatherbacks is from March – July. During this period you will spend the majority of your time conducting field research and assisting with turtle watches.

Those participating in July/August will focus on Morning Surveys, nest excavations and hatchling release, summer camps and Carnival. NB Night patrols will cease once nesting numbers drop at some point in July. Sporadic night patrols may then take place as we also encounter hawksbill turtles nesting at Levera. 

Volunteers will work on the beaches of Grenada

Costs
The cost for a 3 week placement is £895 (the cost for 6 weeks is £1565 and for 9 weeks is £2160) *For 1-22 March dates only, discounted price of £760 for 3 weeks. This includes quality accommodation, food, airport transfer (one pick-up scheduled for 6pm at Point Salines International Airport, Grenada on first day of placement), training and supervision; project t-shirts and WorkingAbroad Projects backup and placement support. Airfare, travel/medical insurance and personal expenses are not included in the cost. It is mandatory for you to take out travel and medical insurance for the duration of the project.

Food, Lodging, Travel, Free Time

Sea turtle volunteers at the volunteer lodge in GrenadaFood and accommodation
You will be based in the picturesque north east of the Island.  The area is a windswept piece of paradise, which boasts a number of uninhabited offshore islands surrounded by coral reefs teeming with life. The accommodation comprises of a solid concrete built house, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a large balcony with incredible views across the outer islands and Carriacou. Sleeping arrangements are single sex rooms, with beds/futons and pillows provided. Linen and towels are not provided. The house has a fridge/freezer, gas cooker, telephone (outgoing calls are for project related needs only, you can receive incoming calls), 220 & 110V electricity supply. There is a fan in each room (no A/C); mosquito nets are not provided but if you react badly to bites you may wish to bring one with you.

 
Everybody will get the chance to demonstrate their culinary expertise! Cooking will be rotated and meals are prepared using seasonal, local produce (shopping is done in the nearby town of Sauteurs, food variations are limited e.g. cheese is cheddar - we have many recipes available). All food is vegetarian*; breakfast and lunch are 'help yourself'. Dinner is a cooked meal and is a social affair, attended by everyone on the project. *For those who cannot do without meat, past volunteers have chipped in to buy chicken etc and cook it in addition to the vegetarian evening meal.

 
Requirements
  • Age 18+ years
  • Willing to work in all weather conditions and keep smiling!
  • Ability to walk 2-3 miles on soft sand in the heat
  • Sea turtle volunteers at the Grenada Chocolate CompanyPrevious experience is not necessary as training will be provided
  • A good team player

Time Off & Recommended Activities
Grenada has a diverse range of activities and places to visit. You will receive one day off each week, but you will find that some rotated tasks take only a few hours leaving you with the rest of the day free.
  • SCUBA diving - good rates offered if you are interested in gaining your diving certificate, or as an experienced diver, the Bianca C wreck, a 200m long cruise ship which now lies 30m down, is an amazing dive.
  • Snorkelling - you can pop over to Sandy Island, a small uninhabited island (also a hawksbill nesting site) just one mile from the mainland. We can also arrange overnight trips (bring your hammocks!).
  • Rum factory and organic chocolate factory
  • Hot springs, lakes and waterfalls
  • Rainforest trails, trying to spot monkeys 
  • Local markets
  • Mountain biking
  • Visit the Sister Isle of Carriacou
Volunteers hiking in Grenada's tropical rainforests
 
Visa Requirements
UK, US, Canada, Commonwealth countries and other EU passport holders do not require a visa to travel to Grenada as a tourist. Your passport must be valid with more than 6 months remaining to travel to Grenada. A return ticket is required for entry by all passport holders.
 
 
Sea turtle volunteers helping to collect sea turtle measurementsHealth, Weather, Facilities
The physical conditions of the work are challenging - tough but reasonable. The main challenge will be remaining awake for periods throughout the night and walking long distances on sand. The key to this work is making enough time to relax and catch up on your sleep.
 
A sea turtle making its way back out to seaHowever much you believe you will not burn; you must wear a high factor sun lotion. A sun hat is essential for day work and you are advised to drink plenty of water (tap water is safe to drink). Grenada enjoys good weather throughout the year. Average temperatures are 25-30 oC. The dry season is January – May, the rainy season June – December. Banks, post offices and internet cafes can be found in Sauteurs and Grenville (10 and 20 minutes bus journey away respectively).
 
 
Volunteers can relax on the beachesTravel
Travel from UK/Europe - direct flights to Grenada are available with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.  Flights via Trinidad, Barbados or the US are available with BWIA, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and American Airlines.  Travel from US/Canada – flights to Grenada are available with American Airlines and Air Canada. Seasonal charter flights may be in operation, please check with your travel agent.

 

 

Interactive Map & Videos

 

This short film includes interviews with our Project Manager and one of our Ocean Spirits volunteers.

 

Second film, with courtesy of http://www.wildindie.com/

 

 

 
Click here for some more images on our Ocean Spirits Flickr Photo Gallery

 
The majestic tropical landscapes of Grenada are a treat for all volunteersGrenada - the Spice Isle

Known as the Spice Isle because of its’ high production of nutmeg, Grenada is a small volcanic island, 21 miles by 12 with a population of 90,000.  It has many beaches along its indented coastline, lush rainforest in the interior and remains one of the least spoilt of the Caribbean islands. It also plays host to one of the major leatherback sea turtle nesting sites in the Caribbean with hundreds of nests laid each year.  Each year, between 700 and 1000 nests are laid at Levera Beach - this is Grenada’s main nesting site and where the majority of our research takes place. The beach is only 700m in length which makes it an ideal research site, with high density nesting (10+ activities per night during peak season).

Below is an interactive map showing the location of the project


 

Volunteer Testimonials

 

Kelseyleigh Reber, from the USAKelseyleigh Reber, from the USA, describes her time volunteering with Ocean Spirits

There’s a strange irony in island time; how my days can seem so long and teem with more experiences than I could ever hope to fit into a mundane week at home and yet, those days can simultaneously disappear without so much as a whisper of their passing. And just like that, my six weeks at Ocean Spirits draws to a close. Nonetheless, with both my days and nights packed with a satisfying mix of exhausting physical work that could test even the most athletic individual’s stamina and fun-filled adventures across what feels like every inch of this beautiful island, my time at Ocean Spirits, although coming to an end, will remain one of the most cherished experiences of my life.

The work is not for the faint of heart. Wake up at 5 am to carry a rake slung across your shoulder down to Bathway to camouflage any potential tracks, sleep still heavy in your eyes? Seemed impossible. Survey Levera beach nightly, sometimes moving from one nesting turtle to another, counting eggs, measuring carapaces, and recording data by the light of a red head torch and the moon without reprieve? Surely a recipe for exhaustion. Dig up month-old nests to unveil the glorious and distinct smell that is rotting turtle eggs? A dirty, dirty business that leaves one feeling in need of a shower after one’s shower.

BUT—and this is the important part—it all serves a purpose. You push through the exhaustion, through the hard physical labor, through the not-so-pleasant smell of nest excavations because you also see the incredible creatures all of your efforts are working to save. The proximity that Ocean Spirits grants you to such an authentic, majestic, and natural process is unparalleled. Even within my final week, I still find myself awed by the leatherback’s beauty. Their enormous, almost-prehistoric demeanor and the wisdom in their eyes makes one understand why it is Ocean Spirits fights so hard to preserve their future. And seeing the hatchlings make their way to sea—perhaps even helping them through the burdensome terrain of vegetation, footprints, and hungry crabs—provides the drive you need to do it all over again the next night. Though all of the work required of Ocean Spirits’ volunteers seems daunting, knowing that it all contributes valuable data and research to the conservation of leatherback sea turtles makes it all 100% worth it. And as a student trying to find her footing in marine biology, being given that hands-on experience in data collection, fieldwork, and research is a unique and valuable experience that I am beyond grateful for.

However, it’s important to note that this project is anything but all work and no play. In fact, if anything, I would describe the general motto at Ocean Spirits as “Work Hard. Play Harder.” In six weeks, I have had more fun-filled adventures than I ever thought imaginable. From climbing under the astounding weight of Mt. Carmel’s falls to tasting the heavenly delight that is cocoa tea at Belmont, from gaining my SCUBA certification diving the stunning reefs of Grenada’s waters to jumping through the rocky streams that connect the seven sisters waterfalls before swimming in the natural pools, and from climbing to the peaks of Sugarloaf island and Welcome Rock to take in the panoramic views to snorkeling the crystal waters of Sandy Island, every day has held a new adventure. Even the small moments, like riding the public buses packed between locals four-to-a-seat or bickering with fellow volunteers over the rules of Uno after a delicious family meal, have rounded out my time at Ocean Spirits into one of the most enjoyable, demanding, and worthy experiences of my life. I cannot thank the staff enough for this outstanding opportunity and cannot recommend it enough to those who are thinking of taking on the challenge themselves. And to you I say, just go for it!

Volunteer Anne enjoying her time on Levera beach, GrenadaAnne Fritsch, from Germany Volunteered at the project in 2014

 It seems practically impossible to cover the entity of my three weeks with Ocean Spirits in brief, so let me focus on my favorite part – the night surveys.

Levara, a 1,53 km stretch of beach, palm-fringed and white sanded, became my terrain throughout the nights I worked as part of my volunteer program this May. I walked back and forth its length more times than I can recall. I ran on it, trying to get from one turtle to the other in time. I slept on it with the sound of the ocean in my ears, admired the stars and exchanged ideas with fellow volunteers and local staff. I worked in absolute darkness or moonlight, almost as bright as daylight. I shared great laughs with people I had just met. I got soaked in rain showers that came and went so quickly that you had almost forgotten about them an hour later. And of course, I learned a great deal about the magnificent leatherbacks that came to nest. Their unwavering maternal instinct drawing them without fail to the beach and their gentle demeanor moved me deeply. I experienced new life come to be when little hatchlings made their way into the ocean, facing a life of treacherous dangers and great adversity. All in all, it was an awe-inspiring experience, and, as I have told anyone who asks, one of the finest of my life.

But don’t be misled. It is hard work and physically challenging; nothing that can’t be handled, but certain to give you a few sore muscles that you didn’t know you had.

I would like to send out a big thank you to Kate and Kester, who went through great lengths to make our stay as joyous, exciting, educational, memorable and fun as could be, as well as Vicky and Nico for their superb supervision at the beach.

A sea turtle volunteer watches new hatchlings make their way to the ocean"Dancing with turtles" Feedback story by past volunteer Eva Schiemann

The first Leatherback Turtle in my life I saw on my first holiday to the Caribbean about two years ago. I saw it nesting on one of the beaches in Tobago and since then I had in mind to volunteer one day with a turtle project to help to protect these wonderful creatures. I have been looking at stunning pictures of seaturtles and hatchlings on the internet ever since, wondering if I will ever see that myself... indeed I did!

In my three weeks with Ocean Spirits I saw many Leatherback Turtles nesting, helped little hatchlings with their first crawl when they leave the nest and spent many hours out on the beach - at night and day. The first night was a bit crazy... we had many turtles coming up at once in pouring rain. I found myself lying underneath a turtle's backside, catching the eggs for relocation because she nested too close to the sea, getting soaked not only by rain but by sea water as well... and what can I say? I was actually enjoying it! Some other nights were more quiet and I could take my time watching them.

At first you see a dark shadow wondering if it is a rock or a turtle. When the rock moves, you know. You watch her dragging her heavy body up on the beach, looking for a good spot to nest. Once she has decided on a location, she will start making a body pit and digging the egg chamber.

Once she has done that, the researcher's work starts with counting eggs and measuring the turtle in order to collect data.
In the end she covers the nest and it always filled me with joy to see what she is doing with her rear flippers. It is a somehow neat and tender way of filling in and compressing the sand. Finally she camouflages the nest. On Tobago they say that the turtle "dances", a term that describes it pretty well, I think. It really amused me to see how she performs her "dance", shifting and turning, throwing sand with her front and rear flippers in all directions.

Seeing hatchlings is a very heart-touching experience, especially since so many of them only have a very short life. But every little one making it into the sea felt like a little success - hoping that it will survive out there on it's own havinng a long life and returning one day to Levera to nest.

Ocean Spirits on Grenada do a very good job, really taking care of their volunteers, making sure everybody is having a good experience. I enjoyed working out on the beach, even though I must admit I have been tired often... but it is definitely worth it. Since the volunteers are not out every night, we had a lot of time for ourselves as well and to explore the island of Grenada.
There are little duties to take care of during the day, which makes time pass by quick. Everybody gets to cook, making the shared dinner an exciting adventure every once on a while.

And last but not least: walking down to the beach at 5:30 a.m. for morning survey, catching the first rays of sunshine, is a good way to start the morning.

Volunteers stand by the new sign at Levera Beach where the turtles nestPrevious volunteer Ben Campbell, from Australia gives his feedback on the project

I’m really glad I joined Ocean Spirits as a volunteer for three weeks in May 2013. The work and time there was enriching and it feels good to have contributed a bit to the conservation of the Leatherback turtle.  In fact, I couldn’t get enough of these wonderful creatures and will miss them.  I´ll also miss the like-minded, friendly, committed staff and volunteers. Living and working in the one place abroad, especially amongst locals, allowed me to get a deeper experience of Grenada, its people, environment and wildlife. The staff provided a good balance between serious work and fun, taking us on trips to the islands nearby for BBQs and snorkeling and giving us opportunities to be involved in cultural and community activities. It was also fun being with other volunteers from around the world.

The Ocean Spirits residence is very comfortable and secure and has an outstanding view from the spacious verandah out to Levera Beach in the distance and archipelago beyond.  The garden has plenty of coconuts and a variety of tasty fruits. Our dinners were always good and the cooking was fun, with each night´s chefs not wanting to lower the standards set in previous meals!

The highlight, of course, was working hands-on at night with the Leatherbacks, especially in the moonlight - counting eggs, measuring, tagging, etc, then taking a snooze on the sand under the stars and occasionally spotting some hatchlings.  Seeing a few turtles by day was always a bonus, and what a buzz it was one day to join the staff in rescuing a Leatherback tangled in an illegal fishing net at the south end of Grenada. This event exemplified the staff´s dedication to saving the turtles and was very satisfying to be part of.

For anyone who has a love of nature, is OK with occasionally roughing it a bit and has an interest in being somewhere very special in the Caribbean, I highly recommend joining Ocean Spirits – for the place, the people, the turtles and the cause.

Sean Park, one of our volunteers in Grenada last season, and other volunteer researchers wrote this Turtle Song about Grenada's protected Leatherback turtles and they sang it all together with local school children


Charlie Hohlbein, from Seattle USA, joined our Grenada programme for 6 weeks, and has written a blog post about her experience:

Before volunteering with Ocean Spirits I had seen 1 leatherback turtle on a tour I took in Costa Rica. I didn’t really know what to expect but I signed up to volunteer with the hope of seeing a few more of these mesmerizing creatures. And boy did I get what I came for. In my six weeks with Ocean Spirits I learned about, named, measured, serenaded, photographed, pit scanned, tagged, and saw more turtles than I could ever hope for.


There were quite a few incredible days on my trip but one thing I will never forget was the very first hatchling of the season. It was my second week on the project I woke up on the beach after night survey, and headed down the beach with everyone to begin raking over the nests (we rake the nests to disguise them from possible poachers). About three quarters of the way down Levera beach Kester called my name and told me to come see something. He felt the ground in several areas and then started digging. I wasn’t really sure what he was up to but I sat there patiently waiting. All of the sudden he reached out and handed me a little baby leatherback turtle. I pretty much squealed with joy at the sight of it. We only found the one left in that nest that was still alive. Some had already hatched and climbed out on their own, and a few we found hadn’t made it. We released the hatchling near the water and watched it make its way into the sea. Only 1 in 1000 of them are supposed to make it but I have a good feeling about that tiny turtle.


I had a turtletastic, and unforgettable experience with Ocean Spirits. I fell in love with sea turtles in those six weeks and hope to be able to see many many more in the future. Grenada is an incredibly beautiful Island with much more to see than one might expect. I worked with and met some amazing people who became great friends. It was truly a wonderful adventure.

One of our volunteers next to a sea turtle on Grenada's beachesKen Lindsay, 51 yrs old from NY, USA volunteered on Ocean Spirits in April 2012

I thought I would touch base and let you know that I greatly enjoyed my experience with Ocean Spirits. The work with the leatherbacks was phenomenal and I greatly enjoyed working with and being with Kate, Kester, Mike and Alan. They were all very professional in their work and fun to be with during the off hours. The other volunteers, Charlie, Marije and Emma were great too, we all got along well.

I've been missing Ocean Spirits since my return home and I hope to return again in the future.

One of our sea turtle volunteers in GrenadaDiana Maher, from Finland, describes her time with Ocean spirits

My experience with Ocean Spirits was excellent and will be a warm memory forever. A special moment was when one of the turtles managed eventually to lay her eggs on the third nights try, after we helped her to dig the chamber which was difficult for her to do due to her injured back fins. That moment and many others with the turtles as well the team are unforgettable. Grenada is amazing island, and the nature is overwhelming.

Steve Tranter, 47 yr old, British volunteer writes about his experience in May/June 2011
My name is Steve Tranter, working as a volunteer for Ocean spirits in May/June 2011 in Grenada. Having been to this beautiful country before on holiday some ten years ago. I knew from all the information booklet that I received before my trip was very helpful to prepare me for this wonderful opportunity of saving leatherback Turtles. Having arrived in Grenada the first couple of days were spent training and meeting the supervisors and receiving a warm welcome. The house was comfortable and basic the food was different sometimes exciting, there were occasions I wasn’t sure what I was eating but it was ok. After the training was over it was time for our first night survey after making sure we have checked and loaded all the equipment we set off for Levera beach it is where most turtle activity takes place. I remember seeing my first turtle and what an amazing creature after she found a suitable spot to lay here eggs we would check for tags and for tag scars and scan her microchip usually in her right shoulder and count the eggs and measure her and measure the location of the nest from markers on the beach we would record all this information on a data sheet this event would happen up to twenty times a night, at the end of the night survey we would rake over turtle tracks so as to deter predators and check for hatchlings they are so cute we would place them by the water edge and watch as they make there way to the ocean and hope they survive.
I found being with experienced supervisors was helpful, and during my time there with them found you were able to ask them questions they would know the answers top marks to them. I found you had quite a bit of free time after you had completed your rota jobs, you could just sit around and relax or go the beach. There were some mornings you would do a morning survey this would meen getting up at 5am and walk to Bathway beach and check for any turtle activity any turtle activity would need to be recorded.

I also found being with other volunteers it was interesting getting to know them and where they live and great working with them as part of a team.

I found the local people very friendly and would always speak to you very nice people, sometimes the supervisors would arrange trips for us sandy beach island was very nice, although one lady said it was known as sunburn island would recommend factor 50 sun cream and insect repellant by the bucket load, I was ok for the first couple of days and then I could hide no more the mosquitoes found me thankfully it wasn’t to bad.

My overall impression of the whole three weeks I was there I found every thing had come together and was impressed with the set up it was exciting experience the people I was sharing the house with and the supervisors were very helpful, the accommodation and the food and the location was just right, and going to Levera or Bathway beaches there were hardly any tourists due to the location every thing was brilliant and a most enjoyable experience and I would certainly recommend it to any future volunteers and hope to it again some time to return to this beautiful country of Grenada.

A volunteer next to a nesting sea turtle in GrenadaCanadian volunteer - Rachel Mitchell
Ontario based newspaper wrote an article about her time in Grenada May-June 2011 - “In Grenada, my work consisted of night surveys, morning surveys, nest excavations, data collection, protecting hatchlings, and working with local youth through the after school club,” she says.

Ms. Mitchell worked four nights a week from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. on Levera Beach, home of the Leatherback, a critically endangered sea turtle. “With every turtle that emerged, we were responsible for counting the eggs, measuring the carapace, checking flipper tags, and documenting any other information on the turtle, whether it was a missing flipper, or wounds.

“In the event that you came across a new turtle, untagged and with no micro chip, you were given the opportunity to name and tag your very own turtle. I was fortunate enough to discover two new turtles.”

She also completed morning survey work that involved waking at 5:30 a.m., walking to a nearby beach, and raking turtle tracks. “It was very important to cover the tracks, making it harder for poachers to steal the eggs,” she says. Full article under: http://stfx.ca/news/view/3812/

Jen Lipski wrote about her experience in Grenada May/June 2011

My name is Jen Lipski, and I was volunteering with the program for 3 weeks in May/June. I am an artist, but I love animals and have always been fascinated by marine biology. I joined Ocean Spirits because I wanted to help animals in any way I could, and I ...prefer hands-on work experience rather than throwing money at charities and letting them have all the fun.


The first turtle I saw during my stay was also the first turtle I got to rescue. I found him on the beach on my first day of work, all tangled up in the seaweed and baking out in the sun. He was upside-down and barely moving. I got him free of the weeds and brought him down to the water. We splashed some water to cool him down, then released him onto the sand so he could make his way to the shore. Rejuvenated by the cool water, he regained the strength needed to pull himself across the sand. We took some photos while he oriented himself, and then he headed out to brave the ocean. We helped him a little as he got knocked about by the first few waves, and then watched as he disappeared beneath the surf and headed out into the blue. The feeling of giving this little baby turtle a second chance at life was unforgettable, and already made my trip more than worthwhile. I got to repeat this feeling throughout my stay, every time I pulled a lost and disoriented hatchling out of the vegetation after night survey or protected a new nest from poaching and other threats.


Working with the females at night was another amazing experience. They are surprisingly unalarmed by our presence, even when it is their very first time nesting. I had the opportunity to work with one of the first turtles encountered by the program when it began, as well as with new turtles who had never been seen out of the water before. New turtles are especially interesting, as you may get to share with them their very first time emerging from the ocean and giving birth, which is also an incredible experience.


Aside from the animals, my favourite thing about the trip was having the experience of living in Grenada, not just visiting. You get to spend time hanging out with the locals, and experience the culture first hand without all the touristy crap. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and not just because they want to sell you things. (I have only been to Grenada once before, and it was on a cruise where all you get to see is blue sky and tourist traps). I much prefer the experience of living in a rural area and seeing what life there is really like. And you do get to live there. By the middle of the second week it is easy to forget that you actually have a home somewhere else and that you will eventually have to leave.


There is a fair bit of work involved with the program at times, but the job is extremely rewarding and I had a lot more free time than I initially expected. Most of the work is flexible too, and can easily be planned around day trips to the beach or to the island’s many other attractions. Overall the experience was incredible and I would recommend it to anyone who likes tropical adventures and hands-on work with animals.

Elin Pennanen from Finland, studying Veterinary Medicine in Denmark volunteered with Ocean Spirits between March 26th and April 16th 2011 and wrote about her daylight turtle experiences:

Here’s the story about my daylight turtles.

The first week as a volunteer me, and a couple of the other volunteers, went to a nearby town, Grenville. While out, the volunteers at the house got called down to the beach because of a DAY-turtle nesti...ng!! The turtles normally only come up at night to nest and since we’re not supposed to take pictures with a flash, it’s almost impossible to get a good picture, proving you’ve actually been working with turtles… We missed a perfect photo opportunity for the little town, where there wasn’t even too much to see! We were so disappointed, especially since we hadn’t even had a morning turtle before (a turtle staying up at the beach until dawn).

The second week my luck seemed to have turned. At night survey with Praggi (one of the supervisors) we got a turtle at the point of the beach around 01:30. It was a new one; no PIT-tag and no scars from earlier flipper-tags, so I even got to name the turtle. The newbie dug her hole, but wasn’t too lucky, the egg chamber filled with water from beneath without her noticing. We relocated the eggs for her by filling the chamber with sand, so we didn’t have to reach in too deep, and moving the eggs to a bucket as she laid them. We then dug a new chamber for the eggs further up at the beach, counting the eggs as we dropped them into the hole. We left the turtle and returned to our base.

When the other team returned after the next run along the beach, they told us she was still up. We didn’t think much about it, but when we got up for our next run, she was still there! She had started to dig a new egg chamber. She even got ready to lay, but she had no eggs left, obviously. When we were finishing the run, she was still up, and the sun was starting to rise. We stayed with her, radioed the other team and got some really good shots of her. At 06:15, she finally had had enough of the beach, and returned, in almost broad daylight, to the sea, leaving a horribly long track for us to rake… Thanks for the pictures, crazy “little” turtle!

I was even lucky enough to get two more morning turtles during my second week - one in pouring rain and another one in perfect dawn. The water was so clear that last morning you could see the shadow of the turtle under the water as she left the beach. It was magical when she came up for her last breath before disappearing into the ocean.




Kate Rooney, Marine Biologist from Scotland spent 9 weeks from April to June 2010:

1. Grenada is a beautiful country and has the nicest people I have ever met. The project is located in the north and I preferred this, there is very few tourists and it gives you a real taste of what Grenadian life is like, I also found people in the north friendlier and so warm and welcoming. I absolutely loved Grenada and would go back tomorrow if I could! The project houses have wonderful views and within walking distance of the beach and only a short bus journey to local town so ideally situated.

2. I found the work very interesting and really enjoyed getting hands on experience. We spent two days getting settled in with training and learning where our working areas would be and then it all began! I found everything to be well organised and particularly liked being able to visit the beaches we would be working on in daylight before doing any night work on them. I dont think I would change anything, I found we learnt all we had to know with the training given and also the presentation given with background information on the project really explained why I was there and what my work efforts would go towards.
3.The houses are all lovely and perfectly adequate (much better than previous volunteer accomedation on other projects) and liked how only 2/3 to a room so you still had your privacy. The food was fine and I liked although it is vegetarian menu you could as a group make meat dishes too.
4. Positives: Being able to experience leatherback turtles and hatchlings close up, Being able to get involved with local community (eg going into local school) and beautiful weather, country and people.

Negatives: Mosquitoes, Mosquitoes and Mosquitoes!! I had such great time wasnt any negative points apart from having to come home!
5. Project Manager Nic is great, easy going and very approachable. The Supervisors, both local and international were all great and I liked how they all mucked in with everything. The project runs well and I found it very easy to settle in and was made very welcome.

6. I found the cost reasonable, its very similar to other projects and I like that once you paid for the project you dont really need to worry about money whilst on the project as accommodation and food is all provided.

7. I felt the handbook provided gave you a good idea how to prepare for the project, only suggestions I have is I would highly recommend taking own sleeping bag as you do get to sleep on the beach some nights and it can get chilly!! Also after speaking with Danielle (education supevisor) the section in guide book where it asks to take small gifts/prizes for local school events I would suggest putting a note that playing cards are not acceptable as local culture deem unsuitable for children as she getting lots of playing cards given!

8. I would just advise future volunteers that the project isnt a holiday, you get out of the project what you put in. If your prepared to work and muck in you will have the time of your life.



Don Schwartz, 57 yrs old Child Psychologist from the USA writes about his time there from 27th February to 20th March 2010

Let me start by saying that my experience at Ocean Spirits was extraordinarily memorable. I still share highlights with friends and acquaintances. What I most appreciated is that the project and experience was as advertised. When we applied, I was hopeful that the project would match the description, and it most certainly did.

We enjoyed Grenada. The people were extremely friendly; the beaches were uncrowded and lovely. The location of the project was a quiet and relaxing setting. We loved being on the beach at night, listening to the waves and looking up at a sky full of stars. We learned so much about leatherback turtles during our stay. The staff made us feel welcome and went out of their way to make sure we were happy. Regarding changes, I would have been happy to have contributed more in some way during some of the downtime during the days. We also ventured to Carriacou for a few days and really enjoyed the island.

The house and accommodations were comfortable. The community dinners were fabulous. Being vegetarians, we really appreciated having vegetarian meals. I didn’t expect anything fancy, and was satisfied with the accommodations. I am grateful that Nic arranged for Dana and me to share our own room.

Positives:
What an incredible gift to be able to work so closely with the magnificent leatherbacks.
The locals on the staff and in town were very warm and welcoming
There was a nice balance and sharing of responsibilities.

The research assistants, local staff members and Nic were all terrific. The orientation was interesting and complete, the roto was clear and flexible, and everyone wanted to ensure that we had a good experience. Our group got along well.

I felt the costs were reasonable. I could see the challenge of trying to accomplish what Ocean Spirits is trying to do with limited resources and I understood how the fees enabled them to accomplish their mission. We sent out letters to friends in an effort to help with their fundraising.

The pre-trip information sheet and checklist was very helpful. We came with everything we needed.
I don’t have any advice for future volunteers, but I would recommend the placement in a heartbeat.

Regards,

Don



Krysty Girardo from Canada aged 25 yrs, writes about her time on the project in May-June 2009
 
Getting involved in the Ocean Spirits program was one of the most inspiring and rewarding experiences of my life. The first time you see a turtle come up from the ocean you cannot believe it is real. The hands on experience is unbelievable, and learning how to work with the turtles and the community is something you will never do anywhere else! The volunteers are now friends that will last a lifetime, and Grenada was one of the friendliest and most beautiful places I have visited. The program is set up in a way that involves everyone, allows the volunteers to experience the project in a profound and complete manner, but also make time for you to explore the island! One of the greatest aspects of the trip is living in the house and having a 'family' dinner every night. The conversations and laughter will live on forever! If you want to have a memory to last a lifetime, I recommend this 100%, it changed my life and I hope I can go back in the near future!
 
 
Helen Radley, aged 20, from the UK May to June 2009 gives her feedback
 
After the first night survey on the beach with the turtles, I wrote in my diary that: ‘it was a magical experience and a privilege to watch the turtles lumbering up the beach and laying their eggs’. By the end of the three weeks, I still felt that same excitement at watching such a prehistoric ritual. It was wonderful to be able to help these amazing creatures through joining in the worthwhile work of this project. As a group we had a great time, the volunteers and supervisors all got on really well. We especially enjoyed all getting together at meal times which take place on the balcony with the beautiful Pacific Ocean and Sugar Loaf Island in the background. It felt like we were really welcomed into the community too, it’s such a friendly place and there’s lots of places to visit as well. I was sorry to leave at the end and really hope to go back in the future!
 
 
Cathinka Rondan, Radio Station Manager, Norway, March to May 2008
 
One of the things one most definitely should do in life, is leave everything "normal" at home for a while and get into a project like Ocean Spirits in Grenada. It was amazingly inspiring and fulfilling to spend two and a half months working with the majestic Leatherbacks on a beautiful island with warm and fun Grenadians, and great volunteers and supervisors. I went from being in complete awe of the first turtle my first night of survey, to relaxed enjoying 29 crawling up in one night. Saving the first hatchling was a very special experience. I can't think of a better way to start the day, than doing morning survey on Bathway. And the best sleep I ever got were some of the nights on the beach. It was also a great experience working with the kids at school, and heightens the experience sharing why Ocean spirits do what they do. It is an unforgettable experience working so hands on a job that is so meaningful, and being able to do that with nice people in a charming and beautiful place. You have to be able to and really want to work several busy nights a week, but at the same time you also get more time in the world to do several things you don't normally do. The more you pitch in the better the experience, but it isn't difficult in the superb environment.
 
 
 
Lucy Le Maitre, 9 week volunteer - April-June 2008, talks about her life changing experience working in Grenada
 
Unfortunately, I can't stay anymore although I'd really like to and have been trying to find a way to stay for the last two weeks.
I have loved every minute of my time in Grenada, all of the supervisors have done a fantastic job and have made me feel so welcome working with them, I know they have had a hard time with some of the volunteers but they have done a fantastic job.
 
Working with Ocean Spirits has really changed my life - I intend returning home for just long enough to find another Sea Turtle conservation project that would benefit from my help, they are fantastic and incredible creatures that amaze me every time I work with them. Levera is by far my favourite place to be.
 
Please can you pass on my comments to Carl, I know he appreciates what a great team he has out here but I just wanted to let him know that from a volunteers point of view there could not be a better group of supervisors in place.
 
Thanks a lot for everything. Please keep me on your e-mail list for Working Abroad Projects.
 
 
 
Review from Swiss volunteer, Olivia Meier - March 2008
 
My experience with Ocean Spirits in Grenada
 
A gust of wind blew the salty spray right into my face, yet I didn’t even realize. With my eyes wide open, I was starring into the subtle darkness to where the scent of wet sand comes from. Inch after inch, a huge leatherback turtle was crawling up the beach, breathing heavily. We gathered several feet away to let her dig her egg-chamber in peace. Once she was done, we rushed to her, trying not to disturb her too much. Guided by the moonlight we got to work.

Of course I was tired after a night on the beach. However, thanks to the overwhelmingly beautiful view from our house, I didn’t feel the urge of going to sleep at all. With a glass of water and a green orange in my hand I went down into the dancing heat. Not really intending to get burned I went back into the shade after a short while. Soothed by the natural soundings of our environment, I dozed off, dreaming of turtles and the funny trip to Grenville.

Not long after, a gentle hand was placed on my shoulder and a friendly face was chuckling at me… dinnertime! In my back, I could see the purple sunset while I was sitting around the dinner table with my so beloved new friends. Not even the mosquitos could lessen the idyllic charm of this very moment.
Hopefully, I will be back!
 
 
Feedback from Anna Maton, a teacher from the UK who joined our teams from July to August as a Research Assistant volunteer
 
My time spent with the Ocean Spirits was definitely one I will not forget. It was an amazing experience not only to be working with such an interesting conservation project, but also to share these experiences with strangers who quickly became friends and on one of the most beautiful and unspoilt Caribbean islands.

The Ocean Spirits team was quick to welcome us to Grenada and make us all feel at home. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly as well as being a serious working environment. For example as well as learning a lot about the Leatherback Sea Turtle, waking at 5am every morning and working hard on the nearby beaches, we learnt how to pick and prepare fresh coconuts, cheat at Monopoly and survive on a tropical island!
 
The weather was inevitably very hot! However, being the rainy season, the almost daily showers were very welcome especially when we’d gone without running water for 24 hours. We all managed to wash our hair in the rain too – the most refreshing shower I have ever had!
 
We also managed to see a lot of Grenada, experience the Reggae Buses, Carnival, the neighbouring towns of Sauteurs and Grenville, the rain forest and Seven Sisters waterfalls and of course the Chocolate factory.
 
Once in Grenada, the cost of sight-seeing is very cheap compared to UK prices. I would recommend volunteers stock up on high quality mosquito repellant as we all got eaten alive! It didn’t spoil the most amazing life experience to date though! Thoroughly recommend this project to anyone with high sense of adventure and fun. As long as you are a team-player and not afraid to get your hands dirty…

Denice Ogilvie, a business manager from the UK, aged 45 yrs old writes about volunteering with Ocean Spirits March-April 2006
 
Our first night of working on the beach with the turtles was both the most amazing experience as well as probably the most physically demanding thing I have ever had to do. To see your first turtle to touch them and to play such an important role in their future existence by way of ensuring their nests were in the best possible place and to relocate any that were not and then to rake the beach to hide their location, made the hard work and the feeling of total exhaustion at the end of the shift worthwhile.
 
Our free time was very precious to us, you looked forward to a night off, a chance to relax and get out and about, I think we all fell in love with both the island and its people, they were friendly and the locals appreciated the effort had been made by Ocean Spirits to integrate into the community and to support the locals by way of the purchasing of some of the shopping items from the local markets.

The weather was perfect the beach was idyllic and to wake up every morning to the view from our balcony was breath taking.

Over the 3 weeks we all worked hard and played hard and some good relationships were formed.

I am still amazed by the dedication of Carl and although I did not meet her, Becky, for their commitment to this project and the sacrifices they have made to ensure its continued success, have I benefited from this experience, I certainly feel that my time in Grenada has made me look at my life and has made me question whether I actually contribute to this world we live in and take for granted. I am conscious that I do not have a real passion in my life and I feel that I can address this by way of some worthwhile voluntary work working with animals in some capacity.

As to whether I was prepared, I am not sure you can ever be prepared for an experience like this unless you have been there before, the work was hard, worthwhile and rewarding, in the first week we thought we would not survive the next 2 weeks, by the end of the 3rd week no one wanted to come home and a few tears were shed saying goodbye.

Can anything be improved, I would not want to change a single thing, and even the fact that my suitcase was mislaid and I did not get it until the end of the 3rd day would not make me wish for anything to be different in any way.

I look forward to going back sometime and doing it again!!

Thanks, Denice

Ocean Spirits Research Assistant Volunteer July-August 2005 - Amy Morton, from the UK gives her feedback on her time volunteering in Grenada:

I volunteered with Ocean Spirits at the end of last summer, on a six week placement and had most possibly the best six weeks of my life!! Grenada is a warm and wonderful island and being a member of the Ocean Spirits team really gives you a true insight into the Caribbean way of life and you are really treated as a local. The project itself involved long hours sometimes but you often found yourself going to the beach to do night surveys in the hope of spotting a mother nesting. At one point myself another a volunteer had lost all hope of seeing a mother, and the other volunteers even went to the extremes of sneaking to the other end of the beach one night to build us a sand leatherback for us to find on our morning survey. Finally I got lucky and found myself with my head by a nesting mothers bum!! My job, to catch the eggs the mother was laying so that other members of the team could relocate the nest in the hope that the eggs would be more likely to survive than in the damp spot their mother had chosen. I met some wonderful people working in Grenada, spent the night on a real desert island, saw hatchlings nearly every day for six weeks and more importantly have come away from my Ocean Spirits experience with wonderful memories. I am now in my third year at University, and after my experience have decided to write my dissertation on sea turtles!! Thanks to everyone at Ocean Spirits and I guarantee that if you volunteer with this company you will receive brilliant treatment and times.

How to Join

If you are interested in joining this project as a Research Assistant volunteer, you will need to fill out the online application form (you can also print it out and send it to us by post) – to secure a placement on the project, please complete and submit the form including two references and your deposit of £150. If for some reason, your application is declined, we would reimburse this deposit fully. However for those who are accepted, the full amount needs to be paid two months before departure. Once you have been accepted on the programme, you will receive a Volunteer Handbook with all detailed information on your project, suggested items to bring and so on. For those booking for 6, 9 or 12 weeks, you will need to pay the first 3 weeks of your final payment after you have been accepted on the programme, with the remainder to be paid two months before departure.

 

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