The TOP 4 Volunteering Opportunities in the Caribbean
February 3rd 2020
Are you looking for an opportunity to volunteer in one of the most beautiful corners of the world? Do you have a passion for marine conservation? Are you ready to be blown away? Then you’ve come to the right place. The Caribbean.
The Caribbean is incredibly rich when it comes to marine ecosystems and biodiversity. It’s the home of 25,000 marine and plant species, 700 islands, islets, reefs, and cays; 500 species of birds, including 172 species that are found nowhere else in the world. Also, there are about 189 different species of amphibians, 497 species of reptiles and 164 mammals that live in the Caribbean region. Plus, there are lots of coral reefs, including the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef which is the largest marine habitat in the Caribbean. It has hundreds of fish species, marine turtles, and sharks, including more than 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusk and more than 500 species of fish.
Given the current state of the world with global warming and the threat towards conservation, helping support, restore and maintain these ecosystems has never been more important. Right now, there are a number of endangered species around the Caribbean, including marine mammals, sea turtles and coral species. According to the WWF, threats come from several different directions, including collection for sale in the pet trade and destruction of their natural habitats.
Nonetheless, the main pressure right now focuses on illegal hunting and fishing. This is the reason why volunteer projects to protect these areas are so important. They keep the economy activated with ecotourism and the species around safe with the multiple projects running all year round. In addition, protecting the biodiversity here preserves our oceans for the future, the overall coastal environment and provides healthier relationships between marine wildlife and the local communities.
There is a growing awareness and participation in the region to help conservation and protect the rare tropical habitat of the Caribbean. So, whether you want to step out of your comfort zone, or you feel at home by the sea, you’re passionate about marine conservation or want to experience the island ways of living, we have a project that’s perfect for you!
During this experience, you will join the St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation to help protect and conserve their National and Marine Parks, getting to experience the unique flora and fauna and getting involved with the local community and the unique Caribbean life. Depending on the time of the year you decide to come, you can experience the sea turtle nesting patrol alongside the national park work, which includes the preservation of botanical gardens, monitoring of the endangered Lesser Antillean Iguana and control of the trail systems of the park.
“I had a wonderful experience as a volunteer. It was very rich and varied, each week was different from the one before. I did maintenance tasks in the Botanical Garden, cleared forest trails in the Quill, painted signs, helped with nocturnal land crab patrols, participated in bird surveys, and helped to put together material for schools to teach children about Statia’s endangered native iguana species, the Lesser Antillean Iguana. Best of all, I went on regular iguana patrols, helping to catch, tag and relocate iguanas to more suitable habitat. I fell in love with the species completely and still can’t break the habit of looking up at trees, trying to spot them in the foliage, even though I’m far outside their range by now!” — Zara from Ireland
This project focuses on preserving the wonders of Cuba for future generations, both on land and in the water, with the Marine & Coastal Conservation Volunteer project. The main requirement here is for you to speak some intermediate Spanish and preferably to have experience with snorkelling. You can come solo or include your whole family, as the project allows both! The tasks here will help the environmental planning of this protected area and understand the needs of the island when it comes to conservation.
“Cocodrilo is a tranquil paradise in an unassuming village, practically untouched by time or outsiders. It was my first extended snorkeling trip, and Rienaldo was most patient and informative, providing tips and guided instruction for ease. I cannot begin to describe what magical vistas awaited underwater. Each day we explored a different section of unique reef, seeing abundant marine life. The format of the project provides a perfect balance of work in the sea/on the beach and time to engage with the community and explore the area. And the food! 3 awesome Cuban meals a day – so much delicious tropical fruit. I have done a number of international volunteer/immersion trips. This ranks at the top. I appreciate that this NGO is small, run by few, but truly impactful for the ecosystem we all share!” — Andrea from the USA
The project focuses on marine conservation exclusively, as the name suggests. You will learn to dive in the warm, crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea and play a full and active part in all of our exciting marine conservation projects, including coral nursery programs, shark surveys, snorkel trips and so much more!
“I had the most amazing time in Carriacou and am hoping to return in the next few years. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly, I loved that most of the volunteers stayed at the same hotel; on our first Sunday one of the group, who had already been there for 4 weeks, came and knocked on our door to see if we all wanted to go to the beach which was a lovely thing to do. The diving was amazing and I learned so many new things and want to continue to do so. I also learned a lot on a personal level too, seeing a huge increase in confidence as a person. Everyone back at home know how much of a great experience it was because I don’t shut up about it and still talk about it regularly. In short, the best thing I have done so far!” — Elizabeth from the UK
Last but certainly not least, we have the Grenada project. This project allows research assistant volunteers to gain hands-on experience with the world’s largest sea turtles and to contribute to ocean conservation in Grenada. With the help of volunteers, illegal egg poaching has been reduced by more than 60%, and you could be one more! The activities include educational programs, as well as beach cleanups and monitoring. It’s truly the opportunity of a lifetime!
“I had the most amazing time volunteering for 9 weeks, learning about sea turtle conservation. While I was out there, I was collecting data on nesting Leatherbacks; egg counts, tag numbers, carapace measurements etc. whilst on night surveys. I also took part in nest excavations to determine success rates and in-water surveys tagging and measuring green and hawksbill turtles. I was also able to help out with ‘Grenada Learn to Swim Week’ and attended eco club sessions delivered by the project at a local school. It has been a dream of mine to become a sea turtle biologist ever since the age of 6, when I adopted my first sea turtle in a Nat Geo magazine. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone at Ocean Spirits for their help and guidance throughout my time as a volunteer and I’d definitely recommend the project to anyone interested in conservation or sea turtles! All the staff were incredibly friendly and supportive whilst allowing me to collect data for my final year dissertation project whilst I was there.” — Lorraine from the UK
Certainly, the Caribbean has a lot to offer. If you’re interested in developing a career in marine conservation, or are generally interested in visiting a completely unique and beautiful region while helping the environment, these projects are waiting for you!
Article by WorkingAbroad Blog Writer Mariana Diaz Fernandez