Volunteer in the Caribbean and take part in leatherback sea turtle monitoring, research, and community outreach programmes on the island of Grenada.
You can volunteer with sea turtles for 2 weeks up to 12 weeks from February to August every year.
Individuals, groups and students doing research all welcome.
Cost includes quality accommodation, food, airport transfer, training & supervision, project t-shirts, backup & support; starts at £730.
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.
Your experience as a Research Assistant sea turtle volunteer will:
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.
The 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!
Every year in August, like all other Caribbean Islands Grenada celebrates Carnival. It is looked forward to like Christmas and even known as ‘Spicemas.’ It is brimming with pageantry and expression linked to African, French, British and Caribbean heritage, Carnival is colourful, humorous and full of surprises. Carnival is packed with Soca Artists, Calypsonians, steel pan orchestras, beauty contestants, ‘fancy mas’ bands and communities dancing along the streets coated in paint to compete for Carnival honours. Locals and visitors alike gather to watch, participate and enjoy.
2nd to 23rd March 2019
23rd March to 13th April 2019
13th April to 4th May 2019
4th May to 25th May 2019
25th May to 15th June 2019
15th June to 6th July 2019
6th to 27th July 2019
27th July to 17th August 2019
Project durations are for 3 weeks (but we are able to offer 2 weeks for those who cannot do 3 weeks, as long as you start on the official project start date or if we have specifically offered dates), and there are possibilities to join for 4, 6, 9 or 12 weeks too - 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. We 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 assist with turtle watches.
"Combo" week programme available on the following dates in 2019:28 April to 25 May (Reef Buddy) then 25 May to 15 June (Ocean Spirits) = 7 weeks
For further information on "combo" pricing please email: Victoria.McNeil@workingabroad.com
Food 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.
This short film includes interviews with our Project Manager and one of our Ocean Spirits volunteers.
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
Beth Porter, from the UK, joined as a volunteer for 3 weeks from July-August 2018:
I had a really nice time in Grenada, the staff were lovely and the island was beautiful! The accommodation was fine and in a good location for the beach etc. Kester and the supervisor, Joel, organised trips and things for us to do when we had days off so we got to see lots of the island, which was great! The local supervisors were helpful and interesting to talk to! I think I would have preferred to have come a bit earlier in the season, maybe a month earlier. This is because the season was closing and we were the last group so there was less turtle work to do. However, I understand that was my own fault and not the company's haha!
Overall, I had a great time and would recommend it to anyone with similar interests!
Rhiannon O'Neil volunteered for 6 weeks from March to April 2018:
Leatherback turtles are incredible creatures and I feel honoured and privileged to have been part of their conservation. I feel very lucky to have spent six weeks working with them. It was a very hands on project, helping to collect data about the turtles, their eggs and the nests, which was very rewarding.
I also had the opportunity to explore Grenada in my six weeks there too. I visited waterfalls, a tropical island, chocolate and rum factories, St George’s and climbed Welcome Rock. I found the Grenadians to be lovely people who were always very kind and helpful.
Laura Peterson volunteered at the project in June 2017:
During my time with Ocean Spirits, I was not only able to interact and learn about the leatherback turtles, but also explore Grenada and be immersed within their culture. The first day we went through training and the staff educated us on what we will be doing with the turtles during the project. The first time I was on the night shift, I encountered 3 turtles and witnessed their nesting process. This was incredible to see and something I will never forget. I was amazed on the size of the turtles and how persistent they are when it comes to digging their nest. During our free time, I was able to explore the island. Some of the other volunteers and I went snorkeling, hiked Welcome Rock and visited the rum and chocolate factory. We also played games at the house or went to the beach, which was walking distance. I enjoyed working with the local staff during the nights, as they were all very friendly. I loved how Ocean Spirits has a family feel to it, with shared dinners every night. The project managers and supervisor were amazing to work with. They are all very knowledgeable of the turtles and will provide great suggestions of things to do on the island. This was a wonderful opportunity, I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a different experience that helps the wildlife.
Ben Briggs had his first volunteer experience at the project for 3 weeks from February-March 2017:
From start to finish the entire experience in Grenada with Ocean Spirits was wonderful. This was my first time doing something like this and I'm sorry I waited so long. Kate and Kester were most welcoming and extremely knowledgeable about the leatherback sea turtle project.
It was fascinating to watch and to be involved as a hands-on participant with entire nesting process. Prior to actually seeing this first hand I learned so much about the leatherback’s breeding and nesting process and the perils they face before reaching maturity from Kester, Kate and the supervisors during the night patrols and the discussions at dinner. But no amount of talk or reading about the process could replace actually being there.
What I enjoyed most was the two afternoons with the Girl Guides. It was great to see them involved with the project and seemingly concerned about their environment and the welfare of the turtles. Their teacher was excellent and a real role model for the students.
I returned home with a deeper understanding of what the effect of climate change and environmental issues are having on our planet. One of the real pleasures for me was the opportunity to enjoy Grenada and its people. I really enjoyed my free time visiting many of the attractions and talking with the native Grenadians. Everyone I met was welcoming and friendly. The countryside is beautiful.
Previous volunteer Magda Romaniuk describes her stay at the project:
"From day one, my experience was remarkable. On our very first day, we encountered a leatherback sea turtle nesting on the Levera Beach, where we were able to gain hands on experience performing carapace (shell) measurements, egg counts and nest relocation.
As a Research Assistant, I took part in variety of tasks, including leatherback sea turtle monitoring, research and community outreach programmes. My work in the communities included school turtle watching field trips, educational sessions with children at local schools, as well as participating with communities in the Climate Walk and Ocean’s Day Walk. Together with other volunteers, we had a chance to nurture children’s genuine interest and encourage these future stewards of Grenada to act responsibly with regards to the environment. It was a very rewarding experience being able to educate communities and raise awareness of environmental issues.
The cultural differences between the Caribbean and Western cultures made this experience an education for me too. I had the opportunity to visit local factories and plantations, and I tried local cuisine including the national dish called Oil Down (pronounced ile dung).
I worked within a group of volunteers from different countries and I have made friends for life. A few months after returning from Grenada, I was lucky to fly to the Netherlands for a reunion. This summer I am looking forward to hosting a fellow volunteer in Manchester.
I count myself lucky that I encountered the closest thing we have to the last living dinosaur, and to know that I was able to be of some help to protect the endangered leatherback sea turtle is a fantastic feeling that has stayed with me. Moreover, through this volunteering experience I have gained more benefits that I would have ever imagined. Developing new skills and knowledge, exploring a different country, as well as making new friends seems like a lot to gain in exchange for contributing your free time."
Tia Burke-Sumner and Cody Shelton give their feedback on their volunteer experience at the project from May-June 2014:
Kelseyleigh Reber, from the USA, describes her time volunteering in the summer of 2014:
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!
Anne Fritsch, from Germany, volunteered at the project in May 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.
"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.
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.
Ken 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.
Diana 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.
Rachel Mitchell, from Canada, volunteered in May-June 2011:
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.
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-April 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:
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.
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.
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!
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 February to 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.
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.
Helen Radley, from the UK, volunteered at the project from May to June 2009:
Cathinka Rondan, Radio Station Manager from Norway, volunteered from March-May 2008:
Lucy Le Maitre, 9 week volunteer from April-June 2008, talks about her life changing experience working in Grenada:
Olivia Meier, from Switzerland, volunteered in March 2008:
Feedback from Anna Maton, a teacher from the UK who joined our teams from July to August as a Research Assistant volunteer:
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!!
Amy Morton, from the UK, gives her feedback on her time volunteering in Grenada from July-August 2005:
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.
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 and your application payment of £180. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we would reimburse this payment 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.