"I had a great time with Ocean Spirits"
Helen Kehoe, from Germany, volunteered for 3 weeks in July
I had a great time with Ocean Spirits and don’t really have anything to complain about. Of course things are always a little different from what you expect but that’s a very positive thing in this case. I didn’t know we would be going on boat trips to catch turtles which was everyone’s highlight of the week. Also I wasn’t sure if I was going to see hatchlings when I signed up for the program – luckily I ended up seeing some almost everyday.
When I was told that the first week was “swim week” in Grenada, I was very excited about the opportunity to work with local kids and the swim week mornings ended up being some of my favorite mornings of the whole program. I was also very happy about the fact that food in the volunteer house was vegetarian as I don’t eat meat.
"I would recommend it to anyone without hesitation!"
Talitha Shandley, from the UK, volunteered for 3 weeks in June
I was there for 3 weeks and had the best time, I wish I had booked on for longer! My group was really nice and the local volunteers were lovely too. I did 12 night surveys and really enjoyed those, more than I thought I would. We saw one day turtle which was really cool too and I will definitely be looking to do another project like that in the future. I would recommend it to anyone without hesitation! There isn’t anything that I personally think needs improvement. It was nice to spend time with people who are like-minded and love turtles as much as I do!!
"I had a very memorable time with Ocean Spirits"
Julie Racioppa, from Canada, joined for 3 weeks in May-June
I had a very memorable time with Ocean Spirits! Kate was super lovely and always made sure everything was organized. Kate, Kester, and the two Research Supervisors Steph and Tom, were always willing to teach and talk about ocean science and turtle research! They were accommodating and amazing! The night surveys were my favourite, watching the turtles emerge from the ocean was absolutely incredible. Observing the mama turtles, counting eggs and finding hatchlings blew my mind! Highly recommend!
"Words cannot describe the incredible experience I had with Ocean Spirits"
Coming from Johannesburg, South Africa, wildlife and the importance of its conservation has always been important to me. After College, I hope to use my degree to focus on conservation and how I can make a contributing effort to saving our planet.
Kate and Kester’s passion for all things turtle is truly inspiring and incredibly contagious. Steph and Tom as the acting “Mum and Dad” for the volunteers always managed to make me feel welcomed and comfortable. As soon as I walked through the door, I immediately felt at home. One of my fondest memories of my time there was my first night survey. As we made it all the way to the other side of the beach the heavens opened and we were soaked. However, this was unable to dampen our spirits, especially not with Kester and Tom’s jokes! My only wish is that I was able to spend more time in Grenada and hope that I can return in the near future. Words cannot describe the incredible experience I had with Ocean Spirits. A world class program with world class people.
"Everyone involved was extremely kind and helped me to learn a huge amount"
Kathryn Gamble, from the UK
Ocean Spirits is an incredible non-profit organisation working with the local community to help protect leatherback turtles. Everyone involved was extremely kind and helped me to learn a huge amount not only about the turtles, but conservation and marine life in general as well as helping to put its importance into perspective. The food and accommodation were great and there was also plenty of opportunity to explore Grenada itself. Though I was there at the beginning of the season, I still saw plenty of turtles and would say that being there in the start of the season should not deter people from applying, if they are considering it.
"I was amazed seeing how large the leatherbacks were, they were like modern dinosaurs"
Jason John, from the UK
This was my first time in conservation volunteering, I knew very little about Grenada and the leatherbacks and I didn’t know what to expect. However working along with the Ocean Spirits project gave me more than what I could hope for in the short space of three weeks. Learning about these fascinating leatherback turtles, being up close and personal with them learning about their nesting process and witness these magnificent creatures. I was amazed seeing how large the leatherbacks were, they were like modern dinosaurs. Counting their eggs during nesting I learned they lay yolkless eggs for padding for the actual eggs and to keep safe predators. Each nesting was a whole new experience; being part of it made me feel I was helping not only with the research but preserving the leatherbacks.
The memories I have of Grenada and Ocean Spirits I will truly cherish as it was an eye opening experience I recommend to anyone who interested in volunteering and sea life. The hands on experience alone was something I enjoyed a lot, working alongside with people who also share the same passion to help was wonderful. The trip really lifted my mood of depression to a positive outlook now into being more concerned with the environment in preserving sea life all around the world. Ocean Spirits project was a grand experience and I definitely want to go again to help out in any way I can.
"It was a very hands on project, helping to collect data about the turtles, their eggs and the nests"
Rhiannon O’Neil, volunteered for 6 weeks
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.
"The project managers and supervisor were amazing to work with"
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 at 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 snorkelling, 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.
"One of the real pleasures for me was the opportunity to enjoy Grenada and its people"
Ben Briggs, aged 76, volunteered at the project for 3 weeks
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.
"To know that I was able to be of some help to protect the endangered leatherback sea turtle is a fantastic feeling"
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.
"The best part for me was seeing the hatchlings come out of the sand"
Tia Burke-Sumner and Cody Shelton
It’s hard to find words to describe my experience with Ocean Spirits, but here goes! This project is incredibly hands on. The first full day that I was in Grenada I found myself laying on Levera beach behind a nesting leatherback, holding her flipper back while Cody counted her eggs. With our heads still spinning from that we started our first night shift on Levera. The work was not easy- walking back and forth on the sand all night is surprisingly tiring! But it is all made worth it by the amazing leatherbacks that we work with every night. These creatures are truly living dinosaurs and it was our pleasure to be able to dedicate our time to them.
The best part for me was seeing the hatchlings come out of the sand and get themselves down the beach. It is truly a magical experience. I was honoured to be able to be part of the entire process from writing out data sheets, to counting eggs, to measuring the nesting female, all the way to scaring birds away from daytime hatchlings and ensuring that they have a bit of a better chance by taking them back to the house till the night time.
Cody’s favourite part was going to the school and helping to educate the local kids on the environment and on Leatherbacks. All the kids were very excited to see him, and he was very excited to have the opportunity to be there.
A big thank you to Kester and Kate for making this project and Ocean Spirits possible. Their passion is unmatched and truly inspiring. The two of you really allowed us to not only fall in love with Leatherbacks, but also the island of Grenada. We will be back someday, hopefully soon!
"I have had more fun-filled adventures than I ever thought imaginable"
Kelseyleigh Reber, from the USA
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 demeanour 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 snorkelling 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!
"All in all, it was an awe-inspiring experience"
Anne Fritsch, from Germany
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 demeanour 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"
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 sea turtles 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 having 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.