Marianna Karagiannis - Sea Turtle & Coastal Conservation with Spanish in Mexico
Arriving in Mexico was a little overwhelming. My Spanish was limited, and minors needed a guardian to pick them up before exiting the airport. My jetlagged brain had a little trouble understanding what they wanted me to do and why they pulled me aside, but as soon as I spotted Jonatan, a staff member, holding a Projects Abroad sign I was fine.
The first night, I stayed with a few other volunteers with a host family. They were all incredibly nice and friendly, and the other volunteers and I got to walk around the plaza. The next morning, we took a bus to the turtle camp, seeing some amazing scenery on the way. Once we got off the bus in Tecoman, we were greeted by the other volunteers and driven to the camp. The first view of the beach and camp made me realise that I had made the right choice.
We were given a tour and warned about the crabs, but it wasn’t until that first night I realised the extent of the crab life. At night we could hear them walking around, sounding a lot like flip-flops (the shoes of choice at the campsite). We got in the habit of storing our bags on top of extra beds, to minimise the chances of accidentally bringing back a live souvenir. Watching the crabs skitter away in fright when my flashlight beam hit them always made me laugh. The building we slept in was directly on the beach, so occasionally an exceptionally big wave would bring the water in the room.
Volunteering in Mexico
As part of the teen special, I was taking Spanish lessons in the town with a few other volunteers. We also made frequent trips to the local store where we had fun finding knock-off Oreos and other unique cookies and snacks. The most fun part was talking to some of the local teenagers and learning about them. People were always friendly and willing to talk to us.
The turtles were our main task and this meant going on night patrols using the quad bikes to search for nests, reburying nests in the morning and releasing the hatchlings. I quickly got used to never having enough sleep, but it was worth it to spend an hour racing past the waves, finding turtles laying their eggs. In my two weeks, I saw about six turtles. My favourite part, though, was releasing the hatchlings. They are so tiny, and watching them make their way into the ocean is like nothing else.
Some of the jobs were just as important, but not quite as fun, such as digging up mud from the lagoon and putting it in bags with mangrove saplings; I made the mistake of showering beforehand. Other tasks included doing bird surveys at the lagoon, setting up camera traps, watering the mangrove nursery, and going to the crocodile farm. We got to help clean one of the crocodile tanks (with the crocodile still in it!) and look at the babies.
The ants, spiders and scorpions were very present there, so we had to be extra careful. I learned that no amount of bug spray can keep away the mosquitoes and ants, but I ended up much better off than some of the other volunteers.
Some of my fondest memories of the trip were when we were just relaxing in the hammocks, or eating dinner with the other volunteers around the tire that washed up on the beach, or sharing music. We had lots of quality time together in the van, including a few times when it broke down, or we had to push it. I made some really close friends that I still keep in contact with, and wish I could go back.