Melanie Anderson - Sea Turtle & Coastal Conservation with Spanish in Mexico
One day at the beginning of my summer holiday, my mom suggested I try doing some volunteer work during the break. I started to look online and I found the Projects Abroad website. I read up on all the projects and was really interested in the two-week Conservation and Spanish program in Mexico. Just a few weeks later, there I was standing at Toronto airport waiting to embark on a 9 hour plane journey to Guadalajara, having no idea what experiences were to come.
I was warmly welcomed by the Projects Abroad staff when I arrived at Guadalajara airport, then went straight to Hostel Vallarta where I was to meet the other volunteers, who I now know as amazing friends, before our 4 hour trip to the Conservation Project. I was lucky to get the chance to spend some time in Guadalajara, exploring the city with other volunteers and shopping at the markets.
Once arriving at the Conservation Project, I was ecstatic to find out I’d be living right on the beach! Right away I was shown around the camp, everything from the bathrooms to the turtle pools, and was introduced to all the other volunteers and biologists. The Spanish lessons definitely helped me immerse myself in the culture, and helped with simple conversation at shops in the nearby town of Tecoman to conversations and shared stories with my new Mexican amigos!
Night patrol had to be one of the best experiences I had in Mexico. Whether you go at 12am or 3am, driving down the shore lines with the ocean tide at your feet and searching for turtle nests was an incredible adrenaline rush. I was lucky enough to see a Leatherback turtle in the middle of July (they usually nest from December to January) that was about a metre and a half long, and watching them nest was so cool to see! Burying the turtle eggs and working at the Crocodile Farm was hard work, but rewarding in the end.
Nightly outings to the nearby lagoon for food and drinks was a great way to bond with all the other volunteers and staff, and there were some great times, including salsa dancing, that I’ll never forget! My first two weeks went by so quickly it felt as if I had only been there for a few days, so I decided to stay an extra two weeks.
Learning about the turtles, Mexican culture, and meeting volunteers from around the world really opened my eyes to the world around me. I realise now there is so much out there in the world, just waiting to be explored, and so much to learn, both educational and personal. Mexico taught me my independence and helped me to overcome personal fears. Not only did I get a great feeling of self accomplishment from volunteering, I left feeling like I had done something worthwhile.
Memories of Mexico will stay with me always; I only wish I had had more time to spend there. It was a spur of the moment decision I’ll never regret!