Travelers and students interested in performing conservation-based volunteer work in Mexico have several noteworthy projects to choose from. One of the most popular – and rewarding -- is saving sea turtles. An alarming decline in sea turtle rates thanks to habitat destruction, development and predators has prompted many volunteer organizations, hotels and resorts to offer ways for visitors to help in this mission.
How you can get involved:
American volunteer organization Projects Abroad operates a sea turtle conservation project located at Campemento Tecoman on the Pacific coast of Colima. The camp is located on a stretch of black sand beach, a popular nesting place for the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles.
Activities undertaken by volunteers include combing the beach in the evenings looking for turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs, then collecting the eggs and taking them back to the camp, where they can safely incubate before being released as hatchlings into the sea.
Volunteers also work to protect crocodiles by helping maintain a local crocodile farm, with the aim of transforming the farm into a place to raise crocodiles for reintroduction to their natural habitats.
Other activities include biodiversity studies at a nearby mangrove lagoon, beach clean-ups, and promoting environmental awareness in the local community.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun:
From July through November, this high-end property in Cancun encourages guests to participate in its turtle program. During the egg-laying season, the beach of the resort becomes a sanctuary for marine turtles. “Turtle Guardians” protect the eggs in a special, fenced-off area called the “Turtle Camp,” where they are monitored for 50-60 days until hatching. Guests can take part in this magical experience by helping the resort’s volunteers release the hatchlings into the sea.
Hotel Akumal Caribe:
This eco-conscious resort in lovely Akumal, on the Riviera Maya, participates in the CEA Turtle Watch Program, a worthy project whose aims are to protect the sea turtles and their habitats while supporting research into nesting ecology and biology. From April to September, the females of the two local turtle species – the loggerhead and green turtle -- come ashore at night to lay their eggs. During the nesting season, CEA leaders and volunteers walk the beaches recording nests, tagging females and accumulating scientific data about their environment, hatching success, behavior, distribution and abundance. Guests of the resort can join in the turtle walks and help release hatchlings into the sea.