The objectives of Archelon are to make sure that the community are aware of the beautiful sea turtles that live alongside them, and what to do to help protect sea turtles in order for them to have the greatest chance of survival. As a volunteer, I was responsible for ensuring the safety of turtle nests, adult turtles and hatchlings.
There are a variety of shifts volunteers have during their time in Crete. The first and most important shift is morning survey. During morning survey, we would check all nests were in the correct place, by checking for corner stones around the tripods covering the nests, we would also check for adult tracks and hatchling tracks. If we found an adult track, we would record the track in our survey book and decide whether the track was a nest. If we came across hatchling tracks we would follow each one individually until we found the end of the tracks, which would hopefully end in the sea, but if they didn’t we would have to help the disorientated hatching by either creating a corridor to the sea (it should never be placed in the sea as it needs to create the swimming motion before the sea in preparation to swim for the first time), or burying it slightly if it is too tired, so that it can have a nap and then carry on its journey.
Secondly, we had PA shifts. These involved communication with the public about the brilliant work that Archelon do. There are three different types of PA shifts; kiosk, information tables and presentations. Kiosk shifts would last three hours, and we would stand in pairs in our kiosk booth waiting for people to come up to ask us about our work, we would then inform them of our work and hopefully sell some merchandise. For presentations we would take merchandise with us, and after presenting we would sit at a table with the stock and wait for anyone to come up and ask about any of our work.
Thirdly, we would have shades and shading shifts. Shades involved making a shade to go around a nest that was about to hatch by using beach mats, bamboo and wire. Shading shifts involved going around our beaches and putting the shades around a nest, leading towards the sea. This ensured that the hatchlings would not get disoriented by hotel lights and would head directly to the sea.
Lastly, we had shifts to ensure the smooth running of camp. These included base camp shifts, cooking, and shopping. Base camp included cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, and buying bread for the mornings. Cooking shifts would have to cook dinner for the camp. Shopping shifts would involve leaving the town to go and get the food for the week.
By working with Archelon I learnt so much about turtles and the dangers they face. I became aware of how dangerous tourism is for these creatures; with hotel lights causing hatchlings to become disorientated, tourists taking flash photos causing them to go blind, sunbeds disrupting nesting turtles, and more. I learnt how to make shades and developed my communication skills through PA shifts. I also learnt a lot about myself, that I can be thrown into a completely new environment with completely new people and still thrive! I found out that I do not need all my home comforts to be comfortable and happy, and I can easily make new friends from all around the world.
If you are thinking of doing international volunteering, I would really recommend it. It is a wonderful experience that really teaches you a lot about the world and yourself. However, you should be prepared to feel a bit lost in the first couple of days but remember that it is completely normal to feel like that, as the people you’re with will have most likely felt the exact same. I would recommend taking lots of photos, utilising your days off to the maximum by exploring the beautiful country you’re in, and really immersing yourself into the group you’re with, it’ll make your experience even better.