Volunteer for Marine Conservation
All of the staff on the boat was very friendly and helpful. You could tell this is something they all really enjoy and love to share with others. They made sure to let us know where the coolest things to see were and if there were any special things in our dive sites. There was one fish that was a regular visitor. His name is Wally and we saw him most days out on the reef. He swims right up to divers and it is definitely an experience to see how much he likes to hang out with people.
The weather was warm and sunny and we saw dolphins on our very first outing on the boat! It was so much fun seeing them in their natural habitat. The next day, we observed the data we collected by examining the pictures of the dolphins and matching them to the existing dolphins in the catalog.
Every other day, the entire team went out with the boat to observe and collect data of the dolphins near the coast. While documenting them, they put on a very entertaining show for us! The morning the day after, we all analyzed the data collected. Everyone worked together and helped each other out. During the project, I started to understand how serious this situation is for the dolphins. We could understand the dolphins on another level than before.
Within minutes the volunteers were buzzing about. A nearby restaurant reported that a nest was hatching in the middle of their dining tables! We grabbed some supplies and headed down the beach. Up ahead we saw a lot of commotion. We joined the crowd just in time to see tiny turtles scrambling in every direction and bystanders grabbing them up and ushering them to the Sea. We got to work right away...
It was such a rewarding project to be involved in, as at the end of each day, I could see the nests that I had protected, and know that I had done my part towards saving the turtles, and saving the planet. One of the staff members who was supervising us said, “the best feeling on earth is saving a life that can never repay you”. Helping to save those turtles made me see the truth behind these words.
Everything is really well organized and straightforward. There are three shifts. Two at night and one in the morning and obviously, you will never get more than one shift per day. The night shifts involve walking along the beach looking for turtles and waiting for them to nest. If they nest you get to watch them lay eggs and help measure and tag them. It’s honestly an amazing experience because it’s something so different and unique. The morning patrols consist of writing down all the turtle tracks and finding nests to help secure them.
The greatest aspects of the project are two. First of all, you really feel useful as local coordinators need our help to take care of all turtles as they are not enough to do the job alone. Second, compared to Ubud, there are less volunteers (around 25, even if they told us that during the high season it can go up to 70). As you are not a lot, no small groups are done; we are all part of a big group, or even better a big family. You really get close to volunteers and to coordinators and cookers.
Orientation week was conducted in Ubud. I stayed in a homestay with cottages, family temples and yards. The yards were the playgrounds for the children, the places for making handicrafts as well as the farmhouses for the chickens and dogs. I felt like I was living on a farm! With the cocks crowing nonstop, I got up by 6 am every day! What a countryside living style!
When I arrived on the Casamiccciola’s harbor I was anxious. I had many questions on my mind: am I ready to leave my comfort zone and to adapt myself to a life on a boat? Will I be useful on the searches and in the sailing? Will the other crew members be welcoming and sympathetic? I was optimistic on this point and I was entirely right.
Some nights we would go to restaurants and pizzerias in Casamicciola, Ischia Porto and on Mt. Epomeo. It was a great way to see the island. There was alwayszuch an energetic and happy atmosphere on board and everyone was just so fascinating and lovely to talk to; you really make amazing connections. Don’t even worry about learning Italian, ba bene (a phrase you’ll most definitely learn that means “it’s alright”), you can easily learn a bit on board!
Apart from the daily routine and some other work that we did, there was always enough time to go snorkeling. There were different snorkeling grounds close by (and once a week we went on an excursion a bit further away) and I discovered something new every time. Another part of the experience was living on a local Maldivian island – which seemed worlds away from the resort islands.
Volunteering in the Maldives... was everything I could have ever imagined, but the biggest surprise to me was how much I gained from the program. Working with the turtles in itself was incredible. To watch them grow, get to know their personalities and then release them back into the ocean. To know that you have had a positive impact on saving such a beautiful creature from extinction, it is very rewarding. It’s not an experience that comes around often and I’ll hold it close to me for the rest of my life