Welcome to Lakonikos! Beggining of the project 2012...
I had been looking forward to joining the Turtle conservation program at Mavrovouni beach for many months but the past two weeks have still surpassed all of my expectations. It has been both an enjoyable and eye-opening experience.
During the first weekend in June, we all arrived one by one throughout the day from various parts of the globe. Whilst each volunteer has a different accent and a different day to day life outside of the project (currently we have Katie, an ice-cream fanatic from the USA, Willem, a football fan from Holland, and myself, a music nut from the UK, plus the project leaders), it is refreshing to think that we are all here for the same reason – to do our part to help protect Loggerhead turtles in the breathtaking bay of Lakonikos.
As a part of the first team of the year, our first task was to set up the camp as quickly as possible, ensuring that we have a base that hundreds of volunteers will use until September. From fridges to stoves to hammocks, everything was cleaned and a small patch of grass was quickly transformed into a home. There is even a stable deckchair for a particular clumsy volunteer who can’t handle the hammocks!
It is still early in the turtle season but this year’s first nest has appeared. As a person with little experience in marine biology, it has been fascinating learning about this extraordinary species. Our training has been thorough and by the time I had read the turtle facts book and seen a few videos I was itching to get on the beach. Our first nest appeared within three days of being here and it was obvious that the other volunteers were as excited as I was about getting involved. The project leaders’ (Neil Davis, UK and Juliana Baker, USA) experience and enthusiasm have been invaluable and I am pleasantly surprised how quickly we have picked up the necessary skills.
Two weeks ago I would not have been able to find a turtle nest on the beach, never mind locate the eggs, take the relevant measurements for research and then protect them from predators, people and any other hazards on the busy beach. I would not have been able to create the grids that we use to protect them and I certainly couldn’t speak as many Greek, Dutch and American words as I now can. The current favourite new word is Karpuzia (watermelon in Greek).
Unfortunately we have also encountered two dead turtles that have been washed up on Mavrovouni beach and Valtaki beach. It was a sad sight to see but it has also reinforced why we are here.
One of the best parts of this project has been meeting people from all over the world and I hope we stay in touch. I’m sure we will, let’s just hope that Holland don’t get drawn against England in the European Football Championships.
Over the past two weeks I have met some fantastic people, ate some brilliant Greek food and hopefully made a small difference by helping to protect the Loggerhead turtles. It has shown me that the world is a very small place and no matter where they are from, people are people.
Tom Elliott (Volunteer Weeks 1 & 2)
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