Belinda Lewsley - Sea Turtle & Coastal Conservation in Mexico
In March and April 2012, I had the wonderful opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Tecoman in Mexico and help out with the Conservation project that Projects Abroad operate there. Here is the story of the time I spent there.
Arriving in Mexico
After a 13 hour flight (and a very long 6 hour wait in Los Angeles) I finally arrived in Guadalajara, where I was welcomed by Alex. He soon made me feel more than welcome in a place which was completely new, and relaxed, as this was my first time completely alone in another country. After a short drive I was introduced to my temporary host family, where I would be staying for the weekend. My host family were very friendly and they catered to my every whim and desire (what more could you want?)
After my short introduction to what I hoped would be an amazing month of new opportunities, it was time to leave my host family in Guadalajara and move onwards to Tecoman, where the guys at the Conservation project would be waiting for me. The journey was long (around five hours!) but it allowed me the chance to see Mexico in all its glory. It really is a beautiful country.
When I arrived in Tecoman, I was greeted by Roberto and many of the other volunteers (some of whom I already knew from university). One thing that I noticed almost immediately was how different Tecoman was to Guadalajara; the latter being a bright, vibrant and bustling city, the former a more reserved, quiet, traditional town. This was amazing to see, and I was looking forward to spending more time there. I eventually arrived in ‘Turtle Camp’ (as it was affectionately called).
“Welcome to the camp, my name is Roberto” said (funnily enough) Roberto as we entered the camp; a phrase I would become all too familiar with towards the end of my time there.
My family and other animals
During my stay at the camp, many things happened. We had the opportunity to work with many animals: turtles (of course), birds and crocodiles to name a few. We also had encounters with many other creatures: cockroaches, spiders, scorpions, lizards. But that’s all part of the fun, and there was always someone on hand to eradicate the critters if they were somehow frightening.
Any amount of scary creatures is more than made up when you have your first encounter with the turtles. They really are the sweetest things I have ever had the pleasure to work with and I desperately wanted to take one home with me! (Although obviously I didn’t. Besides, they would have been a nightmare through customs!). The best part was that the turtle eggs could hatch at any point too, so you would always have to be aware of that.
Despite this, it is also a good idea to bring plenty of books with you; I managed to digest eight books during my month’s stay, and I’m not the quickest of readers. There are also plenty of opportunities to socialise with the other members of camp, play cards or go to the Lagoon down the beach for a few drinks (something which we found ourselves doing on a regular basis).
Staying in the camp also allows you to build lovely friendships with the other campmates. We were almost like a loving family towards the end of the trip, and it was really sad to leave everyone.
Highlights of the Conservation project
Apart from everything which I have previously mentioned, there were many highlights during the month I spent on the camp. One of my weekly highlights was going out on patrol. Once a week, one of the camp members would go out on a quad bike at 11pm or 4am (yes…AM) and patrol the beach with one of the supervisors, looking for turtles who were laying eggs in nests. Unfortunately I didn’t see anything worth noting during my patrols, but it was a surreal but brilliant experience sitting on the quad bike, riding in the cool breeze at four in the morning; something which may never happen again!
Another thing which I really enjoyed was the weekends. Camp activities were only really completed Monday to Friday, leaving weekends to be able to do, within reason, anything we wanted. We took trips to Colima, Manzanillo (where we stayed in a fantastic youth hostel) and Cuyutlan. It was always great to have the opportunity to see more of the amazing place that is Mexico.
The journey home
Eventually, the end of my trip to Tecoman had arrived and it was time to go home. I took the journey back to Guadalajara with a heavy heart, hoping to be able to revisit the camp in the future. I spent my final weekend with the same wonderful host family who looked after me the first time I arrived in Mexico, which felt like a lifetime ago. As I bid farewell to my host family, I thought about the fantastic experience I had just encountered, and how it would be my absolute pleasure to be able to go back in the future. It was definitely an experience I will not forget for a very long time.