Volunteering with Archelon – a look back

Volunteering with Archelon was always most definitely Nikki's idea. Not that I didn't want to do it, I just didn't have any massive desire to do it. Our arrival to the campsite did nothing to endear me to plan for the next two months of our lives. The sound of the cicadas was deafening, the people way too over keen and the camp was well, basic would be a compliment.

The toilet block was huge, but only two male toilets were unlocked. The showers were outside, apparently cold water only and the doors started at your knees and stopped at your shoulders.

It took me over a week to get used to life at Archelon and two weeks to feel at home. It only took a couple of days though to regret bringing a black tent.

Once I'd got settled in I really started to embrace all the tasks we had to do as part of our conservation work. Seeing hatchlings for the first time is pretty special and knowing that you are there, helping to protect them is even better.

I remember sitting on the beach at 2am waiting for about 20 hatchlings to crawl to the sea. I remember walking slowly behind a hatchling on morning survey willing it to sea, walking into the water behind it and watching it swim under the waves and out to sea.

I have so many memories from our two months at Archelon that I hope to remember for a long time. I've met many people from different countries; we've lived, cooked, worked and relaxed together and despite how bad I am at keeping in touch with people we plan to meet up with some of them again.

I recommend volunteering with Archelon to anyone. Whether you're interested in biology or not, whether you're old or young. There are so many valuable things to be learnt, especially if you're going before or during uni. It teaches you how to work with people, approach people, deal with problems and all the while helping to protect the loggerhead sea turtle.

For me, the key skill I've learnt is to drive abroad. I know this isn't exclusive to Archelon in any way but if I had to pick one key thing I'm proud to have done that's it. Of course there are many other things I'm grateful to have learnt and experienced and I'm very glad that we chose to spend a summer with Archelon.

Some advice:

  • Don't take a black tent
  • Do take some warm layers for later in the season (late August and September) it does chill off!
  • Do be open minded to different languages and personalities
  • Don't be picky with what you eat (if you don't have to be) and be grateful that someone cooked for you
  • Do expect to work hard and be physically exhausted
  • Do try to learn at least a few Greek words
  • Do be bold and approach people, whether on PA shift or just around camp to make friends
  • Do get used to cold showers and being permanently covered in sand
  • Do learn to walk fast on sand
  • Do take time to yourself when you need it
  • Do drink all of the water
  • Do bring a red head torch. Spend a little more and get a good one, otherwise you can't see a thing on the beaches at night
  • Don't bring posh anything; it will get sandy, salty, eaten by ants or destroyed in the sun
  • Do bring strong tent pegs
  • Do go into every shift with curiosity and enthusiasm

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