The breathtaking mountain scenery, pristine beaches and ancient sites of the Greek Peloponnese are also the location of vital nesting sites for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle. 80% of the entire breeding population in the Eastern Mediterranean nest here. This rare opportunity sees us working alongside dedicated sea turtle experts; activities could include nest surveys, tagging sea turtles, protecting nests from predators, conducting night surveys and support public awareness initiatives. This is full-on exhilarating work, but we'll also find time to explore and enjoy our surroundings!
Day 1 UK / Peloponnese Turtle Camp
We fly to Greece, where we are met and transferred by private bus to our Turtle Camp on the spectacular Peloponnese coast. Settling into our base, we will also meet our Turtle Leaders who introduce us to the site and brief us on the work we will undertake this week.
Days 2-6 Working with the Turtle Project
We undertake an amazing five day conservation programme working on an ongoing project to support and protect the endangered sea turtles in this region. We will work with experts along a designated stretch of beach where turtles nest.
Pressures on the environment from tourism and urban development are enormous in this region and we will learn more about the measures that are in place to protect the nesting populations of sea turtles. Female adult turtles begin to breed when they are around 25 years old and will only return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs; once hatched male turtles never come ashore again. Between mid-May and September female sea turtles come onto the beach at night to lay their eggs in the sand. Then from August to September the hatchlings make the grueling journey from nest to sea at sunrise.
Our programme will be dictated by what is happening at the time of our visit and the needs of the conservation efforts in this region. Every year around 2,500 nesting sites in Greece are protected from predation, human threats and sea inundation by the programme and our work will be invaluable in supporting the efforts to conserve this endangered species.
We will work in smaller groups within our team to undertake various tasks. We work to the turtle’s schedule so some activities may be at night and others early in the morning. Some responsibilities, while more routine, are just as important as our direct work with turtles, such as cutting bamboo to make shades and for nest markers.
Lots will have been happening overnight and as light dawns, this is the time to assess and record changes. Between about five thirty and eleven, all new nests will need to be surveyed, marked, protected and the eggs might need to be moved to somewhere safer.
Sometimes the turtles lay their eggs too close to the water’s edge and the experts decide it is necessary to relocate these nests. If this is the case we will dig into the sand to remove the eggs and carefully reinstate them at the safer designated site. Mesh is put over nests to stop predation by dogs and other wildlife, whilst still allowing the baby turtles to climb out easily. Bamboos are used to mark nest locations and build shades. We have to cut and supply what is needed on a daily basis.
During the laying season it may be possible to go out at night to survey sea turtles coming in, tag turtles, check tags and protect the females from unwanted disturbance.
Public awareness is vital if the population of turtles is to be protected. We will take turns to man the information stand, in small groups of 3-4, and talk to tourists and visitors about the work we are undertaking for the sea turtles. This is excellent for building self-confidence but you need to know your stuff so pay attention and ask lots of questions of your experts throughout your time here.
We will usually work in larger groups to patrol the beach. While we are staying at our base we take on responsibility for the beach and the turtles that use it. These patrols will allow us to ensure the safest possible environment for this endangered species.
Tourists sometimes leave plastic debris, which can easily be washed up in the shallow tides. It is vital that the hatchling turtles can reach the water safely and without obstruction; a clear beach allows the hatchlings to make their way across the sand and pebbles to the safety of the water’s edge.
The activities above will operate on a roster system with meal times taking into account each person's activity schedule. From midday to four when the sun is at its hottest, physical activities are kept to a minimum. However this provides time when the team will collate data, write up reports and relax following a night of turtle patrols.
There is an opportunity for the team to undertake sessions of organised snorkel surveying off the beach. You may well get glimpses of some of the sea turtles in the water as well as other fish and marine creatures but as most beaches in the region are sandy, water visibility is not always perfect.
Presentations & Learning
The staff of turtle experts who run the camp will take this opportunity to teach the group how to best support this vital work with the turtles. During your tenure you will learn and practice techniques fundamental to ensuring the population of turtles along this stretch of coast.
Day 7 Exploration Day
We have been totally immersed with our work with the sea turtles and life on the beach. Now we will have the chance to explore this fascinating region of Greece. Imposing ruins sit next to picturesque villages and mountains covered with low evergreen, oak, and pines surround coastal valleys. We can spend the day discovering the secrets of our surroundings and enjoying the slow pace of life in this wild, unspoilt region
Day 8 Greece - London
There may just be time to steal a quiet few moments on the beach to wonder at the mammoth challenges that these fantastic creatures have to endure. Over the week you will have learnt practical marine biology skills and helped to preserve their environment and protect this species for future generations, but the turtles face an uphill struggle. The data that you have collected builds up a fantastic overview of what is happening to this stretch of coast, how populations are faring and hopefully growing.
We say goodbye to our wonderful conservation project, and then we are on our way back home.
Golden beaches, glittering waters and the home of some of the most important eco-systems on the planet, Greece is the ideal destination for any keen biologist looking for some real hands-on field research and conservation work. The Peloponnese region stretches out into the beautiful Mediterranean, which happens to be one of the most important sea turtle nesting sites in the world. An area of such biological and ecological significance requires important on-going conservation work and we’re working with the experts to do just that. This region plays host to thousands of loggerhead turtle nests every year and sees turtles laying, hatching and returning to its sandy shores throughout the summer months.
The turtle conservation work being carried out here is crucial to their survival: the loggerhead turtle is an endangered species and Greece is a fundamental location in terms of their survival. Biology students will have the chance to see this conservation work in action, as well as carry out their own research and fieldwork alongside the experts. With a backdrop of tranquil beaches, rolling hills and great weather all year round, Greece is the perfect place to take biology outside the classroom, as well as explore the beautiful landscapes beyond the beach.
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Written on Friday, 31 July 2015
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