ARCAS Sea Turtle and Mangrove Conservation Project

Tragically, the Pacific leatherback turtle nearly extinct with only 2000 individuals remaining in the entire Pacific Ocean! In 1993, conservation activities were initiated in the El Hawaii (Guatemala) area primarily as an attempt to counteract threats to leatherback and olive ridley turtle populations by over-harvesting by local egg collectors. Despite their endangered status, virtually all sea turtle nests in Guatemala are poached and the eggs sold as a supposed aphrodisiac.

This program operates the most productive of the 21 hatcheries in all of Guatemala. It solicits donations of sea turtle eggs from local collectors, reburies the eggs in the hatchery and after an incubation period of roughly 50 days, the hatchlings are released into the sea.

Since 2009, and thanks to conservation travellers over 100,000 sea turtle eggs were collected, accounting for nearly 40% of all the eggs collected in Guatemala. In collaboration with thesis students and researchers from all over the world, the program also carries out very detailed research on sea turtles, including ambient conditions in hatcheries and on the beach, hatchling success rates, GPS registered crawl counts and beach profiles.

It is currently collaborating on a DNA study of olive ridley sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean, and is initiating water quality and wildlife monitoring in the mangrove wetlands of the Hawaii area.

To join this program you should expect rates of approximately $175/week (varies with currency fluctuation). This helps cover your meals, on-site accommodation, airport transfers, and two nights of hotel accommodation in the popular tourist town of Antigua. Additional weeks are $250. Transportation packages are available upon request and at a fee.

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What to Expect?

This turtle conservation experience is as much about cultural exchange as it is about wildlife rescue. After all, only through changing the attitudes of locals and convincing them that sea turtles are worth more alive than dead can we encourage them to collaborate with our conservation efforts. The effort encourages volunteers to make the effort to learn as much Spanish as possible before coming to volunteer. Unlike other rescue centers, Hawaii receives many local visitors and there are plenty of chances to interact with locals during daily volleyball and football games, fishing, etc.

Although the sea turtles nesting and hatching season runs from June to November and is the most active time at the center, volunteers are needed at all times. Mangrove reforestations are carried out in December and January. Other reforestation activities are carried out in May-July. For those interested in participating in environmental education, the Guatemalan school year runs from January to November. We also conduct permanent scientific monitoring of the local mangrove ecosystem and volunteers can participate in that.

  • Program ID: # 1638
  • duration:
    1 to 2 Weeks
    2 Weeks to 1 Month
  • location:
    El Hawaii, Guatemala El Hawaii
    13° 51' 57.888" N, 90° 24' 48.0996" W
  • Fitness level:
    Moderately Fit
    Very Fit
  • Closest Airport:
    Guatemala City (GUA)
  • Costs From:
    Less than $500
    $500 to $1000
  • Program Type:
    Environmental & Wildlife Programs
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