Take Your Kids on a Sea Turtle Conservation Trip to Greece
The balmy beaches of southern Greece have welcomed visitors for centuries with their ancient peace and easy camaraderie. Whether you’re taking a swim or running your fingers through the sand while the sounds of the ocean wash over you, a beach trip in Greece is a great way to introduce your kids to the foundations of western civilization.
But some ancient residents of the beach are in danger. Loggerhead sea turtles have enjoyed the beaches of the Mediterranean for even longer than humans. Every spring, they make their way up past the high tide line to lay their eggs in the sand. When these babies hatch, they strengthen their flippers waddling back into the ocean, and the rest is history… sort of.
Due to coastal development and climate change, the sea turtle maternity ward is not as safe as it once was. And with additional threats in the ocean like poaching, over-harvesting, and accidental catching in fishing nets, all seven species of sea turtles are now endangered!
How can you help? Take an eco-holiday adventure to one of Greece’s sea turtle conservation projects, and help these little guys have just as much fun on the beach as you do. Your kids will gain an appreciation for the beach’s earliest inhabitants and the people who make it their business to help them survive.
When and Where
You’ll find sea turtles nesting on the beach in May and June, with little babies hatching between July and early September, mostly on the western coast of Greece and the country’s islands. While volunteer opportunities vary, most ask participants to stay for a minimum of two weeks, with opportunities up to 12 weeks.
GoEco, a worldwide voluntourism organization, is a great place to look for opportunities. For a fee, GoEco provides food, accommodation, and training at all of their partner project sites. Participants work for 3-4 hours per day and take the rest of their time exploring the local surroundings.
In Greece, GoEco offers two different opportunities: one for families with kids 14 and up in Lakonikos Bay; the other, a youth project just for teens between 15 and 17 in the resort town of Giannitsochori, which will give parents some time to explore on their own while teens work on becoming independent conservationists.
You can also participate with ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece. The organization monitors the major sea turtle nesting areas in Zakynthos, Peloponnesus, and Crete. Families with kids as young as 8 are invited to the Neda Bay project during the hatching season in July and August, where they can camp and volunteer with the project for 3–7 days.
Duties vary depending on when you decide to volunteer, but there are a lot of options. Your training will help you and your kids understand the history and importance of sea turtles in the area, which you’ll then use to give conservation talks at campsites, hotels, and information centers.
You’ll also use it to interact directly with the sea turtles’ beachside homes. Imagine the thrill in your child’s eyes when you take an early morning shift to patrol new nesting sites.
Since sea turtles lay their eggs at night, volunteers want to be the first ones on the beach to find nesting areas and build up bamboo protection around them. You might also be asked to relocate threatened eggs, make a trail from the nesting site to the ocean to help the little ones find their way, or keep track of how many turtles hatch.
On Your Day Off
Worried about Greece disappearing into that high tide while you’re busy caring for baby turtles? Don’t fret – there will be plenty of time to enjoy the famed Mediterranean diet, swim in the ocean, and explore ancient Greek towns during your off hours.
Most importantly – stay at the beach! Most voluntouring organizations will provide campsite housing on or near the beach where you’re working, which is ideal. If your volunteer opportunity does not, find your own campsite, resort, or beachside hotel.
This way you’ll always be close to the action, and if the kids are getting restless, just set up a beach chair and umbrella or find your way to a cafe just off the beach and let your kids make friends with their local – and foreign – counterparts. Rent some snorkeling gear or kayaks for ocean adventures with kids who are a little older.
Ready to make a trek from the beach? The archeological site of Ancient Olympia, where the first Olympic Games were held more than 1000 years ago, is located near the country’s west coast, just inland from the town of Kaiafas. Pay homage at the temple of Zeus, where you can hear stories about the Greek’s famous gods. The museum and archeological sites are fascinating for a mini Indiana Jones.
Head back to your beach town just in time for a summer carnival in the town square. Enjoy some festive food, fancy costumes, and friendly locals. Make sure you leave time for a nap though, if you’re on turtle patrol the following morning.
Planning on participating in ecotourism during your next family vacation? Share your fun ideas with us!Tags : travel voluntourism ecotourism greece