I am a relatively new employee, having worked with CI for a year and a half now. I recently decided that I needed to get out from behind a desk and go have my first experience with conservation in the field. This of course meant one thing – I was going to have to volunteer.
After some searching, I came across a project in one of the wildest places left in the world, Guyana, South America – even better, I would be working with one of my favorite animals of all time, the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). The group that runs the program is called the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society, and after a few emails with the team in charge, I was off..
The project is located on Shell Beach, a barren stretch of sand, shells and sediment just east of the border between Guyana and Venezuela. This was my first volunteer experience, and I really didn’t know what to expect. The truth is, nothing could have prepared me for this trip anyway
I flew into the capital city of Georgetown and met with Romeo DeFreitas, who started the project with his father Audley some 20 years ago. From there we traveled inland to Romeo’s childhood home of Moruca for one night and ultimately on to Shell Beach. Guyana is referred to as the “land of a thousand waters”” and a quick trip inland makes it abundantly clear why. The entire country is crisscrossed with rivers, making it virtually impossible to build a road anywhere.
So how do you get around?
By boat – tiny wooden boats with huge outboard motors attached to the back, to be exact. I spent about 12 hours on one of these boats over the course of two days. We hit brilliant sunshine and pouring rain and traveled down narrow mangrove-lined canals and across open ocean to finally arrive at Shell Beach.
Upon our arrival in the afternoon of the second day, I found myself standing on a beach unlike any other I had ever seen.
Check back Thursday and Friday for parts 2 and 3 of this series. Dan Wright is a human resources manager at Conservation International.