Volunteering in Cape Verde with Sea Turtles

Volunteer programmes in Cape Verde

In the Cape Verde archipelago, 5 of the world’s 7 species of marine turtles have been observed to date:

  • Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)
  • Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), in its juvenile stage.
  • Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) have been seen more in their juvenile stage, although in recent years 7 nests have been recorded on the beaches of Sal, Boa Vista and Maio.
  • Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) are sporadically seen.
  • Olive Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea). Sporadic nesting has been recorded in recent years on the islands of Boa Vista and Maio.

The main threats facing sea turtles, which we will look at in the volunteer work with sea turtles in Cape Verde, are poaching and habitat loss, mainly due to tourism, as well as the loss of their habitat:

  • Light pollution
  • Beach degradation
  • Sand mining
  • Natural causes such as the steepness of some beaches.
  • The presence of flooded areas and the high degree of predation, mainly by the ghost crab (Ocypode cursor) further hinder their conservation.

OBJECTIVE

  • Conservation and sustainable management of Cape Verde’s natural resources.
  • Research, conservation and protection of globally and regionally threatened species.
  • Training and technical capacity building of local, national and international personnel in environmental and nature conservation work.

What will I do when I volunteer in Cape Verde?

In the conservation and research project of the volunteer programme with sea turtles, people with concerns related to the conservation of the environment and endangered species such as the sea turtles that nest on the island can participate, or simply anyone who wants to do their bit for the betterment of the planet.

The project runs from June to November, coinciding with the nesting season of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta). The main activities supported by the volunteer are usually:

  • Daily data collection of turtle tracks and nests on nesting beaches.
  • Monitoring and surveillance of nesting beaches.
  • Rescue of disoriented females
  • Protection of nesting females and their nests.
  • Marking and data collection of breeding females.
  • Control and monitoring of beach productivity
  • Marking and monitoring of natural nests.
  • Release of hatchlings and collection of biometric data.
  • Exhumation of natural nests
  • Improvement of the natural productivity of beaches through nursery programmes.
  • Beach cleaning

The activities on the beaches are always led by a monitor (local or international) with years of experience in sea turtle conservation and by volunteers. The number of people in the groups depends on the number of volunteers we have in each group.

What are the requirements for volunteering in Cape Verde?

  • Be of legal age (18 years or older)
  • Good physical condition
  • Good attitude
  • Adaptability

All volunteers and support staff should be aware that night work involves being on deserted beaches at night with the company of the monitor. In addition to walking several kilometres.

It is important and essential that volunteers interested in being part of the volunteer programme with sea turtles for turtle conservation and research do not have any problems in being part of the project and living in these conditions.


When to volunteer in Cape Verde?

ARRIVALS

The local organisation will welcome you when you arrive in Boa Vista.

  • Arrival from Friday to Sunday
  • The volunteer should arrive at Amilcar Cabral International Airport (IATA) also called Sal International Airport, from there he/she should take a transport to Boa Vista Island, or arrive directly at Boa Vista Rabil Airport (BVC).
  • No visa is required to enter the country (from Spain).

The volunteer dates are from July to October in different shifts.

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TurnStart date
​2023​ARRIVAL
13 July
217 July
331 July
414 August
528 August
611 September
725 September
89 Septiembre

Where will I be while volunteering in Cape Verde?

The Cape Verde volunteer camps with sea turtles are located in the east (Porto Ferreira) and southeast (Ervatão) of the island.

They are located in isolated areas, far away from the capital and/or towns. For this reason, the volunteer remains in and around the camps for most of his or her stay.

  • Volunteers must assume that they will be sharing their lives for several weeks, 7 days a week and 24 hours a day with people of different customs, cultures and personalities.

The working shifts in the volunteer work with sea turtles last between 5 and 7 hours in day and night shifts. All seven days of the week, only in cases where the stay is longer than 4 weeks, there will be a break in the city.

COORDINATION

The project coordinator is Maria (Bachelor of Marine Science), and in each camp there are local coordinators (biologists) who deal directly with the volunteers on a daily basis and with whom they should be open for any questions.

In addition, the NGO is managed by local and international staff trained both environmentally (marine biologists and marine science graduates) and socially (social work graduates).


What is the accommodation like when volunteering in Cape Verde?

The conditions in the different camps located on the beaches are basic infrastructure, but adapted to daily life.

  • The facilities are separated into a rest area, a work area and a lounge (leisure area) and kitchen.

The sleeping area for sea turtle volunteering in Cape Verde consists of large military tents with partitions made of double mosquito nets (in case the group has many volunteers, they will have to share a mosquito net with another volunteer). Therefore the volunteer must bring a sleeping bag or inflatable mattress.

The work area is another military tent where you can find all the material you need for your work, as well as books with information and the forms that are filled in throughout the season.

The leisure area has large tables where you can eat, play cards, read, etc., and a small cooker where you can prepare coffee or tea.

Finally the kitchen, there are cooks in both camps who cook lunch and dinner every day, so you don’t have to worry about cooking, but you do have to help (whenever you can) the cook.

  • Renewable energies (solar energy) are available in the facilities, which allows charging some tools (e.g. mobile phones or cameras). However, the production of energy is limited and the priority for its use will be for working materials.

There are coverage areas near both camps, you can buy a SIM card (€2) and sign up for different data packages on arrival at the airport.

  • There is no drinking water facility, so it is very important to make responsible use of the water that is transported to the camps.

The food is 100% Cape Verdean, cooked by local people in the camps themselves and adjusted to the special conditions of the camp “kitchens”. It is cooked for the whole group, with no special or individual dishes (with the exception of those with food allergies or intolerances*). Rice predominates (in Cape Verde everything is accompanied by rice), pasta, pulses and stews.

*Participants with dietary restrictions (vegetarians, coeliacs, diabetics, allergy sufferers, etc.) must inform both the cook and the staff responsible on arrival at the camp, and are advised to bring specific food for their case.

WHAT ARE THE RULES OF THE CAMP?

  • Keep the camp and all the surrounding areas in a perfect state of order and hygiene, avoiding leaving any waste in the area.
  • Not to leave or move away from the camp without previously informing the staff in charge of the camps.
  • Not to separate from their companions during the routes without the authorisation of the staff in charge.
  • Respect and comply with work, rest and leisure timetables, both their own and those of others.
  • Respect and comply with the rules of behaviour on the beach and the handling of loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) females and hatchlings.
  • Do not interfere if any person is observed capturing or killing a turtle or taking its eggs, but leave it to the monitor to act.
  • Always maintain a spirit of companionship and respect for all camp participants and the local population of the island.
  • Do not take any food or material from the camp without authorisation.
  • Bathe only in the areas indicated for this purpose.
  • To only fish selectively and with authorisation, leaving a record of where and with whom the activity is being carried out.
  • It is strictly forbidden to possess and/or consume alcohol and/or drugs in the camp, as well as any kind of violent altercation.
  • Please inform the organisation if you have any chronic illnesses or allergies that need to be taken into account.

What to bring to volunteer in Cape Verde?

  • Dark clothes, sweatshirt and a mackintosh. This is for night work.
  • During the day, summer clothes (most of the time is spent on the beach). It is important to wear a hat or scarf to protect your head and to avoid sunstroke.
  • Wear trainers or footwear suitable for walking on the beach and in areas with loose stones (booties are ideal).
  • Mat and sleeping bag (semi-inflatable mats are recommended) or sheets.
  • Toilet bag and first aid kit: something basic (bandages, betadine, plasters, some generic antibiotics, etc). If you need specific medicines, please note that you will not be able to get them in Cape Verde.
  • Mosquito repellent.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Torches with red light (compulsory): headlamps are recommended.
  • Watch with light for night work.

Experiences of our volunteers

Sofi’s story

Cape Verde and I have a great history. Cape Verde impacted me many years ago and never left me. 20 years later I returned, and I felt again the freedom with the environment.

The experience was incredible and unforgettable, the people, the environment and especially the turtles… You learn to see things in a different way. A little piece of my heart is still there, the day to day with all the volunteers was very dynamic and every day you waited for the turtles to hatch. I will definitely go back. At 40 years old, I can say that it is an experience for all ages as you learn from the stories of other volunteers from all over the world.

I always look forward to returning to the place where I connect with nature!