The Rethymno area in northern Crete is the third largest nesting habitat of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) in Greece and the largest on the island. Rethymno is known for its beautiful beaches of golden sand and shallow waters. The beach extends for 12 kilometers.
Based on statistics which have been collected by ARCHELON volunteers since 1989, there is an average of 300 sea turtle nests per year on Rethymno beaches. However, due to increased pressure from tourism-related development, the average percentage of the number of the nests is decreasing year-by-year, which indicates that it is necessary to protect the area. In fact, the most recent statistical analysis of the nesting activity in Rethymno shows a decrease of as much as 45% in the average number of nests for the period 2000-2014 (over 200 nests annually), compared to the previous period 1990-1999 (almost 400 nests annually).
From early May to early October, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds from all over the world participate in ARCHELON’s sea turtle conservation program in Rethymno. The activities vary depending on the season (nesting season: mid-May through mid-August, hatching season: mid-July through late September) and include the following:
- ‘Patrolling’ the beaches every day (Morning observation), during which loggerhead reproductive activity is recorded.
- ‘Patrolling’ the beaches every night (Night observation), including measuring and tagging the nesting females.
- Protecting the nests in situ (with ‘fencing’) from both human activity and/or animal predation, and relocation of nests, when necessary.
- Constructing special ‘shading’ structures to guide hatchlings to the sea in areas where artificial light (from roads, shops, etc) may disorient the hatchlings when they emerge from the nest.
- Excavating nests after the hatchlings have emerged, in order to estimate the hatching success.
- Increasing public awareness of both tourists and local residents by operating a seasonal information station in the old city of Rethymno, information tables and organizing presentations in hotels and on tour boats.
- ‘Patrolling’ the beaches during the day to raise bathers’ awareness of the importance of the nesting beaches.
- Driving, maintaining equipment, maintaining the camp and its facilities (i.e. cleaning, etc.) and various jobs such as painting and carpentry. Artistic skills such as drawing and photography can also be quite useful.
- Following the protocol for dealing with injured or dead sea turtles, if necessary.
There are many free time activities to choose from: Visit the old city of Rethymno, swim or snorkel at the wonderful sandy beaches of the area (including the beach in front of our campsite), hike along the Crete section of the E4 European Long Distance path, explore the famous gorges and mountains of Crete (Agiofarago gorge, Samaria gorge, Asterousia mountains, White mountains, Psiloreitis, etc), visit the archaeological site of Archaia Eleftherna, visit the famous villages and beaches in the south or north of Rethymno (Margarites village, Plakias, Damnoni, Schinaria, Preveli, Agia Galini, Bali, etc).
Volunteers will live in the campground designated by ARCHELON for the duration of their participation in the Project. The ARCHELON Research Field Station in Rethymno is based in a camping at the nesting beach. It takes about 45 minutes to walk from the campground to the centre of the old town of Rethymno. There is also a frequent local bus from the campground to the city of Rethymno; the trip takes about 20 minutes.
Accommodation costs are included in the Participation Fee. Volunteers must be prepared to take part in a communal life, and to live and work in both populated and secluded areas, often as members of small teams and usually under harsh conditions. Although relevant experience is not necessary, the ability to live and co-operate with people of different cultures and backgrounds is essential. Within the campground, there is an area that is used exclusively by the ARCHELON volunteers and contains all the equipment and facilities needed for daily life.
Facilities/Features of the campground:
- Internet Wi-Fi and use of fax
- Washing facilities (paid service)
- Security: free individual or communal deposit boxes
- Natural-shaded areas
- Solar-heated hot water showers
- A taverna (restaurant), which gives a discount on cooked meals and coffees to ARCHELON volunteers.
Dates, participation fee and other costs
Sea turtles come into the bay to nest in early May, together with the first tourists. The first team will be expected to kick off the project and the ARCHELON Field Station on the 8th of May. Monitoring, nest protection and public awareness activity will get busier every day up to mid-June.
From mid-June to about mid-August, everything escalates: final number of nests is reached, numbers of visitors on the beaches go up fast and reach their peak, and first hatchlings are out. Volunteer numbers need to be reinforced for this very busy period.
From mid-August to end of September hundreds of hatchlings reach to the sea with the help of volunteers and this an excellent time for public awareness and conservation work combined. The Field Station and the project are closed in early October.
Participation is arranged in full weeks, each to be calculated as 7 days from the date of taking up duties (e.g. if starting on a Tuesday, last day of duties will be Monday). The arrival date to the project site is the day before taking up duties. The departure day from the project site is one day after the last day of duties.
Once approved, successful applicants will need to pay their volunteer participation fee depending on the dates of participation, as shown in the Overview Table. Fees are applied as shown in the Overview Table of Participation fees and the cancellation policy and policy for the change of participation dates can be seen here.
Volunteer participation fees cover the cost of accommodation, administration, training and accident insurance coverage (up to a limit) as well as the annual subscription to ARCHELON.
The participation fee is paid once (in a single payment i.e. no partial payments are accepted) and proof of payment needs to be sent to ARCHELON before the volunteer status is confirmed.
- Greek speakers are welcome and a specific number of them will be accepted with a reduced volunteer participation fee under the same rules & cancelation policy, see link.
- You will need to be in the project one day before your first day of participation and you can stay one day after the last day of participation in the project.
- The time of arrival needs to be sent by e-mail to the Volunteers Officer at least 5 working days before a volunteer arrives to take up duties.
- Each volunteer gets an exclusive ARCHELON “volunteer” T-shirt upon arrival.
- ARCHELON is not in a position to offer financial assistance. Volunteers are expected to cover their travel and personal costs along with their food expenses.
- Because of the communal lifestyle, volunteers usually share living expenses, estimated at around €25-€30 per week. Anyone who does not wish to participate in the communal arrangement can estimate their expenses at about €15 per day.
- In case of an internship, after submitting your on-line application, please inform the Volunteers Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the requirements of the University well in advance and preferably before the end of February. Please also note that no scientific data from this project can be used for any report you may have to write.