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:
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.
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:
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.
‘I can’t even put into words how incredibly thankful I am to have had this experience and to have met amazing people. This has been the most amazing summer, I’ve learned so much and grown as a person in so many ways. When I first got in the project I was so nervous and I felt so out of place, but after being here for so long time I felt like I was leaving behind a home and a family. I already miss everything and everyone’
‘When I first arrived in the project I couldn’t have imagined the summer that lay ahead of me. It was asmall and friendly group who took no time in welcoming me and making me feel at home and it has stayed that way (except the size of the group that got bigger and bigger) ever since. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to have spent my summer with. I wouldn’t change one second of the experience I have shared in ARCHELON.’