Over the weekend, with my biodiversity and conservation classmates, I visited Kyparissia Bay and the Archelon volunteers there. Archelon is an NGO in Greece whose primary goal is sea turtle protection and conservation of the natural habitats for the turtles. This experience was the most rewarding thing I have done thus far in Greece. It was incredible to watch people from all over the world come together for a common goal: helping the turtles.
It is the very end of hatching season for the loggerhead turtle and the last of the babies are coming out of their shells in an attempt to make it to their ocean homes.
However, these turtles face much adversity in this area. During nesting season (when the mother turtles come ashore to lay their eggs), it is difficult for them to navigate crowded beaches with sunbeds and umbrellas. Then there are stray dogs and foxes that can potentially find the egg nests and destroy them, developers that are slowly destroying the natural nesting beaches for the turtles, and a myriad of other issues. It is the responsibility of the Archelon volunteers to locate the nests when they are made, protect them with an iron grid, and then monitor them throughout the incubation period. As you could imagine, this is an incredibly taxing job - especially in the hot, summer months. I can tell you, however, it is so rewarding to watch the babies make it to the ocean in the end. When the first of the baby turtles that we rescued over the weekend got washed away with the tide, my classmates and I were overwhelmed with excitement.
In my life I have done philanthropic work via several different organizations, but nothing has given me as much instant gratification as this experience. While I do not know if I could ever find the time to come back to Kyparissia Bay and spend a whole month doing what we did over the weekend, I would sure love to try.
Luckily, Archelon also has a sea turtle rehabilitation center just a short 45 minute tram ride away from Athens that I am free to volunteer at on any day I have time. I definitely plan on visiting there more often now that I have seen the incredible journey that these turtles have to make.