Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Have Travel: Will Volunteer

*Welcome Sign*

This past August I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Cabo San Lucas Mexico with my mom for a one week relaxing getaway before work started again for the year. All-inclusive vacations are definitely NOT my first choice when it comes to traveling - I would much rather travel to a foreign country, rough it out in a small family-run motel/hotel and experience the culture first hand! However I knew how much my mom wanted to visit Cabo and as a bonus for me there turned out to be some pretty good scuba diving located not far from our hotel. As all my friends and family already know, whenever I travel I like to somehow support and volunteer for a local non-profit group that is trying to protect or conserve their countries local species and or animals. In this case I was pleasantly surprised to come across ASUPMATOMA which is a local sea turtle conservation group that works to protect the highly endangered green and leatherback sea turtles.

A little Bio from their website:

"The Association for the Protection of the Environment and the Marine Turtle in Southern Baja (ASUPMATOMA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the endangered sea turtles of Baja California Sur, Mexico, and the overall environmental sustainability of Los Cabos’ beautiful beaches, lands and surrounding communities. ASUPMATOMA was founded more than 18 years ago by RenĂ© Pinal, a prominent real estate investor and conservationist in Cabo San Lucas, along with a team of biologists and local residents to address the pressing environmental issues facing Los Cabos. In particular, the organization is a leading worldwide advocate of the preservation of the endangered sea turtles, which are now at risk of destruction in the Sea of Cortez region due to rapid land development, pollution, and illegal hunting and fishing practices."

*ASUPMATOMA's San Cristobal Education Centre*

A few weeks prior to traveling I emailed the organization and got in contact with Carla Sanchez a representative for ASUPMATOMA. We corresponded almost everyday until I flew out and she provided me with a wish list full of items that would really help many of the workers and volunteers who work countless hours (both day and night) to help my favourite animals. Aside from a $50 donation I was able to pack a duffle bag full of backpacks, 2 sleeping bags, office supplies, medical supplies (gloves and syringes) and antibacterial lotions. Even though there was much more on the wish list these were items that I had lying around in my basement, kitchen and my moms office so it worked out perfectly. Many of the items from my basement (the backpacks and sleeping bags) were things I had wanted to throw out at numerous times but something always held me back and now I know why!!! They were meant to donate to ASUPMATOMA!!! :0)

*My mom and I delivering donations for the workers and turtles*

Carla was such an amazing and inspiring person! I thought she would just pick up the items from our hotel but instead she insisted that she pick us up in her personal car and take us to the two locations that ASUPMATOMA works from (with her mini conservationist son Narok who was too cute for words!!). My mom and I first visited the property that Mr. Pinal purchased 18 years ago which consisted of a beautiful ranch house that hosts school groups and visitors to educate them on the importance of conservation and the risk to our environment (particularly sea turtle of course). This circular all-white "house" was just gorgeous and took me by surprise. I have visited many volunteer sites and this was by far the most impressive and esthetically pleasing. We were able to chat with the San-Cristobal staff/biologists and find out more information about poachers and their day-to-day duties. During the day, when they are not educating visitors and groups that come by, they help maintain the ATV equipment and house duties. At night at least one staff member hops on an ATV and patrols the beaches up and down searching for nesting turtles and re-locating their eggs to a hatchery.

*Absolutely priceless!! I never thought I would see my mom so adventurous!*

The second stopover was 10 minutes down the beach at a de-salination processing plant that allows ASUPMATOMA to keep an old bus on the beach. This bus has been turned into a mini camp that houses two full-time turtle protectors. The two young men sleep, cook and eat in this old VW bus that looks like it came right out of Woodstock! Even though the two workers are very isolated day in and day out, they spoke of their conservation work and how much they are dedicated to keeping the turtles and their eggs safe. After taking a tour of their little camp we all walked over to the hatchery and excavated three nests that were supposed to hatch the week prior. We expected to find eggs that had not developed at all, however, we were pleasantly surprised to see egg shells that were cracking with little baby turtles making their way out!! We were thrilled that all three nests were alive!! The little babies were just taking a little bit longer to make their way out of the nest. We quickly filled all three holes with sand and were told that the babies would be making their way to the surface within a few days!

*The worlds youngest nest excavator - Narok!!*

My mom and I had such a great time!! For me the memory of my mom on an ATV was priceless!! Unfortunately my mom didn't get to see any hatchlings but I was proud of her coming along, braving the windy beach and learning about what biologists, workers and volunteers do on a daily basis to keep sea turtles from going extinct! This was definitely the highlight during my trip to Cabo - an experience my mom and I will definitely never forget!

*Only 4 years old but already doing more for his planet than most adults!*

*Me excavating a nest to see what happened with the babies!?!*

To contact Carla please email her at: asupmatoma@hotmail.com and remember.......no matter where you travel or how commercialized the city might be please check the internet before leaving or ask some locals and find out what non-profit organizations are in that area who could use your help - even for a couple of hours! It will be greatly appreciated!


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