By Jake Woodier
I arrived in Cape Verde without much of a clue of what I had volunteered for except that I would be taking part in hard, but very important work to protect Loggerhead Turtles which I knew are an endangered species. After landing at the airport I was picked up by Ukie of the Turtle Foundation and then we made our way to the office which is in Sal Rei, the biggest town on the island. When we got to the office I was introduced to the team of Christian, Julio and Joana who I had previously met when I was studying Marine Biology and Ecology at Falmouth Marine School. Now was the time to drive to Lacacao Camp where I am spending my entire stay and this is where I will start the work of doing my part to help protect Loggerheads that come ashore to nest.
After 3 and a half weeks of working here I now understand not only why the Loggerhead is protected because of its endangered species status but also because it is an incredible creature. The first turtle that I was lucky enough to see nest appeared on July 15th and I can easily say that it was one of the most amazing moments of my life. As soon as the turtle was spotted I was captivated by its pure brilliance and magnificent beauty. As part of the work I am doing here I measured the top of the carapace or shell of the turtle along the width and the length which was the first bit of hands on work for me. I then watched as another more experienced member of the team tagged the turtle so that we can record data if she comes to nest again on one of the beaches that we protect. After she finished nesting she started to move sideways along the beach seemingly toward the ambient lighting but then after 30 or so minutes she gracefully disappeared into the ocean to hopefully come back and nest again.
Life in camp is really amazing and wasn’t too hard to adjust to after spending the last two years in student accommodation. The camp never really has a dull moment as there is always discussion to be had as there are so many interesting personalities staying due to having a team of international volunteers. We also have many tasks to do during the day which have included extending our kitchen area with a new wall of palm leaves to give extra space as the team grows larger. You start to fall into a routine in the camp which I can’t complain about which involved waking up to have a coffee and some breakfast which is sometimes cooked like an omlette, then spend some time doing any chores that need to be done for the day, read a book for a while, do any maintenance work in the camp, peel some vegetables for lunch, eat some lunch, read more and then head down to the beach to swim for a while, eat a bit more, read, sleep, help with the hatchery, return to camp, peel more vegetables, write in journal, patrol or sleep for a few hours then patrol.
I have also visited the town of Sal Rei for a break which was needed to rest thoroughly after working for a long time. The town is very small but very nice and includes an assortment of cafe/bars, food shops and souvenir shops. The people in Sal Rei are always talkative and very friendly and are always interested when you tell them you are volunteering for the Turtle Foundation. If you have a laptop you are able to use wi-fi for free in the town square which is where the majority of people can be found. If you cannot use the wi-fi then there are a couple of places in town to use the internet to keep in touch with family and friends if you are volunteering for a long time. I am here for 7 weeks so after three I decided it was important to use the internet to update my family and friends properly and it was good to catch up with my family.
One of the highlights of my time here was spending my birthday on the island as the camp went to a huge effort to make cake, special food and gave me the luxury of choosing my patrol for the night. All things considered it was one of my best birthdays and it was highly enjoyable.
(Originally posted/written by Joana Hancock)