Located at the southern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula, Lakonikos Bay is an important nesting area for the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), with an average number of more than 200 nests recorded annually. Since 1985, ARCHELON has been running a field program in the area to record the sea turtle nesting activity and to raise public awareness about the turtles and the importance of protecting the nesting beaches.The program covers almost 25 km of beaches around the town of Gytheio and next to the Evrotas estuaries. Gytheio is a beautiful town, characterized by its picturesque port, neoclassical houses, narrow, uphill alleys, stone-paved streets, and marble stairs. The area is famous for some of the most dramatic and varied scenery in the Peloponnese, much of it still wonderfully underexplored!
From late May to late September every year, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds from all over the world participate in ARCHELON’s sea turtle conservation Lakonikos Bay project. The activities vary depending on the season (i.e. nesting season: late-May through mid-August, and hatching season: mid-July through late September), and include the following:
During your free time, there are several places of both natural and cultural interest that are definitely worth visiting! All the Mani area (i.e. the capital city of Areopoli, Limeni, Oitilo Vathia, Cape Tainaro) with its forbidding tower houses, stone villages and Byzantine chapels, is impressive, and the area has an eventful history. A visit to Mani can be combined with a visit to the famous Diros caves (located less than an hour away from Gytheio), where the magic of the colours and the shapes formed by stalactites and stalagmites create a unique spectacle as you travel along the underground river in a gondola-like boat.
Travelling east for a drive of about two hours, you will reach the well-preserved medieval island-fortress town of Monemvasia. You can wander through the cobbled streets (where you can see the home of the famous Greek poet Yiannis Ritsos) and experience what it was like living within a walled city, or enjoy the light-colored sandy beaches and the blue-green waters of the very popular Elafonisos island. If you travel towards the modern city of Sparta,the emblematic archaeological site of Mystras offers an exceptional example of a well-preserved, fortified late-Byzantine city and a very beautiful landscape.
Volunteers will live in the campground designated by ARCHELON for the duration of their participation in the project. The ARCHELON Research Field Station in Lakonikos is a well-organized campground situated in an olive grove at Mavrovouni beach, located 4 km outside the town of Gytheio.
Camp ground Facilities:
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.
ARCHELON is constantly trying to improve living conditions for volunteers, but the responsibility and the effort of each volunteer is needed to maintain and run the campsite.
Sea turtles come into the bay to nest in early May, together with the first tourists visiting these beaches. The first team will be expected to kick off the project and the ARCHELON Field Station on the 26th 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. A higher number of volunteers is expected in this 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 around the end of September.
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 the 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.
Families are welcome to join: participation fees for 3 days to 1 week are 50€/parent, 30€/child. The fees do not include accommodation, we recommend to book and pay privately in the same camp site with the ARCHELON Field Station. See more.
When you leave Gythio and pass beside Mavrovouni village, down the hill turn left to the Meltemi camping, there after the church turn left again.
There is my home. There from late May to late September, you can see plenty of small colourful tents, kitchen under shade, water tank and pans hanging from trees and also some people in blue t-shirts, saying «ARCHELON volunteers».
Who are these people? They are turtle heroes, they are my family.
Never in my life have I laughed so much, made such close bonds, thought about life the way I did and felt so fulfilled and rewarded. I laughed to the point of my stomach aching and me snorting uncontrollably, the point of weak knees and tears streaming down my face. I forged bonds that although may not last a lifetime will be in my mind for the rest of my life; every single one was special and individual in its own way.