Since 1993, ARCHELON has been recording and protecting sea turtle nesting activity on the beaches of the Bay of Messara in southern Crete. The area is the third largest loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nesting habitat on the island of Crete, with an average number of 100 sea turtle nests each year. The 8km of nesting beaches are beautiful, wide, and sandy, and the sea is very clear and clean; fortunately, most of the area has not been impacted by tourism and other activities. The crystal blue water and the sand dunes give the area an exotic character, offering peace and relaxation to visitors.
From early June to late September, volunteers of all ages from all over the world participate in ARCHELON’s sea turtle conservation program in Messara. The activities vary depending on the season (nesting season: mid-May - mid August, hatching season: mid-July - late September):
The area offers many free-time activities to choose from: Explore Matala village, which was a famous hippy area during the 60s and the 70s, swim at the wonderful sandy beaches near the campsite (Matala beach, Red beach, etc) or at the nearby fishing villages (Kommos, Kalamaki, Kokkinos Pyrgos, Agia Galini),hike across the famous gorges and mountains of Crete (Agiofarago gorge), visit the famous hippy caves. You can also rent a car and visit the surrounding areas. The Messara project is ideal for relaxation as it is far away from the large tourist centres, and at the same time you have the chance to enjoy some of the music events (the Matala festival) that take place there throughout the summer.
Volunteers will live in the campground designated by ARCHELON for the duration of their participation in the Project. The ARCHELON Southern Crete Research Field Station is based in the municipally owned campground in the village of Matala. The site is located on a sandy cliff close to the historical caves of Matala Bay, and in close proximity to the sea. Supermarkets, a bakery, and cafeterias with Wi-Fi access can easily be reached on foot.
Volunteers must be prepared to take part in a communal life, and to live and work in both populated and secluded areas, often as members of small teams and usually under harsh conditions. Although relevant experience is not necessary, the ability to live and co-operate with people of different cultures and backgrounds is essential.
The campground provides the following:
Note: There is no Internet connection available at the campground. However, Wi-Fi Internet access is available in the local shops and cafes. (You need to bring your own laptop or other device.)
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 2nd of June. 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 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 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.
‘Before ARCHELON I can’t say I knew that much about turtles. Well, not only did I learn a lot about everything-not just the turtle- I also had the best summer ever.Slept under a tree for about two months, completely free, lived in the once-upon-a-time hippy town of Matala, which now feels like a second hometown and got to see some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. What I will never ever forget though is the amazing people I met-just a bunch of the greatest people from all over the planet.’
‘It is incredible in what a short time you become friends with volunteers from all over Europe who all share one passion: saving an endangered turtle species. Together you share wonderful experiences. My favourite was a night shift where I slept on the beach, waking up every few hours for checking two nests that located in disadvantageous spots. Seeing the hatchlings crawling happily into the sea, knowing you were the one who ensure this, gives you an incredibly great feeling.’