Volunteering with Turtles in Uruguay

by Kelly on March 4, 2010

We have been volunteering with sea turtles in Uruguay for about a week n0w and the experience has been amazing. We are with a group called Karumbe, who live and breathe turtles, and are located in a small remote area of Uruguay called La Coronilla.

Each day we do a variety of different activities. The most active and fun days are the “capture” days, when we set a line out in the ocean and swim out into the sea to capture turtles so that we can take their measurements, get a DNA sample, and tag the turtles before releasing them.

It’s amazing! I feel like I’ve learned so much about turtles, and why it is so important that programs like Karumbe exist. If we find a turtle that is sick on a capture day, we take it back to Karumbe’s rehabilitation center so that it can heal, before we release it again.

On other days, we do surveys of the activity on the beach. Yesterday, we walked 20 K along the coast taking the measurements of all the dead animals we found on the beach. Not my idea of a particularly great time, (the smell was a bit much for me!) but it was pretty interesting… and at the very least, a great workout! All in all we found about 15 seals, 3 sea lions, a dolphin, 2 turtles and a few other things. Pretty interesting, and pretty icky. Depends on how you look at it!

Tomorrow we will sit and watch the ocean, scanning for activity so that we can count how many turtles are in the water and get a better idea of which types of turtles are coming to the area, why and where.

On other days, we conducted a “liberation” of a turtle that was in our rehab for a month and a half. We took it to a nearby beach, played games with the kids and sang songs before setting it free. It was pretty incredible and a great way to practice Spanish!

I would recommend volunteering with Karumbe to anyone. As part of our fee of $380 Uruguayan pesos a day (which is about $16 US a day), we are fed three meals a day and get our room and board. So it’s a great way to save money.

And you get to play with turtles. Awesome!

So far the food has been very good, the people are great and the team is very welcoming. Some can speak English and all are willing to help you practice Spanish, which has been very helpful. Our little house by the beach has electricity and water you can drink from the tap. And sometimes we have hot water for our showers!

If you volunteer with Karumbe… bring mosquito repellant. That’s really my only complaint. The first night I was here, I got 82 bites all over my arms, hands and face! Itchy!!

La Coronilla is a small town with one main street.It has two internet cafes, neither of which have Skype that you can use to call home, meaning you will pay more for phone cards or phone calls.

Secret tip: If you bring a computer, sit outside of the school and you can pick up free Wifi. I’m doing it right now and people are walking their dogs, looking at me a little funny, and saying “Hola!”

I love Uruguay!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Milene February 21, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Oh thank you so much for this post. I was searching for a place where there would be turtles, almost gave up until I came to your website! Thanks… Sounds like a great place. Do you need to have some ´turtle knowledge´ before volunteering? or can you just show up and ask whether they have space? Are there any costs involved?


Milene February 21, 2014 at 7:05 pm

I mean other costs than the 380 pesos…

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