Join a team of leapers and head off to Guatemala - a geographical melting pot in Central America. With a foot in both the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans, a string of majestic volcanos running through it’s core, highlands, rainforests, glorious white sandy beaches and the breath-taking creator lake of Atitlan, frankly it has it all…
Look north and you’ll find Mexico and next door lies El Salvador home to famous national park, ‘El Imposible’ bursting with coffee plantations and natural wildlife.
Your time will be split between our base in the heart of the hip coastal town of Monterrico and the ARCAS turtle sanctuary, a few kilometres up the coast in Hawaii – interspersed with 2 adventure weeks – one which involves hiking around an active volcano and the other learning about local Mayan culture and history in nearby Antigua.
First departure in Jan – get booking.
Our program is based in the stunning, hip coastal town of Monterrico, with its sandy beaches and powerful surf. The town is a friendly and relaxed place fringed by the waters of the Canal de Chiquimulilla, which weave through a fantastic network of mangrove swamps. The atmosphere changes a little at the weekends when party-geared visitors from the capital fill up the hotels.
Monterrico sits at the heart of the Biotopo Monterrico–Hawaii, a nature reserve that embraces a 20km-long beach-blessed slice of the Pacific coast and includes turtle-nesting grounds, abundant wetlands and the small towns of Monterrico and Hawaii.
You will quickly slip into a routine combining volunteering and learning Spanish. The volunteering projects are varied and enlist the junior school pupils to help, as part of our objective/legacy is to ensure that todays' kids become model citizens who respect and protect their environment.
Your home will be in the El Delfin Hotel, a cool backpacker hostel right on the beach with hammocks, swimming pool and lots of toys (including wifi!).
Nipping up the coast from Monterrico to Hawaii beach, a famous turtle breeding ground on the Pacific coast.
Here you will be helping ARCAS - a wildlife rescue and conservation association, originally established as a destination for confiscated trafficked wildlife.
ARCAS is working with the Guatemalan government’s National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) to establish a 4000+ hectare protected area to help ensure the conservation of the last remaining mangroves in Guatemala as well as protecting the most important sea turtle nesting beaches in country.
Animal rehabilitation efforts focus on yellow naped parrots, orange-fronted parakeet, sweet water turtles, iguanas, the occasional caiman and pelican, and of course sea turtles – Olive Ridley (approx. 90%), Green and Leatherback. There are three ‘hatcheries’ at Hawaii beach, where you will be based and a further one a little way up the coast at Rosario. Each hatchery can contain up to 200 nests; last year 80,000 eggs where incubated of which 80% hatched. Lots of work to be done.
Accommodation will be in Arcas house close to the beach – basic but does the job!
The first adventure will take you to El Salvador to the implausibly named ‘El Imposible’ National Park; the largest national park in El Salvador in the coastal elevations of the Pacific Ocean in Ahuachapán.
This protected area is the country’s most important natural, dry and tropical dry forest, ecosystem. It one of the last refuges for an incredibly diverse flora and fauna, including; 500 plant species, over 100 mammals, 53 amphibians and reptiles, 285 birds and over 5,000 species of butterflies.
It is also popular for hiking owing to the outstanding 360O panoramic views from volcanic mountain ranges all the way down to the pacific ocean, including views across to nearby Guatemala and Monterrico.
The second adventure week will take you to Antiqua and the Pacaya Volcano. Here you will have time to explore the World Heritage site of Antigua and scale up the stunning Pacaya volcano.
Help protect the eggs and hatchlings of the Olive Ridley, Green and Leatherback species, who visit this intensive nesting beach at night to nest. Uniquely, in Guatemala it is still legal to collect and sell turtle eggs. However, ‘Parlameros’ as the fishermen are called are obliged to give 20% of their catch to ARCAS in return for a receipt that certifies that they are able to sell the remaining 80% of their catch.
This makes it especially important for our volunteers on night patrols to spot turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs and mark the nest before the Parlameros mark it as theres! The relationship between the Parlameros and ARCAS is surprisingly friendly and cooperative however, and there are never conflicts regarding who spots and marks a nest first.
The official turtle season, including nesting, runs between June 1st and end of January (July and September teams are likely to see nesting turtles) and towards the end of the season, only baby turtles will be seen by volunteers. In the first few months of each new season, generally only nesting adult turtles are seen. The non-turtle months are February - May, but especially for the January and April teams there is still a lot of work to be done in preparation for the new nesting season, as well as community projects, which run all year round.
Plastic rubbish is highest in rapidly developing countries – due to having some of the lowest waste collection rates in the world. Without effective waste collection an avalanche of plastic debris is entering our oceans causing harm to people and wildlife.
You will help organise fun cleanup events with school kids on the beach.
Monterrico is actually an island enveloped in a mangrove forest whose sweet waters nurture much vegetation and wildlife. There are two types of mangrove and these are being degraded by caustic run off from the sugar cane industry and some commercial harvesting for construction purposes.
To ensure the mangrove remains healthy and continues to support a vibrant diverse eco-system you will help maintain a forest nursery - planting trees, collecting saplings, helping to dispose of rubbish.
School Refurbishment: In the first week you will identify a project to complete from start to finish. It may be as simple as painting a classroom or upgrading a basket ball or soccer pitch. We will discuss options as a team and make our proposal to the Director of one of the schools.
Swimming Lessons: As is typical of many coastal communities around the world many kids here do not have formal swimming lessons. We will schedule times when some kids can learn to swim in a pool based environment.
You'll head out on two separate adventures/road trips in weeks 3 and 9, respectively, – Monday to Friday.
The first adventure will be to El Salvador to hike and explore the trails and waterfalls in ‘El Imposible’ National Park.
The second will takes you to Antigua where you will explore an active volcano and Lago Atitclan to learn about Mayan culture.
Every day in Monterrico, Monday to Friday, there will be 3 x 45 minute Spanish lessons.
These lessons will be tailored to suit all levels, from beginner to intermediate, and are designed to help you interact with the local community.
However, these lessons are optional and if you prefer you can chose to do more project work.
Weekends will generally include a ½ day of volunteering but will otherwise be free. There are many amazing activities to be enjoyed in and around Monterrico, some highlights are listed below.
Mangrove Forest Kayak
Monterrico is actually an island hemmed in by a lush Mangrove Forest bursting with wildlife and very scenic.
Huge rollers crash onto the beaches of Monterrico making surfing potentially harardous. However, a few kilometres up the coast is a spot where surfing is possible for all levels, all your round.
Whale and Dolphin Watching
Very seasonal but during March to June you can enjoy boat trips to see whales, dolphins and manta rays. Price variable depending group size.
Enjoy a sunrise or daytime horse trek along the beach from around $100.
Bikes are available to rent. Price depends on how many days and quality of bike!
We have four different teams departing for Guatemala each year: January, April, July and September. Typically programs are ten weeks long, taking in all the sights and experiences you'll find described on this page with plenty of downtime for you to explore the country as you please.
The exception to this is the July departure date, which is a six-week program and aims to pack as much into that shorter period as possible. It's an ideal fit for the gap between A-Level exams and results day, or for those on university summer holidays.
However we are very flexible. If you want to join any of programs for shorter, longer or even on different dates? No problem, get in touch and we'll help you sort something out.