Volunteer tasks can include releasing sea turtle hatchlings to the ocean and keeping records of turtle activities.

Volunteer tasks can include releasing sea turtle hatchlings to the ocean and keeping records of turtle activities. Photo © USFWS Endangered Species, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Associacion Conservacionista de Playa Malena is a nonprofit group of community volunteers dedicated to the protection of the beach and its wildlife; in particular, the sea turtles that nest and hatch on its shores July-mid-January.

Volunteers with skills in carpentry, building, and conservation are especially welcome.Volunteer tasks include participating in night patrols on the beach (by foot or in a boat) to keep away poachers, recording turtles laying eggs, transporting eggs to protective cages, releasing hatchlings to the ocean, keeping records of turtle activities, and performing beach cleanups. Volunteers with skills in carpentry, building, and conservation are especially welcome. Volunteers are not accepted outside of turtle season; the best months are September and October.

Located on the southern coast of Panama, roughly five hours from Panama City, Malena is on the Azuero Peninsula. Despite the farflung location, volunteers will find plenty to do in their free time: swimming in the ocean, walking to local waterfalls, horseback riding along the beach, or looking for whales and dolphins in the Pacific. Hiking and snorkeling tours can also be arranged. Visitors are welcomed by the local community (population 140) and quickly integrate into Panamanian culture.

It’s worth noting that there is a fledgling organization doing similar work in Quebro, 18 kilometers (11 mi) away, where there is a larger beach, mangroves, and poison dart frogs. To contact the Centro Educativo de Preservación de la Flora y Fauna in Quebro, call Secundino “Castro” Peralta at 507/6101-5973 (Spanish only) or email Tanager Tourism at tanagertourism@gmail.com.

Associacion Conservacionista de Playa Malena

Azuero Peninsula, Panama
tanagertourism@gmail.com

Application Process: Send an email to Tanager Tourism (a local business that supports the project) in the best Spanish you have (or in English if you have no Spanish), including your age, gender, and place of study or work. Include any background or interests relevant to the volunteer work. Alternatively, applicants can call Ana Gonzalez (507/6865-8908) or Choli “Florentina” Fuentes (507/6865-8924), community members involved with the project (Spanish speaking only). Individual volunteers must be 18 or older; families are welcome.

Cost: US$200/week, including homestay and meals.

Placement Length: Minimum of 5-7 days.

Language Requirements: Basic Spanish is helpful.

Housing: Homestays, including meals, are provided for volunteers. Other simple accommodations can be arranged upon request and will cost a bit more.

Operating Since: 2002

Number of Volunteers: 2 in 2012


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Volunteer Vacations in Latin America.