SEE Turtles
By : Nora Dunn
Compathos travel writer, Nora Dunn checks out non-profit voluntourism models which integrate conservation, community development and education.

SEE Turtles is an organization dedicated to sea turtle conservation and research, currently operating in Baja, Costa Rica, and Trinidad & Tobago. With their unique service platform and role in activism, they play a huge part in sea turtle research, have helped to convert many a sea turtle poacher into conservationists, and have transformed the economy of numerous coastal villages with an influx of tourist dollars - instead of ever-decreasing poaching revenue - coming in.

SEE Turtles connects turtle enthusiasts with volunteer tourism opportunities in Baja, Costa Rica, and Trinidad Tobago. having established relationships with various tour operators and conservation groups in these areas, SEE Turtles matches every traveler with the volunteer experience they are looking for.

Opportunities for travelers start at basic volunteer-intensive home-stay programs that cost as little as $15/day for food and lodging, to fully organized trips that incorporate touristy activities in conjunction with turtle research (costing up to thousands of dollars per week, depending on how much luxury and active sightseeing you desire).

Aside from connecting volunteer tourists with sea turtle conservation opportunities, SEE Turtles also works with local communities in developing countries to show them that turtle fishing and poaching isn't their only possible stream of revenue. In fact, some communities (who have seen their revenues depleted with the endangerment of sea turtles) have approached SEE Turtles directly in hopes of receiving the training to start their own business as tourism guides.

"By providing alternative forms of income for the people who most threaten sea turtles (mostly poachers and fishermen), we are changing the economic incentives. Once these folks are involved financially, most of them over time become the most dedicated conservationists I've ever met." - Brad Nahill, Co-Founder and Marketing Director, SEE turtles.

It doesn't end there. With classroom presentations on demand, the SEE Turtles crew makes pit stops in schools to help with fundraising projects, develop lesson plans around turtle conservation and activism, and organize student field trips to SEE Turtles conservation sites.

Who Benefits?
Aside from the general benefits above, here is some of the impact that SEE Turtles has had in one area alone:

● 40-50 locals are paid to go on turtle patrols
● 50-100 locals benefit indirectly from tourism, homestays, etc.
● Local community revenue is increased by tourism activities, which doubles their conservation budget.

"And that's just the start," says Nahill, "Here are some other ways SEE Turtles is making a difference:"

● SEE Turtles provided a mini-grant to a cooperative of local women to make and sell handbags from recycled plastic bags.
● Other grants have been provided to remove fishing gear, train locals to be guides, and pay for locals to do beach patrols.
● Since their launch, SEE Turtles has generated more than $50,000 for conservation and local communities.
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