Monday, 18 March 2013

Work with Akazul this summer!

Hello Akazulers,

We are pleased to offer two Assistant opportunities with us in La Barrona this summer (2013).

One post is working as Sea Turtle Education Assistant and the other is Sea Turtle Research Assistant. Both positions are unpaid but free accommodation in the Akazul project building is provided. Assistants will be working with local and international project staff and volunteers for the duration of the sea turtle nesting season (July to January). This is a great opportunity to work with a growing community based conservation project and gain experience working on a grass-roots initiative that is making a real difference.

For those interested in applying, these posts are advertised on and StopDodo.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, 10 December 2012


Greetings Akazulers!

Afraid blog posts have been few and far between this season – we have concentrated on getting the most up to date news up on the Facebook site. However, we will still endeavour to post more in depth info up on the blog site as and when it arises. So the 2012 nesting season is almost coming to an end, with just over a month until the project finishes up and everyone takes a well deserved break.

Volunteer wise we were fairly thin on the ground mid way through the season during the busiest part of the nesting season. The guys have had to work double hard to make patrols happen and to ensure crawl counts happen every day- but somehow they did it! This year’s volunteer co-ordinator Tom has been a huge asset to the project and without him we wouldn’t have achieved half as much this season. We hope that La Barrona has cast its spell and we’ll be working with him again in the not too distant future!

Some of this season's volunteers

SWOT fund up date

As some of you will remember, in 2011 we were awarded a much needed small grant from SWOT to help Akazul develop a sea turtle education centre. The education display was completed early 2012, and consists of life size turtle models and information boards. The centre has provided us with a useful tool to deliver an extensive sea turtle education curriculum to local children and adults which has proved to be a hit! A big thank you again to SWOT for awarding us the grant and we hope to work with you again in the future! To see the end of year report click here.

Sarah teaching in the SWOT funded education centre

Local children participating in education activities at the centre

National Aquarium Ltd Funding

Some more great funding news from the Akazul camp...  Last month we were awarded a small grant by National Aquarium Limited, a sister charity to the National Marine Aquarium (Plymouth, Devon, UK) to carry out a project titled "Community based sea turtle conservation activities on the Pacific coast of Guatemala, Central America".The project follows the theme of conservation through engagement and will commence mid December 2012 to December 2013. The funding will allow us to provide two funded internships to the most promising members from the sea turtle stewardship program. Internships will provide these individuals with the opportunity to work full time with Akazul on the sea turtle project as Research Assistants where they will receive full training, and gain experience, in data collection, research techniques, hatchery management, project management skills, IT, and English language as well as assisting with Akazul’s environmental education program which will focus on marine pollution. Many thanks to NAL for giving us this amazing opportunity! Watch this space to see how the project unfolds!

Melvin- one of the sea turtle stewards teaching local children
Annual Sea Turtle Festival

Preparations for La Barrona's annual sea turtle festival are well under way and volunteers have been busy helping get ready for the turtle madness that is about to descend on the village! This year the young Akazul football team will be involved in organising the kid's activities and will be playing a greater part in the festival, passing on what they have learnt over the last 12 months. The festival will follow a similar program to last year and will include: educational talks, games, art activities, films, and a football tournament.

Volunteers making preparations for the festival

That's about for now- we'll post again first thing in the New Year to announce the NAL interns and report the 2012 nesting results.

We wish you all a Feliz Navidad and look forward to the New Year!

Akazul xxx

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Turtle season well under way!

Greetings Akazulers!

A fairly swift post from us this time, just to give you all an update on the season so far...

Turtle season officially kicked off in La Barrona on July 1st with the inauguration of the hatchery and donations from local egg harvesters have been trickling in slowly ever since. CONAP (the government agency responsible for Guatemala’s sea turtle conservation and management of protected areas) have been extremely supportive of our work in La Barrona and have reinforced clearly in everybody’s mind that 20% of every turtle nest found has to be donated to the hatchery.  Despite this being the law, La Barrona is still the only hatchery in Guatemala that actually receives the legal 20% donation- which reinforces that Guatemala still has a long way to go if it is to preserve its sea turtles and the livelihoods of so many coastal inhabitants.

But leading the way, and a force to be reckoned with in terms of local sea turtle conservation efforts, are of course the La Barrona Sea Turtle Stewards; Melvin, Tito, Miguel, Leonel, Maynor, Arturo. The guys are back on the beach, giving up their free time, collecting egg donations on the beach and talking with egg harvesters to raise awareness on the importance of donating eggs to the hatchery. The Stewards have now been trained how to bury eggs in the hatchery and will be a lot more involved in the hatchery side of the work. Once again, it is an absolute pleasure to work with these guys and key to the success of the project.

Stewards receiving hatchery training

Egg Stats:

The latest stats for the season so far are as follows;

Total no. of eggs buried in the hatchery = 5793
Total no. of nests laid = 375
Biggest nesting night so far = 09/09/12 with 34 nests!!


This year's volunteers have been amazing. With a bit of a shaky start to the season on our part, they stuck with us and made sure the project was a success - a huge thanks to each and every one of them, we couldn't have done it without you!

Volunteers learning hammock making

Latest edition to the Guate. family:

And to finish, some exciting baby news... our dear friends Karina (Ever's sister) and Gato have just given birth to a little baby boy named bebe Zander (hmmm, I wonder where that name came from!?), the latest edition to the Guate, turtle family. a big congratulations to them, I know we all can't wait to meet bebe Zander!

Gato and Karina, Puerto San Jose

Friday, 13 July 2012

First post of the 2012 sea turtle season!

A big hello to you all!

The 2012 sea turtle season has officially kicked off in La Barrona! We will get you all up to speed with where the project is at so far this year...

New Hatchery

Mid way through construction of the new hatchery
Scott had the painstaking task of digging out and constructing the new hatchery with the help of local hatchery manager Nando. Seven hours a day for seven days- nothing but digging. The new construction is looking fantastic. Measuring a whopping 7x14 meters, it is the largest hatchery that La Barrona has ever known and if last year’s results are anything to go by, we won’t have any trouble filling it throughout the season.

The finished hatchery


The hatchery inauguration went off without a hitch- many of the local community attended and offered their support for an increased conservation effort this season. A lot of folk were extremely positive to continue pushing the 20% per nest collaboration rate and also to ban motorised vehicles on the beach which is great news. It no way seems like a year ago that Scott and Sarah were stood in front of the village courageously pushing for 20% collaboration, not knowing whether they would be booed off the stage. It really is amazing how far the project has come in just 12 months. Alice came across from Hawaii to help out and Ever was as always a rock of support- thanks so much to both for being there.   

Scott promoting 20% per nest at the inauguration
Alice, Scott & Ever addressing the community
The young Akazul football team standing proud at the inauguration


Last year we counted 1119 nests across 7.2km of beach in La Barrona so we will now be able to start comparing nesting activities on a yearly basis to see what factors affect nesting density and over time, how healthy the nesting population is. We will once again be tagging as many nesting females as we can on night patrols this year. Last year we managed to tag 191 olive ridleys and 1 black turtle and we hope with increased participation of the La Barrona sea turtle stewards and greater coverage of the beach that we will be able to increase the number we tag this year. It really is unchartered territory with tagging ridleys in Guatemala- this data will enable us to known how many nests each female lays each season, the inter-nesting interval and nest site fidelity (i.e do turtles tagged in La Barrona only nest in La Barrona). Beyond this, tagging also has the potential to tell us where females go after nesting, all important knowledge to enable us to better protect these magnificent animals.
Although patrolling is slow with a gentle start to the season, we are already up to 500 eggs buried in the hatchery – not a bad start at all.

Ever in Costa Rica and Panama

Some rather late news- Ever headed off to Costa Rica and Panama at the beginning of the year to work as a research assistant with the Endangered Wildlife Trust. We are happy to inform you that he managed to drag himself away from the white sand beaches and rainforests of Costa Rica and returned safely to Guatemala!  An amazing experience for him, the opportunity to see huge leatherbacks nesting and to gain additional practical turtle conservation experience in Latin America. He had an incredible time on the trip and we would like to offer thanks to the EWT for giving him such a great opportunity.

Ever releasing a leatherback hatchling at the Pacuare reserve, Costa Rica

International Volunteers

We would like to say a big thanks to the first volunteers of the season- at the moment we have a Harry and YØsie working with us in La Barrona who have been a great help with the hatchery construction and inauguration. Over the next couple of weeks we look forward to welcoming three more volunteers; Lucy, Fran and Emma, to the project.

We will be updating the blogsite throughout the coming season, so check back soon for the latest news from Guatemala!


Akazul x 

Monday, 30 April 2012

April showers

A big hello from all of us here at Akazul. We are back on top of blog posts and hope to be bringing more regular news throughout the coming season.

Results from 2011

Firstly, we are pleased to share some of our results from the 2011 nesting season. A total of 1119 nests were laid on the 7.5km beach which Akazul monitor and we managed to tag 192 of these nesting turtles (191 x olive ridley and 1 x green turtle). A total of 17,608 eggs were buried in the hatchery; 5376 of which were donations, 6115 were collected directly off egg harvesters on the beach during patrols, 1764 were bought through the sponsor a nest program and finally 4353 were found by Akazul staff and volunteers. Once again we extend our gratitude to all of the people who have been involved in supporting the project throughout last year, from the volunteers (both local and international) to donators to the sponsor a nest program. There are too many generous people for us to thank individually, but we could not have done it without you!

Local sea turtle steward group training to tag

Ever - Akazul's first local volunteer

Ever has been a truly dedicated and inspirational local volunteer who has been an amazing contribution to the Akazul team over the last 12 months. He was the first local sea turtle steward to go out on the beach and collect donations from egg harvesters and his leading example encouraged other community members to become involved with the project. Ever has been given the opportunity to gain sea turtle experience outside of Guatemala and will soon be travelling to Panama to carry out a 6 week placement with the Endangered Wildlife Trust. This will further develop Ever’s skills and knowledge on sea turtle conservation and broaden his horizons to the practices of other projects. We wish him the best of luck with his travels and look forward to working with him again in La Barrona.

2012 Volunteer Co-ordinator

We are pleased to welcome a new edition to this year's Akazul team.Tom RIggall will be working with us this year as the Volunteer Co-ordinator in La Barrona. Tom, first began working with sea turtles in Greece back in 1999 and has led ARCHELON’s project in Kyparissia (second most important breeding area for loggerhead sea turtles in the Mediterranean) for several years, as well as assisted with an in-water capture study in Amvrakikos Bay. Tom will bring a wealth of experience to the team and Akazul is very much looking forward to working with him this season.


As most of you will be aware Akazul practically runs on a shoe string. All of the dedicated staff and volunteers work for free and it is amazing what has been achieved in such a short space of time with such limited funds. As ever, we could use everyone’s help...we have put together a list of projects and their associated costs and equipment needed and invite any interested parties to get in touch if they would like to be involved in either fundraising or supporting specific projects due to start in the 2012 season. For more information contact  

Kids Environmental Education Class - 
one of the initiatives that Akazul need help finding funding for

That's the latest news from Akazul, please visit again soon!


Akazul xx

Thursday, 12 April 2012

April news

Happy April to all you Akazulers out there!

We are now in the down time after the 2011 season, not much turtle action at the moment but we are still just as busy making preparations for the upcoming turtle season and disseminating the last. There certainly is no rest for the wicked. Since the last post in February there is plenty of interesting and exciting news to report from the Akazul camp so keep reading for the latest...

32nd International Sea Turtle Symposium 2012, Huatulco, Mexico

This year, Sarah, Scott and Ever represented Akazul at the annual sea turtle symposium- always a great occasion and an opportunity to get up to speed with what’s what and who’s who on the international sea turtle conservation and research scene. Most importantly, it gives grass-roots projects, like ours, the chance to show the rest of the world what it is we do and the challenges we face whilst trying to conserve sea turtles.  Akazul displayed three posters to represent significant areas of our work so far; the first “Mass Stranding Event of Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) on Guatemala’s Pacific Coast”, the second “Saving Sea Turtles through Football” and the third “A Step in the Right Direction: Redefining Community-Based Sea Turtle Conservation in Guatemala”.  The posters were all well received and we thank the sea turtle community for all its positive feedback.

Ever, Sarah & Scott at the symposium

ISTS Grass-roots award

 A real shock came at the end of the symposium – Akazul received a very special award which we share with the amazing community of La Barrona. We were voted “Best Grass-roots Project” (in the world- no less!) by the ISTS. We can’t tell you how much this means to us, after years of perseverance trying to stay involved with Guatemala and a lot of struggling, not to mention unbelievable situations, in adverse conditions, which we have been faced with since embarking on our first official year of the project. Sarah, Scott and I have all agreed that we should write a book about it all someday. So, as I mentioned previously, this is an achievement that we share with the community of La Barrona because without such an amazing and receptive group of people none of this would have happened.

Scott & Ever receiving the award


One of our aims since day one was to try and increase the profile of sea turtle conservation in Guatemala and get current research published so there will finally be some reference material out there. Over the last month or so we have had two pieces published – click on the links below to read:

Sarah's sea turtle conservation article published in La Cuadra

Akazul's hawksbill paper in MTN

2012 Turtle Season

The time is fast approaching again when we will be looking for hardworking volunteers who aren’t shy of a challenge to come and join us in La Barrona for the sea turtle season. This year we are aiming to push the Sea Turtle Stewardship Program to the next level and get the team of local volunteers to tag more turtles than last year and get more donations. It is a great time to be involved in a relatively new project which genuinely works with and involves the local community. We will officially kick off the 2012 season on July 1st with the inauguration of the hatchery and hope to combine it with the unveiling of the Sea Turtle Education Centre (funded by SWOT). Please get in touch if you are keen to learn about this season’s volunteering opportunities: 

That's the latest from Feb/March, come back soon and thanks for your support!


Akazul x

Saturday, 4 February 2012

First news from 2012!!!

Hello there Akazulers!

A slight delay in updating the blog last month, so to make up for it we have a bumper post with lots of great news from Guatemala...

In January, strong offshore winds blew from the mountains, making it busier than expected, with a decent number of females still coming up to lay their nests in La Barrona. However, as we enter February the season starting to wind down now giving everyone a well deserved rest from patrolling. Once the last nest hatches we will post a short summary of the 2011 nesting season.

Life guard training
Towards the end of December we were lucky to have Trent Hodges (Peace Corps volunteer) visit La Barrona and hold a lifeguard training day for community members. There are a number of drownings that occur on the Pacific coast of Guatemala each year which are often a case of holiday makers being caught out by strong surf and rip tides, but could be avoided if local communities were properly equipped with life saving equipment and training. Trent has spent the last year working with a dedicated group of guys from the Hawaii/Las Mananitas area getting them fully trained in rescue and resuscitation techniques- this training alone will reduce the number of fatal drowning incidences. It was a really productive day and great to have Trent’s group of guys pass on their knowledge and help train the new lifeguards of La Barrona. Since receiving the training, La Barrona’s team of volunteer lifeguards have already saved two near drownings and to support this important service we would really like to better equip the guys at least with a pair of swim fins each - if anyone is able to help by donating any new or used gear please contact

Trent (back centre) with the La Barrona lifeguards

SWOT sea turtle education centre
Some of you might remember that a few months ago we were awarded a small grant from SWOT to help develop a sea turtle education centre at the Akazul field station. Preparations are well under way and the centre should be nearing completion by next month. Not only will the finished product be extremely instrumental in helping Akazul deliver its education program to local communities, as well as informing visitors of the importance of marine conservation, but the construction itself has got community members further involved with the project. During their weekly environmental education classes, the boys from the Akazul football team have helped build the sea turtle models for the display and have produced art work for the exhibition. I can honestly say that we are all incredibly excited and are very much anticipating the finished product, it really will make the building a special place for the community where they can continue learning about marine life.

Making the sea turtle models
Sarah, Izzy & Grace with the finished models
Value of volunteering
We recently had Mike and Kate, who are creating a really fantastic documentary about volunteering opportunities in Central America, come stay with us in La Barrona. The documentary is being made in conjunction with the University of East Anglia, UK and will be an important resource for young people wishing to embark on volunteering projects abroad. The guys are travelling to various projects throughout Central America and documenting their experiences along the way. It was a real pleasure to have them here on the project, it was a great experience for all involved and is definitely worth following their adventures...

We wish them the best of luck on the rest of their journey!

Shark and ray research
Although a large part of our work centres around the conservation of sea turtles, Akazul’s overall aim is to help preserve the natural resources of Guatemala’s marine and coastal environments through community based activities. Information on Guatemala’s sharks and rays is virtually none existent so last year we undertook some preliminary field work to further knowledge of shark and ray species present in Guatemala’s Pacific waters. We have been able to continue investigating this year, Sarah and myself spent a week in Puerto San Jose interviewing fishermen and collecting data- we cannot thank the fishermen in Puerto and La Barrona enough, they have been extremely helpful in answering our endless questions and we look forward to working with them some more in the near future. Watch this space for future developments...

Measuring a Pacific cownose ray at Buena Vista
That is the latest news from Guate. - things have already gotten off to a good start this year, so let's make 2012 an Akazul year!

Akazul x