I spent 10 weeks volunteering for Conciencia Mexico within the program Whale Shark Mexico in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. This experience has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life (maybe the best)!
I come from France but live in Denmark, and I always loved the ocean and I have always been concerned by the protection of it. For that reason I volunteered in Cambodia in 2014 for seahorse protection with a big international volunteering organisation, after that I was looking for another volunteering experience but with a more local organisation, during a longer period of time and with more involvement of the volunteers in the project. I have been very lucky to meet some one, who talked about the volunteering internship, offered by Conciencia Mexico. Few months later I was flying to La Paz to start my internship for the whale sharks protection.
We were 3 interns, Angie from Australia, Zuzka from Canada and me, living together in a very nice house close to the office, we felt at home very quickly and had our rituals, like having a beer on the roof during sunset =) We became very good friends and had a lot of fun together!
I never saw a whale shark before, and we have been very well “introduced” to their world: how to swim and interact with them without disturbing them, how to take all the data needed, how to identify sharks’ sex, injuries, behaviour… Dr Dení Ramírez Macías, the main scientist and director of Whale Shark Mexico, and Darren have always answered all of our questions; their knowledge about whale shark is impressive! I have learnt so much during these 10 weeks by working with these scientists. They are very friendly, we felt comfortable with everything. So nice to work in a relaxed and fun atmosphere like that! We had so much laugh and happy moments =)
Dení, Darren and Felipe (who is working for Conciencia in an eco-construction project) were very attentive to our needs and ar-ranged so many nice things for us: showing us around, organising camping trips (to swim with sea lions, see grey whales…), inviting us to parties but also helping us every time we needed it.
We (the 3 interns) had many tasks and responsibilities, we got to work with all the different areas of whale shark research:
- Field work, on the boat : swim-ming with the sharks, tak-ing data…
- Office work : identifying the shark, entering all the data on spreadsheets…
- Education and communication : participating in festivals, taking care of clients on the boat…
We were doing field work 2-3 times a week, I wish it was more often.
Besides whale sharks, the Sea of Cortez offers an incredible diversity of marine animals, it is just amazing: dolphins, whales, sharks, rays, sea lions… So many “first time I see that” for me!!
I would recommend this internship to everyone who loves the ocean and wants to protect it. It is a very good way to contribute to endangered species protection.
It was an amazing experience with amazing people in an amazing place. In other words I want to do it again!!!