There are many dive schools in Utila. Check that the equipment looks new, suits are long legged and provide shoes, expect to pay £50 – £100.
Honduras placement details Volunteer with animals abroad taking part in essential conservation volunteer work at this scientific project in Honduras. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about volunteering on this incredible island-based project, what to take and how to get there.
This project is perfect for animal lovers and anyone interested in volunteering in a conservation project which is working hard to keep eco-systems alive. And it’s not all just about working with animals, there are lots of other areas to help in too!
If you have any questions on any aspect of the Honduras island project or would like to check available dates please contact us at the earliest opportunity as this project fills fast!
Where is the project located?
The project is on one of the smaller Bay Islands in the Caribbean, just off the coast of Honduras. It is tourist- friendly, laid back and away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. In fact, many islanders consider themselves as Caribbean first, Honduran second.
How long has the project been in operation?
Since the mid-1990s, this scientific conservation project has provided a home base for environmental education efforts, iguana breeding and ecological research. The project is also now official co-manager of turtle harbour wildlife refuge, a protected area on the island of 10 square kilometres, about a quarter of the island. This partnership provides further opportunities for wildlife research studies. Almost all of the work has been done by volunteers who stay on average between 3 and 12 weeks.
What are the aims of the project?
To continue fighting for the preservation and understanding of the Utila spiny-tailed iguana which is locally known as ‘swamper’ or ‘wishiwillies’. This requires careful monitoring of its habitat in the mangrove forest and the re-introduction of baby swampers through the project’s breeding and release programme.
The island is tiny and the ‘swamper’ is only found on the island. The threats to its survival come from the unsustainable development of the mangrove forests and beaches, over-hunting and increased pollution and never-ending plastic washing up on the beaches. The project has been successful in releasing 200 baby hatchlings each year since the project began.
The project also has new goals, extending their work on sustainability of the island for tourists whilst protecting the island’s natural resources and assisting with local sea turtle conservation efforts alongside a local marine organisation.
When is the best time to visit?
Conservation work never stops and runs all year round! An exciting time to be volunteering is during the breeding season between February and August. This is the time eggs from across the island’s beaches are brought to the centre to incubate them where volunteers care for them before they are released.
Between October and May it may be quieter on the breeding programme but there is plenty of other work to be busy with and it is warm all year round with temperatures in December and January still hitting 26 Celcius so you won’t miss out on sunbathing and watersports.
Will I be safe on the project?
You could not be in a safer place in the whole of Honduras! All volunteers live together on site, with the live-in staff always around to show you what to do, to get settled in and for advice should you need it.
And living on the friendliest, smallest, most laid back island of all the Bay Islands, visitors can remark how they feel more comfortable than in their home town. See the Accommodation tab above for more and photos.
What will I be doing?
Volunteers help with the preparation of food for the iguanas which live on site, including maintenance of the enclosures and the project station itself. Volunteers are also needed to monitor the local iguana habitat which can require walks and canoe trips into the dense coastal mangrove forests.
Beach cleanups are also carried out to help keep the habitat an animal-friendly place to set up home! Plastic bottles are shipped to La Ceiba for recycling.
Local school children also make regular trips to the sanctuary every week during term times to learn about the threat to the local iguana population and what they can do to help spread environmental education.
Other duties are varied and may include collecting crabs and termites for the iguanas (their favourite food), conducting periodical inventories, maintenance of the volunteer house, looking after the garden (mowing the lawn, trimming plants and disposing of leaves), collecting and feeding animals in terrariums, collection of other insects for displays at the tourist centre, guiding tourists around the island.
If you are here in June you can help with the preparation for a display for the island’s carnival parade or in July the parade itself, perhaps you have some ideas of your own!
What is a typical day like?
Volunteers help between Monday and Saturday 8am – midday and 1:30pm – 5pm with a rest break in between. On Sundays volunteers work on a rota to attend to tourist visitors at the centre.
We consider this project ideal if you…
Want a great volunteering experience combined with almost guaranteed sunshine in a paradise location Have an interest in the environment, conservation and learning. Are looking for a longer stay of 3 weeks or more.
Free time in Honduras
All volunteers have plenty of free time between activities to explore. Most free time activities are water based on the islands so if you are a water baby, there is plenty to whet your appetite.
Placement at a glance
|Age||20yrs+ on arrival|
|Volunteer options||Conservation and general site assistance|
|Support||Pre-departure helpdesk, in-country coordinating team|
|Project location||Island location|
|Accommodation||Volunteer accommodation. Meals: Self catering /eat cheaply in town|
|Working hours||Variable, usually 5 or 6 days a week|
|Language||English spoken by most on site staff and volunteers|
|Getting to project||Usual route is flight to San Pedro followed by bus to La Ceiba and ferry to island.|
|Minimum stay||3 weeks summer, 2 weeks between October and March.|
|Project operates||All year round|
|When to apply||As soon as possible. This project is usually full 3 months in advance. Complete a Reserve Now form and we'll be in touch straightaway to confirm available weeks.|
|Costs||£65 per week for accommodation and support team & £125 (Registration to join OV which provides a year of volunteering without registering again)|
- Shop 10 minutes
- Bars 10 minutes
- Chemist 10 minutes
- Bus 5 minutes
- Taxis 5 minutes
- Cash machine 10 minutes
- Bank 10 minutes
- Pay phone 10 minutes
- Internet access
- Laundry on-site + small fee
Basics, what to take?
- Sheets and Mosquito net
Volunteers stay together in shared accommodation, with 2 to 4 in a room. The accommodation is rustic (click on More to see photos) but the island surroundings should make up for any lack of creature comforts. There is a kitchen on-site and communal dining area, which is the hub of volunteer life. Support: An on-site team of project staff are always on hand.
Meet the project team
The Iguana project has full time knowledgeable staff looking after both the iguanas and their volunteers! Pictured above, one of the team taking volunteers on a trek through the mangrove swamps – a favoured habitat for the iguanas, and one under threat. The local team will assist you with anything you need during your stay and point you in the right direction for your free time activities from diving on Utila and Roatan and to the bars on main street.
The benefits of your local in-country team
What is a volunteer coordinator? Every project has a volunteer coordinator. This is the person responsible for organising your volunteering and looking after your welfare needs during your stay and they are all English speaking. What experience do volunteer coordinators have?
9 in 10 coordinators at our destinations have between 5 – 7 years experience and 7 in 10 of our coordinators have supported more than a thousand volunteers each (current as of August 2013). If they don’t know where to buy Parmesan cheese when the shops are shut, no one will! Who are volunteer coordinators? At some destinations the volunteer coordinator will also be the manager/director of the project you are volunteering if you are based in one location. Examples of manager/coordinator projects will be Kenya-Mombasa/Peru/Cambodia/South Africa/Argentina/Uganda/India. Some destinations require an independent volunteer coordinator because there are many projects volunteers go to. Independent coordinators will organise a variety of placements at many different projects in the local community throughout your visit. He/she will liaise with all the projects/schools/hospitals on your behalf to organise schedules for your volunteer group. Examples of volunteer programmes are: Morocco/Ghana/Tanzania/Kenya-Masai/Malawi/Mexico-Merida/Ecuador. Thailand and Nepal offer a mix of both. Is there only one volunteer coordinator? Coordinators have other staff supporting them, from drivers to housekeepers, and cooks and assistant coordinators. Support team size varies between project type and time of year. The typical size of any support team will be 5 – 7. There may also be a long stay volunteer helping out The Uganda school project had at last count 15 local staff supporting volunteers which ranged from security to water carriers! What do coordinators do? Airport pick up Your in-country coordinator will organise your pick up and make sure you get to the volunteer house as smoothly as possible. If your coordinator does not meet volunteers from the airport, their trusted regular driver will be sent to meet you. Liaise with local projects If you are on a mixed volunteer programme (Morocco/Ghana/Tanzania/Kenya-Masai/Malawi/Mexico-Merida/Ecuador) your coordinator will be regularly liaising with the projects you will be going to today, this week and next, organising suitable times and communicating schedules to the volunteer group. Help organise specific placements Coordinators will also ensure that volunteers with special preferences eg. medical/building can get involved as fully as possible in their preferred area of work. Show you around and help you to locate things Need a Sim card? Want to buy some paintbrushes for an art session tomorrow? Speak to your coordinator – they will advise on where, how to get there and prices. Provide an orientation on arrival Your coordinator or their local team will provide an orientation on arrival of what’s where and how to get started. This may take the form of a more formal meeting for all new arrivals by your coordinator or through informal advice for new arrivals from staff, long stay volunteers, handouts, information on the noticeboard as per needs dictate. This will usually include any important cultural awareness if this may affect your stay. For example bare tummies should be covered in Ghana for example otherwise the children won’t stop giggling! Help you when things go wrong We are often asked what happens when things go wrong. Your local team are the experts on getting you the help you need immediately. They have seen it all before (in a nice way) and are well experienced in looking after hundreds of volunteers each year with all the usual niggles from sunburn to upset tummies. Whether you need a doctor in the night for sickness or you want to try out a new project or move bedroom or volunteer house. If you have remembered to print off your project contact details and leave them with family (these are sent before travel to all volunteers) – your family can also contact the coordinator directly. Or they can call us and we can put them in touch. But if you need further assistance or advice we are here to help you. Contact us straightaway and we might be able to make the niggly issues go away. For any country related crises which may occur which would require volunteers to return home, your coordinator and their team will ensure everyone is safely escorted to the airport or Embassy as per the advice provided by each volunteer’s government together with any additional support that may be required. Help you when you feel unwell Coordinators are the first port of call if you think you may need medical assistance. They will organise an escort to the local clinic/hospital and make sure you are well treated. They can also contact home and will be happy to speak to parents to explain how you are. If you are volunteering alone, they may also stay with you in the hospital or request that a member of their staff and a volunteer keep you company as it can be quite daunting to be in a foreign hospital, even if it is only an infected mosquito bite! Most health problems are minor and with a day or two’s bed rest either at the volunteer house or the local hospital and plenty of water, most volunteers are back to their normal selves again. While on the subject of hospitals – make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover local medical bills and repatriation. In developing countries and where medical care is mostly private, it is not uncommon to be admitted into a private room for something which would be treated as an out-patient back home. Without insurance, hospital fees can be as much as £200 per day. For doctors appointments when you only need a prescription, your coordinator will help you to locate the nearest doctor/clinic. For these it is often easier to pay on the spot and not claim on the insurance. Expect to pay approx. £5 – £15 per consultation and £5 – £20 for basic medication. Organise excursions Your coordinator knows all the best trips and best prices which volunteers over the years have participated on and recommended. If the options are not posted on a notice board ask your coordinator what is available and how to book. Typical prices across all destinations as a very rough guide: £30 – £40 for a day’s activity, £200 – £400 for a trek/budget safari for 3 – 5 days. Most volunteers go together in a group for more fun and get discounts. Additional trip discounts for volunteers are available in Ghana and Tanzania. Return transfer back to the airport Your coordinator can organise the return trip back to the airport for you, simply ask a few days before your flight. This is not automatically organised as many volunteers will have made friends and may leave the project a day or two earlier to sightsee before flying home, want to go shopping right up to the last minute or forget that the transfer was booked and have already jumped in a taxi!
Honduras specific questions
Is experience needed? Volunteers do not require any experience for this project. Where will I be staying? Volunteers live together at the project in shared rooms sleeping 2- 4. Are visas required for Honduras? Visas are not required for UK/European passport holders on short visits. Transfer from San Pedro airport to the island? Airport picks ups are not available from San Pedro airport. The bus company Hedman Alas is recommended for the journey to the ferry port and departs from the airport at 09:30, 14:15, 15:55 and 17:00. Journey time is 3 hours, cost US$25. On arrival in La Ceiba, take a taxi just outside the town to Muelle de Cabotaje where the ferry terminal is, approx $10. All passengers need to arrive at the ferry terminal 45 minutes before departure. The ferry departs La Ceiba at 09:00 and 16:40. If you miss the ferry to the island, there are plenty of backpackers hostels and hotels in La Ceiba to stay the night which is also a far more relaxed place to hang out than San Pedro. What are the start dates? There are no start dates but if coming from San Pedro overland, an arrival on Monday or Tuesday is recommended when public transport can be more reliable. Can I stay with my friend? Everyone is placed together at the project. I am worried about travelling on my own – can I buddy up with someone? We can help you find someone to travel together – use our Buddy List or pop us a message on the main Facebook Group and we’ll add you to our weekly round up of travel buddies. Will I need any jabs? We advise to consult your trained travel health nurse a few weeks before travel for up to date advice and any booster shots you might need. The travel health website Fit For Travel provides comprehensive advice on jabs and how to stay healthy. There is nothing that will take more than a week or so’s preparation health wise before you go. How can I keep in touch with home? Signal is too not bad so bring an unlocked phone from home and buy a sim card on arrival. Calls from home are free.
Contact us for specific questions
We are always happy to answer any questions you may have. We pride ourselves in the vast knowledge of our projects and are always willing to share. Give us a call for a quick chat on 01603 280702 or email [email protected] to get the answers you need! For another great animal project, take a look at our monkey sanctuary project in South Africa!
Ray Bryne – Review
Why did you want to volunteer? As part of my travels it fitted in nicely.Do you feel you made a difference, how? Yes absolutely, the project needs a lot of extra help to raise awareness.What did you do for fun? Sea kayaking and diving course.When was your most enjoyable experience, do you have an interes...
Mable Fraser – Review
Why did you want to volunteer? I wanted to volunteer for a long time, lots of my friends had done gap years before Uni and told me about their experiences.Do you feel you made a difference, how? Yes we looked after the iguanas and I was lucky during my visit to be able to release some back into the wild which wa...