The tiny island nation of Grenada may be found in the Lesser Antilles, but it certainly bats above its weight in terms of its unique Afro-Caribbean French culture and natural ecosystems. It’s one of the finest places for volunteering in marine conservation, so if you know your leatherback from your hawksbill, you’ll have a turtle-y awesome time helping to protect these critically endangered creatures. What’s more, you’ll quickly find yourself head over heels for the relaxed lifestyle of Grenada; you’ll be able to spend your afternoons whining to the local fusion of reggae and calypso beats, snorkeling through coral reef, or imbibing the famous Caribbean tipple, rum.
With its reputation for being one of the most untouched parts of the Caribbean, Grenada is a stunning nation made up of seven small, volcanic islands. With no physical addresses and buses that stop service in the evening, volunteers will soon learn to appreciate the simple life and realize that liming (the national pastime of sitting with a cold drink to watch the world go by) is the best way to live in Grenada.
Volunteer opportunities in Grenada are most commonly found in Hillsborough, on the northeast island of Carriacou. Translated as “Isle of Reefs”, Carriacou is a stunning base for any keen conservationist. Thanks to the accessibility of the uninhabited islands just off its shores, snorkeling enthusiasts can go wild over the wealth of coral reefs teeming with marine life. While volunteering in Hillsborough, you’ll truly find paradise, or at least the picturesque and unexplored Paradise Beach, where it’s more likely you’ll stumble across starfish chillin’ in the shallows. But it’s not only nature that will entice a fins up from you; Carriacou has a lively Big Drum Afro-Caribbean music scene, where chanting, singing, and drumming is performed at village festivals to celebrate the islanders’ West African ancestry.
Although opportunities to volunteer in Grenada are limited, the compactness of the country makes it perfect for exploring. Only 20 miles by boat from the main island of Grenada, volunteers living on Carriacou can make the most of the historic capital St. George too. Visit the dominating 300-year-old fort (a legacy of the French conquest) and explore the colorful street paintings commemorating rebellions and revolutions. If you want to imagine yourself the next Kirani James, take part in a Sunday scamper through the island with the Hash House Harriers.
Volunteer Programs in Grenada
Volunteer programs in Grenada are mainly focused on nature conservation and the protection of the multiple, splendid marine ecosystems that call the islands home. While volunteer organizations in Grenada don’t require applicants to have any experience in conservation, volunteers are expected to have a passion for wildlife and a reasonable level of physical fitness.
Most individuals that decide to volunteer in Grenada end up working in sea turtle conservation programs, particularly targeted at leatherback and hawksbill turtle populations. Get turtle-watching by assisting with the tagging of nesting females, egg counting, hatchling monitoring and overnight patrolling. Sea turtle conservation organizations aim to interact with and encourage local communities to support their protection efforts, so you’ll also be gaining experience in working with a wide range of people as a volunteer in Grenada.
Coral reef conservation is also available for nature-loving volunteers. Volutneers can even gain a PADI diving certificate and kudos in the marine world as they learn to tell the difference between the Foureye Butterflyfish, the Spotted Goatfish, and the Princess Parrotfish from the Yellowtail Damselfish. Reef surveying and data collection all form part of the package, and working alongside experts who’ve had a real impact in the field of conservation will provide incomparable work experience for all volunteers.
The coral reef and sea turtle conservation volunteer programs in Grenada are generally only available between March and August, perfectly timed to, thankfully, miss the hurricanes, and last between three and 12 weeks. The type of work you’ll be doing depends upon the requirements of the season; research takes place primarily during the nesting period of March to July, while hatchling release and nest excavations happen between July and August.
Costs & Affordability
Rum might be cheaper than water in Grenada, at only $2 for a glass, but Grenada is by no means an inexpensive destination for volunteering abroad. Despite this, options abound for saving an East Caribbean dollar or two, none of which (unfortunately) involve becoming a swashbuckling pirate who plunders the high seas.
But, avast, me hearties! To fight the high cost of living in Grenada, and ensure your pieces-of-eight go a little further, live like a local during your volunteering by making the most of island-grown produce and tasty Grenadian dishes. Experience a sensory overload (and an insight into the roots of Grenada’s nickname, “Spice Island”) with a taste of the national dish, oil down (coconut-flavored stew), or find some real local treasure by hunting down a lunch of jerk chicken with rice and peas for around $5 a pop. Just expect everything to be spiced with a touch of nutmeg; Grenada is the second largest producer of this spice, after all. Wash it down with a delicately-flavoured glass of sorrel juice made from a floral relative of the hibiscus plant, which grows plentifully across the islands.
Transport costs within the islands are fairly reasonable and shouldn’t set you back more than $4 per trip, but hitching passage on board a pirate ship may be a cheaper option for inter-island travel; ferries between Carriacou and Grenada can cost around $30 one-way. Activities around the island include sunbathing, swimming in barely-believable azure waters, and generally sitting down and remembering that you’re living in many people’s idea of paradise, all of which are free. Winning.
Volunteer programs in Grenada are not free, unfortunately, and with prices ranging between $500 and $1000 for month long conservation volunteer programs. Just be sure to read the specifics of your chosen placement carefully, so you know what is and what is not included. Accommodation will almost always be included; however, it’s important that you check whether food comes as part of upfront accommodation costs. Airport transfers and transportation may or may not be covered, and travel insurance is a requirement for all volunteers and must be arranged independently of your volunteer placement.
Although Grenada will never be the cheapest place to volunteer abroad, don’t despair at the costs. Thankfully, GoAbroad can help you locate the cash you need to pay for volunteering in Grenada. Check out GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory or start a campaign through some of the web’s most innovative approaches to fundraising, such as crowdfunding websites, like FundMyTravel.com.
Accommodation & Visas
Volunteering in Grenada will be all palm trees, idyllic beaches, and never being more than a hop, skip, and a jump away from the ocean. Want to get to know your neighbors (beyond the resident sea turtles, that is)? English may be the official language of Grenada, but although many speak patois (a dialect combining English with words of French and African), communicating shouldn’t present too much of a problem. By joining celebrations in your new community with an open mind and a sense of rhythm, you’ll quickly shatter any cultural or linguistic boundaries you might face.
You’ll find that accommodation is in shared, basic volunteer accommodation or local guest-houses, all complete with stunning views of the outer islands and across the wooded, mountainous terrain of the interior of Carriacou. Sign me up!
Luckily, residents of Canada, the U.S., and parts of Europe can arrive visa free and volunteer in Grenada for up to 90 days in a 180 day period, whereas residents of the UK are granted six months to lounge around Grenada’s beaches. To find up-to-date visa information for your home country, make sure you visit GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
While nearly all species of sea turtles are on the Endangered Species List, leatherback turtles could face extinction in the next 10 years, and hawksbill turtles are being hunted to extinction for their exquisitely-patterned shells. Volunteer organizations in Grenada have contributed significantly to global research efforts, making this an unmissable and unique opportunity to engage with sea turtle and coral reef conservation efforts before it’s too late.
Not only this, but you’ll discover the tranquility of living off the tourist trail. With tourism only slowly emerging in Grenada, you’ll be able to enjoy a real experience of local life in the Caribbean. With a tiny 110,000 residents making up the entire nation, getting to know other island dwellers should be fairly straightforward, and finding your own personal beach to while away a few peaceful hours (perhaps with some friendly turtles for company) is a must.
Grenada is a small country, but one packing a punch, both in terms of marine life and delicious Caribbean flavors. While volunteering in Grenada, you’ll find yourself helping protect our earth and savoring the incomparable experience of working from your very unique new office: the ocean.