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Vacations can be relaxing, thrilling and daring. And then they can be rewarding. Erin Holmes of Explore With Erin managed to take a Cancun vacation with a satisfying detour.

A dreamy Mexican vacation is something I had dreamed about all year. Sun, sand, surf. Cocktails in the pool. Ziplining through the jungle. Sunbaking by the warm Caribbean waters. Self-indulgence to the max. And then some Travel for Good™.

What is Punta Sur?

Punta Sur is a 1,000 hectare ecological park with beautiful white sand beaches, numerous flowers, and green water lagoons on the island of Cozumel in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Because of its extensive beaches, Punta Sur is the nesting place for sea turtles who are under a strict conservation and protection program with the Sea Turtle Workshop, in which you can participate during the arriving season.

There are two species of turtle on the beach. The Loggerhead Turtle and the Green Turtle. Each mama turtle generally lays around 150 eggs and can nest as many as 6 times in one season. Approximately 2 months after they lay their eggs, the baby sea turtles dig their way out of their sandy nest pit and head to the surface. At dusk, they take a treacherous journey over the beach towards the Caribbean.

If they make it and survive, these turtles can live up to 80 years. IF they make it. The odds are against them, which makes volunteers an important part of the effort to ensure healthy populations of sea turtles.

How We Helped Baby Turtles

Our evening with the team started around 5 p.m. as the temperatures dropped and the sun started its way towards the ocean. It took some time for the team to dig and hunt for the babies, but when we finally found a nest of nearly 80 baby turtles ready everything happened very quickly.

Straight away our team leader got us to clear a path down to the ocean. We placed any driftwood we could find down two sides so they couldn’t escape our watchful eye. We removed some of the heavier seaweed and then dug a slow slanting ramp out of their nest and up to the surface.

With the way open for them, they stumbled out in waves. One after the other, swishing their legs back and forth to travel over the sand and seaweed toward their new ocean home.

Some attempted to escape and gently (wearing gloves) we placed them back on track so they could continue their journey towards the ocean. At the same time, as we cheered silently for the little guys we also remained watchful for any predators. Hoping against all odds that these 80 little lives would all make it to maturity and outlive us all.

As the darkness fell and the last of the little sea turtles disappeared into the warm Caribbean waves we breathed the biggest sigh of fulfillment. We had possibly saved 80 lives or at the very least give them a greater chance of survival. And all it had taken was one evening, volunteering on vacation. An evening that will forever stand out in my memory. Travel for good.

3 Tips for Volunteering on Vacation

1. Choose a reputable company

Your volunteer company should benefit its community. At least 80% of its profits should go back to the community. It’s not wrong for the organizations to have a margin, but they shouldn’t be exploiting the volunteers and communities for profit.

2. Manage your expectations

As the saying goes, good things come to those that wait. We waited near two hours before we found the nest of baby turtles that were ready to emerge into their new life in the ocean. This is not a race, the turtle beat the hare with a slow, steady pace.

3. Be prepared

The excitement may render you giddy and completely useless. Try to keep your wits about you and be prepared. For this particular volunteering on vacation experience bring a jacket, the beach can be cool at night. A change of clothes might also be wise since I got downright sandy.

Travelocity’s Travel for Good™ program aims to inspire travelers to give back in ways big and small throughout their journeys. To learn more about the program, get involved in a local community or start planning your next Travel for Good trip, please visit Travelocity.com/TravelForGood.

Erin Holmes of Explore with Erin is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. 

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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