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Guatemala

Conservation + Spanish + Culture

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Itinerary Options

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Looking for something more flexible? Get in touch and we'll chat through options more suited to you.

Discover Guatemala

Majestic and glorious.

Join a team of leapers and head off to Guatemala - the new 'happening' destination in Central America. With a foot in both the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans, a string of majestic volcanos running through its core, highlands, rainforests, glorious sandy beaches and the breath-taking creator lake of Atitlan, we can see why…

Look north and you’ll find Mexico and next door El Salvador, home to the famous national park, ‘El Imposible’ bursting with coffee plantations and natural wildlife which we will nip over to.

This destination is having its moment for the traveller looking for an 'off beat' destination full of cultural charm and intoxicating adventure.

Venture to Guatemala to get stuck into a mix of turtle conservation and community development whilst exploring National Parks and Mayan rich sites.


Program Itinerary

Your time will be split between our base in the heart of the hip coastal town of Monterrico and the ARCAS turtle sanctuary, a few kilometres up the coast in Hawaii – interspersed with 2 adventure weeks – one which involves hiking in El Salvador's famous National park and the other learning about local Mayan culture and history in nearby Antigua and Lake Atitlan.

The following is a sample itinerary.

Overview

Monterrico

A Hip Beachside Town

Landing in Guatemala City you will start your journey to the Pacific coast to reach the stunning, hip coastal town of Monterrico, with its sandy beaches and powerful surf, sitting in the heart of the Biotopo Monterrico–Hawaii, a nature reserve that embraces a 20km-long beach, home to turtle-nesting grounds, and wildlife rich wetlands.

Life here has a slow, tropical vibe, with rustic wooden-slat and thatched-roof architecture and awesome volcanoes that shimmer in the distance. During the week it's relatively quiet, but on weekends and holidays it explodes with visitors. It's a fun and beautiful place to be based.

Accommodation

Food

Breakfast and lunch only at the hostel. Dinner will be extra in one of the local cafes. Expect lots of local in international dishes on the menu.

Wk 1 - 5

Biotopo Monterrico–Hawaii Spanish + Conservation + Community

Spanish and Projects

During your first 5 weeks you will quickly slip into a routine of Spanish lessons mixed with conservation and community projects.

Spanish Lessons
Designed to help you interact with the local community - optional and tailored to suit all levels.

Community Beach Conservation
You will help the community with their "clean beach campaign" - motivating kids to pick up the plastic rubbish swept onto the shores and harming the turtles.

Mangrove Conservation
The mangrove forest surrounding Monterrico is constantly battling against the polution from the sugar cane industry. Here you will help support this delicate eco-system by replanting damaged mangroves.

School Development and Swimming Lessons
In your first week you will identify a project, with the school director, which you will be able to complete from start to finish, it may be as simple as painting a classroom or upgrading a soccer pitch. Time out will be scheduled into the school day to give swimming lessons to the kids.

Accommodation

Food

Breakfast and lunch provided.

Week 6

Inland Tour Adventure week

Venture Inland

A little treat to head inland for a week to explore the oh so chic city of Antigua, before heading up to summit the Pacaya Volcano. Exhausted you will then have time to put your feet up at the famous Lago Atitclan to learn about Mayan culture.

All stunning and a great way to see the best of Guatemala's inland highlights.

Accommodation

Hostels along the way.

Food

Breakfast and lunch provided.
Dinner will be extra in one of the local restaurants.

Wk 7 - 9

Hawaii Beach Turtle Conservation

Protect the Turtles on Hawaii Beach

Nipping back to Hawaii beach, a famous turtle breeding ground on the Pacific coast, just 20kms up from Monterrico.

Here you will help ARCAS - a wildlife rescue and conservation association who are protecting the Olive Ridley, Green and Leatherback sea turtles.

You will work at one of the three ‘hatcheries’ on Hawaii beach, which can contain up to 200 nests each. Last year 80,000 eggs were incubated of which 80% hatched. Lots of work to be done which will include hatchery maintenance, nest identification and incubation.

Accommodation

ARCAS's beach-side volunteer house – basic but does the job.

Food

3 meals a day will be provided.

Overview

El Salvador

A Hidden Gem

Look south of Guatemala and you'll find the exotic country of El Salvador, a hidden gem offering world-class surfing on empty, dark-sand beaches; coffee plantations clinging to the sides of volcanoes; colourful Spanish colonial towns; and sublime national parks.

You will nip over the boarder to seek out its pride and joy - the El Imposible National Park, found high up in Ahuachapán overlooking the Pacific ocean.

A rare and stunning treat.

Accommodation

Hostels along the way.

Food

Breakfast and lunch provided.

Wk 10

El Imposible National Park Adventure week

Big Views down to Stunning Beaches

The ‘El Imposible’ National Park is found high up in Ahuachapán overlooking the Pacific ocean. It is one of the country’s most important tropical eco-systems, home to diverse flora and fauna and popular for hiking due to the outstanding panoramic views from the volcanic mountain ranges all the way down to the Pacific. Stunning.

Here you will hike to the viewpoints whilst exploring this natural ecosystem, spending the night with local coffee farmers to learn about their way of life before heading down to beach hop along El Salvador’s magical coast line.

Program Details & Costs

We have four departures to Guatemala throughout the year: January, April, July and September for either 6 or 10 weeks. The most popular is the all singing and dancing 10 week option where you can “do it all” but of course you can go for less time to accommodate your dates and budget. Just get in touch to discuss your options.

Depart Jan, Apr & Sep

2018: 3 Sep

2019: 3 Jan, 4 Apr, 5 Sep

Costs

10 Weeks
5 weeks Monterrico + 3 week Turtles + El Salvador + Inland Tour
2018: £36952019: £3695

6 Weeks
4 weeks Monterrico + 1 week Turtles + El Salvador
2018: £23232019: £2323

Depart July

2018: 2 Jul

2019: 2 Jul

Costs

6 Weeks
4 weeks Monterrico + 1 week Turtles + El Salvador
2018: £23052019: £2323

Dates Don't Suit?

Don't worry - we can work around this, just get in touch and we'll chat through options more suited to you.

Social Life

Guaranteed. You will be part of a tight team of volunteers, who come from all over the world.

Bigger Picture

Be part of the worldwide push to protect the turtles and preserve the mangroves.

Exploring

Into Guatemala's center and neighbouring El Salvador for adventure and contrast.

Spanish

Integral for getting the most out of the program as English is not Guatemala's first language.

Monday to Friday

Expect to busy with your projects 5 days per week for about 5 hours a day and some Saturday mornings.

Weekends

Weekends will generally include a ½ day volunteering activity with local kids but will otherwise be free. You’re welcome to stay and chill with the community, but volunteers usually prefer a change of scene. Most teams stick together at the weekends and your project leader will offer advice on where and what to do.

Backpacker Favourites

  • Kayak through the Mangrove Forest.
  • Surf the big rollers up the beach from Monterrico.
  • Hike up the Tecuanburro (1,200m) Volcano.
  • Whale and dolphin watching best times March to June.
  • Horse-ride along the beach.

Central America has recently come back in favour with the discerning gap year backpacker as they look for pastures less travelled. Pastures where there's adventure, history, culture and NGO's responsibly contributing to community and conservation issues. Guatemala delivers on all fronts and we have our team in place to pull it all together.

The Guatemala Team

Your Program co-ordinators will be Harold Gonzalez, who delivered our programs in Venezuela for many years, including leading adventure expeditions into the Gran Sabana and Orinoco Delta, with Grace Hilling, a graduate in Environmental Sciences who came from upstate New York to Monterrico two years ago. Grace has developed an exciting outreach program to involve local junior schools with the nearby ARCAS turtle and wildlife sanctuary.

From our beautiful island base of Monterrico with the Pacific Ocean on your doorstep, and mangrove forest giving way to a string of majestic volcanic mountains to the east, they have organised a program, which will show you the best of Guatemala - the adventurous side combined with the long term turtle conservation and community education in this tranquil corner of Guatemala.

A key part of our mission is to encourage local kids to participate in sea turtle and wildlife conservation - to appreciate what lies on their doorstep. It is still legal to sell and eat turtle eggs, so it's important to explain the bigger picture.

Spanish tuition is thrown into the program to help you communicate with the local communities enabling you to have a full cultural immersion into indigenous Mayan life.

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our current Leapers are doing around the world to get a flavour of Leap life...

Day trips in Cusco and the final project begins Aela Morris

This week has been a bit of a mish-mash. On Monday and Tuesday, we went on tours around Cusco. One to an Inca archaeological site and some salt mines, and the other to Rainbow Mountain. Then, we packed up and took the bus for about an hour to arrive at the Tierra de Los Yaques project.

Our last stop of the day was a salt mine, which was very cool, and can only really be described with pictures.

Tuesday morning was a ridiculously early start (4 am) to leave on the bus to Rainbow Mountain. I was still a bit groggy when we started the hike around ten. Going up was… rough. It was about a 2 hour hike, and even though it was nowhere near as steep as Colca, the much higher altitude made it a tough hike. Sadly, the view is not that impressive from the first base you come to when you reach the end of the trail, you have to commit to walking up a bunch of stairs to the very top to actually see the rainbow effect.

I enjoyed both tours, though hopefully I'll have time to do some sight-seeing in the City itself on the next few weekends we are there.

We got quite a welcome when we arrived to our final project. A conch was blown and flower petals were thrown on us, before we were dressed in traditional Peruvian outfits and introduced to our hosts for the next 2 weeks.

We have only done about 2 days of work so far, but it has been interesting. We helped make the clay that they use for handicrafts, fed an entire shed full of guinea pigs (rip, probably) and prepared the land for planting in September.

Will we become expert farmers by the end of this? Probably not. Stay tuned.

Farming and Teaching in the Karina Community Aela Morris

This morning, breakfast was at 12:30. That's what happens when you leave teenagers to fend for themselves for food. Only joking! This morning, we decided to forego the cold hostel breakfast to make our own breakfast of eggs, toast, sausage, and bacon, which was a nice break from the more traditional Peruvian food that we have been eating during our time on the Karina project. We’ve now completed a week and a half of the project, and it's been a big learning experience. On the farm where we have been staying, they produce almost all of the food that they eat including potatoes and quinoa, which we have been helping to harvest, as it is currently Fall in Peru. Our other jobs on the farm have included taking the sheep up into the hills to graze and moving the livestock to their pens at night.

We also got the opportunity to do some teaching this week. I taught English to 12 and 13 year olds. The teaching has been a bit of a challenge as the school has no English curriculum or certified English teachers, but hopefully what we have been teaching them (basic conversation, parts of the body, and numbers) has been useful. I have also been able to practice my Spanish a lot, as well as learning some words in Aymara, which is an indigenous language spoken by many people there.

At night, we spend our time playing soccer and basketball with Will, our host family’s son. Soccer really is a universal language. You start kicking a ball around and suddenly a dozen people who speak all different languages are all doing the same thing together. And then we all run home because its stormed basically every night this week. Believe me, you have not heard thunder this loud in all your life. All in all, this week has been very physically challenging, but at the same time very rewarding. We have about 4 more days left in Karina and then it's on to Cusco.

Namibia week 1: Camera traps, hiking and tree babies Millie Edwards

Waking up to such an incredible view on day 2 and being briefed about the month ahead by our pretty cool hosts – Andrea and Red, definitely made the journey worthwhile and made us excited for the days to come. After a relaxing morning getting used to camp life, we headed off to set up some camera traps, to hopefully catch some leopard action with the help of none other than Chanel No.5. Finishing the day with sunset beers on ‘the saddle’ was the perfect ending to our introduction of the trip.

Day 3. What felt like a very early start we began our first game drive. The afternoon was a mystery with Red telling us we were receiving our ‘babies’, these were our very own trees which we will care for and attempt to grow during the next month. Imi G and Emily have called theirs Patrick and have treated him like one of the family.

On day 4 the manual labour kicked in. We made a new track by clearing rocks so the car can reach a new destination, which was oddly satisfying. George and Magnus got straight on it, heading up the demolition team.

Day 5 & 6. The two day canyon hike was upon us. After a few shade breaks, food stops and the birth of ‘Lucifer’ (George’s staff), we eventually came across our camp site for the night by the Orange River and without wasting any time we jumped straight into the river to cool down and cover ourselves in mud.

Today we began Permaculture across the camp and visited the local community in the afternoon. Football, Rugby, Netball and a lot of singing and dancing was involved and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. The kids could run laps around all of us and most definitely dance better than our whole group put together.

With love,

Millie & the team

Settling into Madagascar Life Ellie Harland

Tomorrow is Wednesday which means it will shortly have been a week since many of us met for the first time either in Heathrow or Paris Airport. It’s quite a bizarre phenomenon to put faces to the names of relative strangers whom you have only met previously through a phone or computer screen – of course this was a little daunting for us all.

Then ensued the multi-flight to Madagascar where we found ourselves plunged into humidity and heat of 30 degrees when we touched down in our final destination.

We clambered into 2 mini buses while our drivers did a fantastic job of hoisting our bags onto the roof, some of which were particularly heavy. The bus ride was a sweaty one although we were preoccupied with taking in the surroundings of what would be our home for the next 10 weeks or so.

Thick forests lined the narrow, sometimes bumpy road from the airport to the port, young Malagasy children walked barefoot on the verge carrying school bags and battered vehicles beeped to indicate they were overtaking. We reached the port after stopping at an ATM in what I later learned was the town of Hell-Ville on Nosy Be, pronounced ‘Nosy Bay’.

We climbed aboard two boats and began a 45 minute journey to our new home, Camp on Nosy Komba. Our little island is 25km squared, covered in thick forest and is home to the residents of Angpangorina (Angpang) which we would visit on Friday for pizza, drinks and music.

Camp is fronted by Main House, an open common area with a thatched roof and wood and stone structures, it is furnished with hammocks, tables, benches and bean bags (which are my favourite) and is graced with a fantastic view of the sea and the land across from us.

I’m currently on Marine with Alex, Sophie, Ben, Hettie, Harry and Cressie with Arthur and Brinley ahead of us in our training while the rest of us establish the basic principles of diving. It has been an exciting first week settling in and breaking misconceptions of one another and I am intrigued to see what we will experience next.

Ex Head-Hunters and Mulu National Park Ellie Walton

After spending a few days in Kuching we’ve been able to explore further. To start of our few days we visited the cultural village of Mentu in Sarawak. Luckily the sun was shining for us so we were able to walk around at our leisure. We were introduced to several tribes and sub tribes, the names of which I struggle to remember due to their complicated pronunciations! One that stuck however, was the Iban tribe as that was the tribe of the recently visited village. Seth, our team leader and tour guide is from the “head hunting” tribe so we had previously learnt of how the Ibans would seek the heads of those who crossed them; they would cut their heads off and display them.

During our down time we thought we’d kick back with a few beers, we were lucky enough to catch karaoke night which definitely gave us a laugh or two… it was a good opportunity to hear some obscure Malaysian music, however we were unable to compete with the locals despite our exceptional rendition of Celine Dion!

After an evening filled with laughter, we flew over to Mulu National Park where we would embark on a new little adventure. From rides in the long boats along the river, to seeking out bats from the deer cave, we were constantly on the move exploring different parts of the exotic national park. We were luckily able to take a dip in the clear water cave pool after touring around caves and the local area, where all browsed amongst the homemade jewellery and gifts.

Once we caught the third plane of the day, we were ready, set and go for the next community project, after a leisurely few days. We look forward to teaching and building within a different community and shift in culture.

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Guatemala

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