What is the volunteer work like? Mangrove restoration involves a good deal of physical labor. Volunteers should be physically fit and confident with wading through deep mud, brush and debris. We travel by boat around the island as we go to and from the restoration areas and a canal area with living mangroves that provide propagules for replanting. When collecting propagules at the canal we walk/wade around the mangroves searching for trees with ripe propagules that we pick and place into 5 gallon buckets. We then take these to areas needing replanting and again walk through the muddy terrain planting each propagule by hand. Other work includes laying out a hectare grid system in the restoration area using GPS and stakes. The work is hard and we often work in the early morning and in the evenings to avoid the intense sun. We ask that volunteers be prepared to work at least 4 hrs each day, the remainder typically being used for recreation, exploration or relaxing in a hammock.
How do I get there? Guanaja has a small airport which all visitors typically use to reach the island. Flights leave from Roatan, the next island over, as well as from La Ceiba on the mainland. The easiest way to get to Guanaja is to take an international flight to Roatan and then take a smaller plane to Guanaja. Plane service from Roatan to Guanaja is in flux these days with new airlines providing service and also some dropping out. We can help you reserve a local flight to Guanaja. Roatan receives international connections from Atlanta, Houston, and other major US hubs. Unless you are already in Central America and have significant travel experience, Spanish language abilities, and extra time we recommend flying in from Roatan. However, we can certainly discuss the other options with you if you are interested. For example, some cheaper international flights may be available to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and then connecting flights can be arranged through La Ceiba to Guanaja. This requires an overnight on the mainland.
What are the accomodations like? We are currently seeking a free location to stay. The cost of rent is beyond our budget so we rely on donated housing. In the past we stayed primarily at a beautiful private home called Black Rock, donated by David and Joan Cobb.
Is cost of travel covered? We realize that getting to Guanaja represents a significant personal cost, but covering airfare, even in part, is simply outside of our budget. We can offer some tips about which dates to fly, which airlines to choose, how to do the last leg to reach the island, etc... that can significantly reduce costs.
What are the other costs? We would love to be able to cover all volunteer expenses, but funding is limited and this is simply not possible. We ask for volunteers to contribute $100 per week to help cover basic food and operating expenses such as gasoline. In addition, bring enough US dollars in cash to cover local flights. Note that there is a $34 per person airport fee charged when leaving Honduras. A $500 reserve of cash is not a bad idea to cover any contingencies or delays due to bad weather.
What do I bring? :
- Long-sleeved pants and shirts to keep out insects and sun
- Short-sleeved pants and shirts for trips to town, hikes, etc...
- Work clothes (both long and short) - these will get extremely dirty/wet/muddy/ripped, so choose wisely
- Several hats and pairs of sunglasses
- Bathing suit
- Lots of socks
- Footwear - walking around in a swamp isn't going to be easy no matter what you have on your feet. What seems to work best are ankle high wading boots that can be made snug around the ankle. Taller waders are quite cumbersome and once mud and water find their way inside will be even more so. Fishing boots can be manageable but are guaranteed to fill up with gunk. Sneakers are ok but don’t protect your ankles much and won't dry out in between work days.
Other: - Any personal medication
- Sunscreen (the stronger, the better)
- Money (see below)
What should I bring for downtime? Guanaja is surrounded by an amaziing coral reef, if you enjoy swimming you might want to bring a snorkel, mask, and fins. There are some great reading spots around the house for the hot afternoons, too. There's also a TV and DVD player, so feel free to bring along some movies.
What is the food and water situation? There is not a wide variety of food available on Guanaja, and trips to the store require a boat and the better part of an afternoon, so if there's anything you can't live without, you will probably have to bring it from home (no fruits, vegetables, seeds, etc... that won't clear customs). Expect a consistent menu of pancakes, french toast, or eggs for breakfast and for lunch/dinner PB and J, pasta, rice and beans, chicken, or fish. You'll quickly find that there are some edible items growing wild on Guanaja, including mangos, coconuts, and hog plums! We'd like to keep things simple by having all communal meals, but if you have particular tastes you are welcome to prepare your own meals. We typically drink from 5 gallon filtered water containers.
What is the local community like? Our location is typically separate from the small towns on the main island of Guanaja. The vast majority of the island's population is on "The Cay" (El Cayo), which happens to be on the opposite side of the island from our operations. You will meet some locals that watch over nearby properties, some that are helping out with the project, and residents of Mangrove Bight, a small town about 2 miles from Black Rock by boat. Nearly all permanent residents of Guanaja speak at least serviceable English, but Spanish is often a better way to communicate. Most of your time on Guanaja will be spent with the people directly involved in the mangrove project.
How many people will be there? Typically Scott, Pamela and Toby plus a maximum of 6 volunteers at any one time.
Snakes and insects? There are no known venomous snakes on Guanaja, but mainland Honduras has many. On Guanaja, scorpions and other poisonous insects are rare but occasionally seen. Depending on wind conditions, mosquitoes can be a nuisance during work, play, and sleep. Sometimes mosquito nets are used at night. Mosquitoes come out around dusk, but aren't too much of a problem during the day. On Guanaja, tiny sand flies are the major issue - they are ubiquitous throughout the swamp areas where we will be working. It is recommended that you wear long sleeves to combat these pests as well as the intense sun. We discourage non-natural insect repellants.
Vaccinations? We recommend that you consult with your doctor before traveling to Honduras. Malaria, Dengue Fever and other diseases are known to be present in Honduras. Guanaja Island is somewhat isolated from the mainland where diseases are more common, but concerns with disease should be considered carefully.
Money ? You will want to have all the money you will need on Guanaja in cash before you arrive. The flight to and from Roatan will need to be paid in cash. US dollars are the easiest for this. Exchanging money to Honduran Lempira can be difficult so we recommend bringing small change in US dollars which is generally accepted. The exchange rate is typically about L18.89 to one US dollar. You will likely spend about $200 per person round trip getting to and from Guanaja. Add about $100 per week for basic food and expenses, plus we recommend bringing extra for contingencies. A total of about $750 to $1000 US would seem about right. You will probably spend less than that. If you want to consider scuba diving or other guided recreation, budget accordingly.
Do I need to speak Spanish? You can get by with no knowledge of Spanish, but it definitely helps. A willingness to learn a few basic phrases will go a long way during your stay.
How do I communicate? We have a cell phone on hand for local communication which also works most of the time for international calls. Minutes can be purchased locally at reasonable rates. Internet is often unreliable. The nearest computer with internet will likely be the internet cafe at Bonnacca Town, known locally as The Cay - expect to be able to make one visit a week to The Cay.
Visas and Documents? You will need a passport to enter Honduras. Passports should be valid for at least six months beyond the dates of your trip. You can stay for 3 months at a time on a tourist visa. However, when entering through Roatan, you will only be issued 30 days. If you leave late there is a fee of approximately $90 US. (During your stay, the law requires that you carry your passport at all times, although a copy usually suffices.) Keep a photocopy of all key documents, such as passport, drivers license and credit cards, in a ziploc deep in your backpack. Same with all credit card numbers and key telephone numbers.
What happens in case of an emergency? Due to the isolation of Guanaja and limited medical care on-island, safety is the number one priority. Radio and phone contact with the mainland is possible in the event that someone needs to be airlifted to a hospital. Guanaja's clinic is located on The Cay, but should not be relied on for any type of serious care, including provision of prescription drugs. We have first aid kits for minor scratches and wounds. Please carefully consider and fully disclose any allergies or other personal medical conditions that could create a safety concern during your stay on Guanaja.