2016 Puerto Rico: Sea Turtle Nesting and Immersive Ecology and Social Studies
Receipt of deposit and registration prior to this date will confirm space and contracted pricing listed above. After this date, contracted pricing may change due to increase in costs in lodging or other associated costs. Please contact your Guide for updated pricing if contract has expired. Contracted prices are based on a minimum of 12 travelers and a max of 20 travelers. Click below to register and save your spot. For more details of the vision for the trip, the itinerary, and what is included in the trip price, read below.
Teachers: Some school districts offer tuition reimbursement for the Dominican University course. For Montgomery County, Maryland, teachers, please visit the MCPS website for more information.
Overview: Sea Turtle Nesting and Immersive Ecology and Social Studies in Puerto Rico For Educators
On this unique and deeply enriching expedition, you will help conserve the leatherback sea turtle by volunteering to patrol nesting beaches and assist local scientists with data collection and monitoring of this endangered species. Being in the company of a leatherback as she ends her arduous journey to lay her eggs is a moving experience and a privilege offered to only a few. This rare experience will truly enrich your life and bring depth to your teaching.
On our adventure we will learn about the rich natural and cultural history of this beautiful island. We will hike through a tropical rain forest and kayak through a mangrove channel into a bioluminescent bay. From ancient to modern, we will visit a cave of amazing geological and historical significance as we learn about rare formations and relive the story of Puerto Rico’s original inhabitants, the Taino Indians, and will also visit the world-renowned Arecibo Observatory. Throughout, we will be immersed in the local Puerto Rican culture. All experiences will be led by expert guides. Our home base will be the Capital city of San Juan, which is 15 miles east of Dorado Beach where we will patrol for leatherbacks as they come to nest.
While this trip is available to anyone interested in the Caribbean's environment, biology and history, it is unique in that it has been carefully aligned with grade level and subject area curriculum, as well as Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. Your guide is passionate about empowering you to take your experiences on this adventure back to your young students who, in turn, will be inspired to learn and care deeply about sea turtles and the natural world. The trip is accredited with Dominican University and offers either 2 or 3 professional credits. The course credits are optional and require seperate registration and payment directly with Dominican University, along with pre and post trip requirements for course credit as outlined below. You may register for credit now or you may wait until after the trip.
There are three registration options for this course:
1. Non-credit (no additional fees, registered through Academic Expeditions)
2. Two credits (additional fee of $235 registered through Dominican University)
3. Three credits (additional fee of $350 registered through Dominican University)
For specific work requirements and syllabus for options 2 and 3 and to register for one of these courses (should you choose to do so now), please visit the Dominican University registration page or contact Allan Varni at Dominican University for further inquiries.
- Option to Receive Graduate Credit—This course is accredited through the Dominican University of California (2-3 CR available)
- Aligned with your Curriculum—Enrich your life science, physical science, reading, writing and social studies lesson plans by gaining firsthand experience with Puerto Rico’s rich natural, historical and cultural heritage.
- Certificate of Completion—Every traveler participating in the trip receives a Certificate of Completion from Discovery Expeditions.
- Sea turtle nesting in Partnership with El Proyecto Tinglar Dorado—Observe the wonder of sea turtles nesting and participate in patrols and data collection of nesting beaches to aid in their protection (carapace measurements, egg counts, nest relocation, mapping nest location). Your data will be used to assess sea turtle population trends, status and threats.
- Kayaking in bioluminescent bay—Learn about tropical ecology, primary productivity, marine habitats and ecosystems, such as mangroves, bioluminescent bays, and sea turtle nesting beaches from our expert guides.
- Hike in Puerto Rico’s tropical rainforest and swim under a tropical waterfall—and experience the great biodiversity of the area from epiphytes to coquis (tree frogs) and rare and exotic birds
- Take a guided tour through Camuy Caverns—Enrich your understanding of geology and Puerto Rican history by touring Camuy River Caverns Park and learning about the unique geological formations and cave drawings and petroglyphs left behind by the aboriginal Puerto Rican people, the Taino Indians
- Take a self-guided tour of The Arecibo Observatory—the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world.
- Expert speakers on conservation issues—Listen to talks from conservationists over a relaxing dinner and gain a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges of marine conservation through direct, hands-on experiences
Itinerary: Sea Turtle Nesting and Immersive Ecology and Social Studies in Puerto Rico
NOTE: Details below are subject to adaptation as more specifics are worked out on the ground.
The price of this trip is LAND only* (see NOTE ABOUT FLIGHTS, above), meaning it is the responsibility of each registered traveler to arrange their own air transportation to San Juan, Puerto Rico from their airport and airline of choice. Your lodging in San Juan will be arranged for you; you only have to get yourself there by the evening of May 25th, so as to be ready to join the group for the Welcome Dinner around 5:00pm (exact time TBD). The trip officially ends on May 30th. Anyone is welcome to choose flights to extend their visit before or after the dates of the trip, and travel on their own to experience more of the region.
The price of this trip is all inclusive, except flights, some meals marked as “on own” on the itinerary. We will travel as a group for the entire 6 days, stay at the same hotel, and eat some meals together (see itinerary below).
Pre Trip: We will schedule 1-2 Skype calls prior to the trip. The purpose of the calls is to provide logistics information, background on program content, an opportunity for you to meet each other before the trip, and answer any questions you may have. Dates TBD. You will receive an email from your Guide to coordinate the calls.
Day 1 (Wed, May 25): Flight from DCA, Arrival and Welcome Dinner
Travel on own to meet at the Holiday Inn Express in Condado, San Juan (a mid-day flight arrival to San Juan is recommended). Get settled in and enjoy some relaxing time on the beach. Then join us for a welcome dinner with the local Chapter of the Sierra Club, the local sea turtle conservation group, Chelonia, and meet your fellow expeditioners and your trip leader. Lodging: Holiday Inn Express: 1 Mariano Ramirez Bages Condado San Juan, 00907 Phone: 1 877 410 6667 Welcome Dinner Venue: Vanderbilt Condado San Juan Tacos and Tequilla Restaurant 6:30pm (casual 'nice' attire, but no t-shirts or flip flops, etc. please) 1055 Ashford Avenue, San Juan 00907 TEL. 1 787 721 5500
Day 2 (Thurs, May 26): El Yunque Rain Forest
After breakfast at the hotel, travel to the Fajardo region to hike in cool and mountainous El Yunque Rain Forest , the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service ecosystem. We arrive for a morning hike led by your trip leader along the Mina Falls Trail ending at a very beautiful waterfall and swimming hole (swimming is optional but recommended—bring water shoes!). For lunch, we will visit a local restaurant, on own, and return to the hotel in the mid afternoon to allow time for you to visit the beach, take a taxi into Old San Juan, or just rest up for a full day and long night tomorrow. Dinner will be on own.
Day 3 (Fri, May 27): A Visit to Historic Old San Juan and Leatherback Sea Turtle Nesting Patrol
After breakfast at the hotel, we visit Old San Juan for a day of historic tours of the Castilla San Cristóbal led by the National Park Service and La Fortaleza led by the Government of Puerto Rico. Old San Juan has been called “The Gibraltar of the Caribbean” because Puerto Rico’s geographic position at the western edge of the Caribbean made San Juan one of thekey frontier outposts of Spain’s West Indies dominions. For lunch, we’ll eat authentic Puerto Rican food at El Jibarito restaurant, a local favorite (lunch today is included in the trip). We’ll depart Old San Juan in time to arrive back at the hotel in the mid afternoon to allow time to relax, rest up, and eat dinner (on own) for a late night of leatherback patrols on Dorado Beach. Sea Turtle Nesting Patrols inPartnership with El Proyecto Tinglar Dorado (the Dorado Leatherback Project). Just before sundown, we gather in the conference room to hear a brief seminar on sea turtle biology and the survey methodology. Afterward, we head for Dorado Beach to begin our nesting patrols, which will last until 1:00am. During this peak of the nesting season, we expect (but cannot be guaranteed) to see leatherback sea turtles.
Day 4 (Sat, May 28): Reserva Natural de Las Cabeza de San Juan and Bioluminescent Bay
After resting and light refreshments at the hotel in the morning, we meet for brunch at Cafe del Angel (included) before we travel at noon to Las Cabezas de San Juan Natural Preserve near Fajardo for a guided tour of the costal habitat and lighthouse.
Reserva Natural de Las Cabeza de San Juan—Tour of the Lighthouse and the Natural Connections of the Coast. We explore the history and nature of Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve by taking a guided trolley tour through the most important spots of this natural area. We go across dry forests, seagrass beds, take a boardwalk through mangroves and above Laguna Grande, and get to know the different beach types before visiting the Fajardo Lighthouse. There we explore several exhibitions about the organisms and ecosystems found at the reserve, and we enjoy the impressive vistas of the northeastern tip of Puerto Rico, including El Yunque rainforest, from the viewing platform on top of the lighthouse. The lighthouse (El Faro), built in 1882, is Puerto Rico’s oldest lighthouse. It has a distinctive Spanish colonial tower at the top and overlooks the cliffs where the Atlantic meets the Sonda de Vieques (Vieques Sound).
With a tight schedule and only a little time before the BioBay tour, we eat an early bag dinner (sandwiches from a local restaurant, included) before taking a kayaking excursion led by a Pure Adventure marine biologist on the bioluminescent bay. We arrive back at the hotel around 9:00pm.
The Bioluminescent Bay (AKA ‘BioBay’) luminescence is triggered by dinoflagellates, oceanic plankton which is able to generate an emerald green and ultramarine illumination when water is physically disturbed. Dinoflagellates are incredibly delicate microorganisms and are very sensitive to environment conditions such as balance of salt in the water, local climate, deepness of lagoon, air and water pollution, etc. Each one of these aspects make bio bay a one of a kind ecosystem to explore.
Day 5 (Sun, May 29): Rio Camuy Caverns and The Arecibo Observatory
We depart in mid-morning to tour the Camuy Caverns where we will learn about the geology of the region. We will stop at a cafe to eat lunch (included) along the way Camuy River has the third largest water volume in the world in an underground river system and it’s one of the most spectacular and massive systems in the western hemisphere. We then venture a very short distance to The Arecibo Observatory, the site of the world's largest single-dish radio telescope. The Observatory is recognized as one of the most important national centers for research in radio astronomy, planetary radar and terrestrial aeronomy. The Arecibo Observatory is part of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), a national research center operated by SRI International, USRA and UMET, under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF). We return to the hotel in the mid-late afternoon. Dinner is on your own this night but maybe we can go out as a group for the finale of this trip.
Day 6 (Mon, May 30): Check out, Lunch, Depart
We check out of the hotel after breakfast. Depending flight times and dates, enjoy more sites and activities in San Juan. People with similar or same departure times can share taxis to the airport. People who decide to extend their stay in Puerto Rico are free to travel on to their next destination, or arrange to stay more nights at the Holiday Inn Express. ¡Felices viajes!
Trip Inclusions & Exclusions: Discovery Expeditions agrees to provide each of the following goods and services for the duration of the tour to each participant:
- Professional General Liability and Errors and Omissions Insurance Policy ($5,000,000)
- Private bus transportation and driver between sites in Puerto Rico and shuttle service to and from the airport
- Hotel accommodations based on Double Occupancy (5 nights total)
- Custom designed itinerary
- Option for graduate credit from an accredited university, Dominican University Click Here
- Course alignment with National Science Standards and Common Core
- Recommended resources/teaching materials (age appropriate books, lesson plans, and online resources)
- Peer connections
- Certificate of Completion—Every traveler participating in the trip receives a Certificate of Completion from Discovery Expeditions.
- Entrance fees to all program sites and activities listed on the itinerary, some meals (see itinerary)
- Opportunities for free time on the beach and hiking in a rain forest and swimming in a tropical waterfall (La Mina Falls, El Yunque)
- Donations from our group to Chelonia and the Puerto Rico Chapter of Sierra Club, our conservation partners.
- Full time professional Discovery Expeditions tour escort and local interpreter and cultural guides from the National Park Service and Government of Puerto Rico; tour of the Las Cabezas de San Juan Natural Reserve and El Faro (lighthouse) (Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico); local sea turtle logistics coordinator (Rosa Fiel, Proyecto Tinglar Durado) and marine biologist/sea turtle expert; Tour of BioBay by expert marine biologists (Pure Adventure)
- All taxes
- All gratuities where the group is together (tour leader and driver included)
- Complete tour participant accounting including option to pay by credit card
- Comprehensive Accident, Medical, Liability, and Travel Protection/Cancellation/Interruption Insurance for the Land portion of the trip
- "Cancel for Any Reason Insurance" (CFAR) - Cancel up to 48 hours prior to departure and receive a 75% refund minus the insurance premiums. This applies to all travelers (except New York residents) and is included in the trip price (see statement below "In regards to insurance options related to health concerns"). (Due to New York state policy, CFAR is not available for New York residents).
Not included in the trip price:
- Airfare and baggage fees (to be purchased at the discretion and responsibility of each participant)
- Customs and immigration fees at airports or border crossings
- Various meals or drinks listed as “on own” in the itinerary when the group is dispersed for self-exploration
- Additional nights lodging or any additional days if one chooses to remain in country longer.
In regards to insurance options related to health concerns:
Recently, Trip Mate (our travel insurance company) advised:
Regarding the coverage specifically related to public health concerns – please note the following: our insurance plans work off of an actual incident to a traveler's health not the possibility of something happening to them. So if the traveler actually becomes ill and needs to cancel, coverage may apply. A traveler canceling because s/he is afraid to go – is not covered – even if a doctor tells them they cannot go because of the potential risk.
It appears most travel insurers are responding the same.
The main way to get coverage for the “fear” of a health-related concern is under a “cancel for any reason” policy (not available to New York Residents). Cancel For Any Reason” (CFAR) coverage has certain requirements including when coverage can be purchased, trip must be fully insured, arrangements booked by tour operator are only covered and cancellation occur two or more days before departure. This is not a 100% refund but a 75% refund minus the insurance premiums. For questions or more detailed information about insurance coverage, please contact our Finance Director, Kara Williams. CFAR is included in the trip cost for all travelers (exception: Due to New York state policy, CFAR is not available for New York residents).
Health Information for Travelers to Puerto Rico (U.S.)
General health information for travelers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, click here
To get a taste of what you'll experience on this trip, check out the video produced from our previous trip: