Volunteer Vacation: Save the Loggerhead Turtles

Volunteer and Receive a Tax Break While Protecting, Enjoying, and Saving Loggerhead Turtles

The Caretta Research Project has been protecting Georgia’s loggerhead turtles since 1973. They rely upon volunteers to monitor egg-laying activity and hatchling rates.  The goals of the project are to learn more about the population levels and nesting habits of loggerhead turtles, increase the survival rate of eggs and hatchings, and to involve people in turtle preservation.

During egg-laying season, mid-May through early August, volunteers patrol six miles of beach on Wassaw Island (aka Wassaw national Wildlife Refuge, one of the Sea Islands off of Georgia’s coast), to observe and tag female turtles that have emerged from the ocean to lay their eggs.  Some nests need to be relocated to safer areas, and all nests are protected with screens. Since turtles lay eggs at night, volunteers can sleep and relax, swim, hike, bike, study and learn about loggerheads, and explore the island during the day. Throughout the hatchling season, July to September, volunteers monitor nests and when hatchlings emerge, escort the tiny turtles to the ocean and record data.  Later they excavate the nest and count unhatched eggs to determine the hatchling success rate. Again, most activity takes place during the night so volunteers have their days free.

In addition to contributing to the protection of the turtles, participants signed up for a week or more in the 16-week program have the opportunity to explore a beautiful Georgia sea island, take part in a hands-on learning experience, and make new friends.  No special gear is required; except for a positive attitude and sense of adventure. Accommodations are two small cabins in the center of Wassaw Island. Meals are included in the registration fee and team members are expected to help with daily housekeeping and dinner preparation.  Each team has six members, so sign up with friends or come on your own to meet new people and engage in a unique immersion travel experience.

An Added Bonus for Having a Great Time While Saving Loggerheads  

It is very possible that your volunteer vacation might be tax deductible. Whenever you combine travel with volunteering, it’s worth checking it out with your accountant or the IRS. The deciding factors are the intent of the trip and the organization. If the trip is for the sole purpose of being a volunteer or serving as part of a volunteer delegation, it might very well qualify as a tax deduction.

For example, if you participate on a specific trip to help count the loggerhead turtle population, and that is the purpose and intent for the entire time, chances are it will be tax deductible. However, if part of the trip is volunteering and part is for other activities, like visiting friends and sightseeing, new IRS guidelines might disallow it; however, it is always worth considering and looking into.

If the whole trip isn’t tax deductible, some contributions to specific charitable activities with legitimate registered organizations can be itemized as deductions. This might include some organizations, colleges and universities but not all charitable organizations qualify. Again, it can be worth your while to inquire about the specific volunteer or immersion travel you are considering.

For More Information: Caretta Research Project, P.O. Box 9841, Savannah, GA 31412-0041; 912-447-8655; fax 912-447-8656;  www.carettaresearchproject.org; WassawCRP@aol.com;  cost is $945 per person per week includes transportation to and from Wassaw Island on the designated dates, food and rustic housing; for all ages 18 and over.

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