Youth Make a Splash Snorkeling in Mexico

Alliance Member: Elevate Destinations

Everyone deserves the chance to travel. Yet, all too often, seeing the world is a privilege reserved for the global elite. At Elevate Destinations, we bridge the divide. Our goal is to connect local youths to their own environments, as travelers and as stewards.

The Travelers: A group of high school students from a marginalized neighborhood on the outskirts of La Paz, in Baja California, Mexico, who were chosen through local non-profit organization FANLAP (Fundacion Ayuda Los Niños La Paz), mainly for their honor student status at the local school.

The Excursion: The teens got to visit the nearby island of Espíritu Santo, a World Heritage Site, and go snorkeling there – some for the very first time!

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The Details:

On a clear day in June 2016, a group of kids packed their swimsuits and set out on a field trip that they had been looking forward to for months. Excitement levels ran high as they arrived to the port and took a boat to Espíritu Santo – a world-class destination popular with foreign tourists but often out of reach for underprivileged locals.

After snorkeling with the sea lions in clear blue water, learning about the geology and natural history, and the important steps to make Espíritu Santo Island a protected reserve, the youth had an experience that will stay with them well into the future.

Firsts:

  • Hearing from naturalists guides about the unique ecology of the island.
  • Wearing snorkeling gear and seeing the magic of subaquatic life.
  • Swimming with sea lions underwater – they come so close!
  • A private boat ride and the chance to see their region through the eyes of tourists.

Quotes from the Road:

“What I loved the most was being close to the sea lions, to be inside their world and see all the diversity of species that there are in the sea! I learned that this island is home to around 400 sea lions and they live here with everything they need – like sardines, for example.”
~ Pilar Guadalupe Oliveros Flores, honors student in La Paz

“I had never been to the island, or even knew it existed. It was great – swimming with the sea lions and seeing the dolphins. It was stimulating to travel and to get to know La Paz a little better. “
~ Mario Efraín, honors student in La Paz.

“I learned so much about sea lions! For example how the males have a crest on the tops of their heads, and they also weigh more. I also learned about a few kinds of fish. What surprised me the most about the island is how clean the beaches are, with crystalline water.”
~ Elizabeth Reyna, honors student in La Paz

“This trip is a festivity for the kids, since they’re honors students with the best grade point averages in their classes. They’re kids that have made a lot of effort academically. This trip is to nurture them with nature, to see what there is to see here, to breathe fresh aire, and to take care of this habitat so close to where we live.”
~ Irma León, teacher at FANLAP

“It is important for all residents of La Paz to experience the natural wonders that surround us, especially the people who don’t live near the water and don’t have the resources to take trips to places like Espíritu Santo, a World Heritage Site. We can only truly value what we know and experience personally.”
~ Luis Garduño, co-founder of RED

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Partner Organizations:

FANLAP (Fundación Ayuda Niños La Paz) – This is an organization based in Mexico’s Baja California Sur, The children the Fundación works with have been raised in economic poverty in the city of La Paz, as were their parents, and their grandparents. Many of the parents of the students cannot read. Many more have had no more than a third grade education. In addition to serving breakfast two days a week and sponsoring a lunch program in a dining room it constructed, FANLAP is doing its part by providing financial help to junior and senior high school students to enable them to obtain more than six years of education.

RED Sustainable Tourism – RED pursues tourism projects that support the conservation and the natural heritage of Mexico’s many destinations. It generates sustainable livelihood alternatives and strengthens businesses in projected natural areas of Mexico. Some of its project areas include tourism microbusinesses, monitoring of bat populations, and responsible wildlife observation tours. Their “Bridges” project, in partnership with FANLAP, aims to cultivate a sense of stewardship for the environment in local youth.

For more success stories from Elevate Destinations, visit http://elevatedestinations.com/blog/