Traffic accidents and injuries are always a hazard of road transport. Vans travel no faster than 55 kph on public roads. Every passenger will have a seat and must wear seat belts at all times. Volunteers must also take great care when crossing the street (highway), as traffic is dangerous in the area. Volunteers will not drive; only staff will operate vans and boats.
Volunteers must have good balance when they are on the water. Risks include sprains, strains, cuts or breaks due to falling or missteps. Project staff will highlight risks on site and curtail activities they judge too risky. At the accommodations, the pool area is also tiled and slippery when wet. Pool depths aren’t marked, and diving is not allowed. Volunteers should wear sandals/shoes when walking on the beach to avoid punctures/cuts from trash or thorns. The same is true for sandy areas on the accommodation’s property.
Mosquitoes are present in Tumbes, and repellent and pants can help protect from stings and bites. Man-o-wars and other jellyfish are also present, along with small stingrays near shore. Wetsuits and rash guards are recommended to avoid stings. Stray dogs are also present and should be avoided.
Lizards and geckos can be found around the accommodation. During the rainy season especially, Tumbes might be vulnerable to plagues of toads or crickets. All of these animals are harmless, but should not be touched.
There are also bigger docile species, like mantas and whale sharks. While these animals pose little risk, they are still large and must be respected when snorkeling. Volunteers should be aware of their positioning in the water to avoid collisions/abrasions with these animals. Project staff will advise on how to keep a safe distance from these species when in the water.
Tumbes weather is typically hot year round. Dehydration and sunburn are possible. You’ll be briefed on proper clothing, sunscreen use, and fluid intake. Project staff will set an example and monitor participants for symptoms of sun exposure and dehydration. Take particular care when working during the hottest periods of the day. You must come prepared with a light jacket or sweatshirt, as weather might also be cool during some periods.
Political, Social and Cultural
Project staff will advise you on local culture. They will also enforce appropriate clothing and footwear for particular situations, e.g., in town during the community/lab day. Volunteers should avoid wearing clothing that is too revealing.
Working on a Boat
Boats will have appropriate safety equipment, including a personal flotation device (PFD) for each passenger. You must wear PFDs at all times. Staff will brief the team on boating risks and precautions. You will be warned about potential waves, wet boat surfaces and the risk of sprains, strains, or breaks from falling on the boat.
Robbery is a risk outside of the project site, especially in Tumbes city. All bedrooms doors are lockable at the accommodations and volunteers will have access to the keys, which will be held by project staff. Use taxis instead of walking and always be aware of your surroundings. Avoid using the local motorcycle taxis and always opt for cars for transport.
Swimming is central to the research you’ll conduct and, possibly, during recreational time. Typical water-related risks are present. A certified lifeguard will not be available, but staff members have boat and first aid training. During recreational time, volunteers may not swim alone. Staff must be notified if volunteers wish to swim in the ocean. Night swimming is not allowed. Volunteers must also swim in pairs during recreational time.
Snorkeling has inherent risks, e.g., the effects of environmental conditions like nitrogen (for those who’ve recently scuba dived), barotrauma, boat traffic, marine life, and risks specific to one’s own physical history. When snorkeling, properly control your breathing to reduce the risk of hyperventilation and blackout. You must bring and maintain your own mask, snorkel, fins, booties, and exposure protection. The project PFDs can be used in the water for those who feel more comfortable snorkeling with them. You must ensure that all gear is in good working order and that you are trained in appropriate responses if a failure occurs while in the water.
On the first day of training, volunteers will be assessed on their swimming ability. Tasks will then be assigned accordingly, i.e. stronger swimmers will be needed for photographing the mantas. The Earthwatch scientist or support staff will be present in the water at all times with you. Swimming and snorkeling will only happen in calm seas. No one goes in—staff or volunteers—when an Earthwatch scientist or field team leader determines that conditions are unsafe.
Distance from Medical Care
The nearest basic medical center is a 20-minute drive from the accommodations. Air evacuation is required to reach the nearest fully equipped hospital, and it can take one hour to arrange transport to the nearest hospital. For more serious conditions, the nearest fully equipped hospital is 4–5 away in Piura—If you have a preexisting condition that could require immediate medical care (e.g., heart conditions, kidney problems, severe asthma), please discuss your participation with your physician.
r’s diarrhea affects many international travelers. Diseases found in Tumbes may include Malaria, Typhoid and Hepatitis A. Please see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) or the World Health Organization (who.int) websites for more information on these conditions, and other localized diseases, and how to avoid them.