Kanahau Utila Research and Conservation Facility
Kanahau Utila Research and Conservation Facility (KURCF) is a recently established research centre located on Utila Island, part of the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras. The centre is a ‘home away from home’ for a group of passionate conservation biologists, who actively run various research projects from the facility from February to September. Kanahau made it their mission to catalogue the biodiversity of Utila, identify and protect threatened species and habitats on the island, and promote solutions to conservation issues. A large part of Kanahau’s work is focused around the local community, providing environmental education and support to people through environmentally friendly practice and sustainable livelihoods. The facility is located in a beautiful location, approx. 20min drive or 45min walk from the town Utila, surrounded by a mix of tropical broadleaf forest and various agriculture. A highlight of the location is the presence of a complex cave system which harbours large and observable bat populations (right next door), as well as being only a few hundred feet away from the Caribbean Sea and a prime nesting beach for sea turtles. Having nature at the doorstep comes in handy, especially as Kanahau researchers and volunteers are out to investigate and explore all aspects of Utila wildlife, ranging from birds, lizards, snakes, bats, tarantulas and intriguing invertebrates.
Several long-term projects are running at the moment by the facility, with the centre being a platform to host visiting research scientists with their own studies, as well as research assistants who want to gain relevant work experience. The most established projects that currently run include monitoring bat populations, cataloguing invertebrate diversity and bioindicator species, general reptile surveying, population studies of two endemic Anoles (Norops utilensis and Norops bicaorum) , and population monitoring of the critically endangered iguana Ctenosaura bakeri (endemic to Utila), as well as actively participating in community outreach and environmental education on island. With such a wide variety of research, Kanahau enables participants to visit and survey in many different types of habitats, explore new sites on the island, engage with the local community and overall have new experiences every day. If you want to see a different side to Utila, then join Kanahau as they travel by ATV, 4×4, boat, kayak, foot and fin to the remote sites that very few people get to see.
Utila is the perfect place to gain field and work experience in a tropical environment. The biodiversity of the island is vastly understudied, which provides many exciting opportunities for new and meaningful research. Furthermore, by assisting current projects, participants can develop a deep understanding and witness first- hand the many complex conservation issues facing this island, ranging from plastic pollution, invasive species, habitat loss and unsustainable development. Kanahau is also an opportunity to meet new scientists and develop your ideas, get to know the culture and simply help study and conserve the biodiversity of the island. If you want to get ‘stuck’ into research, why not get muddy in the mangroves and explore the island whilst seeing some incredible animals. Kanahau is the place to go.
If you still need convincing, Utila is an absolutely beautiful place, having a relaxed Caribbean vibe, being a popular destination for backpackers and explorers. The island is a renowned hotspot for marine diversity, and in your free time, you can readily and affordably learn to scuba dive, or go snorkelling amidst the coral reefs. If you’re lucky, you could even get to see some whale sharks! There are also opportunities to help patrol and release sea turtles and participate in other community-based events such as beach cleans, whilst generally just absorbing the fascinating and fun culture of Utila.
Kanahau offers full accommodation and three lovingly made vegetarian meals a day for individuals and small groups. The facility hosts volunteers and independent researchers that are either looking to assist the current projects or conduct their own research into any aspect of the island. Volunteers at Kanahau also get some great discounted rates when diving with select packages at reputable dive centres, and other perks and benefits within the local community. The staff at the facility are all experienced travellers and researchers in Honduras and Central America, who will happily offer advice with regard to travelling other destinations after your stay. Having said that, Utila is said to be one of those places that people never leave 😉
Find out more about what Kanahau is up to by following the project of Facebook (Kanahau Utila Research & Conservation Facility). You can also contact Kanahau through their website www.kanahau.com or email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or questions of any kind. Check out more of the pictures below this text box.
Why this “Advertisement”?
In short: This project is a proper research facility with research as their main focus, making use of volunteers to make it happen. I’ve seen the project myself and I ‘ve met a bunch of their dedicated people putting a lot of their time in this project. The Kanahau facility is providing local knowledge and gives young biologists the ability to gain fieldwork experience.
This article is kindly provided by Cristina Arrivillaga and Tom Brown, just two of this great research community making a difference on Utila. After my time with Operation Wallacea in Honduras (Opwall Honduras), a couple of people made their way to Utila (either for joining the Kanahau research or resting, I did the latter). I visited the research station and went on a day of research in the ‘swamps’, it was really cool and it’s definitely a great project. At least from my experiences, they are contributing to the local community of Utila, doing research, creating awareness and are not just a ‘volunteer holiday’ program. If you’ve been researching Kanahau and this article isn’t convincing you and you are looking for more ‘independent’ reviews, get in contact and I might be able to get you in contact with some of their previous volunteers. Also, check out my broad reasons to volunteer.