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The very moment my ferry touched the shore of Zakynthos, I realized I wasn’t going to like the island. It was crowded, dirty, overdeveloped and tacky. It was anything but the pristine paradise I had hoped to escape to for a month. As my taxi drove through the outskirts of Zakynthos Town and Argassi, I stared at hordes of tourists, scooters and quad bikes zipping among cars stuck in traffic, cheap shops and restaurants. I sighed. It was going to be a long four weeks.

Life at Earth, Sea & Sky was full of excitement: I shared my volunteering experience with incredibly smart and compassionate people, learned how to take care of all sorts of fascinating animals, educated visitors about conservation issues and enjoyed my long morning walks on the beach, while at the same time getting to know the locals and practicing my very basic Greek language skills. I felt a sense of purpose, and at the same time a freedom I had never experienced before. Yet I still didn’t love the island —until I finally took a road trip and saw beauty hidden everywhere.

It was a revelation: there used to be a pristine paradise there, only it had been spoiled by uncontrolled tourism development and ruthless international corporations. Earth, Sea & Sky’s job of protecting the Ionian fauna is more important than ever, as it will very likely help shape the future of Zakynthos and the attitude of its visitors for the next several years. I’m glad I offered my little contribution to such a worthy cause and got so much in return.