Volunteer with Turtles
Apply to join sea turtle volunteer projects in destinations like Costa Rica, Mexico, Greece, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Kenya, Vanuatu, Uruguay, Turkey and Cape Verde. Applications are now open for several positions where you can help different species like loggerhead sea turtles. No previous experience is needed for most placements but you will need to be highly motivated and have an interest in animal conservation.
Why the Need for Assistance
You might not know but 6 out of the 7 sea turtle species are listed as being endangered and extinction is a real possibility in the near future. By applying you can work with different species of turtles including:
- Olive Ridley
Turtles face many problems at sea and also when coming to land and laying eggs due to poachers and increased tourism. We list organisations who offer placements, internships and paid positions with sea turtles in destinations all around the world, there are year round and summer programs.
Every year local organisations need international volunteers to help when the turtle nesting season starts. You will work in teams of volunteers who face lots of challenges to protect these animals. A lot of beach resorts have been built up in recent years and the buildings / lighting scares many of the turtles away. Whilst as these areas are now very heavily built up it means when turtles lay their eggs the nests need to be moved to safe places to stop people accidentally stepping on the eggs. Tourism is huge business and unfortunately lots of building companies do not listen to fears or concerns that their work in harming conservation efforts and a lot of turtles die when reaching the mainland.
Types of Placements
The organisations we promote on our website aim to help by protecting and educating locals and tourists about turtles and the need to preserve them. Education and eco tourism is a big part of some programs and the work some of the organisations do is inspirational and by participating you will be able to make a big difference whilst enjoying an experience like no other.
Turtle volunteer projects positions include being a research assistant, conservation intern or general conservation volunteer. The type of tasks you will be doing include beach patrols which are most nights at varying hours and in the early morning. The patrols serve several functions and can last between 4-6 hours.
You might also look for nesting turtles, help tag post-nesting turtles, search for any evidence of nests hatching, collect data on nesting turtles and nesting events and maintenance and preparation of equipment. Beach clean ups are an essential part of turtle volunteer projects. These are done regularly and involve schools, community, local businesses and the hotels and raise awareness of turtle conservation. By education the local population and raising awareness you could produce and distribute conservation related signs in the beaches or assisting with organized turtle watches and other events for school / community groups & tourists.
|Monitor Beaches to locate turtle eggs||Move eggs to hatchery||Release baby turtles into the ocean|
Where you choose to volunteer really comes down to personal preference, there is a need for assistance in places all over the world. Research all countries and locations to see which one appeals most to you, here are some options:
Volunteer with Sea Turtles in Sri Lanka
There are several locations in Sri Lanka where you can help sea turtles including hatcheries where baby turtles are bred and released into the sea at the right time giving them more chance of survival. You could also be based in a beachside location where local staff locate and monitor the turtles which come ashore to lay their eggs. You will get to work in teams helping local staff monitor the beaches, preventing poachers and making sure the turtles can be left in peace without disturbance. You might be working day/night shirfts in places like Kosgoda helping conservation operations run successfully throughout the breeding season, tasks can includecleaning the breeding tanks, feeding baby turtles (a magical experience), releasing them and also providing educational talks to local communities and also tourists. Full training and information will be provided but it is recommended to research this destination - the country and culture might be different to where you have been before.
A great opportunity to get stuck in with preserving an amazing endangered species. Spend your days (and nights!) on stunning beaches learning about the sea turtles, data collection and marine biology.
Think of sandy beaches, blue skies and sapphire seas and you will be in Sri Lanka! The project is located about 75kms south of Colombo and near the small town of Kosgoda where you will be living right opposite the beach. This area was devastated in the tsunami of 2004 and people are still trying to rebuild their lives to what they were before.
You will be involved in a variety of activities on the turtle project including cleaning tanks, feeding the turtles, statistic gathering and data entry, beach clearing, developing information for tourists and don`t forget that there will be nightly patrols of the beach as the turtles lay their eggs in the dark. You will be counting the eggs and making sure that the nest is safe by covering with a mesh to protect them from other animals, if any eggs are in danger or have been brought to the project from another area then they will be placed in the hatchery.
You will also help to transport the baby turtles when they hatch down to the sea and watch as they patter along the beach into the sea to their new life. As well as working on the turtle project you will also be working with the children of the local community by teaching English giving them a brighter start to life and the hope of a chance of better employment in the tourist industry when they get older. You will also be helping the adults in the community on empowerment projects –the ladies of the community weave baskets, bags, rugs which are then sold in order to better their lives.
Volunteer with Sea Turtles in the Maldives
The Maldives is a world famous destination which is a tropical paradise, at the moment there are lots of conservation programs being set up needing assistance all year round. Sea turtes often lay their eggs on the island of Naifaru and other uninhabited islands dotted around the country. There is a need to help/protect and also educate the local communities about the need to help these species. These are dream experiences where you will get to soak up the sun, live close to the beach and experience a country which most people only ever dream about. One of the main threats to sea turtles here is the increase in tourism and human activity which destroy nesting areas whilst there are also issues with fishing and boat excursions.
Volunteer with Sea Turtles in Costa Rica
Consider volunteering in Central America and joining sea turtle conservation projects in Costa Rica. You will work with local staff and other international volunteers helping to conserve sea turtles by protecting eggs and stopping poachers. Duties include patrolling beaches, educating the local population and helping create a safe environment for sea turtles. If you are passionate about wildlife then volunteering on sea turtle conservation projects will be a great experience!
These projects might sound like a holiday but they can be hard work, somtimes you will be walking along beaches in baking heat or working long hours till the early hours of the morning. But there is no feeling like seeing baby sea turtles being released into the wild, also the projects are in spectacular locations along the coast of Costa Rica - paradise! You could be working with local charities or NGO's protecting endangered sea turtles along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica which is beautiful. Education and raising awareness is a big part of these projects, you will need to interact with local people and help to promote positive messages about how locals can help. Costa Rica is a popular and with amazing white sandy tropical beaches - this is a once in a lifetime experience.
Other Destinations Include
Volunteer with Sea Turtles in Greece
The southernmost part of mainland Greece, the bay of Lakonikos is an important nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles in the Mediterranean. Volunteers on this project record nesting activity and protect turtle nests from mammals and sea water. The area is rich in bird life and other flora and fauna. The research in this area has been running since 1983 and is one of the oldest conservation projects in the Mediterranean. Volunteers work in co-operation with the local authorities and the local community, promoting a model of sustainable development beneficial to the local economy.
Volunteers play a key role in the daily routine of the project you will have a field leader responsible for co-ordinating the work and meeting all requirements for this programme. You will take part in all aspects of the project and initial training is provided by the field leader and experienced project members. Volunteers are expected to cover 2-3 shifts per day, averaging about 6-8 hours of work (depending on the duration of the beach work). Shifts include:
- Nest Management And Habitat Protection: Morning Survey conducted daily at dawn, to assess the previous night’s turtle activities, as well as factors that may have an impact on the nests’ safe incubation (inundation, human impact, etc.) or the coastal zone (beach cleaning, constructions, destruction of dunes). Nest Protection against predation, achieved through screening. Help re locate nests laid in unsafe areas further up the beach. Excavation of a sample of hatched nests is carried out in order to determine hatchling success.
- Public Awareness: Volunteers interact with tourists and members of the local community at information stations along the Mavrovouni beach.
- Other Day-to-Day Duties: Campsites and information stations are maintained by volunteers. Cooking is also considered part of the daily chores. Basic maintenance of equipment is volunteer based and includes activities such as painting, preparing materials for the protection of nests, etc so artistic skills such as drawing and photography are a plus.
- Side Trips: Whilst not part of the program most volunteers will have the opportunity to visit the Village of Mavrovouni and the fishing port of Gythio. They are both located close to the project site and have some interesting old buildings and cobbled streets with great views across the bay. In Gythio there is an ancient theatre and a few Roman ruins scattered around to explore. On occasion the project staff may take volunteers to Limeni Village where it is possible to snorkel with turtles.
Past Participant Feedback
"Participating to the Northern Aegean Dolphin Project was an almost religious experience just by thinking that I may belong to the last generation that will be able to see dolphins free in their natural habitat. This was not the first time that I was working with MOm and I knew in advance the quality of their work. In September 2013, I embarked on the “Odysseia” boat and the adventure around the National Marine Park of Alonnisos-Northern Sporades began. For a whole week, we would record various and rare species of animals that shelter around the Marine Park, its islands and islets. During this time I was fortunate to come across with almost every species of dolphins that exist in the Mediterranean Sea. Lovely vegetarian food and a captain telling us stories on how a seaman’s life was in the past complimented our breaks.
After getting a special permission we had the chance to visit natural reserve areas and dive into crystal clear waters observing the sea-life at the sea bed in places where no human intervention existed. In the evening we would attend seminars with a Marine Biologist and our dedicated supervisor Androniki Pardalou at the Information Center of MOm. After a long day of observation and seminars, the Greek night life followed which would include Greek restaurants with live music, concerts, traditional fiestas and bars. We would go out with the whole team for ouzo and ‘meze’ and then for dancing at the beach bars. Joining the project was a fantastic experience that I would definitely love to do again."
- From a past volunteer on the “Northern Aegean Dolphin Project”, Mom/Alonissos, Greece
Usually there is no eligibility criteria but you might need to be physically in good condition, healthy and be enthusiastic for wildlife conservation. You will need to also be adaptable and flexible when it comes to the working week. Also if you are participating in a non-English native speaking country you might want to learn words and phrases before departing even though most staff dealing with international staff will speak English. Please note sometimes these placements can be quite emotional if you actually see a slaughtered turtle so be aware of this.
There are lots of options when it comes to places to stay, this usually includes shared housing, hostels, hotels and also local homestays which are our top recommendation for cultural integration. This will give you a sample of local life depending on where you are participating where you will live and eat with local people sampling the local food, drink and hospitality. If you apply with a international sending agency or a local organisation usually they will arrange somewhere to stay for you in advance where you will live with other people also working on the programs.
We understand most people have work commitments and so participating on placements for a number of weeks can be tough but we recommend you sign up for at least 2 weeks. There are shorter term programs available but after a few days of training and learning the basics you might not be able to have a positive impact.
How to Apply
You can view turtle volunteer projects on our website today or search all of our wildlife jobs. These are some of the most popular programs in the world and by applying it might even change your life. Some NGO's and large sending agencies might charge a fee to join, this usually covers accommodation, meals, training, a donation and transfers. Also always research the project/organisation - there is a lot of choice and you want to make sure you are going to be contributing to a worthwhile and genuine experience which is actually spending money in the right way.
What is Generally Included:
- Pre-departure support
- 24-hour emergency phone
- Airport pick-up (within scheduled times provided in the Pre-departure information sent to you when you have booked)
- Arrival orientation
- Long term experienced staff
- All meals
- Welcome meeting and orientation
- All necessary project training by experienced staff
- All necessary project equipment and materials
- 24-hour in-country support
- Live and work in a protected reserve
- First Aid & CPR training
- Community work workshop
- Terrestrial research training
Project Fee Usually Excludes:
- Medical and travel insurance
- Visa costs
- Personal kit
- Additional drinks and gratuities
- Extra local excursions
- International and domestic airport taxes
- Airport Transfers
If you have ever participated on a sea turtle volunteer program and would like to share your experiences or review a project or organisation please get in touch.
"I volunteered at a sea turtle center in Borneo, it was incredible and such a beautiful island. The moment we released the turtles into the ocean was so amazing" - Matt Bellis
"These projects and your help will be making a difference to this community and you will leave with a sense of achievement. It was an amazing two weeks, fantastic experience, lifelong memories" - Carole Foley, ex Real Gap volunteer in Sri Lanka.
"The turtle project I was invloved with in Costa Rica has been running for 24 years and has built up a reputable database of turtle activity about the turtles of the area, but this was all washed away with the waters of the tsunami along with the infrastructure and equipment that was ruined. The main source of funding for the project was also lost – tourists – and Dudley then had to start completely from scratch. The project has been re built since the tsunami with the help of volunteers and the local community but still needs your help. I was working on 2 projects during my time here – working with the local community on a community development programme and also the turtle conservation project."