Sea turtles have roamed the world’s oceans for more than 100 million years. Ancient, enigmatic, and beautiful, sea turtles deserve the right to live in their natural habitats without threat. But today, sadly, all seven species of sea turtles are endangered, as this animal suffers from habitat destruction, poaching, and over-exploitation.
It’s not just illegal activity that’s killing sea turtles. There are 42 countries and territories across the globe that legally allow the harvest of these marine animals. This results in 42,000 sea turtles being caught and killed each year by fisheries, which is both unacceptable and unsustainable – ultimately leading to extinction.
The time to act is now. You can help stop the decline of sea turtle populations by volunteering in one of the many different sea turtle conservation programs all over the world dedicated to preserving this amazing animal’s place in the ocean.
We’ve compiled a list of the top volunteer programs you can sign up for right now to help save sea turtles. Before jumping in, we’ll discuss what you can expect to do as a sea turtle conservation volunteer, plus the qualifications you’ll need to volunteer abroad with these animals.
What You’ll Be Doing as a Sea Turtle Volunteer
A lot of work goes into sea turtle conservation. From helping take care of turtle nesting spots and cleaning up beaches, to scrubbing algae off turtles’ backs and feeding them, there are many different ways you can help as a volunteer on a sea turtle conservation program. Other common activities you can expect to take part in include monitoring eggs, helping track turtles, releasing rehabilitated turtles back into the ocean, promoting sustainable practices to the public, and more.
The experience you’ll have as a volunteer can be life-changing. Here’s what one Maximo Nivel sea turtle conservation volunteer had to say:
“I volunteered in Costa Rica with Maximo Nivel for four weeks, and my only regret is that I didn’t stay longer. The turtle project was indescribable, spending time on the beach, meeting people from all over the world, and learning all about sea turtles and the effort to help the populations grow.”
Qualifications to Be a Sea Turtle Volunteer
For the most part, you won’t need much (or any) prior educational or career training in conservation, marine biology, or related fields – most sea turtle conservation programs you’ll volunteer with will train you onsite.
In general though, you must meet the following criteria to sign up:
- Age: Most volunteer abroad programs want you to be at least 17 or 18 years old, though some organizations offer high school volunteer opportunities.
- Travel/Medical insurance: This may be provided by the program as part of the package, but you should always check before signing up.
- Language: Most volunteer programs ask that you have good knowledge of English. While local language background isn’t usually necessary, it certainly can be a bonus – on some placements, classes may be provided as well.
Know that most programs want to make sure you’re healthy enough to do the work, as some of the activities are labor-intensive. A medical check may be required, depending on the organization you sign up with or the types of work you’ll be performing.
Other than that, most organizations offering sea turtle volunteering opportunities just ask that you be excited about helping preserve the lives of sea turtles and sensitive about their plight. Be ready to work hard too: many programs will have you patrolling beaches at night or helping with beach cleanup during the day.
Be aware that some organizations have limited availability – because of this, you should make sure to apply early. Applications often ask about your education background, work/volunteering experience, and some personal details, so be sure to be clear about your desire to help the sea turtles and learn from your trip abroad.
A Note About the Programs Listed Here
With the average price of a volunteer abroad program costing $3,000, many volunteers encounter sticker shock. This can deter people that want to help from signing up – however, not only are the organizations and opportunities listed here reputable, but they’re also affordable.
Also good to know: The longer you stay, the more you’ll pay. However, volunteer abroad programs often get cheaper on a per-week basis the longer you stay. Keep that in mind if you want more time to enjoy the country and local culture.
Great Sea Turtle Volunteer Programs
International Volunteer Headquarters – Sea Turtle Conservation Costa Rica Program
International Volunteer Headquarters offers a variety of volunteer abroad projects in Costa Rica, including sea turtle conservation volunteering. IVHQ’s program fees are also among the most affordable for international volunteering, starting from just $345 for your first week, where you’ll be volunteering in some of the country’s most beautiful seaside locations, as a Costa Rica sea turtle volunteer.
International Volunteer Headquarters – Bali Turtle Conservation Project
IVHQ also offers a sea turtle conservation project in Bali. As with it’s Costa Rica placement, this program is quite affordable, and even includes orientation, meals, and accommodation. Coming here to help the turtles also gives you the chance to explore Bali – a truly magical island paradise.
Plan My Gap Year
Founded in 2011, Plan My Gap Year offers many different opportunities for travelers to volunteer for conservation and wildlife protection in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. With a focus on sustainability and transparency, each of PMGY’s volunteer placements is vetted by their team to make sure that you’ll work with a volunteer project that fits with your background and skills. And having garnered recognition such as the Shell LiveWire Grand Idea Award, Thailand Green Excellence Award, and Special Recognition from the United Nations in Sri Lanka, Plan My Gap Year is a wonderful way to explore the world and make a positive impact.
Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation Volunteering
Based in the southern part of Sri Lanka, this program invites you to rehabilitate disabled turtles, help care for hatchlings, and protect eggs that have been stolen by poachers. As a volunteer, you will collect eggs, feed turtles, clean and refill their tanks, take care of the nesting areas, release hatchlings into the sea, and much more. Through your efforts, you can make a difference in ongoing conservation efforts and protection of endangered sea turtles. Learn more and register here!
Maximo Nivel – Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica and Guatemala
If you choose to volunteer with Maximo Nivel, you can either go to Costa Rica or Guatemala to protect endangered sea turtles. This volunteer program lasts for a minimum of two weeks, and provides support to local researchers and biologists who are managing turtle nesting grounds. Tasks you’ll be assigned include counting eggs, tagging turtles, relocating nests, and more.
Sea Turtle Volunteering with Abroadly
Nearly every species of sea turtle are endangered. If you want to help out by volunteering, the sheer number of sea turtle conservation programs can make planning your volunteer adventure difficult. Luckily, there’s Abroadly, Volunteer Forever’s new booking platform.
On Abroadly, you can find carefully vetted, high-quality sea turtle conservation programs in Greece, Bali, and Costa Rica in minutes. Apply to a program through Abroadly, and you’ll get the chance to win a $500 scholarship for your journey, plus free access to Volunteer Forever’s crowdfunding platform. The application fee will also be fully refunded if you’re not accepted.
Are you ready to volunteer for sea turtles in Costa Rica, Bali, or Greece? Search for your dream program on Abroadly today!
Volunteer for Sea Turtle Conservation on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica
Join uVolunteer on a journey to Costa Rica’s magnificent Pacific Coast, where a number of sea turtle species are facing extinction because of human intervention. Your help will be key in preserving local sea turtle populations and ensuring they can live sustainably. Your daily tasks will be to perform beach patrols at night for predators and poachers, record turtle populations, move eggs to the turtle hatchery, and keep the beach project site clean. You’ll also get to experience releasing hatchlings, which is truly amazing.
You’ll live in a basic camp setting during the volunteer program, and will have free time to enjoy the beaches and surrounding nature and entertainment. Program fees begin at $1,140 for three weeks, with stays up to 12 weeks available. Get more details and apply here!
Projects Abroad – Sea Turtle and Coastal Conservation Project
Sea turtles remain under threat. They’re losing their nesting grounds because of coastal erosion, and poachers stealing their eggs. This opportunity from Projects Abroad allows you to help protect endangered sea turtles on the coast of Mexico. You’ll live and work near a beautiful black sand beach in the town of Cuyutlan, where you’ll join our team to protect turtles. Tasks you’ll perform include:
- Moving nests to protected corals
- Releasing hatchlings safely into the ocean
- Preserving the biodiversity of the surrounding area through scientific studies, to be used by researchers across the Americas
There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing new life released freely and safely into a natural habitat. Be a part of the force that protects sea turtles to give them the life they deserve. Contact Projects Abroad for more info, or explore its other conservation projects.
Love Volunteers – Australia Great Barrier Turtle Conservation Program
The Great Barrier Reef is home to some of the most diverse marine life on the planet, so it makes sense that Love Volunteers would have a turtle conservation program here! One of the exciting parts of this program is that you actually get to spend time feeding the sea turtles – and since this program operates in the city of Cairns, you’ll have plenty to do when you’re not working with the turtles, like enjoying all the dining and shopping in town.
Love Volunteers – Costa Rica Turtle Conservation Program
Love Volunteers also has a sea turtle conservation opportunity in Costa Rica. This program, which takes place along the beaches of the Pacific Coast, is focused on making sure turtles hatch successfully and are released to the sea. This is vital to the success of the species, especially the leatherback turtle – a marine animal that has declined in numbers by 90 percent over the past 30 years.
Since 2006, GoEco has offered affordable volunteer abroad programs and internships in over 45 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Australasia, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. With more than 170 different programs, GoEco is a great organization to check out if you’re looking for a variety of impactful trips to choose from, from wildlife conservation to teaching English. GoEco was recently recognized as the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization from GoAbroad, Top Eco-Enthusiast by Greenmatch, and has been recommended by Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and more. As a volunteer, you will have 24-hour support from the GoEco team, from start to finish.
Indonesia – Bali Sea Turtle Rescue
Based in the gorgeous, coral-rich coast of the island of Bali, this program gives you the chance to learn about conservation and care for sea turtles. A few of your tasks can include feeding turtles and monitoring their health, cleaning and collecting corals for the sanctuary, helping with light construction work, creating protected turtle beach areas, and much more. In addition to volunteering, you can take part in a yoga and meditation week, a beach relaxation week, or go on an island adventure where you’ll trek volcanoes, bike through town, and hang out at the beach.
Greece – Under 18 Sea Turtle Conservation
If you’re in high school and looking for an alternative, meaningful break, check out GoEco’s under-18 sea turtle conservation trip to Greece! As one of the longest-running conservation projects in the Mediterranean, this project brings you to the small resort town of Giannitsochori to help with activities such as patrolling beaches for sea turtle tracks and nests, installing grids to protect nests from predators, assisting with educational activities for locals and tourists, and much more.
Greece – Mediterranean Sea Turtle Conservation
Spend your holiday in Greece on the beach, working for the conservation of sea turtles! Spend each day in the sand, engaged in rewarding volunteer work while experiencing the beauty of this historically-rich, Mediterranean country.
Costa Rica – Sea Turtle Conservation
Marine volunteers and sea turtle fanatics will love this sea turtle conservation program! The location switches between locations on the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts, depending on the time of year.
Fronteering aims to uplift indigenous communities and protect the natural environment around the world. When you volunteer with Fronteering for sea turtle conservation, you’ll journey to exciting locations to help preserve these precious creatures.
If you want to truly help sea turtles, there are several great reasons why volunteering with Fronteering is a great idea. First, their highly committed to making an impact in the communities they serve. Second, they provide real, raw experiences. Expect to immerse yourself and get involved. And third, they’re both affordable and fully transparent about how they use program fees.
So, does it sound like a Fronteering sea turtle conservation project is right for you? Look at the two programs below.
Island Conservation in Aceh, Indonesia
Travel to beautiful Bangkaru Island, where you’ll find untouched rainforest, pristine beaches, and effervescent coral reefs. Your main duty during the program will be to help conserve and protect the amazing biodiversity here, including green sea turtles and leatherback turtles. These turtles suffer from egg poaching, fisheries using unsustainable fishing practices, destructive development plans, and other dangers. As a volunteer, you’ll work to ensure a brighter future for sea turtles through patrolling, surveying, tagging, and other activities designed to improve conservation strategies. Additionally, you’ll get to do other biodiversity research, like vegetation surveying, and engage in public outreach, such as sustainable fishing education workshops.
When you have free time, there’s plenty of fun to be had. Go snorkeling or surfing, relax on the beach, hike in nature, and more. Sound like an awesome experience? The program costs $1,695 for two weeks.
Sea Turtle Conservation in Queensland, Australia
Venture to Queensland, where you’ll help care for sick and injured turtles at a rehabilitation center. Most of the turtles are brought in from Cape York Peninsula and the Great Barrier Reef, and they’re injuries stem from mostly human-induced factors. For instance, some have been injured by boats and others have accidentally eaten marine debris. You’ll get to work with a variety of sea turtles, including loggerhead, flatback, green sea, and hawksbill turtles. Duties including cleaning and feeding the turtles, taking part in turtle releases (which is heartwarming!), and assisting in treatment and research.
During the project, you’ll have the opportunity to see the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world! So, are you ready to go? The program costs $995 for the first week, with stays up to eight weeks available.
Global Vision International – Costa Rica Sea Turtle Conservation Program
Global Vision International operates their own projects and provides in-country support, making them a great option for first-time volunteers and teen volunteers. For the organization’s sea turlte conservation project in Costa Rica, you’ll travel to Tortuguero National Park, where you’ll help protect endangered turtle species like the leatherback and hawksbill turtles.
Global Vision International – Greece Sea Turtle Volunteer Program
Global Vision International also has a great sea turtle volunteer program in Greece. Based on the beautiful Bay of Lakonikos, one of the world’s most important loggerhead turtle nesting areas, your duties here include protecting nests and educating tourists and locals about sea turtle conservation.
Frontier – Greece Turtle Conservation Program
The Frontier turtle conservation program in Greece focuses on protection of the loggerhead sea turtle. Specifically, this project aims to conserve and safeguard nesting beaches in Kefalonia, a gorgeous island in the Ionian Sea. During your free time, you can explore this fascinating island and immerse yourself in local culture.
Volunteering Journeys – Sri Lanka Sea Turtle Conservation Project
Volunteering Journeys’ sea turtle conservation program in Sri Lanka aims to rehabilitate sick and injured turtles, preserve nesting locations, and release turtles into the wild. This ambitious project is very immersive, as you’ll be staying with a local family and helping teach local children about the importance of a balanced ecosystem. When you have free time, there are plenty of enjoyable activities to do, like surfing, visiting temples, and even teaching English.
Volunteering Journeys – Bali Sea Turtle Conservation Project
For Volunteering Journeys’ Bali sea turtle conservation program, you will be able to enjoy this wonderful island while helping preserve one of the area’s most precious endangered species. Note: There’s actually no limit on how long you can volunteer, so if you like this sea turtle conservation project, you’re invited to stay as long as you please.
Finding the Right Sea Turtle Program for You
As you compare these programs to figure out which is the best opportunity for you, think about what you want to do most to help the sea turtle. Choose the volunteer program that fits you best – the one where your help will make the biggest impact. And while all of these programs are great choices, the one you select should depend on your interests, budget, location and, most importantly, your ability to make a difference.
Once you choose a program, we’re here to help you get there. Sign up for an account on Volunteer Forever today to begin fundraising for your conservation adventure abroad!
Steven Weddle · Co-Founder, Volunteer Forever
Steve Weddle is the co-founder and CEO of Volunteer Forever. Before Volunteer Forever, Steve was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force, where he served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.