Where can I volunteer abroad to work with sea turtles?

Where can I volunteer abroad to work with sea turtles?

July 09, 2018

Where can I volunteer abroad to work with sea turtles?

Have you ever thought about taking a trip abroad?  Many of us take vacations or dream of going to exotic locations to see more of the world. There are so many beautiful coastal vacations you can take and you can hang out on the beach or swim in the ocean. My own first trip abroad included a visit to the Mediterranean seashore and it was very exciting, although I was with a tour group that quickly had me on the move to see one tourist site after another. 

Luckily, there are incredible opportunities for travel today and you can do much more than rush around to crowded shops and sit on a beach with hundreds of people. My most recent trip to the beach was an awakening since I had been involved in the study of sea turtles and watched first-hand as fellow travelers dumped their garbage on the sand. You have the opportunity to do much more with a trip abroad and you can actively help the sea turtles!

Sixty-nine volunteers Clean the Bay Day @ Portsmouth, Virginia

The First Steps

Volunteering to work with sea turtles abroad is a chance to gain knowledge, making an enormous difference and have adventures to remember forever. You may be leaving behind a legacy that will go beyond your own lifetime, as you could be a part of saving turtles who could be alive over one hundred years from now!

High-quality volunteer programs offer chances to help sea turtles directly without disturbing the ecological balance or disrespecting local cultures abroad. The best of these programs can help you with every step of your trip including planning, travel, experiences and activities and a return trip home. 

Places to Go

Sea turtles of different kinds exist in pretty much every region you can think of. Some regions are a little easier to get to and offer more opportunities to actively participate and not just observe. Some popular locations include:

  • Costa Rica
  • Sri Lanka
  • Indonesia
  • Thailand
  • Fiji
  • Australia
  • Mexico
  • Guatemala

Conservation Activities: Shore

In many cases, you will work with a biologist who conducts sea turtle studies. There are so many things that volunteers can do to help the turtles while they explore. Volunteer workers patrol the beaches both day and night. Patrols watch for anything that interferes with turtles such as illegal poaching or trespassing, but they primarily watch for nesting activity. 

When female sea turtles come to shore to lay eggs, volunteers can help to keep people away from the area. Once the eggs are in place, volunteers protect eggs from predators and people, count nests, log dates and times and watch for the hatching phase to begin. Some programs also tag the female turtles for further observation and help clean up the beaches.

Once the baby turtles hatch, volunteers keep detailed notes and prepare to help the hatchlings reach the sea. In some areas, the volunteers help organize and oversee public viewings of the hatchling migration. 

Conservation activities at shore sea turtle volunteer

Volunteering at shore

Conservation Activities: Sea

In some programs, there are opportunities to work directly in the water.

Volunteers may snorkel or dive to participate in marine conservation projects, observe turtle activity for research, participate in turtle nesting surveys and monitor reefs.

In some areas, you may go out on boats or dive to assist with injured or trapped turtles.

In areas where turtles are struggling the most, there is almost no limit to how much help is needed.

Snorkeling with sea turtles

Frontiergap in Madagascar

Can Anyone Volunteer?

Almost anyone can volunteer to help with sea turtle conservation abroad.

If you have the physical abilities and skills to go out on the water you can be trained by volunteer programs to assist.

If your skills are more appropriate for shoreline activities, there are ways to help on foot and on wheels!  

Volunteers usually need to be at least 18 years of age although some programs have options for parents to bring older children along. 

Am I Ready to Volunteer?

If you’ve read this far, there is a good chance that you are ready to at least look into volunteer programs!  You may even be ready to take a swim with the sea turtles.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you embark on a volunteering journey:

  • Do I love to travel?
  • Do I enjoy learning about other cultures?
  • Am I open to new experiences?
  • Can I get out of my comfort zone?
  • Do I really want to do something meaningful on a trip abroad?

It’s always good to remember that even if you aren’t quite ready to travel to help with the sea turtles, you’ll find all kinds of information on our site about how you can help from the comfort of home.

Purchasing and wearing a turtle t-shirt from us is a way to help with awareness. If you answered the questions above positively, though, perhaps it’s time to look into sea turtle conservation programs. It’s best to do some of your own research as well, but here are some sites that can get you started:





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