The Great Barrier Reef is located just off the coast of northern Queensland and is one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The reef attracts people from all over hoping to see first-hand the gorgeous diversity of marine life. Unfortunately many of these magnificent marine creatures are in trouble, including the Green Sea Turtle, Flatback, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley Sea Turtle.

The sea turtle population is declining, and the causes are many. Some sea turtles suffer from ‘Floaters Syndrome’ - a condition that causes air to be trapped under their shell. This can be the result of boat strikes, when the turtles’ bodies and shells are damaged by the propellers. Others suffer from obstructions in their guts as a result of the ocean rubbish that they eat, mistaking the garbage for food. These problems have been compounded by cyclones that have hit the area and destroyed much of the sea grass beds that are the Green Turtles’ primary feeding grounds. As a result, turtle strandings along the east coast of Queensland have increased drastically. Turtles that would normally be in good condition, from juveniles to adults ready for breeding season, are now found weak and unable to dive.

Our partner organization was formed in 2000 by concerned local marine biologists, veterinary health workers and scientists who recognized the need to rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured sea turtles. Working closely with local veterinarians, their facilities have grown to include an on-shore rehabilitation centre, and a pre-release holding area on an island that is a 45 minute ferry ride from the coast. Here they are able to come to the aid of sea turtles year round, addressing their medical problems, nursing them to health and when they are well, returning them once again to the ocean.

 
 
 Volunteers clean a sea turtle in care.

Volunteers clean a sea turtle in care.

Volunteer Activities

Volunteers help with the sea turtles at the island location. The day starts early as volunteers catch the 8 am ferry to the island. At the turtle centre you will provide care for all the sea turtles at the facility. This includes cleaning the tanks, preparing food and feeding the turtles. Volunteers also help with public education. Work can be quite hot – but once the work is finished the volunteers are free to enjoy the beach, explore the island and relax as you wait for the evening ferry to depart around 5 pm.

Volunteers never work alone and are always under the guidance of other staff or volunteers.

Volunteers have two days off per week. The exact days will be determined with the volunteer coordinator once you arrive, and will depend on the number of volunteers and activities at the centre.


Accommodation 

Volunteers stay at a hostel located within easy walking distance of the pier, where the ferry is caught each day. You will stay in a large dormitory-style room, shared with up to 5 other people (of the same gender). All rooms have a private ensuite bathroom, storage, air conditioning and a balcony or garden terrace. There is free wifi available, a swimming pool, and a large common area where you can relax on cosy couches, play pool or use one of the internet stations. Other conveniences include laundry facilities and a kitchen where you can store your food and cook your meals.

Free continental breakfast is available at the hostel (starting at 6:30am). You are responsible for providing your own lunch and dinner. There is a grocery store located only 5 minutes walk from the hostel, and storage available for you in the kitchen where you can keep your food. The kitchen is fully equipped with everything you will need to prepare and cook your meals. Plan to bring a lunch and water with you to the island each day.

Safety

Do you have questions about safety? We have answers right here!

Includes

Airport pick up and drop off (at the closest airport), accommodation, on-site training, donation to Placement Partner, AEI Travel Manual, emergency support while at placement, carbon credits to offset 3 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, premium Individual Travel Insurance (up to $500, 000 USD in emergency medical coverage), travel discounts (through automatic membership to a volunteer only travel discount program), 24/7 travel and emergency assistance, enrolment with the Global Travel Academy to earn a certificate in International Volunteering. This 3-hour online course is curated by travel professionals and is designed to help you get the most out of your adventure.

Excludes

Flights, meals, entry visa costs, international and domestic airport taxes, Immunizations and medications. 

casa de volunteers


What is Serious

At first glance, traveling each day to a beautiful tropical island to care for several recovering sea turtles may not seem to be changing the world. But this is serious work. By supporting the work of our partner, you are supporting a greater network of organizations, individuals and agencies in their efforts to conserve sea turtles and the habitats where they live. This network includes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Australia, the EPA National Park Rangers and James Cook University.

The information captured and utilized by the turtle rehabilitation team is often shared with other rehabilitation centres’ both nationally and internationally. The data spans everything from autopsy findings to blood composition and genetic sampling. Members of the team are also involved in a number of research activities including turtle nesting site surveys, marine debris impacts on turtles and feral animal control on and around turtle nesting sites. Every healthy turtle that you help return to the ocean provides a ray of hope - not only for the turtle breeding population but also for sea turtle conservation as a whole.

What is Fun

Visiting Australia is a trip of a lifetime and you will not be disappointed. You will be staying in northern Queensland – a tropical, breathtakingly beautiful part of Australia. Each day you will enjoy the spectacular views as you travel by ferry to the island. The majority of the island is protected as a national park, with five self-guided walking trails that offer vistas over the Coral Sea and surrounding area. The island is a popular destination for locals and tourists who come to kayak, snorkel, scuba dive, and visit the turtle rehabilitation centre, which offers educational tours and talks for the public.

You will get to know your fellow volunteers as you spend each day cleaning and caring for the sea turtles, forming friendships that can last long after you leave Australia. Volunteers stay in a friendly hostel where you will meet other travelers visiting the area. If you enjoy socializing, there are many opportunities at the hostel to relax and hangout on their entertainment deck or by the pool. The hostel organizes daily social activities for their guests, such as movie screenings and their Aussie BBQ held every Sunday night. The town where you are staying is a lively tourist destination, with people visiting to dive and explore the area. There are many restaurants, markets, and attractions to keep you busy during your stay. Your time volunteering in Australia will be truly unforgettable!

Dates and Details

This is an ongoing program with operations every day of the year. Placements start on Mondays. Volunteers should plan to arrive on the Sunday before, as introductions and orientations are early on Monday mornings.

Participants must be 18 years of age or older.

Fundraising

Are you thinking of fundraising for a portion, or all your fees? Many of our clients have been very successful with their fundraising efforts. To learn more about their successful fundraising projects and see how you can fund raise for your experience, please visit our fundraising page!

I absolutely loved getting to know the turtles as individuals. They all had very different characters and it was interesting to see how they behaved differently depending on the day, or what the weather was like. Some of them just liked to show off a bit more than the others!
— Maria from Mississauga
I have been part of a great deal of volunteer programs overseas, but never have I seen the organization and support demonstrated by those involved with AEI and the Turtle Rehab Center in Australia.
— Emilie from Virginia