Sea turtles have lived in our oceans for more than 100 million years. They travel far across the open water, with the female turtles returning to the same beach each year to lay their eggs in the sand. This makes sea turtles an important part of both the marine and the coastal ecosystem. Unfortunately nearly all of the seven sea turtles species are classified as endangered. Human activities have put tremendous pressure on sea turtle populations. The turtles are killed for their eggs, meat, skin and shells, and their nests are raided for their eggs. This poaching and over-exploitation is having a serious impact on their numbers. Sea turtles also face habitat destruction, injury from boats and accidental capture in fishing gear.
Five species of sea turtles nest on the beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka, and these turtles are also under threat. In 2005, the “boxing day Tsunami” affected Kosgoda, Sri Lanka tremendously. Hundreds of metres of beach were lost and so were people's livelihoods. Fishing was compromised and even the local tourism industry saw a dramatic decline. Many people are now dependent on the selling of turtle eggs and jewellery made from the shells of Hawksbill turtles.
Our placement partner is located in Kosgoda and is run by a local family with a heart for their community and the turtles who use the beaches to nest. The main aim of the project is to monitor local sea turtle activity and conserve the local nesting sites. One of the most important activities of the project is its hatchery. Within the sanctuary of the project, collected and rescued eggs can hatch safely away from poachers and predators before being released into the sea. Volunteering in Sri Lanka is a very hands-on experience involving beach conservation work, maintenance of the turtle hatchery, turtle feeding and cleaning. The centre hosts a number of educational sea turtles that cannot be released due to injuries. You will also be part of the education of local community members and tourists by leading tours through the centre.
Volunteers are involved with all aspects of care for the turtles at the centre and the eggs in the hatchery. Every morning the volunteers participate in a quick beach cleanup, collecting garbage that has washed ashore the night before. Volunteers then help with diet preparation for the turtles at the centre. The education turtles are given any necessary treatments, including the cleaning of their shells. Volunteers assist in the hatchery, collecting eggs, transplanting eggs, watering the sand, and moving turtles that have hatched into the head starting tanks. Once a week volunteers work in teams to clean and scrub the turtle tanks. Public education and community outreach is an important part of the centre’s work. Volunteers help guide tours through the centre for tourists, school groups, and locals who are interested in sea turtle conservation.
As a turtle centre volunteer you will have three breaks throughout the day: morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. Volunteer shifts usually start at 8am and finish at 1pm. The afternoons can be spent working on community programs, guiding tours around the centre, teaching english to kids who are looking for supplemental learning opportunities, and cleaning / maintaining the centre and hostel. Volunteers work from Monday to Friday and have the weekends off.
All volunteers stay together in a hostel located across the road from the turtle centre and the beach. Your morning commute will be a one minute walk to the turtle centre! This beautiful hostel has many western amenities - including free wi-fi and western toilets. Rooms are shared with up to two other people and all meals are eaten together in the dining room - which is a covered gazebo located just outside the main house, with pull down shutters that make it comfortable to enjoy in the rain. It’s a beautiful place to relax and make weekend plans with your fellow volunteers. Meals are included from Monday to Friday. The hostel is closed on weekends, and volunteers take this time to travel and explore the area.
Do you have questions about safety? We have answers right here!
Airport pick up and drop off (at the closest airport), accommodation on weekdays (volunteers have weekends off to explore Sri Lanka), meals on weekdays, 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.
Flights, entry visa costs, international and domestic airport taxes, immunizations and medications. Volunteers provide their own meals and accommodation on weekends.
What is Serious
This is a community-based organization dedicated to “saving the sea turtles of today and protecting the sea turtles of tomorrow”. They achieve this through their hands-on work with the sea turtles and their ambitious and growing educational programs. The main aim of the project is to monitor local sea turtle activity and conserve the local nesting sites. The success in this centre is not just in their international volunteer program, but with their ability to work in the community and for the community. The centre was rebuilt in March 2005 after it was destroyed in the Boxing Day Tsunami, with great help and support from the local people and international aid.
Since there is almost no enforcement of the laws that have been written to keep sea turtles safe, it is up to centres like this to educate the community. Members of the public are permitted to tour the centre to see the baby turtles. This allows them to understand the realities of sea turtle rehabilitation and conservation, and see first-hand the success of the centre’s work. The centre will also buy sea turtle eggs from villagers with no questions asked. The turtle centre understands that without the community on the side of conservation these turtles don’t stand a chance. Your help at the centre will directly support these conservation efforts, and keep their programs running successfully.
What is Fun
You will be staying in a small coastal town on the south shore of Sri Lanka.The town is a popular tourist destination because of the seemingly continuous turtle nesting seasons and beautiful beaches and lagoons. Surfing, kiteboarding, sunbathing, snorkeling and boating are all popular activities in the area. You will have weekends free to explore Sri Lanka on your own or with your fellow volunteers. You can visit the colonial town of Galle, look for leopards in Yala National Park, visit the Dambulla cave temples, or just relax on the beach. Whatever you do, make sure you spend at least one weekend enjoying the sun setting into the ocean!
You will quickly learn that international volunteers at the centre not only become global advocates for sea turtles; they fall in love with the Sri Lankan culture and people. Volunteers are not just accepted into the community, they are thought of as family! There are many opportunities to become involved. You can assist with after school English classes for students looking to improve their conversational English or offer handicraft and artist support for those men and women looking to support their families with carpentry, weaving or jewelry making. You will meet local people at the centre as they come to see the baby sea turtles and learn about conservation. Without a doubt, you will have a life changing experience in Sri Lanka - working with the sea turtles, making friends with fellow volunteers and exploring this beautiful country.
Dates and Details
This is an ongoing program with operations every day of the year. There are no specific start or end dates. We work with you and your schedule so you can serve this community and help the sea turtles when you are available.
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!