1. Palau Tioman, Malaysia
The situation of turtles in Malaysia has been dire for quite some time, particularly on the paradisiacal-looking island of Pulau Tioman. Despite this, the dedicated volunteers at the Juara Turtle Project have done an exceptional job at improving their numbers through nest protection, working with local communities, research, education and outreach. But they’re still fighting the good fight every day, especially against beach development by resorts.
An easy drive and ferry ride from both Singapore and Johor Bahru, the Juara Turtle Project offers affordable and accessible single and group volunteer experiences for turtle hatching and conservation.
Hatching season: March to October.
Juara Beach, Palau Tioman by Arnaud Besnier (CC license)
2. Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica
When an area's name literally translates as “region of turtles”, you know you’re in the right place. Just 80km north of Port of Limon, on the palm-lined Caribbean coast, this is one of the most important nesting sites in the western hemisphere. Here, giant leatherback, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles all find roost.
A variety of turtle experiences can be booked through the park, whereas the Sea Turtle Conservancy group offer volunteer adventures in the area. Keep in mind that turtles nest on both coasts of Costa Rica. Check out Osa Conservation’s volunteer program on the country’s Pacific side.
Hatching seasons: Caribbean coast: July to October and March to May. Pacific coast: October to February and July to November.
3. Kosgoda, Sri Lanka
Green sea turtles are the most common species on the sandy shores of Sri Lanka. Four other species of turtle nest here as well, but due to their dwindling numbers are, sadly, a rare find.
The Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project has run a rustic but vital hatchery in the area since 1988, and has been especially hard at work to protect nesting grounds since the devastation of the tsunami in 2004.
Hatching season: November to May.
Turtle volunteers in Kosgoda by Amila Tennakoon (CC license)
4. Greece and the Greek Islands
While the status of sea turtles in the Mediterranean might not seem so dire as in other regions, rampant tourist development and net-fishing still threaten populations. Think it’s time to turn that Greek beach vacay you’ve been planning into a volunteer trip?
Organisations such as Archelon work to ensure the conservation of turtles at numerous sites of coastal Greece and its islands, graciously offering a less-intensive conservation work to sunbathing ratio for a variety of volunteers (part-time, full-time, individuals, families and large groups).
Hatching season: August to October.