Turtle conservation volunteering in Thailand
Encourage the survival of turtles on one of Thailand’s islands remotest islands with clear blue seas and stunning landscapes. This is a real opportunity to contribute to the efforts of the local community, preserving these special creatures. This includes the giant leatherback – the largest species of turtle on earth!
Help to promote turtle conservation on an island paradise
The turtle, a species which dates back over 100 million years, is slowly disappearing all over the world. This devastating trend is tellingly prominent in Thailand, where great numbers of leatherback, green and olive ridley turtles used to nest in abundance. Working with a small NGO you will be intimately involved in monitoring the turtle nesting beaches of this remote Thai island, an important task to reverse this tragic trend.
Running since the late 1990s, this project is effectively mapping the changes in turtle nesting habits in this area of the country. Working closely with national research bodies and biology centres, it combines conservation and education to promote the survival of turtles in the region. Your days will involve walking the nesting beaches for signs of turtles and monitoring them out at sea in their feeding areas. All of the work that you do here will contribute to a worldwide effort to save this dying species – and if you’re lucky, you might even be able to witness the nesting turtles or the babies hatching.
In addition to the work to promote the conservation of turtles, there is also the opportunity to help in collecting data on the impact of humans on the coastline, essential for its preservation. Working closely within the local community you can also assist with the development of a thriving community conservation project, working with the locals to protect their environment.
This is all put together against a backdrop of the beautiful island of Koh Phra Thong, an extraordinary location with crystal blue water, a snorkeler’s paradise, and spectacular unspoilt sandy beaches.
What will I be doing?
Your day will start with a walk along the stretch of golden sand beach, monitoring the nesting beaches as the sun rises over the sea. After your breakfast, you will be monitoring the behaviour of the turtles out at sea. Data is collected about the turtles, the weather, and any specific sightings. Please be aware, you will be walking for a few hours in hot and humid conditions, so you need to be in good physical condition.
Your afternoons are spent on various projects, from preparing display material for the conservation and community centre to helping to protect the local environment. The community conservation centre promotes environmental awareness and provides facilities to carry out small, focused research on turtles. Data on species composition, habitat use and conservation status is collected, and shared across the world in collaboration with Thai partner organisations. The programme works with the local population and has been so successful that it has led to the formation of local conservation groups that are working independently in different villages on the island (stork conservation groups, mangrove conservation groups etc.) This is such an important step towards the recovery of the region from the devastating after-effects of the tsunami. Volunteers might even be able to get involved in local conservation events (turtle releasing to celebrate the tsunami memorial, children’s day, stork release into the wild, etc) or with reef and beach cleaning.
The turtle season is from December to March. During that time volunteers will be involved in a range of activities, mainly including:
- Sea turtle activity monitoring on the beach
- Sea turtle behaviour observation at sea
- Weather monitoring
- Data collection
- Promotional work for raising awareness
- Getting involved in community work
- Helping with environmental education
- Other activities dependent on volunteer interest and skills, as well as project needs
At occasions throughout the season you could get involved in the following activities also:
- Tortoise and freshwater turtle survey
- Reef surveys
- Mangrove forest rehabilitation projects
- Sea grass research activities
- Reef and beach cleaning
- Teaching English at the local school
Accommodation and Food
It is important to know that island life is very basic, and you need to be prepared for basic Thai conditions.
Whilst you are on this project you will stay in two different locations- both with a host family and in some private bungalows. We have taken this choice so that you can expect two very different experiences of island living.
Staying with a family in the village gives a tremendous opportunity to interact with the warm local people and share their way of life. The houses are all newly built after the original village was destroyed by the tsunami. By living in this new and safer village location with the local people you are helping to promote the regeneration of this community. The second accommodation option is in beach bungalows, offering a great opportunity for experiencing coastal life!
You should expect to share a room with one other volunteer, however single room home stays are also available. Rooms are comfortable yet basic, with mosquito nets, traditional sleeping mattress and linen provided. The island’s electricity is provided by individual generators, and as such is only available in the evenings. Internet connections on the island are very limited.
All meals are provided by a local resident and you will enjoy excellent freshly cooked local dishes three meals a day together with the team. Vegetarian option is available on request.
When should I book?
Whilst late-availability is possible, we would advise booking as soon as you can to guarantee your ideal dates. Our projects are very popular and spaces can fill up several months in advance, especially for the months of June to September.
- Enjoying island life far away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland and frequently touristed islands
- Learning more about turtles and contributing to important research
- Living with a Thai family, and learning more about Thai culture far off the beaten track
- Simply enjoying this fantastic location with some of the finest beaches you will see anywhere. The clear water and spectacularly attractive fish make this a snorkeler’s paradise
- Trying out delicious local cuisine, prepared for you within the community by the locals
Whyshould I do this?
According to one of our very well travelled volunteers, this island boasts the most beautiful beaches that they have ever seen in the world. Coupled with the important difference that you can make here both to the community and to the conservation project, this is an incredible location for volunteering. The island of Koh Phra Tong is wild and remote, and as such you probably couldn’t step much further off the beaten track in Thailand!
Arrival day on the project is a Monday. You fly into Phuket airport (HKT) before 1pm at the latest. Here a taxi will meet you and drive you down to the port (4 hours) where you will be met by a boat to take you over to the island.
If you arrive after 1pm we would advise staying in a hotel and we can arrange your transfer for the following day.
Our team of conservationists and volunteer coordinators on the island will welcome you from the boat and help you to settle in to your new home. After a thorough orientation you will get immediately stuck into the project. They are there to train you up and support you throughout your time on the project.
What is provided
- Before booking: Dedicated period of time on the phone or in person to discuss the project, answer any questions that you might have and find out more about you
- Access to your personal ‘My Oyster’ account – our online portal where you can find out much more about the programme and manage your booking.
- Pre-departure briefing covering medical and safety features
- Help and advice 24/7 from our UK office
- Collection from Phuket airport, where you will be transported down to the port for the ferry over to the island
- Boat transfer to and from Koh Phra Thong at the beginning and end of your stay
- Clean, comfortable accommodation with a family
- Three cooked meals a day provided by the local community
- Full volunteer information package on arrival
- Contribution to Oyster’s very own sponsored turtle
- Visa advice (which will vary depending on length of stay)
- Oyster Worldwide volunteer t-shirt
- Oyster luggage tag
On your return:
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
What do I need
- A full passport valid for a minimum of 6 months after your entry into Thailand
- Insurance covering your project time and any planned independent travel, we can introduce you to a policy
- Flights to Phuket. We can help organise these- just ask!
- Cost of changing your return flight date if you need to.
- Independent travel costs and return to the airport.
- Cost for one night in a hotel if you arrive too late for your airport pick up.
- Any additional costs such as trips, snacks, entertainment (allow maybe £25 per week depending on lifestyle).
- No visa is necessary for under 30 days from UK and most western European countries. Advice given on longer stays.
- No compulsory inoculations are necessary although do check with your doctor to make sure polio, typhoid and Hep A&B jabs are up to date.