Turtle conservation family volunteering in Thailand
Take your family to live and volunteer on a Thai island, complete with glittering waters, golden sandy beaches and small communities. This island has been all but forgotten by the tourist boom, and the local community welcomes volunteers with open arms. Help them to preserve and protect their natural environment, with an aim to increasing the turtle populations in the area.
Dates: Annually between the middle of December and the end of March.
Suitability: You know your children best, but we would suggest a minimum age of 8 for this project. You will need to be happy to get stuck in, prepared to live in rustic accommodation and be open to a very different experience.
You and your family will be working with a small NGO based on the remote and beautiful island of Koh Phra Tong. Here the turtle numbers have been falling steadily, and you will be helping to try and reverse this tragic trend. Each day you will enjoy monitoring the beaches and the sea for turtle activity, as well as becoming immersed in community and conservation projects.
The project has been running since the late 1990s and has been monitoring the changes in turtle nesting habits ever since. Working closely with national research bodies and biology centres, it combines conservation and education to promote the survival of turtles in the region. 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 in Thailand, 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.
What will we be doing?
It’s an early rise for you and your family each day, but getting up to walk on golden beaches doesn’t make it too much of a chore! Your day will start with a walk along a stunning stretch of 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.
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. 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.
Community interaction is key here too, so you may even have the opportunity to help with English teaching and games at the local school.
Where will we be based?
This island is based close to the island of Phuket. Whilst small and off the beaten tourist trails, it does offer some beautiful scenery, some excellent snorkelling and a growing number of niche hotels. You can enjoy the simple life, exploring the beach and the forests, heading out on boat trips and becoming immersed in the local community. Some community members might even give you a Thai cooking lesson or even a massage!
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!
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.
- Create unforgettable family memories as you make a valuable contribution to a worldwide turtle conservation effort.
- Get fully involved in the local community as you assist with community conservation and awareness projects.
- Experience rural life on a remote Thai island, and expose your family to a very different way of living.
- Enjoy exploring the beautiful beaches and forests with your family in your free time – the clear water and spectacular fish make this a snorkeler’s paradise.
- Taste freshly cooked, local dishes – Thai cuisine really is superb!
Whyshould I do this?
Unlike some of the more touristy islands, 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! The beauty of an island that is quieter is that the beaches are unspoiled. This programme will see your family make an important difference to animals that are being negatively impacted by human waste in the oceans. Coupled with the fact that you will also be surrounded by some of the most idyllic scenery in the world , it really is a fantastic opportunity for you and your family.
Arrival day on the project is a Monday. You and your family will 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 all be met by a boat to take you over to the island.
If your family arrives 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
On your return:
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
What do I need
- Each family member will need a full passport valid for a minimum of 6 months after your entry into Thailand
- Insurance covering all your family for 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.