In-Water Sea Turtle Researcher

founded in 2013
Olive Ridley Project
Coordinator | Martin
Coordinator | Martin
Snorkel unexplored reefs and help contribute to sea turtle research in the Maldives. This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 18+

The project

The Olive Ridley Project (ORP) has an incredible opportunity for you to join our research expedition to remote parts of the Maldives. We are looking for adventurous people, with a passion for sea turtle conservation, to help collect sea turtle data - sighting, nesting, and photo ID data will be collected and processed, which is one of the largest turtle Photo-ID databases in the world .

Join the ORP as a research volunteer on a four week expedition in Haa Alif Atoll to explore a remote part of Maldives for sea turtles.  Since this is a remote part of the Maldives where very little scientific work has been done, part of the adventure is not knowing exactly what we will encounter. We have had reports of manta rays sightings in the area, and during our pilot surveys we saw lots of dolphins, sharks and stingrays in addition to turtles.

Your role as a volunteer

The opportunity to volunteer with the ORP Sea Turtle Research Expedition in the Maldives is open to anyone adventurous interested in sea turtle research. We do ask that volunteers are 18+, able swimmers/snorkelers and have a passion for sea turtles and research. Your ‘home base’ is a tropical island, and therefore, quite isolated. If you do not think you are particularly adventurous, then this expedition may not be for you.

We can accommodate 5 volunteers at a time. To cover the expenses for you expedition, we ask for a very reasonable donation to the Olive Ridley Project.

As a volunteer you will join our expedition leader and a field officer to assists with sea turtle research and data collection in the remote atoll of Haa Alif in the Maldives. The information collected will feed into the national TurtleWatch Maldives program run by the Maldives Marine Research Centre. Examples of research methods include:

  • Nesting island surveys
  • In-water surveys
  • Sea turtle photographic identification (Photo-ID)

In addition, you may be involved in the rescue of entangled sea turtles and will be trained in basic sea turtle first aid; you will assist with community projects focused on marine conservation in Ha. Kelaa; and you will work alongside our project partners, IDEAS, to reduce the threat of marine debris to sea turtles in the area.

The Olive Ridley Project was established in 2013 to actively fight ghost nets in the Indian Ocean. We physically remove ghost nets, promote recycling of end-of-life fishing nets, offer marine and turtle conservation education programs, carry out research, and provide appropriate care, protection, treatment and security for turtles found entangled and injured. We operate a Marine Turtle Rescue Centre in Baa Atoll, Maldives, and run one of the largest sea turtle photo-ID databases in the world. You can read more about the Olive Ridley Project here.

Typical tasks

Nesting island surveys 

Beach walks (night and early morning) to look for tracks and evidence of nesting turtles. Information to be collected will include: width of track, species, distance from high water level, and if the nest was poached. Nests will be relocated only if the threat of poaching or inundation is high. Nesting females will be measured and photographed (using a red light only) and eggs will be counted only if the female is observed nesting (nests will not be dug up to count eggs). Nests will be monitored for hatching and additional information, such as hatching success and development days, will be collected. This information will feed into the national TurtleWatch Maldives program run by the Maldives Marine Research Centre. 

In-water surveys 

Survey methods will include: set transects, timed swims, manta tows, and ad-hoc surveys for sea turtles. All will be done while snorkelling. We are collecting information on species, size, age, sex, behaviour, as well as environmental data such as weather condition, visibility, and sea temperature. This information will feed into the national TurtleWatch Maldives program run by the Maldives Marine Research Centre. 

Community Projects 

One of the ORP’s charitable objectives is to advance the knowledge of local Maldivians on sea turtle habitats and their threats. As such, volunteers will be involved in community projects in H.A. Kelaa, especially marine conservation projects. This will include, working with the local school alongside local partner IDEAS and members of the community to help tackle prevalent issues affecting marine habitats for turtles.

Sea turtle photographic identification (Photo-ID) 

Foraging and nesting turtles will be photographed for the Olive Ridley Project’s photo ID database. Individual turtles can be identified based on the pattern of scutes on their face. Photographing turtles over a long time series allows us to monitor population change, determine population viability, look at age class structure, etc. Results from our Sea Turtle Expedition program will be statistically compared to the more developed areas of the Maldives. Eventually, we hope our results will feed into the development of additional Marine Protected Areas, specifically for turtles. We will also use the data to determine population viability for the area and monitor recruitment of new juveniles. Photo ID can be used as a non-invasive capture-mark-recapture program.

Marine Debris Management 

A major threat to marine animals is marine debris. Despite H.A. Kelaa’s remote location, marine debris continues to disrupt delicate marine habitats and accumulate on local beaches. We will be working alongside our project partners, IDEAS, to improve current waste management methods on the island and reduce the threat of marine debris to sea turtles in the area.              

Typical day

Typical weekly schedule:

Your research day typically begins with breakfast at 08:00 and finishes at 18:00 Sunday to Thursday. Dinner will be taken together at 19:30 everyday. You will have two days off per week (Friday and Saturday), however Friday will require you to conduct nesting surveys on land in the evening. Your week will be structured as below, however please note times and events may change in accordance to the needs of the project:


09:00 - 12:00 - Community projects with our local NGO IDEAS.

12:00 - 14:00 - lunch

14:00 - 17:00 - Turtle surveying (in-water)

17:00 - 18:00 - Data management (data inputting) 


09:00 - 12:00 - Turtle surveying (in-water)

12:00 - 14:00 - lunch

14:00 - 17:00 - Turtle surveying (in-water)

17:00 - 18:00 - Data management (data inputting) 


09:00 - 12:00 - Ghost gear recovery and data collection (on land).

12:00 - 14:00 - lunch

14:00 - 17:00 - Turtle surveying (water+land)

17:00 - 18:00 - Data management (data inputting) 


09:00 - 12:00 - Turtle surveys (in-water)

12:00 - 14:00 - lunch

14:00 - 17:00 - Turtle surveying (in-water)

17:00 - 18:00 - Data management (data inputting)


09:00 - 12:00 - Turtle surveys (in-water+land)

12:00 - 14:00 - lunch

14:00 - 17:00 - Turtle surveying (in-water+land)

17:00 - 18:00 - Data management (data inputting)


09:00 - 12:00 - OFF

12:00 - 14:00 - lunch

14:00 - 17:00 - OFF

19:30 - Dinner

20:30 - 01:00 - Beach nesting patrol



Free-time activities

H.A Kelaa island is small and during your down time or off days your time can be filled with snorkelling the house reef or exploring the surrounding waters. Their is also archeological sites that are pretty cool to see on the island and the many beaches are always worth exploring. There is a dive shop on the island and jet ski can be hired at an additional costs.


Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
No specific skill are required for the scientific aspect of our project as these skills will be taught to you. However you must be able to swim and have a passion for sea turtle conservation and adventure.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 09:00 - 18:00

Included Services

Services by Olive Ridley Project

Your donation will cover:

  • Return domestic flights and boat transfers from Malé to Ha. Kelaa in Haa Alif Atoll
  • Accommodation for the duration of your stay
  • All meals for the duration of your stay

In addition to covering your expenses, your donation will help us provide the research tools necessary for your expedition and for our continued research; fund operational costs and management support before and during your volunteering experience; and help us maintain and expand ORP projects in the Maldives and Pakistan. 

Moreover, your contribution will help finance employment of local project coordinators in each  of our locations and sponsor work with fishing communities to reduce gear loss and the impacts to sea turtle and their habitats. And finally you will support local businesses such as guest houses and restaurants by staying in Kelaa. The domestic flight will be included in the price and your flight from Male to H.A.Alif Atoll is incredible so remember to have your cameras ready.

Please note that your donation does not include:

  • International flights to and from Malé
  • Accommodation in Malé – should you require

Airport Pickup at Male International Airport

Volunteers will be greeted by a representative from our local partners IDEAS once you arrive into Male airport. You will then be guided to your next flight and also onto the speedboat.  


Volunteers will share a twin room with two single beds. Because we are on expedition it will be expected for volunteers to share rooms, however where possible we will try to keep the same sex in separate rooms. The accommodation is clean and also where you will be eating in the mornings and evenings. Air conditioning is available and the guest house has a private garden that can be used by volunteers.  

Food & Beverages

Food and drink will be provided for all volunteers. Volunteers will eat together for morning breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dietry requirements can be accommodated provided you give us warning of your needs before the expedition. 

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Male International Airport (MLE) in Male. We assist you to find cheap flights to Maldives.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Maldives provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Maldives you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Maldives.

Dates & Fees


Details on arrival

This program is available from September 2017 for a minimum of 4 week time slots. Due to the nature of the expedition this opportunity will only be open to 5 volunteers at a time and all must be adventurous and comfortable swimmers. Most of your time will be spent in the water and not being able to swim will not make for a great experience for you. 

Full support will be given from the moment you arrive into Male to the moment you leave. Volunteers will arrive on the same date and be transported to the far north of the Maldives by domestic flight (included in the price) and then by speedboat. The views during this trip are incredible so keep your cameras to hand!!

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
4 - 4 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
4 weeks (min. stay)
$ 2,995
4 weeks (max. stay)
$ 2,995
Average fees
$ 749 /week

Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Olive Ridley Project will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Olive Ridley Project during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Why book with Volunteer World

Extra security layer by Volunteer World
Volunteer World is the world's leading comparison platform for international volunteer opportunities. We guide you through a safe and easy application process - including all necessary payments. Planning your next meaningful trip with Volunteer World gives you free access to our:
Quality Assurance
High ethical standards & transparent social impact
Flex Option
Change your reservation at no extra costs
Refund Guarantee
We refund your fees if Olive Ridley Project cancels your trip
Support & Mediation
We cover your back no matter what happens
Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by Olive Ridley Project.

What are people saying about Volunteer World?

  Asia Southern Asia The Maldives  Male, H.A Kelaa, Maldives
from $ 2,995
see price table
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Why am I seeing this?

You requested a page that doesn't exist on this site any more. This could be caused by a link you followed that was out of date, by a typing in the wrong address in the address bar, or simply because the post has been deleted.

Take Me Home