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Oceans 2 Earth

Great Barrier Reef Turtle Rehabilitation

Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Volunteers directly impact animal lives by assisting the centre with sick and injured turtles, feeding turtles, cleaning tanks, as well as education and research.

The rehabilitation centre

The Rehabilitation Centre treats injured and sick marine turtles brought in from the Great Barrier Reef and Cape York Peninsula. Animals are brought in suffering from disease, starvation and/or injuries caused by boats, discarded fishing gear or ingested plastic that is mistaken for food. Many of the turtles brought in from the Great Barrier Reef are suffering from 'floaters disease'.

Volunteers and donations from local businesses have kept the centre running. More than 170 sick and injured animals have been brought in for treatment over the past 10 years. Founded in 2000, the centre receives no funding from Government as the rehabilitation of sick and injured animals does not currently come under any conservation or environmental initiative.

Species of turtles in care at the centre include Green, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles. The number of turtles varies depending on the season and the number of current rescues requiring care, however it is usually around 9-12. 

The location

Currently, there are two sites in Cairns that volunteers work at which are easily accessible by either walking or taking a bus or ferry ride. 

One site is in Cairns which is a regional city in the far north of Queensland, Australia located about 1,700 km (1,056 mi) from Brisbane and about 2,700 km (1,678 mi) from Sydney by road. It is a popular travel destination for foreign and local tourists because of its tropical climate. It serves as a central point for people wanting to visit the Great Barrier Reef and Far North Queensland. It is also a railhead and major port for exporting sugar cane, gold and other metals, minerals and agricultural products from surrounding coastal areas and the Atherton Tableland region. 

The nearby island where volunteer will spend time with the turtles is a tropical paradise of rainforest and beaches within the calm sheltered waters of the Great Barrier Reef. A National Park, the island is located 45 minutes by Fast Cat from Cairns. Island facilities include a resort, diving school, restaurant, bar, walking trails, glass bottom tours, kayaking and snorkelling.

Our volunteers

Volunteers make a huge difference to this project. Since the centre first started over 10 years ago the success rate in rehabilitating sick and injured animals and returning them to the ocean has improved to more than 85%, from 20-30%. 

Volunteers contribute by assisting staff in

  • Rehabilitating sick and injured turtles
  • Helping to promote humane and sustainable practices through co-operation and education initiatives 
  • Cleaning turtle tanks 
  • Feeding rescued turtles 
  • Reef monitoring research 
  • Providing assistance when requested, in an effort to rescue turtles in distress 

Our volunteers will work closely with the turtles, cleaning them of algae that builds up on their bodies in the tanks. Any other handling is limited and only by instruction. During your time at the project, you may assist with tagging the turtles, veterinary care, relocation or release back into the ocean. 

The centre is ready to receive turtles should they become injured. If a rescue call comes through while you are at the centre, it is likely that you will be required to assist in bringing the turtle from the rescue location to the rehabilitation centre or the intensive care unit.

Conditions on site

The Rehabilitation Centre is home to midge (or sand) flies. These little biting pests are easily dealt with by spraying your legs with good quality waterproof fly spray or simply covering yourself up by wearing shoes and socks and long sleeves. 

Please note

The first installment of your project fees is due within 1 week after you paid the deposit on Volunteer World. This is a total of $495 AUD and comes off your balance. The balance is due 90 days prior to travel. For all further information about the fees, please scroll down to the section „Program Fees“.

Typical day

Volunteers take a ferry ride to an island off Cairns where they will spend the morning at the Rehabilitation Centre. Food is prepared, the turtles are fed, tanks are cleaned and some turtles are given a scratch. A turtles shell is covered in a layer of keratin which is like fingernails, so they can feel it when someone touches them, and some of the turtles enjoy a back scratch.

The Education Centre offers a tour each day to visitors to the Island so volunteers prepare this area for their arrival.

In the afternoon, the volunteer may undertake reef monitoring or beach clean-ups on the Great Barrier reef. The remainder of the day is spent at the island enjoying free time until the afternoon ferry arrives to return them to the mainland. Volunteers have free use of the water sports equipment including paddle boarding, kayaking and trampolining into the deep crystal clear waters of the bay.

Some volunteers may be offered special projects such as working in the Intensive Care Unit looking after critically sick or injured turtles that have just been rescued, turtle tagging, cleaning beaches of rubbish, ghost nets and debris or research assistance (GPS tracking of turtles that have been released, data analysis).

Details on Arrival

Volunteers must arrive in Cairns no later than Sunday to start the program on a Monday. Available throughout the whole year. 

Free-time activities

There is plenty to do on your days off in this diverse region of Australia.

As the heart of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics rainforest, Cairns pulses with energy. More than 600 tours a day make the most of the year-round outdoor lifestyle while world-class sporting events and festivals embrace the cosmopolitan city's vibrant tropical culture. 

Energised by nature, Cairns is the place to soak up the tropical lifestyle. Swim at the Esplanade lagoon, sample local produce at a farmer's market, enjoy free entertainment, shop for a summer wardrobe or cruise around the marina and check out the night markets. Take a cool dip at a secluded freshwater swimming hole, jump on a bike for a sightseeing tour along the city's network of cycle paths or experience the unique rainforest. 

You name it, Cairns and the surrounding area has it - dive sites, Fitzroy Island National Park, off road driving, ballooning, canoeing, cruising, scuba-diving, kayaking, sailing, scenic flights, shopping, skydiving, snorkelling, swimming, bushwalking, rock climbing, wildlife spotting, markets, hot springs, beaches, lakes/rivers/dams, nightlife/clubs/pubs/casinos, roadside stalls, cellar doors, scenic railway, canopy walk, tea plantation, coffee plantation, wineries, skyhigh cable car, lava tubes, kayaking, spas and galleries.

After dark choose a lively bar for drinks, taste local seafood at an award-winning restaurant, party on a dance floor, discover treasures at the markets or watch a local cultural show.

This compact city is easy to get around and has the reef, rainforest and outback on its doorstep. With the Cairns International and Domestic airports only 10 minutes from the Central Business District, Cairns is the ideal entry point for a Tropical North Queensland adventure. 

Whether you want to flirt with adventure or be enchanted by exotic experiences, Cairns and the Tropical North have it all.

Swimming
Diving/Snorkling
Climbing
Hiking
Sports

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). Of course, there is an exception for children that are accompanied by their parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Health Declaration
required
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
No specific skills are required except a love for turtles and the ability to work in hot, wet and/or humid weather depending upon the season. - See more at: http://www.oceans2earth.org/animal-care-projects/great-barrier-reef-turtle-rehabilitation#sthash.iHgJY00s.dpuf
Time Commitment
Regular working hours are hardly predicable. It mainly depends on the work force. Get in touch with Oceans 2 Earth straight ahead to get more infos about current to dos and objectives.

Suitable for

Singles
Couples
Families
Groups
50+

Any questions? Just ask. We at Oceans 2 Earth are happy to help you.

Contact Project Coordinator
Contact & Reservation
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Included Services

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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by Oceans 2 Earth.
Services by Oceans 2 Earth
  • Pre-departure support
  • Project Information Booklet
  • Project orientation
  • Training Field equipment and materials
  • Return daily transfers from Cairns to the island
  • Accommodation in Cairns (unless not required)
  • Breakfast (with Cairns accommodation included option only)
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • 24-hour O2E emergency phone
  • Certificate of Participation, if requested
  • O2E T-shirt
You can also choose to join this program without the accommodation. This will reduce the weekly fee approximately around $150.

Please note that the first installment of your program fees ($495 AUD) is due within one week after having paid the deposit on Volunteer World.
Airport Pickup at Cairns Airport
O2E can organise pick up only when accommodation is booked.
Accommodation

6 bed female or mixed dorm rooms with an ensuite bathroom at a resort style hostel. Single and other accommodation types may be available upon request. There is free Wi-Fi, swimming pool and common entertainment areas. The hostel also organises regular tours of the area such as rainforest walks, sailing and beach trips. A no accommodation option is also available for volunteers who prefer to book their own accommodation.

Dorm Room
Food & Beverages

For non-accommodation options, meals are not provided. The hostel accommodation includes breakfast and each room has self-catering kitchen facilities.

Internet Access
Good 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 Cairns Airport (CNS) in Cairns. We assist you to find cheap flights to Australia.
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 Australia provides security and is a plus to have.
Vaccines
If you are intending to volunteer in Australia you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Australia.
Costs (Prices in USD)
1 week (min. stay)
$845.00
2 weeks
$1,330.00
3 weeks
$1,905.00
4 weeks
$2,405.00
5 weeks
$3,000.00
6 weeks
$3,415.00
8 weeks
$3,910.00
12 weeks (max. stay)
$4,365.00
Average fees
$604.00/week

You can volunteer at the project site in Cairns, Queensland/Australia between 1 week and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Oceans 2 Earth will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Crowdfunding Service
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Australia.
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 must be made up to 30 days before to the volunteer program starts. This payment is also securely handled by PayPal or credit card.
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