Take part in the Great Turtle Project in Sri Lanka as a turtle volunteer and have a hand in the conservation of the country's beautiful sea turtles!
The overall aim of this sea turtle conservation project is to monitor sea turtle activity and conserve the local nesting sites in the Kosgoda region of Sri Lanka. Working with turtles here is carried out by staff and volunteers and it has been hugely successful since the project's inception in 1988. The praise-worthy achievements of this project are largely due to the continued support it receives from teams of volunteers. The turtle conservation work relies upon the involvement of truly dedicated people, and you like every turtle volunteer can help play an integral role here.
About the Project
This incredible project, situated in the Kosgoda region of Sri Lanka has been established for over 20 years and is still continuing its brilliant work in the field of sea turtle conservation.
By far the most dangerous predators of turtles are humans as turtles and their eggs are valuable commodities. Hundreds of thousands of eggs are stolen from beaches here every year, and shells are used for ornamental purposes such as hair slides and combs - its rarity ensures high demand. In Sri Lanka, where poverty is widespread, sea turtle nests and turtles themselves are robbed of their eggs and shells by poachers for sale on the black market.
The overall aim of this project is to conserve the local nesting sites in the area and to increase turtle populations by raising and releasing baby turtles. This also involves increasing public awareness of the increasing endangerment of this amazing species, and the importance of their protection. One of the most important ways this is achieved is through the development and maintenance of hatcheries, where turtle eggs are relocated to hatch safely, away from predators before being released into the sea at night-time. The weaker turtle babies are held back from release for a ‘head-starting’ process, so that they are given the best chance of survival. With sea turtles facing threats from a variety of sources, including natural predators, poaching and hunting by locals looking to make money from the sale of their meat and eggs, their conservation is of prime importance. This project aims to increase the survival of turtles from the laying of eggs to the release of hatchlings into the sea. Therefore every nest-ground, every egg, every hatchling and every turtle is crucial to the survival of the species. The project also helps maintain the local beaches, ensuring they are ideal for turtles laying eggs.
Please note, although this project runs throughout the year, turtle nesting season is from November - April and hatching is from January - June. Outside of these times, your main focus will be caring for the turtles that live at the sanctuary and the teaching program.
Prior to Arrival
You will need to arrive into Colombo International airport between 9am - 5pm on the start date of your project, where you will be met by a project representative and transferred to the project site, roughly three hours' drive away.
Arrive into Colombo airport and transfer to the project site. The evening comprises of an orientation which will cover important information regarding the volunteer project itself and is a chance to get any questions answered you may have.
After an Introduction to the sea turtle conservation project and staff, a work schedule is devised and then it is time to start the volunteering activities. You will take part in a variety of tasks and activities and be involved in the day-to-day running of the project and the turtle conservation efforts. Weekends are free for you to spend as you wish. Activities include:
Caring for turtles that live at the centre:
At the centre there are four species of turtle resident (predominantly green but also loggerhead, olive ridley and one hawksbill) and your principal role as a volunteer is to take care of these.
Maintaining the project area and beach:
This is a major part of the work here; as you will need to make sure the nesting sites remain as healthy and safe as possible to give the turtles the best chance of survival.
Burying the eggs brought by vendors:
This is another essential part of the project work. Vendors often bring eggs to the centre and these need to be buried as soon as possible in order to safeguard them for hatching.
Cleaning and constructing the hatcheries:
Keeping the area clean is essential in keeping the turtles healthy. As part of the rota you will be responsible for ensuring the tanks and hatchery are clean. You’ll even get to clean the turtle’s shells!
Feeding the turtles:
This will of course be a daily task and you will be involved in cutting up and preparing the food (which is predominantly tuna) before feeding it to the turtles.
This is often the volunteer’s favourite activity – particularly when releasing the babies back into the sea! You will often need to be on hand to scare away predators such as birds.
Teaching English to local communities:
English teachers are scarce in Kosgoda and so English-speaking volunteers are always greatly valued by locals who are keen to learn. Volunteers spend some afternoons interacting with the community, teaching conversational English.
In order to help to educate people about the importance of preserving the sea turtles in Sri Lanka and the work of the project itself volunteers often lend a hand with tours of the hatchery.
Please note that this is only a rough guideline, and the itinerary may be subject to change depending on the needs of the reserva.
After fond farewells you will be transferred back to the airport in Colombo for your return flight home or to commence your independent travel plans.
On the weekend you have free time to explore the surrounding area, just a bus ride away from some amazing beaches.
You will need to arrive into Colombo International airport between 9am - 5pm on the start date of your project, where you will be met by a project representative and transferred to the project site, roughly three hours' drive away
The accommodation on this project is a volunteer house on the project site. The rooms you will be staying in are basic but clean and are based on twin or triple rooms. The accommodation also includes modern toilets, showers and running water.
Whilst on site you will be provided with three meals a day and bottled water served by the house keeper in the volunteer house. Breakfast consists of fresh fruit, bread and jams and eggs, lunch can be chosen from a menu containing items such as BLT, soup, omelette and dinner will typically consist of Sri Lankan dishes like curry (fish or chicken) and rice, vegetable dishes served buffet style.