On this project, you will help to support the daily care and conservation of turtles by taking part in a variety of activities, such as those listed below:
The sanctuary is home to a range of turtles, from new hatchlings to older turtles with disabilities. Whether they are fit for release or will need to spend their lives at the sanctuary, all of the turtles on this project require a near-constant level of care. You will contribute to this by feeding them and helping to gently clean their shells of any algae or debris which, in the ocean, would otherwise be cleaned off by other organisms.
A highlight for many volunteers can be found on the beach at dusk, when you may get the opportunity to release a group of turtles into the ocean! The reason for an evening release is to ensure that fewer predators are around, which in turn provides the turtles with safe passage as they head towards the water. You will help to scare away any remaining predators (such as birds) to make the turtles’ chances of reaching the ocean as high as possible.
Burying Turtle Eggs
In order to combat the consumption of turtle eggs in the region, the project team have started offering a higher rate for any eggs found by fishermen to dissuade them from selling the eggs to restaurants. These eggs are then carefully buried in the sand at the sanctuary, where they will hopefully hatch into healthy baby turtles that can then be released into the ocean.
Once the baby turtles have hatched, or if an older turtle arrives at the sanctuary in need of care, they will need to be provided with a clean, safe environment in which to live. The sanctuary has several tanks which serve as a ‘home’ for the turtles until they are able to be released, and you will help to maintain these tanks by scrubbing away any dirt and keeping the water refreshed.
Cleaning & Constructing Hatcheries
Over the past few years, the number of turtle eggs being brought to the sanctuary has increased quite significantly. You may therefore be needed to help extend the current hatcheries or construct a new hatchery area for these eggs, as well as help ensure the existing hatcheries are kept clean and safe.
The sanctuary is located on the beach, and you will take part in weekly clean-ups to ensure that the environment remains as safe as possible. You and your group will head out onto the beach, garbage bags in hand, as you collect litter and a range of organic matter which will later be disposed of by the local council or recycled where possible.
The project carries out tours of the sanctuary and the hatcheries in order to educate members of the local community on turtle conservation. Small donations paid by visiting guests are then put straight back into the project, and as a volunteer, you will help to make these tours as interesting and informative as possible.
Depending on the time of year that you join this project, you may be invited to head away from the sanctuary to teach English to members of the local community. You might visit schools, temples or villages, where you will meet with groups across all ages who are eager to learn! A decent grasp of the English language can be a beneficial tool for many of Sri Lanka’s people, so this activity could prove to be a valuable one indeed. Please note that this activity will not take place during the school holidays.
You can join this project for 1 – 12 weeks and the longer you are at the project, the more activities you will get to take part in. Please note itineraries are subject to change and what follows is simply a rough guideline.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
After arriving into Colombo Airport, you will be met at arrivals and transferred to the project site. You will have a little time to settle in before attending an orientation talk, where you will learn more about the project and will have the opportunity to ask any questions that you may have.
Day 2-14 - Project Days:
Each day will begin with a short briefing of the day ahead, and from there, you will take part in a combination of activities. An example of a daily schedule can be found in the project guide (please enquire to receive this), and weekends are free for you to relax or explore more of what Sri Lanka has to offer!
Day 15 - Final Day:
This will be your final day, and after saying goodbye to your fellow volunteers and the project team, you will be transferred back to Colombo Airport to catch your flight home or to continue with your independent travel plans.
Dates, Availability & Price
To secure a place on this project a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.
Select a duration below to see the available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project!
Updates & Outcomes
Humans are by far the biggest threat facing turtles in the modern world, and the reason for this is because both the animals and their eggs are considered valuable commodities. Hundreds of thousands of eggs are stolen from beaches in Sri Lanka every year, and the shells of these stolen eggs will often then be used for something as mundane as a hair slide or comb. The rarity of these items ensures their high demand, and this is a major issue for the future of turtles. In Sri Lanka, where poverty is widespread, both turtles and their eggs are stolen by poachers and then sold on the black market.
The overall aim of this conservation project is to monitor local sea turtle activity and conserve the local nesting sites. Making the public aware of the turtle's precarious position in terms of endangerment is essential in the fight to protect them. If local people understand that turtles are an essential part of their ecosystem, it is hoped that they will eventually cease to be seen as simply a money-making opportunity.
Since it first started, The Great Turtle Project has released over 100,000 hatchlings of the hawksbill, green, loggerhead and olive ridley species, and the project team are dedicated to keeping this number rising.
- posted on 07/07/2018
- by Demi Augustou
Ever wondered what an average day in the life of a conservation volunteer looked like? Dive in and read about daily adventures at The Great Turtle Project in Sri Lanka and how you can help make a difference!
Did you know that the 23rd of May is World Turtle Day? Find out how you can aid the conservation of these marvelous marine creatures by reading on.
- posted on 07/02/2018
- by Ellie Hutchin
Staff and volunteers at The Great Turtle Project have been very busy these past few days! Check out these awesome pictures of how volunteers assisted with a mother green turtle who came to shore to lay her eggs, and how they ensured the safety of them when she had finished nesting. Volunteers also visited a local school where they donated essential supplies to the local children!
Is this trip for you?
During your time on the project, you will stay in a designated volunteer house situated next door to the turtle sanctuary and the beach (which is perfect for any free time you may have). Rooms are allocated on a twin or triple-share basis, with volunteers of the same sex being roomed together, except for couples and families who will stay together. Each bedroom has air conditioning and elsewhere in the house, you will have access to bathrooms equipped with hot showers and western toilets. The volunteer house also has its own pool, which you are welcome to make use of during your free time.
Whilst on the project, you will be provided with three meals per day and bottled water. Breakfast consists of fresh fruit, bread and jams and eggs, and you will select your lunch from a menu (items include sandwiches, soups and omelettes). In the evening, your dinner will likely consist of typical Sri Lankan dishes such as curry (fish or chicken), rice and vegetables, each served in a buffet style. Certain dietary requirements can be catered for, but please let us know in advance of your arrival so we can best cater to you.
This project does not involve much in the way of physical labour, but you will often be working in humid conditions. We therefore recommend that you have a basic level of fitness if you wish to join this project. No specific skills or experience are required; all we ask is that you arrive with a commitment to the project’s aims, an ability to work as part of a team and a positive attitude!
The vaccinations required will depend on your medical history. We recommend that you consult with your GP/Doctor regarding your own vaccination needs. In conjunction with this, we also recommend that you check Fit for Travel's website.
When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?
The project has identified a regular time of year when turtles come up to nest on the beach, and another time of year when the baby turtles hatch.
Nesting season typically falls between November and April, and as turtle eggs take seven weeks to hatch, hatching season tends to take place from January until early June. While it is possible to join this project at any time of year, we would suggest that you volunteer between November and June in order to experience either or both of these activities. The most popular time of year to volunteer is between February and April, as this is peak hatching season.
If you volunteer outside of nesting or hatching season, you will still be able to provide care for the injured turtles at the sanctuary, as well as those that are part of the ‘head-starter’ programme. If, however, you are looking to take part in turtle releases between the months of August and December, you may wish to take a look at our Costa Rica Turtle Conservation Experience as an alternative.
You will need to arrive into Colombo International Airport on your project start date between the hours of 9am and 5pm, where you will be met by a project representative and transferred to the project site (roughly three hours’ drive away).
All visitors to Sri Lanka require a visa to enter the country. Short-stay visas of up to 30 days can be obtained online via the Electronic Travel Authority. These can then be extended by up to three months once in Sri Lanka at the Department of Immigration and Emigration. If you will need to extend your visa, it is advisable to contact the Sri Lankan High Commission in your home country at least one month before travel. Please be aware, your passport must be valid for at least six months from your return date otherwise you will not be granted entry.
What's included in the price of the project?
- All meals
- Bottled water
- Airport transfers
- English speaking project coordinator
- A conservation donation
What's not included?
- Travel insurance
- Soft and alcoholic drinks
Covid-19 Travel Requirements
You can use our ‘Covid-19 Travel Requirements’ tool below to see if there are any travel restrictions currently in place for entering Sri Lanka or for your return journey home.
The information provided relates to the current travel requirements and can change at any time.