The Great Turtle Project

Traveller rating:   (39 reviews)

Join The Great Turtle Project in Sri Lanka as a volunteer, and help make an impact on the conservation of the country's beautiful sea turtles

The overall aim of this turtle project is to monitor sea turtle activity and conserve the local nesting sites in the Kosgoda region of Sri Lanka. Conservation activities here are carried out by a team of dedicated local staff and international volunteers and it has been hugely successful since it first began back in 1988.

One of the most important activities undertaken by volunteers, is the maintenance of the hatchery. Within the sanctuary, collected and rescued eggs can hatch safely away from predators in the haven of the specially constructed hatchery, before being released into the sea at night. A small number of turtles from each hatching group are kept at the sanctuary to join the ‘head-starter’ programme which hopes to increase the survival rate of turtles released into the ocean, whilst at the same time providing educational opportunities to locals and visitors.

Sadly, due to the natural threats they face, very few turtles survive through to adulthood, and as turtles are only able to reproduce from the age of around 25, this understandably poses an issue for the rate of turtle reproduction. For this exact reason, every nesting site, every egg, every hatchling and every turtle is crucial to the survival of the species, and maximising survival is what the staff and volunteers at the project strive to achieve!

The success of this project relies upon the involvement of truly dedicated people, and you, like every volunteer or member of staff, can help play an integral role here.

The overall aim of this turtle project is to monitor sea turtle activity and conserve the local nesting sites in the Kosgoda region of Sri Lanka. Conservation activities here are carried out by a team of dedicated local staff and international volunteers and it has been hugely successful since it first began back in 1988.

One of the most important activities undertaken by volunteers, is the maintenance of the hatchery. Within the sanctuary, collected and rescued eggs can hatch safely away from predators in the haven of the specially constructed hatchery, before being released into the sea at night. A small number of turtles from each hatching group are kept at the sanctuary to join the ‘head-starter’ programme which hopes to increase the survival rate of turtles released into the ocean, whilst at the same time providing educational opportunities to locals and visitors.

Sadly, due to the natural threats they face, very few turtles survive through to adulthood, and as turtles are only able to reproduce from the age of around 25, this understandably poses an issue for the rate of turtle reproduction. For this exact reason, every nesting site, every egg, every hatchling and every turtle is crucial to the survival of the species, and maximising survival is what the staff and volunteers at the project strive to achieve!

The success of this project relies upon the involvement of truly dedicated people, and you, like every volunteer or member of staff, can help play an integral role here.

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:

Turtle Care
Turtle Care
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.
Turtle Release
Turtle Release
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
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.
Tank Cleaning
Tank Cleaning
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
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.
Beach Clean-Ups
Beach Clean-Ups
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.
Sanctuary Tours
Sanctuary Tours
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.
Teaching English
Teaching English
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.

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!

Duration Price
Please choose a trip using the select menus to the left.
Price:


Accommodation

During your time on the project, you will stay in a designated volunteer house situated next door to the turtle sanctuary and the beach. 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.

Meals & Beverages

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. Dietary requirements can be catered for, but please let us know in advance of your arrival.

When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?

The best time to volunteer is during turtle season which runs from November to early June.

Nesting season typically falls between November and April, and as turtle eggs take seven weeks to hatch, hatching season is typically from January until early June. While it is possible to join this project at any time of year, we recommend volunteering between November and June in order to experience either or both of these activities.

The most popular time of year to volunteer is between January and April, as this is peak hatching season and also nesting season which offers the opportunity to see both nesting and hatching turtles.

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.

Getting There

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).

Visa Requirements

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.

Fitness & Skills

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!

Vaccinations

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.

{{ review.author.full_name }}, {{ review.year }}
 

{{ review.review }}



Download Project Guide Image Download Project Guide

What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • Three meals per day
  • Airport transfers
  • Bottled water
  • Wi-Fi
  • A conservation donation

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Soft and alcoholic drinks
Where you can go
Contact Info
UK Office
The Great Traveller Ltd,
3 Dairy Yard
Star Street
Ware, Hertfordshire
SG12 7DX
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
   Mon-Fri 8:30am–5:30pm
   Sat 10am-4pm

T: +44(0) 208 885 4987