Sea turtle rescue is a well-established initiative all around the globe. Sea turtles have been around for millions of years and are one of the most primitive groups of reptiles on earth still living. Over the past 200 years, however, human activities have started putting their lives in danger. Turtles are slaughtered for their eggs, meat, skin, and shells. They suffer from poaching and over-exploitation.
They’re also fighting against habitat destruction and are subject to bycatch of large fishing boats. Climate change also has an impact on their continuation because of the way it alters sand temperatures and causes mutations in hatchlings. Most turtle species are endangered at this point, with 3 of 7 existing species being critically endangered.
Looking to take on a great adventure of saving sea turtles but don’t know where to start? Take a look at our list of the top 10 sea turtle rescue projects from around the world.
10 Incredible Sea Turtle Rescues Around The World
These organizations are stationed around the world and work to preserve the lives of sea turtles. The teams behind each of these initiatives invite people to join their mission. They are passionate about protecting not just the turtles, but the wildlife they are a part of. Keep reading to find one that calls out to you and see how you can get involved!
1. Maldivian Sea Turtle Conservation Programme (MSTCP)
Five of the seven species of sea turtles can be found in the Maldives. The two most common are the Hawksbill and the Green Leatherback. This government-endorsed program is not just focused on the protection of turtle nests. They also work to rehabilitate injured turtles and improve photo-identification techniques.
This is considered a top 10 volunteer abroad program for what it offers. During this experience, you’ll get hands-on experience rescuing sea turtles with marine biologists and on-site veterinarians. You will get exposure to up-close ethical wildlife interactions and tasks and immerse yourself in life on a tropical island. Surrounded by earth’s most beautiful waters, this is an incredible opportunity for personal growth.
2. Sri Lanka – Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation
If you’re looking to help an effort of saving sea turtles while walking the paths of Buddhist pilgrims and swimming in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, this may be the perfect sea turtle adventure for you. As a volunteer with this program, you’ll work in Ambalangoda, a beautiful town on the ocean where one of the main industries is fishing.
Sadly, sea turtles often become caught in nets by fishermen and lose their limbs. Once disabled, these turtles cannot live in the wild, so many Sri Lankans rescue them and move them to the project site. Here, they are cared for and rehabilitated.
Part of this volunteer organization is having the opportunity to participate in beach clean-ups. You’ll contribute directly to the conservation of life on the shore, get firsthand experience of ethical wildlife interactions, and engage with the local community to raise awareness for marine conservation.
One of the best parts about volunteer opportunities like these is that sea turtle rescue is not the only thing you will do! You have plenty of free time to o absorb everything around you. While you are helping support this environmental cause, this is also a spectacular time for personal growth and self-inquiry.
3. Cozumel Marine Turtle Salvation Program
Cozumel plays host to thousands of sea turtles coming ashore to nest each year. During the nights of mid-May through mid-November, two species of sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. The bays and reefs of the Cozumel area are foraging areas. Sea turtles such as Hawksbills and Giant Leatherbacks have been seen swimming offshore.
Fortunately, Cozumel has the support of local police and armed forces to limit activity on the beaches where the turtles nest. Biologists, interns, and volunteers are pretty much the only people walking along these beaches.
4. The Barbados Sea Turtle Project
The Barbados Sea Turtle Project is based at the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill Campus). For over 25 years, they have been involved in the conservation of endangered marine turtle species. Their main areas of focus are research, education, and public outreach.
As a part of this program, sea turtle rescue volunteers receive extensive training. They learn how to safely interact with turtles, collect data, and identify turtle activity… The group is a mix of local and international volunteers, so you will have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.
This project wouldn’t be successful without the help of passionate volunteers. Their dedication to helping the cause of preserving sea turtles’ livelihood is what makes sure they persist through time.
They accept volunteers between May and November each year, usually for periods of 2-4 months.
5. Borneo Marine and Sea Turtle Conservation
The Borneo Marine and Sea Turtle Conservation has a mission to protect sea life for generations to come. Part of their work is geared toward regenerating the reefs around Semporna in the Celebes Sea.
The area surrounding Pom Pom Island is home to Green and Hawksbill turtles. Many come onto the beaches to lay their eggs. The hatchlings migrate across oceans and oceans to feeding grounds. During their migration, the turtles are at risk of threats like pollution, fishing nets, poachers, and coastal development, and while the eggs are unhatched, they are vulnerable to being stolen by poachers and then sold in local markets.
This conservation program patrols the island nightly and helps to incubate any eggs found. The turtles are tagged and data is collected, which helps support the health of the turtles as a species. They even help take surveys by drone.
The Borneo Marine and Sea Turtle Conservation isn’t only about the sea turtles. They are also driven toward protecting sharks and other marine life!
6. South Carolina Sea Turtle Rescue Program
The South Carolina Sea Turtle Rescue Program focuses on helping injured sea turtles. When a sea turtle is found stranded or injured, SCDNR brings the animal to the Sea Turtle Hospital for treatment. Most turtles arrive at the hospital after suffering from bacterial or fungal infections. These turtles may also suffer exposure to extremely cold temperatures and injury from a boat strike or shark bite.
As part of this year-long program, volunteers receive many benefits. This includes membership to the aquarium, ongoing educational opportunities, and access to behind-the-scenes operations.
7. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund
This wildlife conservation organization is dedicated not only to sea turtle rescue, but to the protection of Hawai’i’s native species and habitats. Part of how they do this is by providing environmental education opportunities to their community and visitors. Their mission focuses on coastal and marine wildlife, including the hawksbill sea turtle and the Hawaiian green sea turtle. They also make efforts toward protecting fish, birds, and plants.
There are volunteer opportunities and internships, or you can donate or adopt through the Hawai’i Wildlife Fund. There are many ways to help the wildlife in Hawai’i thrive.
8. Ningaloo Turtle Program, Exmouth Australia
Ningaloo is a gem on the crown of Western Australia and is the continent’s largest fringing reef. In 2011, it became a part of the World Heritage List for its outstanding value of coral species and marine biodiversity. It’s an important refuge for ensuring vulnerable marine species are protected.
The Ningaloo Turtle Program in Exmouth Australia works to identify key nesting beaches, monitor populations and assess trends at key index sites. They work to identify the level of threat on nests, educate visitors and the community, and generate support for the program.
Sea turtle rescue volunteers spend about 5 hours a day collecting data on beaches. They also have the opportunity to explore the Ningaloo coast and travel inland to the gorges. As a volunteer, you’ll partake in volunteer social activities, and become a part of the laidback lifestyle at Exmouth township.
9. Sea Turtle Foundation, Australia
Sea Turtle Foundation is involved in several research projects to improve understanding of the sea turtle life cycle. They believe that the greater our knowledge of the sea turtle life cycle, the better able we will be to reduce threats and implement effective management strategies.
Specifically, STF works to rescue stranded turtles in North Queensland and trains others to respond to strandings. Their work extends throughout the Indo-Pacific.
This organization provides educational programs for schools and communities and supports research into turtle health and ecology.
What started as an effort to fill research gaps and develop strategies to reduce threats to sea turtles grew into a national and international organization.
10. Canadian Sea Turtle Network
The Canadian Sea Turtle Network is a charitable organization of scientists, commercial fishermen, and coastal community members. These people are dedicated to preserving the lives of endangered sea turtles in Canadian waters and worldwide.
As a part of their sea turtle rescue volunteer program, you’ll help look for stranded sea turtles on the beaches of Atlantic Canada, count jellyfish, and teach the community about sea turtles and the Canadian Sea Turtle Centre.
This volunteer program attracts locals as well as people far outside of Canada.
Top 5 Places to Help the Sea Turtles in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a haven and sea turtle sanctuary and so, it’s one of the most popular places around the world to volunteer with these amazing reptiles. Here are an additional 5 organizations you can look into to volunteer within Costa Rica, just in case you want to squeeze in some sea turtle time on your way to or from Blue Osa Yoga Retreat + Spa. Becoming a Costa Rica turtle volunteer for a few days or weeks is a wonderful activity for all ages to experience the amazing wildlife of Costa Rica while also helping save the sea turtles and preserve the wonders of the country for future generations.
1. Osa Conservation
If you’re a nature lover and passionate about conservation, this is the place for you. We love visiting the Piro Research station, about a 25-minute drive from Blue Osa, to help out in the newly built hatchery. Witnessing the baby Olive Ridley sea turtles safely walk back to the ocean never gets old.
The Osa Conservation’s mission is to conserve the terrestrial and marine biological diversity of the Osa Peninsula. The vision is to instill ecosystem stewardship into the community, educate, and offer sustainable economic opportunities.
2. Caño Palma Biological Station
COTERC proudly offers a unique opportunity to live and work in the Cano Palma Biological Station in the northeastern part of Costa Rica, home to some of the most bio-diverse regions of Latin America and nestled within a network of protected areas.
At Caño, you can expect reasonably priced sea turtle rescue volunteer packages that include training, rustic housing, three meals a day, wi-fi, and the use of Kayaks and Jungle Trails. As a volunteer, you’ll work with trained staff on biological monitoring surveys and community-based conservation programs, and experience the cultural diversity around Cano Palma.
Caño Palma Biological Station is situated approximately 8 kilometers north of the village of Tortuguero on Costa Rica’s northeastern coast.
3. Corcovado Foundation
Located in the community of El Progreso, Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula, The Corcovado Foundation was created by concerned neighbors of Corcovado National Park. Their mission is to lead the fight to stop illegal hunting and losing in Costa Rica.
The Corcovado Foundation’s mission is to protect Costa Rica’s natural heritage for generations to come. Their efforts are geared toward promoting education and community empowerment, strengthening protected wildlife areas, and supporting tourism. They are a leading nonprofit in Costa Rica, working with people to protect the natural resources and biodiversity of untouched nature. With a local focus, their impact is global.
You can participate in their various conservation programs including night patrols, relocation of nests to the hatchery, recording scientific data, tagging sea turtles, and looking after the hatchery.
4. Reserva Playa Tortuga
Playa Tortuga beach is an Olive Ridley nesting beach although other species may occasionally arrive. The nesting period extends from July to December, with the peak of nesting in September and October.
Reserva Playa Tortuga’s mission is to strategically ally with government and non-government organizations to work toward the conservation of natural resources. Their mission is executed locally, nationally, and internationally.
This group is passionate about how proper education and enablement of local populations to live in environmentally sustainable ways help preserve the land’s natural state. It isn’t only about preserving, but rehabilitating the land, too. An intact coastal zone protects the Osa’s wealth of biodiversity and supports the facilitation of sustainable development for the immediate populations from Cortes to Dominical.
As a Playa Tortuga volunteer, you’ll have the chance to learn about the biology of sea turtles, especially the Olive Ridley, and sea turtle rescue. Find out how you can get involved at Reserva Playa Tortuga in Costa Rica.
5. Ecology Project International
Ecology Project International was founded as a nonprofit in 2001. The goal of this organization s to create positive long-term environmental impact through science education, conservation initiatives, and engagement with local communities. So much power lies in the youth of our world. A large part of EPI’s mission is to empower young people to be conservation leaders, educating them in sustainability science.
If you’re someone who enjoys science, adventure, and the great outdoors, EPI’s academic programs may be for you. Different programs are designed for middle schoolers, high schoolers, and people looking for professional development opportunities. Come curious and open-minded!
Find out how you can work in one of the world’s most important nesting sites for Leatherback Sea Turtles here.
Common questions about sea turtle rescue in Costa Rica
If you’re interested in becoming involved in sea turtle rescues, you may have some outstanding questions…
What month do turtles hatch in Costa Rica?
Typically, hatching occurs from April through December.
Where can I see turtle hatching in Costa Rica?
You can see turtle hatchings pretty much all around the country. Guanacaste and the North Pacific, the Nicoya Peninsula, Central Pacific, Osa Peninsula and South Pacific, the North Caribbean, and South Caribbean are each home to important nesting grounds for sea turtles. There are even tours designed specifically for sea turtle sightings!
What beach in Costa Rica has turtles?
Turtles nest on beaches all across the country. There is a National Park in the Guanacaste region called Santa Rosa National Park, which has two main nesting beaches, Nancite and Naranjo.
Las Baula National Marine Park, just north of Tamarindo Beach, is named for the leatherback sea turtles. The endangered leatherback turtles gather on Grande Beach to nest, so this beach is carefully regulated. Guided tours are available here for anyone curious about these ocean warriors’ journey from land to sea.
There is a large network of missions across the globe to volunteer with sea turtle rescue and research teams, and many just inside Costa Rica!
Wherever you choose to go, you will be offering your help to an incredible cause, bound to find adventure!