Where to go on a turtle conservation vacation
AIDING THE ANCIENT MARINERS
We talk about the cradle of civilisation, but on a turtle conservation vacation you are, literally, immersed in cradle of marine conservation. Helping to preserve some of the planet’s oldest creatures. Because turtles were swimming the oceans and nesting on some of these beaches as far back as dinosaur eras. That is some legacy you are seeking to preserve, whether it is on a family turtle conservation vacation in Costa Rica, on a turtle bedecked beach in Thailand or on an island idyll in the Seychelles. Spots that are so beautiful, no wonder turtles insist on coming back to the same ones every time.
Although Tortuguero is a favourite for sea turtle watching, there are projects in quieter spots around this stunning country. In Pacuare Nature Reserve, monitor leatherbacks nesting in March-April, with hatching starting around May. In the past, 95 percent of turtles were poached, and working with beacons of conservation, such as on Paradise Beach, which has reversed the situation completely, is an honour.
With turtle conservation still hatching in Thailand, remote projects like one on Koh Phra Thong enable you to contribute to essential turtle monitoring and protection and escape tourist crowds, stay in homestays, educate communities and enjoy life on the beach. Not always leisurely, with packed days monitoring and mothering. Never gets tiring when you’re working with turtles though. And in paradise.
There are more than shells to be seen on the seashore here with North Island, in particular, a haven for green and hawksbill sea turtles and giant Aldabra tortoises, endemic to the Aldabra Atoll. With full on conservation projects here that usually require at least a month’s commitment, you get time to really immerse yourself in other projects which include endangered bird and coral monitoring. Phew, life’s a beach.
Turtles aren’t always what come to mind when you think of Australia, but break up a gap year with a week on beautiful beaches near Broome, where you get to nest in the sands, just near the Australian flatback sea turtle that you are there to monitor. Camping is part and parcel of night time conservation patrols which, given breeding season is height of summer, is good for a much needed ocean breeze.
As if Malaysia isn’t beautiful enough, turtle conservation projects happening on the Perhentian islands take you into a whole other natural sphere. In order to see leatherbacks in their breeding grounds here in the South China Sea, you have to kayak to remote coves, sleep in hammocks under the stars, catch and cook fish in the sand, local style, snorkel or dive to spot the turtles at sea. Tough gig.
Turtle conservation vacations advice
ADVICE IF YOU ARE HATCHING PLANS
Anne Smellie, from our leading turtle conservation vacation supplier, Oyster Worldwide gives her tips on planning and booking a turtle conservation vacation:
“In a turtle conservation project, you will be doing something every day, but you’ll also have a full afternoon to relax or explore… You need to be prepared to be hands on because you want to be hands on.”
“You don’t have to commit to a long term placement - We’d ask for a minimum of a week and that can be factored into a two-week trip for vacationmakers that want to do something else the following week – though most people do between two and four weeks.”
“Make sure you’re booking with a company that briefs you thoroughly on all aspects of the trip. If that doesn’t happen you could think you’re booking something completely different to what it actually isn’t and you’ll arrive disillusioned and unhappy, plus the project won’t be happy with you because you will have turned up with all of the wrong expectations. It’s the tour company’s responsibility to make sure you’re prepared, so it’s essential to ask as many questions as you can.”
“Manage your expectations: one night on the turtle project you might see none because there is no rhyme or reason. The next night you might see 20 turtles.”
“You do need a certain level of fitness, and be happy to walk for a few miles. You also need to have an interest in the scientific side of things, or be motivated by the bigger picture of what you’re doing – if you’ve just come out of a long relationship and want to find yourself, just book a diving vacation. You don’t do it for escapism; you do it to fulfil a genuine interest.”
Turtle watching travel advice
TIPS FROM OUR TRAVELLERS
At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.
We have selected some of the most useful turtle conservation vacations travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.
“Be happy and confident enough to be able to enjoy the moments when you are alone with nature. Everything is provided so travel light. Free laundry, three meals a day, your own wooden hut in the jungle village with own bathroom, shower and fan, the clothes you wear etc. Arrive early or stay on late if you want to see the rest of the Seychelles. Leaving and returning to the island during your month’s stay is rather difficult because of ferry times. Be prepared to mix in with the 150 permanent residents and make friends if you want to really get the most from your vacation.” – Linda Vernon in the Seychelles
"Think about what is more important, good weather and fewer turtles or more turtles and bad weather. We went for the latter and it was definitely worth enduring the daily storms for the experience of seeing the baby and adult turtles. There are 3 different things you can do with the turtles: Morning census - which involves getting up at 5am to see if any hatching have come up. We were lucky enough to see quite a few. Excavation - Digging up old nests to see why the eggs didn't hatch. Interesting, but quite nasty at times. Night Patrol - patrolling the beach at night to check for females laying their eggs. We were lucky enough to come across 2 on 2 consecutive nights." - Anna Hulton
“ The location was stunning, remote (so off the tourist route, which we loved) and gave us an feeling of living a little like a local family and we loved being constantly in the outdoors. Our children met & played with the local kids which was incredible and everyone was so welcoming. Don't expect the luxury's of home and know that you will quickly understand and appreciate you can enjoy a pure, happy time without not not much at all.” - Simon Wrench on family volunteering vacation in Costa Rica