Best time to go on a turtle conservation vacation


Happily for keen turtle conservation volunteers, there is not just one natural event to look out for – but two. Female turtles will haul their massive bodies ashore at night, dig holes with their back flippers and then lay their eggs. And around six to eight weeks later, tiny, vulnerable hatchlings will emerge, and scramble across the sand towards the sea. Timing your visit in the later half of the nesting season may mean you have the chance to witness both of these life stages – with the opportunity to be hands on at both events; measuring and tagging mothers, and watching over the babies to ensure they are not preyed upon – or lured astray by artificial lights.
On beaches where several species of turtles nest, there may be nesting seasons throughout most of the year as the species come ashore in different months. And hatcheries provide longer term protection for babies – as well as the occasional injured adult – which may mean that placements are available outside of the main nesting period.

Costa Rica

Nesting seasons vary in Costa Rica between the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. July to December are the main months for turtle volunteering along the Pacific coast, but March to May on the Caribbean coast, with the hatchlings emerging from May onwards. Pack waterproof gear whether you visit in the wet season or not – especially if staying on the Caribbean coast, as rain can fall at any time.


Visit the Ghanaian coast from October to March for a chance to encounter giant leatherbacks hauling themselves ashore on these windswept beaches, as well as smaller olive ridley turtles. These are the driest months of the year, with low rainfall and parched air thanks to the sandy harmattan wind, which blows in from the Sahara from mid-November to March.


The Perhentian Islands, off the northeast coast of Malaysia, are a protected slice of paradise, situated within a marine reserve. Turtle conservation vacations take place here from March to October – outside of the November to March monsoons, which bring rough seas and overcast skies. These months are hot and humid – though there are plenty of opportunities to swim and snorkel off the idyllic beaches, as you photograph and monitor the turtles. Night patrols also bring welcome respite from the equatorial sun.
Hawksbill turtles lay their eggs on the beautiful beaches of the Seychelles from September to March peaking in October to January. Green turtles take over in January, and can be seen right through to September – meaning that you can travel here throughout the year. Bear in mind that November to March are the monsoon season, bringing heavy downpours particularly in December and January.

Sri Lanka

Turtle conservation projects in Sri Lanka take place at established hatcheries – meaning that although the main nesting season is from October to April, there is work to be done year round; feeding the turtles, maintaining the enclosures and releasing the hatchlings. This is particularly convenient for families traveling with school-age children, as trips can be planned around school vacations.


November to March are the peak turtle nesting months on Koh Phra Thong, a tranquil Thai island where three species of sea turtles can be found. Outside of these months, there is still plenty of valuable work that can be done – including restoring mangroves, and working closely with the local community and schools to educate them about the importance of conservation.
Anne Smellie, from our leading sea turtle conservation vacation company, Oyster Worldwide, talks about the best time to go on a turtle conservation vacations to Costa Rica:
“The main type of turtle conservation is protecting nesting mother turtles and their hatchlings. There are seasons for that; in Costa Rica on the Pacific coast it’s from July until December. The mother turtles come up the beach at nighttime to nest and the volunteers patrol the beaches looking for mother turtles to be able to get data on them. They tag the turtle, measure the size of the shell, check her health, measure the size of the track, see if she’s come to that beach before – they’re building up a real picture of where mother turtles are nesting."
Photo credits: [Best time to go topbox: Oyster Worldwide] [Costa Rica: Frontierofficial] [Ghana: Vicki Brown] [Malaysia and Seychelles: Gerwin Sturm] [Sri Lanka: dronepicr] [Thailand: Oyster Worldwide]

Written by: Vicki Brown and Catherine Mack
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