Best time to go on a turtle conservation vacation
TURTLE NESTING & HATCHING SEASONS
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.
Nesting season in the Peloponnese is from mid May-mid August, with babies hatching from mid July-end of October. Trips in July and August, therefore, can allow you to see both sides of the process. However, June and September are also popular months as you'll avoid the worst of the summer heat, as well as the coastal crowds and peak prices on flights. Unusually, volunteering vacations in Greece also work with rescued adult sea turtles which are sick or injured. This means these trips are more hands on than most, as you need to clean and feed the poorly turtles.
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.
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.