Saving Sea Turtles in Borneo

Travel to Borneo and participate with a turtle nesting and land coral reef conservation project. The dual focus of this project is to renovate the coral reefs that have been badly damaged due to 45 years of fish bombing and to help protect the endangered Green and Hawksbill Turtles. The turtles come to the island from May to September to nest.

Working on this Island Coral Reef Conservation and Turtle Nesting project will help to increase the number of pelagic fish in the area. This is done through fish aggregating devices such as recycled water bottles, netlon, canvas and treated concrete structures and monitoring their success. As the fish are attracted to elements underwater that they can hide behind, you will be working to find the best solution in the area and to help implement the underwater planting of these devices.

The project conducts turtle surveys by boat and by snorkel during the day. At night time, members of the project team and volunteers monitor nesting to minimise poaching. The turtle nesting beach patrols are very important and start at 7-8pm and sometimes do not finish until 3 or 4 am. The majority of the turtles nest within 200m of the project base but the whole island has to be searched at least twice every evening. The island has about 300 nests each year and is a very significant nesting site for Green Turtles in SE Asia. Hawksbill turtles also nest but in much smaller numbers.

The project has recently started an aerial survey of the lagoons of 3 islands to get a more accurate count of all the turtles on a regular basis. All the activities are contributing towards protecting the habitats and lives of the turtle population and other marine wildlife.

*CHILDREN WITH GUARDIANS WELCOME*. Must be 18 years old otherwise.

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What to Expect?

As a volunteer on Turtle Nesting and Island Coral Reef Conservation project depending on the time of year that you volunteer, activities in which you may be involved are:

- beach patrols for nesting turtles (March to October)

- protection of eggs (March to October)

- maintenance of hatchery (year-round)

- release of hatchlings (May to December)

- turtle surveys (year-round)

- coral planting (year-round)

- beach cleanup (year-round)

The project has a limited number of non diving positions for volunteers who want to work with turtles. These positions are subsidised. In exchange the volunteers are expected to guide tourists around the island to see nesting turtles and to explain turtle biology and the reasons for the surveys to the visitors. Please note turtle nesting season is May- Sept and there is little nesting or hatching activity outside of this time.

You will be based on a beautiful island in the Celebes Sea in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. It is approximately one hour by speed boat from Semporna, on the mainland, across perfect turquoise waters. The island itself has stunning white sandy beaches, gentle waters and shallow reefs and is a gateway to the underwater world of the coral triangle as there is easy access to 10 other islands in the area. Semporna, on the mainland, is the nearest town and, although the night life is fairly limited, there are several bars and restaurants where you can enjoy Chinese, Malaysian and Indian cuisine in the street cafes and restaurants.

Skills Required

A dive qualification is not required for this project. You must be able to swim and feel happy snorkelling. Cooking skills (or a willingness to try) will be useful as you are required to assist with mealtime duties during your stay. As you work and live closely together a positive outlook is also needed.

Sunday’s will be yours to spend as you please! Saturday does tend to be a celebration of the working week in the evening, with a few drinks in a local bar on the island to catch up with everyone. On Sunday, lots of volunteers like to head to the beach to relax, read books, go for beach walks (you can cover the island in only 40 minutes), snorkel or swim at leisure. There is also the option to head into Semporna, on the mainland. It is a one hour’s boat ride away. It is a great opportunity to spend time online chatting to friends back home and sharing your experiences.

Alternatively, you can buy supplies that you need or enjoy either Indian, Malaysian or Chinese food in one of the restaurants. This trip can be arranged when you are on the island and will be dependent on how many volunteers are looking to make the trip, and when the boat will return.

What is included

- Accommodation: Shared tent with access to kitchen and bathroom facilities on an pristine beach

- Food: 3 meals per day – breakfast, lunch and dinner (some meals are cooked by volunteers)

- Airport pick up and drop off from Tawau Airport

- Transport to the island from Semporna when you arrive and transport back to Semporna at the end of your project

- Training: Orientation and project induction provided

- Support: 24-hour support

- Regular phone or internet contact with friends or family

- Free wi-fi (shared access)

- Excursion Planning: Staff help organise extra dive courses and additional excursions


  • Program ID: # 2506
  • duration:
    2 Weeks to 1 Month
  • location:
    4° 35' 3.3828" N, 118° 47' 1.3164" E
  • Fitness level:
    Light Impact
  • Closest Airport:
    Tawau (TWU)
  • Costs From:
    $1000 to $1500
    $1500 to $3000
  • Program Type:
    Environmental & Wildlife Programs
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