Volunteering With Sea Turtles – Marine Turtle Rescue Centre

Discover the beautiful Maldives as
a Volunteer at the
ORP Marine Turtle Rescue Centre

Love sea turtles? Always dreamt of visiting the paradise that is Maldives? Here is your chance to make your dream come true and work hands on with these magnificent creatures!

Volunteer with sea turtles at the ORP Marine Turtle Rescue Centre.

Join us for 2, 3 or 4 weeks of volunteering with sea turtles at the ORP Marine Turtle Rescue Centre at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu Resort in Baa Atoll. We promise you an unforgettable experience! You will help our veterinarian care for the turtle patients at the rescue centre, learn lots about sea turtles, marine conservation and marine life in general, and make many new friends – humans as well as reptiles. All this whilst staying on the tropical island of Dhuni Kolhu and exploring the stunning land- and seascapes of Maldives.

Selina and Dr Claire treating a turtle patient.

I fell hopelessly in love with 2 of the patients (Hubi and Disco). To be able to be around them every day, taking care of them and support their progress, until they can get released, was the thing I loved the most about my stay on this project.

Selina, Volunteer 2021

Volunteering with sea turtles and the ORP in the Maldives is open to anybody who would like to experience sea turtle conservation first hand. However, we do ask that volunteers are 18+, able swimmers and have a passion for sea turtles. They must speak English and be willing to do physical work. This volunteering program ideally suits those wanting to learn more about sea turtle medicine and first aid, and to experience what it takes to work with these charismatic animals in the wild. We can accommodate 3 volunteers at the time and the work will be very hands on. To cover the expenses for you stay, we ask for a very reasonable donation to the Olive Ridley Project.

Maldives and Baa Atoll

Aerial shot of Maldives atolls
Aerial view of the Maldives.

The Republic of Maldives is a nation of coral islands situated in the Indian Ocean. The country spans roughly 90,000 square kilometres divided into twenty-six atolls with approximately 1190 islands. It is the smallest Asian country by both land area and population. Maldives is famous for its sandy white beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, beautiful coral reefs and colourful marine life, and is truly magical, both over and under water.

The Marine Turtle Rescue Center is situated on Dhuni Kolhu island in Baa Atoll,  a 30-minute sea plane ride north of Malé, the capital of the Maldives. Baa Atoll consists of 75 islands, only 13 of which are inhabited. 13 additional islands are operated as island resorts. Baa Atoll is rich in biodiversity with plenty of sea turtles, manta rays, hard and soft coral, and a huge variety of reef fish species.

Why volunteer with sea turtles?

Turtle patient Jannicke in her tank. Image.
Turtle patient Jannicke, a flipper amputee.

Sea turtles face many threats to their survival and, as a result, six of the seven species of sea turtles are classified as threatened with extinction by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). One species, the Flatback, is not listed due to insufficient data. Five types of sea turtles can commonly be found in the Indian Ocean.

In the last ten years, more than 950 sea turtles have been reported entangled in ghost gear (abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear) in the Maldives. The majority of these entangled turtles were olive ridleys; however, green, hawksbill and leatherback turtles were also reported.

The Marine Turtle Rescue Centre provides medical treatment to sea turtles found ensnared and injured across the Maldives. As part of our team, you will work with a veterinarian and a full-time intern. You will help rescue and treat injured sea turtles, with the aim to return as many turtles as possible back to the wild.

Why volunteer with the Olive Ridley Project?

The Olive Ridley Project (UK registered charity No. 1165905) was established in 2013 by Dr Martin Stelfox. At the time, he was working as a biologist in the Maldives, where encountered countless numbers of olive ridley sea turtles entangled in ghost gear. Martin was curious to understand why this was happening and where the nets were coming from. He enlisted the help of other biologists and citizen scientist to help answer these questions and the Olive Ridley Project was formed.

The Olive Ridley Project (ORP) later expanded its mission to include protecting sea turtles and their habitats through rescue and rehabilitation, education and outreach, and scientific research. At the core of our work is a passionate and dedicated team of scientists, conservationists, citizen scientists and volunteers. We pride ourselves in being able to collaborate with a wide range of diverse groups in order to reach our goal and fill data gaps in sea turtle conservation.

ORP has continued to grow over the years. We now have bases in Oman, Pakistan and Kenya as well as Maldives – and soon in the Seychelles. Furthermore, the charity is now at the forefront of turtle conservation: We influence local policy makers, fishing communities and collaborate with research institutes.  

The Marine Turtle Rescue Centre

The Marine Turtle Rescue Centre opened in February 2017. It was the first such centre in the Maldives with a full-time veterinarian! Through internship placements we also work with Maldivian nationals, who assist our vet in the daily operations at the centre. Volunteers are essential in the everyday running of our Rescue Centre, and we would therefore very much like to welcome you to our team. It is your contribution that enables our staff to continue to provide medical care for these threatened animals.

What does volunteering with sea turtles and ORP involve?

As a volunteer you will first of all assist staff with all aspects of turtle rescue and rehabilitation, including treating wounds, helping with routine medical exams, observing surgeries, diet preparation, feeding, and tank cleaning and turtles. Take a tour of the Marine Turtle Rescue Centre with our vet.

In addition, volunteers will be helping with data collection during field trips to local reefs and neighbouring islands. This may include taking turtle photos for the Photo-ID program, measuring foraging turtles, and recording sightings information and ghost net measurements.

We might also ask volunteers to contribute to our blog and social media channels, assist with educational tours of the Marine Turtle Rescue Centre for resort guests, education outreach, and night time patrols for nesting turtles and potential nest relocation.

When I wasn’t busy learning new things about turtle medicine, biology, and ecology – I was soaking up one unbelievable experience after another. I will never forget what it felt like to witness a rehabilitated turtle swimming off and fading into the blue during a release.

Brian Anton, Volunteer 2019
Brian and Dr Claire rescuing an entangled turtle.

How much does it cost to volunteer with ORP?

In order to sustain the running of the Marine Turtle Rescue Centre and expand our sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation efforts, we ask for a donation to cover your expenses for volunteering at the Rescue Centre:

2 Weeks: £1,295 per person
3 Weeks: £1,700 per person
4 Weeks: $1,940 per person

Your donation will cover:

  • Return domestic flights from Malé to the Marine Turtle Rescue Centre. (The Rescue Centre is in Baa Atoll and a domestic flight is necessary to get to there. The views are incredible so have your camera ready!)
  • Accommodation for the duration of your stay at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu
  • All meals for the duration of your stay at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu

In addition to covering your costs, your donation will help us fund our internship program for Maldivian nationals, as well as our core charitable objectives, such as expanding our rescue and rehabilitation efforts and further our understanding of sea turtle veterinary care; broaden our research into sea turtles and their conservation; grow our education and outreach programs; and protect sea turtles and they habitats all over the world.

Please note that your donation does not include:

  • International flights to and from Malé
  • Accommodation in Malé, should you require.

Ready for an experience of a life time, volunteering with sea turtles in the Maldives?

Download the ORP Volunteer Information Pack
Click to download the ORP Volunteer Info Pack

Here is what you need to do:

Available Volunteer Dates 2022

ArrivalDepartureDurationSpaces Available
05 January 2022 18 January 20222 Weeks3
05 January 2022 25 January 20223 Weeks3
19 January 202201 February 20222 Weeks2
02 February 202215 February 20222 Weeks3
02 February 202222 February 20223 Weeks3
16 February 202201 March 20222 Weeks2
02 March 202215 March 20222 Weeks3
02 March 202222 February 20223 Weeks3
16 February 202229 March 20222 Weeks3
30 March 202212 April 20222 Weeks1
13 April 202226 April 20222 Weeks3
27 April 202210 May 20222 Weeks1
11 May 202224 May 20222 Weeks3
15 May 202207 June 2022 2 Weeks3
15 May 202214 June 20223 Weeks3
08 June 202221 June 20222 Weeks2
22 June 202205 July 20222 Weeks3
20 July 202202 August 20222 Weeks2
20 July 202209 August 20223 Weeks2
03 August 202216 August 20222 Weeks3
17 August 202230 August 20222 Weeks3
17 August 202206 September 20223 Weeks3
31 August 202213 September 20222 Weeks3
14 September 202227 September 20222 Weeks3
14 September 202204 October 20223 Weeks3
28 September 202211 October 20222 Weeks3
12 October 202225 October 20222 Weeks3
12 October 202201 November 20223 Weeks3
26 October 202208 November 20222 Weeks2
09 November 202222 November 20222 Weeks2
09 November 202229 November 20223 Weeks2
23 November 202206 December 20222 Weeks2
07 December 202220 December 20222 Weeks2