Borneo Sea Turtle Conservation

Volunteer to protect Sea Turtles at the Borneo Sea Turtle Conservation Programme

Do your bit to save turtles and conserve the marine environment by volunteering with this important Sea Turtle Conservation project. Volunteers are needed to help with the conservation efforts through beach patrols, surveying, tagging and releasing turtle hatchlings.

“Words cannot begin to  describe some of the memories I have.”

Stephen, UK

Project Overview

The Project: The Borneo Sea Turtle Conservation Project focuses primarily on protecting and conserving endangered green and hawskbill turtles that nest on the beaches around the project between May and September. Although officially protected by law, turtle eggs can still be sold at markets and poachers often raid known nesting sites at night.

Project Location: The Sea Turtle Conservation centre is located on a small and remote island, 45 minutes by boat from the eastern coast of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. The nearest airport is Tawau whcih has excellent conections to Kuala Lumpur.

Main Volunteer Activities: Volunteers focus sea turtle conservation through beach patrols, surveys and tagging.

Hours: Volunteers six days a week, usually from around 9am to 5pm.

Duration: The turtle nesting season is usually from May to September so volunteer placements are available for these five months each year and last from for 2 to 12 weeks.

Accommodation: Volunteers have individual, private tents with mosquito nets, complete with comfortable airbeds, sheets and real pillows, and electric light & fan. Couples travelling together may share if they wish.

Volunteer Requirements: Volunteers at this project must be aged 18+ and be a confident swimmer.

Volunteer Placement Fee: From UK£795 / US$950

What’s Included

        √  Arranged airport pick up from Tawau airport or your hotel in Semporna.
        √  Accommodation in indivual tents on the beach.
        √  All main meals.

        √  In-country support from the project co-ordinators.
        √  All necessary project equipment and materials.
        √  All necessary project training by experienced staff.      
        √  Project donation.

What’s not included
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Cost of you taxi from the airport approximately MYR25 (£5, US$6)
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Vaccinations and inoculations
  • Meals, drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Onward transport at the end of your placement
  • Personal kit
  • Police or background check (where necessary)
  • Visa costs
How much do everyday items cost?

The official currency of Malaysia (and Malaysian Borneo) is the Ringgit. There are around 5.5 Ringgit to the pound and about 4.35 Ringgit to the US dollar. The cost of living in Malaysia is very low compared to most countries in the developed world. There is little opportunity to spend money on the island itself, but in the nearest "mainland" town of Semporna you can buy a range of goods. The costs of some typical items are:

  • Short journey by taxi - 4 to 6 Ringgit
  • Meal in a local restaurant - 3 to 8 Ringgit
  • Western food such as pizza - 24 Ringgit
  • Small bottle of water - 1.5 Ringgit
  • can of beer - 8 to 10 Ringgit
Project History

This programme was launched in 2011 alongside the Borneo Marine Conservation project with whom the project shares all facilities on the island. The project's aim is to protect the nests of endangered green and hawksbill turtles whose eggs and flesh are considered a delicacy, despite their protected status.

In mating season as many as 40 turtles an hour have been counted in the waters around the project and in the summer the island can be home to up to 120 turtles. The project also work with local authorities to raise awareness of environmental issues and to enforce regulations protecting the turtles.

How the project is helping
Green and Hawksbill turtles are resident in the area surrounding the project, and during nesting season, many come on to the beaches to lay eggs (approximately 300 nests per year). The hatchlings migrate across entire oceans to feeding grounds, and are consequently at risk from many threats, from pollution, to fishing nets, poachers and coastal development.
Nests are easy to spot and a simple target for sea gypsies to come and claim their delicacy. To reduce this, the project patrols the island nightly, and helps to incubate any eggs found. Turtles are tagged, data is collected, and the local species are helped to remain healthy. Surveys are regularly conducted by boat, and occasionally using a small remote controlled drone aircraft.
Why the project need volunteers

The project receives no state funding, but through volunteer support, private donations and grants the Borneo Sea Turtle Conservation project is able to continue its vital work in conserving these beautiful, endangered marine creatures.

Volunteer with Sea Turtles to make a huge difference by helping the project's local staff with their work including turtle surveys, nest protection and the releasing of hatchlings into the sea. The more volunteers there are at the project, the more vital work can be carried out.

Volunteer with Sea Turtles
Typical Volunteer Duties
Volunteers at this project work from about 9am until about 5pm, six days a week. Some of the duties you will be carrying out while at the project include:

• Nightly patrols around the island to check for sea turtle nests.
• Collecting eggs for incubation.
• Tagging sea turtles and collating information.
• Snorkelling at various reefs to record species present.
• Mixing concrete and producing bases for hard and soft coral planting.
• Moving prepared samples to the ocean nursery.
• Transplanting samples from nursery to reef.
• Underwater photography and documentation.

The Snorkelling and Sea Turtle conservation programme only runs from May to September  when the sea turtles are nesting on the islands beaches. Volunteer with Sea Turtles and make a difference for these amazing creatures!

Volunteer Accommodation
The conservation centre is located on a small and remote island, 45 minutes by boat from the eastern coast of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

After collection from the airport in Tawau, you will be taken to the jetty at Semporna, the closest coastal town to the island, where a scenic boat ride will get you to the camp on Pom Pom, which surrounded by deserted white sand beaches, crystal clear water and a panorama of tropical, jungle-clad islands. 

The Sea Turtle Conservation centre is on the beach and volunteers sleep in individual, private tents with mosquito nets, complete with comfortable airbeds, sheets and real pillows, and electric light & fan. Couples who wish to share can be assigned two tents - one with a double mattress and one to store your clothing and other belongings.  The tents are protected from rain by large plastic sheets that also create a large porch area around each tent. 
The volunteer camp has a shower and toilet area along with a dining and communal area. Electricity is available from a generator and all the tents have fans and lighting. Phone and 3g internet is available on the island although this cannot be guaranteed.

Volunteers cook with others on a rota and the project provides food for three meals per day. Vegetarians can be catered for.

NB: There are currently travel warnings in place for Pom Pom island due to some isolated local incidents.
We ask volunteers check the FCO website or their own country's government travel advice before travelling.

Free Time
The island where the project is based offers endless scuba diving and snorkelling. If you really want to kick back and relax after a day’s diving, it is the perfect place to unwind during free time, either on a deserted stretch of beach or in the centre grounds. The centre also hosts regular barbecues on the beach, and there are two dive resorts on the island, where you can go for drinks in the evening. Those expecting a wild night life will be disappointed.
Overnight trips to Semporna on the mainland can be arranged, where volunteers can visit the few bars and restaurants that cater to diving community, dive instructors and backpackers, but again the scene is very low key. In Semporna you can organize dive or snorkel trips to other famous dive sites in the area such as Sipadan and Mabul.

There are some tasty and inexpensive seafood restaurants as well as great Indian food available in the Tamil restaurants. There is also a very well stocked supermarket here for buying up provisions to take back to the island. Internet cafes are found here too.

Weeks £GBP $USD
£795  $950 
£1,025  $1,225 
£1,250  $1,495 
£1,475  $1,770 
6 £1,705  $2,050 
£1,975  $2,380 
8 £2,250  $2,715 
£2,525  $3,055 
10  £2,800  $3,395 
11  £3,075  $3,735 
12 £3,350  $4,080

Volunteer rated at
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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