Rescue & Rehabilitate
Sea Turtles In

Get hands on experience helping to conserve sea turtles

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  • Duration
    2-12 Weeks
  • Minimum age
  • Selected Mondays Every Month
  • From
  • Duration
    2-12 Weeks
  • Minimum age
  • Selected Mondays Every Month
  • From

Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation

If you’re passionate about protecting sea turtles and the oceans they live in, this is the programme for you! Volunteering in the picturesque Watamu National Marine park, this is your chance to get a hands-on and varied experience helping in the conservation of sea turtles and other marine life, alongside a dedicated and knowledgeable team.

Kenya is home to 5 out of the 7 species of sea turtle, with the Green Turtle being most common in Watamu. However due to an increase in tourism and development in the Watamu area, many sea turtles and their nests are at risk. This, along with an increase of poaching, plastic pollution and climate change, has led to these species becoming endangered and the ocean they live in being damaged.

Join other volunteers from around the world in this once in a lifetime experience to assist in important ocean conservation and protect the lives of sea turtles.

Volunteering in Kenya

The local team are doing amazing work supporting injured or displaced sea turtles. The programme is very rewarding and the people there are very welcoming and friendly.

Rachel OrsiSeptember 2023

Background to the conservation programme

There are 5 types of sea turtle that call the Kenyan oceans their home, including the green turtle, hawksbill turtle, loggerhead turtle, olive ridley turtle and the leatherback turtle.

Sea turtles are unique in that they always return to where they were born to nest. However due to the increase in tourism and development in Watamu, many of their nesting places have now been replaced by hotels, resorts and houses. Without a safe place to nest, many sea turtles will lay their eggs in dangerous areas, reducing the survival of hatchlings.

Once hatched, baby sea turtles follow the light of the moon to find the sea, however bright light pollution from these hotels and restaurants often confuse them, meaning they head in the wrong direction and don't make it into the sea - drastically reducing the number of hatchlings that survive.

Other threats that sea turtles face include injuries from plastic pollution, being caught in fishing nets and of course climate change. Some sea turtles are also poached for their shells or to make oil, which is believed to be medicinal.

The local team need your help to rescue, rehabilitate and protect these vulnerable species. You will also help in their mission to monitor and conserve wider marine life through data collection, mangrove restoration, anti-poaching campaigns and education.

This programme will give you an amazing opportunity to work up-close with sea turtles every day whilst also learning more about marine conservation.

Where will I be volunteering?

The conservation programme is based in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, in the small beach town of Watamu. The laid back atmosphere and tropical white sand beaches attract plenty of holiday makers each year. However, over time, the town’s development has come at a cost to the now endangered sea turtles.

In 1997 a group of Watamu residents decided to take action against increasing human-related threats on the marine environment. They were especially concerned about nesting sea turtles who were unable to successfully lay their eggs due to beach developments and risk of poaching.

A year later the organisation set up their Bycatch Release Programme which rescues sea turtles that have accidentally been caught in fishermen’s nets.

Since then the organisation has expanded in different areas of marine conservation including mangrove reforestation, education and community outreach. Due to their hard work and dedication, the team have now rescued over 23,000 sea turtles, planted and monitored over 230,000 mangrove seeds and made a huge impact in the community!

Sea turtles are a great indicator of overall ocean health and the local team use this information to monitor other marine life. Their aim is to sustainably manage the local marine environments, working with the community to protect endangered sea turtles and the ocean.

Volunteering alongside the team, you will spend your time out and about around Watamu, visiting the beautiful beaches, walking through mangroves at the creek and volunteering at the information and rehabilitation centre. 

What is my role?

As a volunteer you will have a hands-on role, assisting in all areas and participating in a variety of day-to-day operations that contribute directly to the local team's conservation efforts. During your time as a volunteer you will be involved with many activities including:

Rescue and releases - Almost every day the team receive rescue calls from local fishermen who have reported sea turtles injured or caught up in their nets. You will help the team assess, weigh, measure, tag and release the rescued turtle into Watamu Marine National Park. Any injured or unwell turtles will be brought back to the clinic for treatment.

Mangrove survey - You will help the team monitor the mangroves in the local area and collect seeds to re-plant. You may also need to help in the on-site mangrove nursery. You will spend your time identifying and learning about mangroves and recording any necessary data.

Beach patrols - Join the team as they patrol the local beaches to identify and record fresh sea turtle tracks and nests and also look for any signs of poaching. All nests are recorded and protected. If you are interested, you can also join the night beach patrols from 11pm - 6am. If you are lucky you may get the chance to witness hatchlings making their way to the sea!

Assisting at the rehabilitation centre - Sick and injured turtles are monitored and nursed back to health at the on-site rehabilitation centre. They are then returned to the ocean - an experience you won’t want to miss! You will need to help feed and care for these turtles, keeping the clinic and tanks clean daily and monitoring their progress. 

Education - To raise awareness in the community the centre often hosts education sessions for local school children. You can help the team give presentations, run activities and give tours of the centre.

Snorkeling - Once or twice a month the team arranges a snorkeling trip to different locations around Watamu to look for signs of poaching. Any findings will be recorded and reported. You can also help collect data using their drone technology.

Beach clean ups - Help reduce the risk of plastic pollution by participating in beach clean ups in the local area. You will also need to help with the organising and recycling of plastic once back at the centre.

Other activities - You’ll also be involved in many other activities that may include; collecting and collating data, beach profiling, collecting sea grass, participating in sustainable fishing, helping with community outreach and more!

What will a typical day look like?

You will be volunteering Monday - Friday from around 9am to 5pm.

Activities will vary from day to day, although start and finish times and breaks are set. Your activity may be interrupted by a rescue as these are priority and can occur any time of day, however these generally occur first thing.

An example of a typical day may look like this:

9AM - Join the team on a rescue in the local area and (if the sea turtle is healthy) release back into the marine park.
10:30AM - Tea break
11:00AM - Help clean the clinic and tanks at the rehabilitation centre
1:00PM - Lunch break
2:00PM - Join the team on a beach patrol
4:00PM - Record any data found on the beach patrol

Volunteering finishes at 5pm. After this time you can relax at the accommodation, take a dip in the pool or explore the local area!

Where will I be staying?

Beautifully decorated with comfortable communal areas and a courtyard pool, the accommodation is the perfect place to relax after a long day volunteering.

The accommodation is based on site and within 5 minutes walk to a stunning white-sand beach. The town centre is within a 10 minute drive, where you can find supermarkets, ATM’s, restaurants and bars.

The town is surrounded by many beautiful beaches and snorkeling spots within a short drive. If you fancy a bit of luxury you can visit the many high end hotels and resorts in the local area for a small fee. Other activities nearby include visiting the local creek or enjoying a sunset boat trip.

Programme considerations

Weekends and free time - You will have every weekend off from volunteering and this is the perfect time to explore everything this beautiful country has to offer. You are more than welcome to simply relax around the accommodation but most volunteers will use this time to travel and see the country. Further down this page you will come across many suggestions and ideas on where you could go.

Weather & fitness - Please note, Watamu has a very hot climate and some of the tasks will require walking 5km or more. It is important to stay hydrated and protected from the sun.