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Volunteer for Sea Turtles on Malaysia's Paradise Islands
  • Open March – October
  • Sea Turtle ID | Snorkeling | Beach Patrols
  • 2 | 4 | 6 Week Programs



Volunteer for sea turtles on Malaysia’s paradise islands. Help us protect Green and Loggerhead turtle nesting sites, as well as tracking their movements with snorkel surveys while soaking up the beautiful scenery and culture the Perhentians have to offer.

As well as tourists and locals, the Perhentians host sea turtles, who come to the beaches to nest. You could join hands with researchers and the local government to help conserve these beautiful animals.

This project is split between the village and turtle beach, and volunteers experience both parts. Volunteers in the village will spend their time helping build the turtle image database; by taking images of turtles during snorkel surveys, we can identify individual turtles and map their movements around the islands. This data is vital to the development of an effective management plan for sea turtle conservation. Living and working in the village is a fantastic way to experience true Malaysian hospitality, and volunteers are always warmly welcomed.  Volunteers at Turtle Beach enjoy the rustic beach life; mornings are spent chilling in hammocks, afternoon snorkel surveys, and helping mother sea turtles lay their eggs at night.

If you are looking to do a meaningful sea turtle conservation project in a paradise beach location, then this project is for you.

Pricing for International Volunteers 2018

2 weeks £621
3 weeks £782
4 weeks £863

Pricing for Malaysian Volunteers 2018

1 week MYR 800
2 weeks MYR 1,755
3 weeks MYR 2,210
4 weeks MYR 2,600

Price includes 6% GST Government Tax

International prices are calculated and converted from Malaysian Ringgit so are subject to change.

Turtle Watch

You will help to collect non-invasive photos of nesting sea turtles at beaches around the Perhentian Islands. The photos that you collect will help our researchers to establish nesting patterns of sea turtles in the Perhentian Islands. Additionally, unfortunately poachers still occasionally collect eggs from the beaches around the islands. The government staff travel around the islands but they are sometimes too late and poachers have already taken the eggs. Your role is to guard the beach and when a turtle comes to nest inform the government official who will then collect the eggs and safely protect them in their official hatchery. We established a similar programme at another turtle nesting beach in the islands and just the presence of people on the beaches often deterred poachers from landing on the beach. The initial project with Bubbles is still ongoing, so your presence will ensure more that 2 turtle nesting beaches are protected in the Perhentian islands.

Snorkel Photo ID Sessions

The scutes (scales) on the flippers and the side of a green turtles face are unique to each individual. In collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Cambridge University, UK, we collect photos of the sea turtles on nesting beaches and at sea whilst snorkelling. With each photo we also collect extra data such as location, time, date, male/female etc. We then use the software developed by Cambridge University to identify each photo against a database of previously identified individuals. If new turtles are discovered then you get to name your new turtle. The information that this research gathers is vital for conservation measures as we will be able to identify population numbers of male and female turtles, identify hotspots where conservation efforts need to be focused and also movement patterns of the turtles. The data will then be used by decision makers to design the Marine Park Zonation Plan.

If you would prefer less free time in your program, we are happy to share many of our mini projects with you. So if you want to be involved in these activities which are not included in your program, feel free to speak to us and we can allocate you a mini project for you to complete in your free time whilst at the project. Examples will be making and developing our handicraft products using waste found on the beach such as sea glass, help to improve our awareness campaign or conduct tourist questionnaire and talks at resorts around the islands.


17km off the east coast of Malaysia lie the Perhentian Islands; made up of Perhentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar both boast beautiful white beaches and crystal clear waters. Once used as a stopping point for traders travelling between Malaysia and Bangkok (Perhentian means ‘stopping point’ in Malay) it now hosts tourists who come to relax, snorkel, and dive off the coral reefs surrounding the islands.

Volunteers live in our very own volunteer house in local village Kampung Pasir Hantu on the southeast side of Perhentian Kecil.  We work with local people and businesses as much as we can throughout the project and living in the village is a fantastic way for volunteers to experience local traditions, cuisine, and culture.


Breakfast tends to be simple; bread, banana cake, coffee, tea, peanut butter, jam and whatever else you need. For those feeling like they want to experience a more traditional Malay breakfast, you are more than welcome to venture into the village, peruse the various stalls, and see what takes your fancy!  Paratha bread with curry, coconut rice with some spicy and non-spicy side dishes are just a few examples of what you can find.

Lunch is had at one of the local restaurants. Generally rice or noodles served with chicken, beef, fish, squid, or vegetarian options.

In addition to volunteers taking turns to prepare dinner, once or twice a week volunteers dine with local families in their home, experiencing true, authentic Malay dishes.

Since the Perhentian Turtle Project has been running we have…

Briefed 4726 people on eco-snorkelling practices

Spent 826 hours surveying sea turtles

Sighted 647 turtles

Identified 33 individual turtles (13% male | 53% female | 34% as yet unsexed)

Cleared 371 bags of rubbish from our beaches (over 1500kg!)

Looking to the Future

The Perhentian Turtle Project is constantly looking for ways to move forward; we and the Perhentian Marine Research Centre helped publish our first paper in 2017* and we’re looking to publish many more in the future.

*the paper is freely available to view at (we’re very proud so please check it out!)

1. What are the requirements to join this program?
Volunteers must be over 18 or over 16 with a parental consent form. You will need to have a positive attitude and willing to participate in all volunteer activities. It is also important to respect the local culture and traditions whilst living in the Malay village.

2. How do I get to Perhentian Island from Kuala Lumpur?
Take a plane to Kota Bharu airport, then a 1 hour taxi ride to Kuala Besut Jetty OR take a bus from Hentian Putra, Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut Bus station. From the jetty, take a 30 minute boat ride to the island.

3. What vaccinations do I need before going to the island?
Hepatitis A; Hepatitis B; typhoid; measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); tetanus-diphtheria.

4. How long can I stay in the country for?
Tourists from the following countries will receive a 90 day free tourist visa upon arrival:
Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan , Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherland, Norway, Oman, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Romania, St Marino, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Yemen.

5. I’m not yet 18, what is the minimum age to join?
Good news! If you’re 16 years old you can join this project! However you will need to submit a parental consent form when you apply (18 and over don’t need consent).

6. Is it possible to have our own room?
Volunteers can opt for a double room for an extra charge. This room is not always available so kindly confirm availability with Ecoteer in advance.

7. Is this program suitable for families with young children?
Absolutely! Children do not need to take part in any construction or heavy work but can still experience the life and culture of living in a Malay village. We find that the local children really gain from meeting children from other cultures and backgrounds!

8. Is there internet access?
There is limited internet access on the island but volunteers are able to use the communal internet dongle at the Ecoteer House.

9. How long is the typical volunteer working day?
The volunteering activities run from morning until evening with a lunch break in between. For volunteers staying longer than one week, Sundays are usually free days.

10. I want to do more to help the islands! What else can I get involved in?
There is plenty you can do! We have mini projects that we can allocate you to complete in your free time.  Whether it’s making and developing our handicraft products using waste found on the beach, helping improve our awareness campaigns, or conducting tourist questionnaires and talks at resorts around the islands, there is plenty for you to get stuck into!

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