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Volunteer for Sea Turtles on Malaysia's Perhentian Islands
  • Open April – September
  • Turtles | Teaching | Conservation
  • 2 | 3 | 4 Week Programmes
  • Prices Start from £681

If you want a previous volunteer’s perspective on this project – feel free to contact Emiel, who will answer any questions you might have!


“I have absolutely loved being here. I adore the staff they are all so caring and supportive, and I have learnt a lot about identifying turtles and eco snorkelling. I am still so excited that I was a part of the project and contributed in my own way. I felt like I was a part of something so much bigger than myself, as well as welcomed and appreciated. Overall I am truly grateful to have experienced this project and am happy to join the Ecoteer family!”

Rita Moreira, Portugal

“It was an awesome experience. The accommodation was amazing, it was just by the sea with a private beach (yes a private beach). Everyone was pretty nice and friendly. The snorkelling was amazing, especially the tours. everyone should give it a try.”


“The Perhentian Turtle Project does work that connects you to a larger cause and leaves an impact for much longer. The team is so resourceful and knowledgeable and you get the best of all tourist attractions while giving back. I had so many unforgettable experiences but night patrols; protecting Green Sea Turtles as they lay their eggs, and then releasing hatchlings, was the most rewarding and heart warming. I will definitely be back to volunteer!”

Anay Gomez, USA

Volunteer with sea turtles on Malaysia’s breathtaking Perhentian islands. Help us protect Green sea turtle nesting sites, as well as identifying and tracking their movements with snorkel surveys whilst soaking up the beautiful scenery and culture the Perhentian’s have to offer.

Taking Turtle Photo ID

This project is split between the Fisherman’s Village and Tiga Ruang nesting beach, and volunteers experience both parts. Volunteers will spend their time helping build the turtle image database; by taking images of turtles during snorkel surveys, individual turtles can be identified and their movements around the islands mapped. This data is vital to the development of an effective management plan for sea turtle conservation. Volunteers will also participate in night patrols, helping mother sea turtles lay their eggs and safely relocate them to a hatchery to protect them from poaching. A typical week on the island looks a little like this.

Living and working in the village is a fantastic way to experience true Malaysian hospitality, and volunteers are always warmly welcomed. 

If you are looking to do a meaningful sea turtle conservation project in a paradise beach location, then this project is for you. Do be sure to meet our resident island turtles here before you go!

2019 Pricing for International Volunteers 

2 weeks RM3,621 (£683/$890)
3 weeks RM4,560 (£860/$1,120)
4 weeks RM5,364 (£1,011/$1,318)

*All prices are based on Malaysian Ringgit (MYR). All international prices are subject to change dependent on the current exchange rate.

2019 Pricing for Malaysian Volunteers

1 week RM1,241
2 weeks RM2,354
3 weeks RM2,964
4 weeks RM3,487

Includes: food, dorm accommodation with shared bathroom, cooking facilities, all volunteer activities, return ferry from Kuala Besut to Perhentian, weekly Malay dinner.

Excludes: travel to and from Kuala Besut, insurance, visa costs, flight fares, food/activities not included in the project.

For an extra RM130 per night, volunteers can opt for an ensuite private room with air-con. The room sleeps up to 2 people with 1 double bed. This room is not always available so kindly confirm availability with Ecoteer in advance by contacting us directly.

Every Monday from 1st April until Sunday 23rd September

All Arrivals are on a Monday, departures are on a Sunday

You’ll be able to select the exact starting date at the time of booking on our booking form.

Night Patrols

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 establish nesting patterns of sea turtles on the Islands. Unfortunately poachers still occasionally collect eggs from the beaches on Perhentian. The government staff travel around the islands but they are sometimes too late. 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 have found that just the presence of people often deterred poachers from landing on the beach. Your presence will ensure more that 2 turtle nesting beaches are protected in the Perhentian Islands.

Swimming with Turtle Polly

Snorkel Photo ID Sessions

The scutes (scales) on the flippers and the side of a green turtle’s face are unique to each individual. In collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Cambridge University, UK, we collect photos and other important data of the sea turtles on nesting beaches and at sea whilst snorkelling. We then use software developed by Cambridge University to identify each photo against a database of previously categorised 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, locate hotspots where conservation efforts need to be focused and also determine turtle movement patterns. The data will then be used by decision makers to design the Marine Park Zonation Plan.


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.

Tiga Ruang – Nesting Beach

Volunteers live in our very own volunteer house in local village Kampung Pasir Hantu on the southeast side of Perhentian Kecil. Check out our accomodation playlist on our YouTube channel to find out more. 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.


Food is an important part of Malaysian culture, as you will soon find out!

Breakfast tends to be simple; for instance bread with peanut butter or jam, banana cake, and coffee, or tea. For those feeling like they want to experience a more traditional Malay breakfast, you are more than welcome to venture into the village, and see what takes your fancy. Paratha bread with curry and coconut rice is highly recommended!

Malay Dinner with Volunteers

Lunch is usually had at the house. Feel free to use our weekly shopping supplies to create a tasty meal for yourself. Or if we are not home, a yummy packed lunch is prepared by a local restaurant. Generally rice or noodles served with chicken, beef, fish, squid, or a vegetarian option.

Volunteers take turns to prepare dinner once a week and all pitch in to clear up afterwards. Our volunteers come from around the world, so this is a great opportunities to sample cuisine from different countries and eat all together. In addition to the self prepared dinners, once a week volunteers dine with local families in their home, experiencing true, authentic Malay dishes and customs.

Staying in the turtle house means everyone has to join in with the cleaning and cooking schedule to keep the accommodation nice and tidy… and filled with yummy food!

Since the Perhentian Turtle Project has been running we have…

Briefed 4,276 people on eco-snorkelling practices

Spent 882 hours surveying sea turtles

Sighted 1,533 turtles in total

Beach Clean Up

Recorded 131 individual turtle sightings (13% male | 53% female | 34% as yet unsexed)

Identified & protected 142 nests

Saved over 40,000 turtle hatchlings in 2017 alone

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

Introduced an ‘adopt and name a turtle’ programme to help categorise turtle sightings and continue educating tourists about both the project and turtle conservation.

Together with our other projects, Ecoteer have…

Generated RM 1,500,000 for villagers and local businesses

Raised RM 189k for local transportation

Looking to the Future

The Perhentian Turtle Project is constantly looking for ways to move forward; Together with the Marine Research Centre we published our first research paper in 2017* and are looking to publish many more in the future.

Unfortunately both the turtles and their marine environment are being threatened by an increase in tourism. Tourists visiting the island get most of their information from the boat guides; therefore it is vital to form long lasting relationships with them. This ensures that they are informing tourists of eco snorkelling practises to protect the turtles and other marine life. In the future the turtle team are hoping to lead a greater focus on this aspect of conservation.

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

Painting the Turtle House

4 Easy Steps to Book Your Turtle Adventure:

1) Contact us here with your initial inquiry – tell us about yourself and the project you would like to join.

2) You will receive an e-mail with more information and the application form to complete and send back.

3) On receipt of your application we will confirm your reservation and inform you how to make your deposit payment. Your reservation will be held for 2 weeks, after which it will be cancelled automatically if no deposit is received.

4) Full payment is required no later than 1 month before departure. You may pay online by credit card or a direct transfer to our account.

Please allow a minimum of 3 weeks for us to process your application and payment.

It’s that Simple!! Once your deposit has been paid you will receive our ‘Know before you go’ guide, which is packed full of useful information about your project and general tips to prepare you for volunteering.

1. What are the requirements to join this program?
Volunteers must be over 18. You will need to have a positive attitude, participate in all volunteer activities and respect the local village culture and traditions. It is also required to help out with any house chores.

2. Do I need any turtle or conservation experience/knowledge?
No experience is necessary, just an enthusiasm for turtles and conserving their island environment. Our friendly staff will teach you all the necessary techniques and tell you everything you need to know about turtle conservation!

3. 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.

4. Is this program suitable for families with young children?
Unfortunately this project is only suitable for individuals over the age of 18. However, our Perhentian Eco-Education project is a great family friendly alternative!

5. 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. The WiFi is usually quite weak, so it is recommended to purchase an affordable local sim if needed.

6. 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.

7. Is it possible to have our own room?
Volunteers can opt for a double room with air-con for an extra charge of RM150 per night. This room is not always available so kindly confirm availability with Ecoteer in advance by contacting us directly.

8. 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!

9. What if I want to volunteer at more than one project?
Good news, you now can! We offer two amazing combination volunteer trips, which involve spending 2 or 3 weeks in total, volunteering both in the amazing Teman Negara rainforest of Merapoh, and on the paradise Perhentian Islands. A perfect compromise if you want a broader taste of what Malaysia has to offer.

If the Perhentian Turtle Project takes your fancy in particular, check out our popular Jungle & Turtle combo trip.

10. I have some specific questions about the project.
We are happy to answer any questions you may have by email.
Alternatively you can contact our past volunteer Emiel who will happily tell you more about his 2 weeks experience volunteering.

For Qs related to insurance, visas, vaccinations or payment check out the General FAQs page and for more specific payment Qs have a look at the Terms & Conditions page
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