My volunteer experience taking care of sea turtles!

Sea turtles are majestic animals. If you disagree, good bye!

Just kidding, we all don’t have to like sea turtles, but I think we should all appreciate them for their unique features and do our part to prevent their extinction. I decided to choose the sea turtle volunteer project because I’ve never worked with animals before. I also wanted to see as much as the Bali province as I could and experience life on a different island. The sea turtle project is located on the island of Nusa Penida, a 45 minute boat ride from Sanur, Bali. Life is slower on Nusa Penida. There are hardly any tourists on Nusa Penida, which was a nice change of pace from Ubud. But after awhile, I did miss those creature comforts like hot water and having more options of things to do, see, and eat. BUT, the turtle conservation center and the volunteer house was less than five minutes from this breathtaking beach!beach


Every day was a little different for us. We were divided up into different groups where we would be assigned different jobs. Here is a sample schedule of what my day would look like:

6:30am: Wake-up, get ready. Attempt to make a connection with the wifi. Our wifi was TERRIBLE! This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s good to have a digital detox but I felt bad when I wouldn’t be able to contact my family or Justin for days on end to let them know I was okay.

7:30 am: the ladies who worked at the house would shout “BREAKFAST!!” and the volunteers who were up would quickly walk to the kitchen. The appetizing food (like delicious dragonfruit!) would run out if you didn’t get in line fast enough. The flies were also terrible, so getting your food sooner than later would ensure fewer flies would be landing on the buffet line.

A typical breakfast. Lots of fruit and hard boiled eggs!

9:00 am: Start volunteering. Let’s say that on this day, I would start my day cleaning the beach. We would walk up and down the beach and pick up whatever trash we found into buckets. The biggest culprit? PLASTIC! Mostly NesCafe packets or ramen noodle flavoring packets. In two hours, we would fill up five large bags full of trash. On one beach clean-up, I found 2000 rupiahs (15 cents) ! Best day ever. We would also be collecting seaweed and live crabs to put in the turtle tanks for turtle enrichment.

Bags of trash collected from the beach.

11:30 am: We would all be starving. When the cooks yelled, “LUNCHHHH” we would run to the kitchen and fill our plates with rice, veggies, fruit, and maybe a protein if it was a good day.

Typical lunch of fried rice, veggie, and fruit. Look at that beautiful dragonfruit!

12:30 pm: We had three hours of free time until our next work shift. Sometimes we would walk to the market a 1/2 mile down the road and get some snacks or go to the beach. It was really hot this time of day, so I usually spent this time in the shade reading or talking with volunteers. The volunteer house did not have air conditioning.

2:00 pm: Start another shift. On this day, I’m assigned turtle tank cleaning. I actually liked this job the most out of all of the turtle duties. I liked seeing a visible difference in how the tanks would look from start to finish. To clean the tanks, we would put the turtles in buckets filled with water. Then we’d hop in the tank and release the drain. We would use brushes to sweep all the nasty stuff down the drain. Next, we would scrub all the algae built up in the tanks with scrub brushes. Once it was all clean and shiny, we would fill the tanks back up with water and then put the turtles back in their homes. The tanks are fairly large, so it would take about an hour to clean an entire tank. Sometimes I would clean two tanks in two hours. You would smell terrible but it was always nice to put the turtles back into a clean tank.

Hawksbill sea turtles

Other jobs would include cutting and gutting fish, feeding the turtles and applying medicine. Cutting and gutting fish was the worst! Flies and other insects would swarm you as you cut up fish for the turtles. Sometimes blood would squirt on you and you looked like someone who had committed a terrible crime.

4:30 pm: SHOWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Most volunteers had designated “turtle clothes.” Your clothes would smell so fishy that they wouldn’t be worth keeping. I wore the same couple pairs of shorts and shirts when I worked with the turtles, and ended up throwing them away along with a pair of cheap flip flops I bought in Ubud.

5:00 pm: Dinner!

6:00 pm: Depending on the night, we would either hang out at the house and talk/play cards/read, or we would walk 40 minutes to Penida Colada, the closest bar.

10:30 pm: bedtime!

If you are more of a visual person, you can watch this video made by Go Eco about the sea turtle conservation project. Unfortunately we didn’t have any baby sea turtles when I was there, just medium sized turtles. There was also a German volunteer company when I was volunteering who took footage of us working with the turtles. I befriended one of the girls who worked for them, so I’ll share that video once it is out so you can see me in action taking care of the turtles!

Next time, I’ll share some of the special things we got to do as volunteers, like go to Crystal Bay and have Thursday night beach bonfires! I’ll talk about the goals of the turtle conservation center as well.


Also, quick update about my f-unemployment. I’ve applied to about six or seven jobs so far and had an interview. I’m not sure if the job I interviewed for is a good fit or not, but we’ll see if they even call me back for a second interview. I have moments where I question if quitting my job was the right thing to do, but I know it was the best for my mental health. I’m excited about a couple jobs I recently applied to – they could turn into a really unique adventure this spring and/or summer! The hardest part is waiting. Sigh. That said, the hardest part of f-unemployment is keeping myself busy. If anyone has any suggestions of things to do or a new hobby to pick up, send them my way!




2 Replies to “My volunteer experience taking care of sea turtles!”

  1. Hi !! Awesome post !
    I would like to do some conservation work with turtles too 🙂
    Could you let me know how you found this one, how to contact them, and if you know of other “help the turtles” associations ?
    Thanks 😀


    1. Hi Elodie!
      I signed up to volunteer at the Green Lion Bali Turtle Conservation Center with You can go with different third party volunteer companies as well, but this was the most affordable option I could find. I know there are other international opportunities to work with turtles, especially in Costa Rica and Mexico. Not sure of specific orgs but if you google “volunteer with sea turtles” I’m sure you’ll find a lot of great results. Hope this answers your questions. Happy Travel!


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