Conservation Volunteering

Living with Sea Turtles, Sodwana Bay

Head to Sodwana in South Africa to volunteer with sea turtles! Learn about the conservation of these fascinating animals and help spread the importance of turtle protection in local communities.

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£513.00 ⁄ wk

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At present, the sea turtle population is threatened and tragically there is a high chance that this captivating species might become extinct in the future, unless we try to do something about it. Dedicated volunteers are now needed more than ever to monitor and study sea turtles – and this Living with Sea Turtles project in Sodwana on the East Coast of South Africa gives you the chance to get involved and help protect these beautiful animals.

Five of the world’s seven sea turtle species can be encountered in South Africa, with the Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles predominantly nesting in the northern parts of the South African East Coast. Sadly, not only are these turtles still considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, but they also often get caught in fishing gill nets and are affected by pollution caused by human ignorance, meaning that it is crucial that we spread the word about turtle conservation.

On this Living with Sea Turtles conservation project you will be thoroughly educated on the behaviour and protection of South African sea turtles. You will get the amazing opportunity to get up close to sea turtles in an ethical environment, and will learn how to reduce the impact of human behaviour on the lives of the animals in our oceans. This unique volunteering project will also give you the chance to meet people from around the world, and make friends and memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Project details

  • What's included?
  • Dates & duration
  • Eligibility
  • Location
  • Project life
  • Accommodation
  • Flights & Visas
  • Insurance

What's included?

  • Pre-departure information and advice
  • In-country assistance and support
  • 24 hour emergency contacts
  • Accommodation: comfortable volunteer house with electricity
  • Food: breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Options of other additional excursions, see "project life" for further details

What's not included?

  • Flights
  • Insurance
  • Visa (if required)
  • Towels
  • Snorkelling gear (can be obtained locally)
  • Optional scuba diving courses can be booked for an additional fee

Dates and duration

  • This programme is open from October to April
  • You can stay between 1 and 12 weeks (for quotes on longer durations, please contact us)
  • Arrival day is Monday with departure on a Sunday


  • Minimum age 16 years
  • For those travelling between the ages of 16-17, you must abide by the new South African immigration regulations. You can find information on this here
  • Genuine care and consideration for the wellbeing of the animals at the project
  • You are a citizen of a country that is eligible for a visa to enter South Africa


Project life

Since most of the turtle nesting process takes place during the night, a fair amount of your volunteer work will take place during those hours. You will work approximately 8 hours a day, of which 3 – 4 will be spent at night on turtle spottings.

Female turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs after digging an egg chamber. After 60 – 70 days the turtles hatch and the hatchlings remain under the surface until night time when they make their journey from the beach to the ocean.  Sadly, only approximately one in one thousand turtles survives until adulthood, which is why it is essential to research their nesting patterns in order to guarantee their survival. This is accomplished by tagging the female turtles, as when they are in the process of laying their eggs, they are in a trance-like state so they can be measured and tagged without being disturbed.

All tours on this project are supervised by fully-qualified guides, who will make sure that the turtles are not disturbed or harmed. You will only be allowed to approach the turtle once the guide determines it is safe for them. Once it has been determined safe for the turtle, information about the measurements of the turtle, the location of the nest and the number of eggs will be collected to be analysed by a research centre later on. The animals will then be tagged in the event they weren't already.

In addition to turtle spottings, you will also be involved in identifying and tagging fish including marlins in the gorgeous Sodwana Bay. On some days you may be asked to accompany our co-ordinators to a local village, where you will help to educate the local community about the importance of marine and turtle conservation.

You will also have the chance to go snorkelling in Sodwana Bay, where you might be lucky enough to see the beautiful coral and sandstone reefs. Here you will be able to observe various different species of tropical fish and sometimes you might even encounter larger animals like dolphins or whale sharks.

During your free time you will be able to visit wonderful local beaches, discover nearby villages or explore the fascinating area in Sodwana. You will also be able to take scuba diving and surfing courses for an additional fee if you wish to explore the sea life even more.

Accommodation and Food

Throughout the project you will stay in fully air-conditioned houses, with western style beds and bathroom facilities. Bedding is included in the price of the programme and the rooms are properly maintained daily by the local staff.

Wi-Fi is available on the premises as well as a swimming pool.

Three meals a day are included in the price and provided by the staff.

Flights, Transportation & Visas

  • Flights are not included
  • Transfers are conducted to and from Richards Bay airport, which can be reached via plane from Johannesburg
  • You will be collected from the airport
  • A tourist visa is required for Commonwealth, US and European citizens. In this case, you are able to get a tourist visa upon entry
  • 90 day tourist visas are available upon arrival if you are from an eligible country


CIBT Visa advice...

For expert visa advice we advise our volunteer, work placement, and internship participants to get in touch with CIBT - a company that we work in partnership with. Our UK, Canadian, and US travellers can use CIBT for visa advice and to get their visa applications processed - with visas returned within a week.

Canadian citizens should state account number: 57497
US citizens should state account number: 57496

Safety & Insurance

  • All of Twin Work & Volunteer's placements are in partnership with recognised and established local organisations, run by or employing local people. These organisations, depending on the nature of what they do, might be small-scale NGOs, family projects, schools or orphanages, or local initiatives with environmental or social goals.
  • We often use local businesses to provide logistical and support services to volunteers such as transfers, pick-ups, accommodation and so on. In this way, we support the local economy through helping independent local businesses to thrive. We take our partnerships very seriously and work extremely closely with all our partners.
  • We provide 24-hour emergency support from the UK and our partners provide support locally.
  • We have an agreement with the crisis management service Tranquillico, should the very worst situations arise.
  • If any wider safety concerns arise in the destination, such as civil disturbances or natural disasters, we seek advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and implement their recommendations where appropriate.


Insurance options...

Comprehensive insurance is available for all programmes. You have no obligation to take up insurance with any of these companies, but insurance of a suitable sort is mandatory on all our programmes.

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The project is located near Sodwana Bay, which is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in South Africa.

There is a large variety of activities available on and offshore, and the bay is especially famous for diving and sports fishing.

Being considered one of the most breathtakingly beautiful locations for diving in the world, Sodwana Bay is an amazing place to go scuba diving or snorkelling. The water is very clear and on good days you are able to see as far as 30 metres underwater.

There is a vast array of marine flora and fauna for visitors to enjoy. Colourful coral reefs, tropical fish and a diverse variety of other wildlife can be observed in this incredible area.

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