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Great Barrier Reef Turtle Rehabilitation

Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Great Barrier Reef Turtle Rehabilitation
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Rehabilitate Sea Turtles

Project Information

Volunteer Type Volunteer

Cost of Project From $770 AUD

Duration Minimum 1 week

Start Dates Arrival Sunday for a Monday start, all year

Work Roster 5 day roster, Monday to Sunday 7.30am - 5pm

Age Requirement 18 years of age


The Rehabilitation Centre treats injured and sick marine turtles brought in from the Great Barrier Reef and Cape York Peninsula. Animals are brought in suffering from disease, starvation and/or injuries caused by boats, discarded fishing gear or ingested plastic that is mistaken for food. Many of the turtles brought in from the Great Barrier Reef are suffering from 'floaters disease'.

Volunteers and donations from local businesses have kept the centre running. More than 170 sick and injured animals have been brought in for treatment over the past 10 years. Founded in 2000, the centre receives no funding from Government as the rehabilitation of sick and injured animals does not currently come under any conservation or environmental initiative.

Species of turtles in care at the centre include Green, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles.

  • Your Contribution

Volunteers make a huge difference to this project. Since the centre first started over 10 years ago the success rate in rehabilitating sick and injured animals and returning them to the ocean has improved to more than 85%, from 20-30%.

Volunteers contribute by assisting staff in;
*Rehabilitating sick and injured turtles
*Helping to promote humane and sustainable practices through co-operation and education initiatives
*Cleaning turtle tanks
*Feeding rescued turtles
*Reef monitoring research
*Providing assistance when requested, in an effort to rescue turtles in distress

  • A Typical Day

Volunteers take a ferry ride to an island off Cairns where they will spend the morning at the Rehabilitation Centre. Food is prepared, the turtles are fed, tanks are cleaned and some turtles are given a scratch. A turtles shell is covered in a layer of keratin which is like fingernails, so they can feel it when someone touches them, and some of the turtles enjoy a back scratch.

The Education Centre offers a tour each day to visitors to the Island so volunteers prepare this area for their arrival.

In the afternoon, the volunteer may undertake reef monitoring or beach clean-ups on the Great Barrier reef. The remainder of the day is spent at the island enjoying free time until the afternoon ferry arrives to return them to the mainland. Volunteers may have free use of the water sports equipment including paddle boarding, kayaking and trampolining into the deep crystal clear waters of the bay (depending upon availability).

Some volunteers may be offered special projects such as working in the Intensive Care Unit looking after critically sick or injured turtles that have just been rescued, turtle tagging, cleaning beaches of rubbish, ghost nets and debris or research assistance (GPS tracking of turtles that have been released, data analysis).

  • Skills Required

No specific skills are required except a love for turtles and the ability to work in hot, wet and/or humid weather depending upon the season.

  • Challenges

The Rehabilitation Centre is home to midge (or sand) flies. These little biting pests are easily dealt with by spraying your legs with good quality waterproof fly spray or simply covering yourself up by wearing shoes and socks and long sleeves.

  • Accommodation

6 bed female or mixed dorm rooms with an ensuite bathroom at a resort style hostel. Single and other accommodation types may be available upon request. There is free Wi-Fi, swimming pool and common entertainment areas. The hostel also organises regular tours of the area such as rainforest walks, sailing and beach trips. A no accommodation option is also available for volunteers who prefer to book their own accommodation.

  • Meals

For non-accommodation options, meals are not provided.

The hostel accommodation includes breakfast and each room has self-catering kitchen facilities.

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