Volunteer Abroad USA: Hawaii Turtle Conservation
This nature conservation project, based on Maui, the second largest Hawaiian island, is striving to protect the sea and marine animals along the coast. The colourful water paradise around Maui is home to an incredible variety of sea life, especially in the many coral reefs. Many animals frequent the waters around Hawaii, as this marine habitat offers ideal conditions for rearing their young – an indispensable prerequisite for the survival of many species.
A team of experienced biologists is in charge of the project and is involved in caring for and restoring the coral reefs upon which the nearshore reef life depends and which serve as a natural barrier against the waves of the Pacific. Thus, the reefs are of crucial importance to life on Hawaii. Apart from overall conservation of the coral reefs, the team’s work also focuses on sea turtle protection. The extraordinary life history of these animals illustrates how interrelated the ecosystems above and below water are. Although sea turtles spend most of their life in the water, they rely nevertheless on land for their survival.
- Contribute to preserving sea turtles on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui
- Be part of an international volunteer team
- Experience Hawaii’s fascinating flora and fauna from up close
- Discover the picturesque beaches of the volcanic island
- Explore the colourful culture of the “Aloha State”
Turtle protection in Hawaii
As a participant in this project you experience an unforgettable volunteer adventure and contribute to protecting endangered sea turtles in the Hawaiian island paradise of Maui.
Arrival and orientation on Maui
The airport is in Kahului and there are direct flights from most countries. You will be picked up at the airport by a member of the team and taken to the hostel. All transfers during the project take place in the team’s mini-buses and are organized by the team.
Volunteer activities in Hawaii
The Hawaiian Islands are one of the most important nesting areas for many (threatened) turtle species. As a volunteer, you will accompany the team from the first day onward so that you can familiarize yourself with the tasks involved in the project and be trained on data collection methods. Records are made of incidents of coral bleaching or disease, invasive species or individual fish disease by monitoring the coral reefs and these records are then used to gauge reef health, and potential threats to reef health.
The sea turtles’ nesting grounds on the beaches are checked at regular intervals by the team. During the day, the team looks for nesting turtle tracks, and experienced snorkelers can assist with in-water sea turtle snorkel transects. The team also assists with beach and protective fence restoration.
At the basking beach, you assist with green turtle data collection including counts and recording markings for individual identification. To ensure better protection at the nesting beaches, the clutches are marked and counted, and any damage is recorded.
The two highlights of the year are the months when the eggs are laid and – naturally – when they hatch. As both usually happen after dark, some members of the team spend the night on the beach around this time, to watch over events. The freshly hatched turtles leave the nest as night falls to avoid the heat and predators such as crabs, birds or fish. It is estimated that only one in a thousand of the young reach sexual maturity. Sea turtles always return to the beach where they were hatched to lay their eggs and that is why it is particularly important to protect these beaches and enforce rules to guarantee the harmonious coexistence of man and animal.
Accommodation during the conservation project
During the time you spend on the project you will get to know some of the remotest and some of the intensely utilized corners of Maui as you move from one area of the island to another. You will be housed in the Northshore Hostel in the little town of Wailuku/Kahului and the daily excursions with the team will start from there. You will share a three or four bedroom with shared bathroom. Regular meals for your sustenance are included. As the turtle breeding grounds are also monitored at night, you may also have the chance to sleep in a tent on the beach.
Leisure time as a volunteer on Maui
The evenings are usually spent together in the hostel or on the beach, where the events of the day can be mulled over at a casual get-together. We would recommend that you explore Hawaii on your own either before or after your project and travel from island to island. The smallest inhabited island, Ni’ihau, is privately owned and the family prohibits visitors and tourists as far as possible. But the other islands have more than enough to offer: idyllic beaches, awesome cliffs, extinct and active volcanoes, rainforests and the metropolis of Honolulu. Anyone wanting to see Hawaii’s hugest waves – the so-called Jaws or Peahi – might be lucky to see them breaking in winter on the north coast of Maui. Whether or not you are a surfer, this natural phenomenon is well worth seeing.
FAQ – Learn more about this trip
“After a few days in the house there it feels like my new home and I met a lot of nice people from all over the world. It’s a good experience to live and work with them [...].”
“I can highly recommend taking part in this project as a volunteer.”
“I really recommend this programme. Natucate cared for me very well. I felt very comfortable and was sure I’m in good hands. I spent two unforgettable months in Florida.”
“Retrospectively I can say that the three months in California were one of my best experiences in my life and I would nothing do differently.”
Aloha and e komo mai – Welcome to Hawaii! The species-rich chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, which was declared the 50th state of the USA in 1959, welcomes you with endless summers, deep blue sea and fascinating volcanic landscapes. Whether in winter or summer, life in Hawaii takes place outside. On the many islands you have the opportunity to learn to surf, watch whales, hike through the rainforest or climb the summit of the Mauna Loa volcano.
Hawaii combines natural beauty, culture and adventure – you can discover and experience all this during your time as a volunteer on Maui.
Purpose of the conservation project in Hawaii
Far away from the rest of the world, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, lie the idyllic islands of Hawaii. The group of islands is symbolic of life in paradise and names such as Maui or Oahu trigger a longing for freedom, nature and the sea. Hawaii is truly unique. The landscape is marked by volcanoes, an incredibly beautiful coastline and fantastic beaches lapped by the wild waves of the Pacific. Volcanic activity is responsible for a large part of the earth’s surface, but nowhere is this as evident as on the Hawaiian Islands. The islands and the lava substrate beneath the submerged reefs were all formed by a hotspot beneath the Earth’s crust, which gave rise to volcanoes. The second largest island is Maui, where the nature conservation project is based – an absolute water paradise. In the offshore bays and channels is where whales give birth to their young in winter. It is home to many manta rays, dolphins and sea turtles. At first sight, one gets the impression that the Hawaiian islands and their breathtaking endemic nature have so far been spared from the rigors of global environmental change. However – as all over our planet – the impacts of climate change and increasing other human interference in nature, endanger this sensitive ecosystem.
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