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The project is on the locally inhabited island of Naifaru, which sits within the Lhaviyani Atoll in the north of the Maldives. As the fifth most populous island in the Maldives, Naifaru boasts a lively community and offers a fantastic opportunity to meet new people. Most of the approximately 6000 inhabitants are Maldivian, however Naifaru is also home to several immigrant workers from countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The island has many intricate streets lined with shops selling everything from ice creams to tailoring services, and there are several restaurants serving both local and western delicacies. Take the time to immerse yourself in the vibrant, friendly community and kick back and relax on the island’s beautiful beaches.
In the Maldives, we are lucky to be surrounded by an abundance of tropical marine life, including five species of sea turtle. Unfortunately, because of threats such as habitat loss, poaching, the illegal pet trade, and injury from ghost net entanglement, most sea turtle species are now endangered.
As part of a local NGO, the Marine Centre works to combat this by rescuing, rehabilitating and ultimately releasing sea turtles back into the wild where they belong (predominantly the green sea turtle and olive ridley sea turtle). Most of the green turtles arrive at the center after being kept illegally as pets, whereas the team rescues most of the olive ridleys after being caught in discarded fishing gear.
As a volunteer, you will be an integral part of our team, working alongside our Marine Biologists to gain practical turtle husbandry skills from cleaning and feeding, to assisting with administrating medical treatment. There is an on-site veterinarian that volunteers work with on most days at the marine center (as well as the marine biologist).
We have also introduced a coral gardening project which includes collecting corals of opportunity (naturally broken off from the reef) and attaching them to coral trees or frames in our nursery. The coral project also requires monitoring and maintenance tasks like cleaning frames, checking the health of the coral, removing competing species, and measuring growth.
This program is perfect for budding conservationists who want to gain practical skills and field experience, or for volunteers who simply love sea turtles and want to interact with them sustainably.
Daily tasks may vary depending on the time and duration of your stay, and the number of turtles at the marine center. Saturdays are days off and set aside for fun afternoon excursions arranged by the project staff.
Vet student placement
This program also offers veterinary student placement with more in-depth tasks. 4th and 5th year veterinary students may apply (other years may be considered depending on experience). Surgical experience is beneficial, but not mandatory. We can provide further information during your application interview.
Even though it may have bright turquoise waters and white sand beaches, Naifaru Island is not a resort. Local island life is very different and reflects the huge wealth disparity in the Maldives. In Naifaru, many issues have arisen because of this disparity. For example, living conditions can be basic and the island’s waste management is very poor. As a result, there is a large amount of litter on the island, as well as incomplete construction projects where money has run out.
The local NGO’s work stems far beyond our marine conservation efforts. As a volunteer, you may also work with the community in many areas to educate, support and campaign for a better Naifaru. Whether it’s improving sports facilities, hosting beach clean ups or protecting the marine environment. This work contributes to a happier and more thriving Naifaru!
Please note: Volunteer activities can change based on the needs of the project. The Marine Conservation Program is available for 2-week durations but we strongly recommend at least 3 weeks to get the full experience. Weather also plays a role in what you will do and bad weather may prevent you from going in the water for several days.
Internet: Wi-Fi is available at the accommodation.
Laundry: Laundry facilities are available at the accommodation.
Accommodations: Volunteers will stay in shared accommodation (2-3 per room). All rooms are single gender and are equipped with air conditioning and an en suite bathroom. The volunteer house has electricity, communal living area and basic kitchen supplies. Private rooms are available at an additional cost (pending availability). There is no hot water available on the island, however it is hot, so cold showers are refreshing.
Food: We provide volunteers with three meals daily. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at a local restaurant. Vegetarian/Vegan options are available. Please inform us of any specific dietary requirements in advance and the local team will cater for these.
The Maldives government has announced that those travelling two weeks after their second vaccination (WHO approved) may visit the country without quarantine.
Volunteers staying less than 29 days in the Maldives will just need a tourist visa. Volunteers staying longer than 29 days will need to apply for a business visa.
Business Visa Requirements
All applications to volunteer longer than 29 days in the Maldives need 4 weeks in advanced notice to apply for the visa. We will cover the cost of the business visa application by the programme fees. However, any additional costs required to get the documents listed below are not included.
Please note that we will provide you with further information and help after your application to and acceptance on the program.
Volunteer program minimum requirements:
The project staff organizes weekly excursions for all volunteers (included in the project fee). Activities range from exploring uninhabited islands and specific snorkeling trips to dolphin watching, fishing, and searching for manta rays.