Turtle Conservation and Research in Thailand

Take part in crucial conservation efforts by getting involved with turtle research in Phang Nga.

Program Information

Make the best of your trip to Thailand by joining our international research team to assist in essential conservation efforts. Explore the natural beauty and cultural attractions of the Phang Nga province while you do your part in helping to conserve Green turtles. Your time in the field will help you develop a thorough understanding of these marine animals and their habitat, as well as improve your research skills and future job prospects. Join us in making a contribution to UN Sustainable Development Goals #14 and #15, Life Below Water and Land and Life.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals


The coastal province of Phang Nga is home to incredible islands and an abundance of natural beauty and cultural landmarks. As a hands-on member of an international team, you can get expect to get involved in a wide range of activities to assist in the conservation of the area’s coastal and marine ecosystems.

Our program allows you the chance to gain a first hand conservation experience to improve your understanding of the local conservation issues and the initiatives GVI teams are taking in response to them. Become immersed in the culture through various community initiatives to promote environmental education.

The specific details of our program are seasonal so projects will vary throughout the course of the year. Participants should be prepared to work with the turtles where possible but can expect to get involved in a range of other activities. During the dry season the program’s core focus is coastal and marine conservation whereas the rainy season projects focus more towards terrestrial conservation.

- Experience an Asian adventure in one of its most-loved countries
- Join our likeminded team of passionate participants to contribute to conservation efforts
- Increase the wild populations of the Green turtles
- Live and work and alongside our local, reputable partners
- Contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goal #14 and #15, Life Below Water and Land and Life


One of the best things about this project in Thailand is that you do things and see things that you would never see if you were travelling with friends or alone. You are completely immersed in the culture and you experience the real Thailand, as opposed to experiencing the tourist side of things.
- Hannah McMurray (United Kingdom)

Program Details

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Project Life

On this program you will spend your time on various areas of conservation, community development and environmental awareness.

Typical daily activities include:
- Working with animal husbandry at two turtle research and conservation centres
- Enclosure enrichment studies and maintenance
- Biodiversity and camera trapping surveys on nearby, remote islands
- Beach cleans

We ensure that all participants receive comprehensive training from our experienced staff members in Thailand.

Our base is small but comfortable with shared facilities and enough space for people to relax. If you would prefer to stay in private accommodation while on this project, this location does offer accomodation upgrades.

Contact us for more information, or mention to your Country Expert who will be able to assist you with more details.

Project Details

The objective of the program is to gain an understanding of the local ecosystem, assist with current environmental protection initiatives, and conduct research to contribute to future conservation efforts of a range of unique and endangered local species, including Green turtles.

Our work with green turtles is based at local head-start centres, where turtles are reared from hatchlings to a size where they will face less risk of predation upon release.

The long-term conservation of marine and terrestrial ecosystems in Phang Nga is formed on a three-tiered approach:
- Contribute to scientific understanding through research
- Educate and inform local people about conservation issues
- Building the capacity and desire of local people to operate sustainably

As the needs in the field are seasonal, you will be involved with different project during different times of the year. Work with turtle research and conservation centres takes place year round, along with beach cleans and community education classes. Also year long, once a month, we visit our satellite base camp on a nearby island for camera trapping research.

The turtle activities include:
- Studying the benefits of enclosure enrichment and collecting morphological data on turtles
- Helping out at the Phang Nga Coastal Fisheries Research and Development Centre (CFRDC) and the Phang Nga Navy Base turtle breeding facility
- Cleaning the turtles’ tanks with scrubbing brushes and the turtles with sponges.
- Treating any wounds that the turtles may have with antibacterial and anti-fungal medical treatments
- If you are on program during a release date, you assist in releasing hundreds of young turtles into the ocean

From November to March, you may be involved in:
- Coastal environment research,
- Snorkelling surveys,
- Tourist education and management.

The rainy season of May to October sees more terrestrial work such as biodiversity surveying in nearby National Parks.

You can also expect to get involved in community development and environmental awareness projects, including environmental education with the general community, local schools, hotels and tour & dive operators,

How this project makes a difference
Thailand is home to some of the world’s most majestic and captivating wildlife. By adopting a holistic conservation approach, we are educating the community on local environmental issues. This means dealing not only with research, but also the social and economic pressures that are leading to the destruction of Southern Thailand’s beautiful forests, rivers, reefs and beaches.

In Thailand all turtle populations have seen a decline, with the number of nesting females estimated at only tens of thousands worldwide. Together with our partners, we work to increase the wild populations of the endangered Green turtle, by rearing and releasing hundreds of young turtles every year to boost wild populations. As nesting beaches are still in recovery, hatchlings are raised within the centres. Your contribution helps us increase the wild populations of these turtles and their long term survival.

Phang Nga's short, mid, and long-term objectives
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualize their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in Phang Nga:
1. To provide equal, quality education to children of all backgrounds.
2. To Promote Good Health and Wellbeing through education to all children
3. Increase skills for local people to assist with equal employment opportunities in our communities within Takuapa and Ban Nham Khem
4. Increase awareness of local populations to environmental issues and facilitate change towards sustainability through scientific studies.
5. Increase our in-country capacity by providing environmental and conservation education and training
6. To assist and develop local coastal conservation efforts through providing practical support to project partners, data collection, awareness raising and habitat restoration

What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Welcome meeting

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal kit
  • Police or background check (where necessary)
  • Visa costs


Participating with GVI not only allows you to participate on programs assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield, either before or after your program. Below is some information on trips and travel options in Thailand.

Optional Side Trips
Take advantage of the amazing sites and scenery the Andaman region of Thailand has to offer. There are endless opportunities to visit islands, beaches, parks and caves and many can be done on weekends. While on the ground, we are here to help so make sure to ask our field staff to assist you with planning trips.

Explore the amazing Khao Sok National Park, including the stunning Cheow Larn Lake and 740km² of rainforest and which is home to elephants, leopards, tigers, deer, monkeys, lizards, birds, and the Rafflesia - the largest flowers in the world, 90cm across with a unique aroma…of rotting flesh! Take a day trip for a quick sample of the park’s delights or stay overnight and discover even more – perhaps in one of the jungle tree houses, or even on a bungalow that floats on the lake. Trek through the jungle, kayak around Cheow Larn lake visiting spectacular limestone caves, swim in idyllic waterfalls or just relax and see what you can spot!

Khao Lak is a very popular tourist spot close by, with beautiful, seemingly endless beaches, so many dining options you’ll be spoilt for choice and hundreds of spas offering massages and treatments at reasonable rates. With a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury resorts to hostels, Khao Lak offers you the chance to spoil yourself for a few days, whether you’re on a budget or looking to splurge a little.

The Similan and Surin Island groups, both under the protection of their Marine National Park status, are home to some of the best diving and snorkelling spots in the region. You can take a day trip, stay on a live aboard boat or even stay overnight on the islands themselves.

Phuket Island, about 90 mins south of Khao Lak and renowned for its colourful nightlife is also a great stop-off for divers and snorkelers, but if you’re not the diving type you can explore Phang Nga Bay by speedboat or sea kayak, stopping off at James Bond Island, made famous by the 1974 film ‘The Man With the Golden Gun’ before visiting the floating Sea Gypsy village. Phuket is also very popular with surfers, playing host to annual surfing competitions, though there is a great ‘secret spot’ near Khao Lak…if you’re interested GVI staff will show you the way!

Neighbouring Krabi Province is a treasure trove for intrepid travellers; from the crystal clear Emerald Pond to the epic 1,237-step climb up to the Buddha image and stunning views at the Tiger Temple Cave to the enchanted scenery and pools of Than Bok Khoranee National Park to the shopping and late night bars of Ao Nang to the chilled out beaches of Koh Lanta Island to the parties of Phi Phi, where ‘The Beach’ was filmed - the options are truly endless!

Further Travelling Opportunities
Thailand is a country with a whole range of fantastic places that you could visit. If you have the time and budget, you could consider going to see the following; the waterfalls of the picturesque Khao Yai National Park, the mountain town of Chiang Mai, the local tribes of Nam Province, the beaches of Ko Tao and Mu Ko Chang Marine National Park, the golden kingdom of Ayuthaya, the temples and nightlife of Bangkok and many more…

The Team

Molly Plexico

Country Director
Meet Molly, our hard working country director for both Thailand and Laos. Over seeing operations in two countries is no easy task but Molly is more than capable.

She started volunteering and travelling at a young age, working  in soup kitchens, with AmeriCorps, at animal shelters, as a Big Sister with Big Brother Big Sisters of America and as a Guardian ad Litem. She studied family development and psychology and loves to dance.

Her goal is to visit one country for every year she is alive. The most unusual place she has travelled to is Uzbekistan, on a trip beginning in Europe and ending in Southeast Asia. This is where she fell in love with Laos which began her journey with GVI. She started working for GVI back in 2012 and she is now based in Thailand. GVI has hubs all around the world and she has been lucky enough to visit the hubs in Nepal, Thailand, Laos and the office in South Africa.

Kathryn Woodroffe

Conservation project coordinator
Meet Katie, our brilliant conservation project coordinator in Phang Nga, Thailand. She is experienced in environmental education, working within zoos and outreach programmes in the UK, teaching a huge range, from pre-school children through to university students.

From a young age she travelled to many unique and culturally diverse places with her family.

During her short term internship with GVI, at Jalova Biological Research Station, she developed and advanced her surveying, research and project development skills whilst working in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. 

Her must bring travel item is her trusty camera; "There is not a day that goes by where I don't encounter a moment that I want to capture, especially when exploring the worlds natural beauty."

Dora Szabados

Base Manager
Meet Dora, our insightful base manager in Phang Nga, Thailand. She has spent much of her life traveling, studying and volunteering all over the world. She grew up in China but felt the need to explore the world. She's lived in many different countries such as Egypt, Japan and the Phillippines,saying that she's not one to stay in one place for very long. She's also explored most of Europe an the west of the USA.

She has a BA in international relations focusing on the continents of Africa and Asia. She's also a certified, open water NAU diver.

Her favourite thing about working for GVI is how every day is different and how meeting so many new people has taught her so much about herself. She's a real life traveller and we're lucky to have her on board.

Shayle Havemann

Director of Programs
Meet Shayle, our innovative and driven director for all our projects around the world. She has two honours degrees, one in Industrial and Organisational Psycology, and another in Developmental and Education Psycology. Shayle also has over 10 years experience in setting up, managing and evaluating environmental and community programs across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

She is well-practiced in facilitating meaningful and effective intercultural engagement and this makes her the perfect person for overseeing our operations in the multicultural country of South Africa.

When not attending meetings or planning her next endeavour, Shayle can be found spending time with her family or taking part in some or other exciting outdoors activity!

Caroline Van Der Does De Willebois

Service Learning Manager Thailand

A conservationist and adventurer at heart with a passion for sustainable development and marine conservation. Caroline has a Master's degree in International Development and past experience working with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, educational marine conservation with the Marine Megafauna Foundation in Mozambique, and dive instructing in Thailand.

Caroline believes that GVI's combination of conservation and community development projects helps us to reach a true and sustainable impact in the field.

Her travels have taken her all over the world, but she is grateful to have returned to Thailand to join the GVI family and support and train others to have the best possible Service Learning experience!

Jill Walker

Assistant Director of Programs
Meet Jill, our Assistant Director of Programs and line manager for Thailand, Laos, India, Nepal, Australia and Kenya programs. ‘Manow’ (lime), as she’s locally known in Thailand where she's based, taught English, environmental education and art in the USA and Thailand before joining us to set up a TEFL and Community Development Expedition. “I haven’t looked back since!”

When Jill isn’t working, she likes reading or doing just about anything energetic. “I devour books, love cooking and enjoy finding some time to get some exercise – yoga, dancing and aerobics are some of my faves.”

What does Jill like most about her job? “It’s great to see volunteers rising above the cultural and language barriers between themselves and the communities. That, and every day is completely different, which is the way I like it- it keeps me from getting bored.” Being ‘allergic’ to being bored has led to Manow doing some pretty amazing things. “I once ended up spending a week living in a cave with some Buddhist monks while I helped them build a small adobe monk hut.”

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