When I first started traveling, I only planned on doing one volunteer project. And that was really so I could chill with elephants at the Elephant Nature Park.
But after my recent trip to the Juara Turtle Project on Tioman Island, I have really fallen in love with volunteering and I am already looking for another project to join.
The Reasons I Love Volunteering:
1. The sense of routine.
Backpacking is hard. Living out of a 45-liter bag, moving from place to place every week, and never knowing what is coming next are great. Most of the time. But after months, it can be exhausting.
The best thing about the Turtle Project was that I got into a routine again. Every morning we had chores to clean up the grounds and feed the resident blind sea turtle, Jo. In the morning or afternoon, I gave turtle talks to visitors. In my free time, I could trek or swim. Every night was an evening meeting about what the schedule would be the next day. It was a relief for someone just to tell me what I would be doing the next day. While backpacking, you may never know what you will be doing that afternoon. Forget about the next day.
Also, I was surrounded by familiar faces for two whole weeks. It was a wonderful change to wake up and see the same people every morning and be able to develop deeper friendships.
2. Getting off the “backpacker trail.”
It is true that a lot of backpackers join volunteer projects, but often the projects are away from the populated areas. I loved getting out of the hostel/party scene for a while and feeling like I was getting off the the beaten track for a while.
Mentawak Beach on Tioman was all the way across the island from the backpacker-filled ABC Beach. Often I would go swimming and be the only person on the beach.
3. Being surrounded by people who want to save the world!
I came to the Juara Turtle Project because I wanted to see some baby turtles and be surrounded by jungle while laying on a beautiful beach with crystal-clear water. But the more I learned about sea turtles and their fight against extinction, the more I was invested in the project and motivated to know more about what I could do to help.
It was mostly the people who run the project and the volunteers who inspired me to look into more projects. These people live and breathe sea turtles and they want to educate people on how we must change our ways to save these animals from extinction.
If it weren’t for the amazing people at the project, I would have not stayed two weeks there!
I recommend the Juara Turtle Project to anyone looking to volunteer in Malaysia while being surrounded by amazing people and beautiful scenery.