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Thinking you would like to volunteer?

Here is what you need to do...

Step 1: Is this for you? Are you eligible? Make sure you read all the below information.

 Please read all of the below information including the volunteering manual and FAQ page. If you are an environmental, veterinary or biological science student wishing to use a research camp towards your degree, please contact

Step 2: See if there is a vacancy when you're available

Please check the 'Research Camps' page to see if there's a place available. Please note age limit is 16 and only one person under 18 per camp with a parent or guardian. If there isn't a place, head to the TryBooking website and make sure you're on the waiting list to hear if a place becomes available.

Step 3: Book and pay for your spot

Please click the 'Book Now' button which will take you to the TryBooking page.

Bare Sand Island (Ngulbitjlk) Turtle Research

We acknowledge the Kenbi People and the descendants of Tommy Lyons being the Traditional Owners of Bare Sand Island and custodians of the sacred sites thereon. ​A small population of Flatback sea turtles (Natator depressus) and a small number of Olive Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) nest at Bare Sand Island (BSI) from May to September.

Since 1989 researchers from Charles Darwin University (formally Northern Territory University) lead by Michael Guinea have been visiting the island for sea turtle research on the small important nesting population of Flatback sea turtles. In 1996, annual camps were established for researchers and volunteers to collect data on the ecology and biology of BSI's sea turtles. Over 25 years of collected data has allowed for robust estimates of population size and to observe trends making this project important for local sea turtle conservation. Formed in 2004 AusTurtle Inc. has run the volunteer research camps in conjunction with CDU.

The project was created and is still run by Dr Michael Guinea, Honorary Fellow of Charles Darwin University and President of AusTurtle Inc. With the help of AusTurtle Inc. members and volunteers this research continues to provide insights into the lives of sea turtles, their interactions with other species, and with BSI itself.


Situated on the north coast of Australia, Bare Sand Island (BSI) is approximately 15kms off the Australian mainland, and is about 50kms west of Darwin. It is part of a chain of islands to the north of Fog Bay. To the west of BSI is the Timor Sea, while to the east is Bynoe Harbour. The two nearest Islands include the larger Quail Island, and Little Wooded Island.


Bare Sand Island (BSI) consists mostly of low sand dunes, sparsely vegetated with grasses and herbs. One tree grows on the island but it is unsuitable for shade as it is in a site of cultural significance for the Kenbi People. The island is 1.8km in circumference and takes about 40 minutes to walk around.

The region does experience large tidal movements (of up to 8m) and so strong currents can occur around BSI. Occasionally strong winds prevail making camping on the exposed BSI uncomfortable as sands become wind blown. The camp is isolated with the nearest dwelling to BSI on Dum in Mirrie (an island 12km to the south) at which the Australian Bureau of Meterology has an automated weather station. The closest settlement is at Dundee Beach approximately 22km south of BSI. 


Research Activities

Nesting Flatback Sea Turtles 

Activities will be conducted at night and early morning and will include checking the beach for tracks, tagging and measuring adult females, counting and measuring eggs.

Wildlife Observations

Other interesting fauna visit the island and its surrounding waters. These are opportunistically studied. They include sea and shore birds, dolphins (three species), saltwater crocodiles and dugongs.

Volunteers are welcomed for the 2024 research expeditions between 10 June and 3 August 2024. There are seven separate research trips. There are positions for six volunteers on each trip. There is a cost for each trip to cover food and transport expenses. 

Costs, Registration and Pre-payment
To register and book a place on the research camps, please head to our online booking system. 

Payment is required up front. The cost for 2024 has moderately increased due to streamlining our booking process and utilising the online booking system. This year it is $75.00 AUD per day, plus a 2.5% processing fee (from TryBooking) and a 50c ticket fee (also from TryBooking). Each week is $525 plus a processing fee of $13.13 and a ticket fee of 50c. For week 1, the price is $375 plus a processing fee of $9.38 and a ticket fee of 50c as the camp is only 5 days.

We suggest taking out travel insurance for unforeseen circumstances.

Please note, volunteers under 18 years old must be accompanied by a guardian. The age limit is 16 with a limit of one under 18 volunteer will be accepted in any one week.

If you book a place and can no longer make it, please let us know as soon as possible. 

You can cancel and receive a refund* if you let us know before 1 May 2024.

(*minus the 50c ticket fee) 


If you inform AusTurtle Inc. after 1st May 2024 that you can't attend and a replacement is not found, you are not eligible for a refund. Costs do not change for AusTurtle Inc. if one person can longer come. There is a lot of interest in the camps and we will try and accommodate finding someone to replace you, but this is not guaranteed. 


Included in the cost are the following:

  • Return boat transfer from Darwin to Bare Sand Island

  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner 

  • Accommodation on Bare Sand Island - 3 person tent and sleeping mat for each volunteer

  • All guidance and equipment needed for turtle research on Bare Sand Island (including head torches with red light)

  • Lots and lots of sand!

Not included are:

  • Food and accommodation in Darwin prior to and after the trip to Bare Sand Island

  • Transport to and from the Airport / Railway Station or Transit Centre in Darwin

  • Personal Insurance – volunteers are expected to have their own personal travel and health insurance

  • Snacks (i.e. lollies, chocolate and muesli bars. If you have particular snacks that you like, bring them along)

More Information

Photo Credit: Kjell Hensen

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