Volunteering

Navigating Ancient Shores

Volunteer with Turtles in Greece

Join our sea turtle conservation project on Greece’s Mediterranean coast.

GVI Hub: a home-from-home
Durations: 1 - 12 weeks

Program information

Experience historic Greece by living and working with an international team, contributing to the conservation of loggerhead and green turtle habitats. Based on the island of Kefalonia, we work in collaboration with local partner organisations to ensure the protection of these amazing turtles, offering an impactful experience in conservation. Get ready to make waves in this breathtaking corner of the globe!

New epic locations, habitats & species!

Get up to 15% off when you book before 29 February
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Travel flexibility. Transfer for free up to 45 days before travel. Because life happens. Terms and conditions apply.
Overview
Dates & Prices
Itinerary
What's Included
Life On Base
Experiences
New
Free time
Cultural Immersion
Speak to alumni
Parent Info
Arrivals
Flights
Your Impact
Our Ethics
Program ethics
Qualifications & Training Options
Support & Safety

Program overview

Join us in Kefalonia, the largest of the Ionian Islands. From the picturesque coastal village of Skala on the southeastern coast, you’ll play a crucial role in protecting loggerhead and green turtle habitats in Greece.

Loggerhead sea turtles are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). This is due to threats like entanglement in fishing gear, predation and marine litter. 

To address these challenges, we work in close collaboration with a sea turtle conservation organisation in Kefalonia. Through research, initiatives and community engagement, they work to protect endangered turtles and the marine ecosystem. Together, we gather information on sea turtle ecology and habitats. 

During the program, you’ll take part in various activities aimed at protecting sea turtles and their habitats. Typical activities include beach cleanups, snorkel surveys, harbour and bird surveys, coastal vegetation maintenance, drone seagrass assessments and mountain surveys. 

Please note that participants won’t be handling turtles, as the focus is on observation and contributing to conservation efforts.

When you’re not busy with conservation work, take advantage of your free time to explore the island. Kefalonia’s got that wow factor with its crystal-clear waters, Insta-worthy beaches and epic cliffs. Skala boasts a laid-back vibe with its cosy tavernas and intriguing ancient Roman ruins. It’s the ultimate destination for those craving a mix of chill vibes and exciting adventures.

Highlights

Protect turtles and ecosystems
Protect turtles and ecosystems

Contribute to turtle habitat preservation: monitor turtles, map habitats, restore coastal areas and conduct beach cleanups and profiling.

Island activities
Island activities

Enjoy Greece’s many beaches. Try snorkelling, hiking, birdwatching and immerse yourself in the island’s culture.

Be part of the real deal
Be part of the real deal

Contribute to ongoing environmental projects that address critical challenges aligned to the global UN SDGs.

Join ethical initiatives
Join ethical initiatives

Join local conservation partners and qualified professionals to ensure your efforts are highly ethical, meaningful and sustainable.

Experience unreal adventures
Experience unreal adventures

Venture outside typical travel itineraries to get exclusive access to extraordinary remote habitats, rare species and unique ecosystems.

Make friends for life
Make friends for life

Share epic experiences with like-minded, passionate changemakers from all over the globe.

Enjoy a hassle-free, safe trip
Enjoy a hassle-free, safe trip

With expert local staff and 24/7 support at every step –  you can relax and enjoy the experience stress-free.

Take a break
Take a break

Disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with nature, yourself and your purpose.

Activities

Some of the example typical activities you could participate in on this program.

Training on key species
Training on key species

Deepen understanding of vital marine species & ecosystem roles through comprehensive training on loggerhead and green turtles.

Mapping and drone surveys
Mapping and drone surveys

Assist with identifying and mapping seagrass meadows and turtle foraging sites using drones, to assess seasonal habitat changes.

Seagrass surveys
Seagrass surveys

Join snorkelling expeditions to monitor seagrass, crucial for water purification and marine life balance.

Hikes
Hikes

Get set for awesome Kefalonia hikes! Explore ancient walls, caves, donkey paths, tombs and a WWII base.

Coastal conservation
Coastal conservation

Plant native vegetation for dune restoration, erosion control, enhancing coastal ecosystems and preventing habitat degradation.

Melissani Lake
Melissani Lake

Head out on a hike to explore stunning caves and Melissani Lake. Swim underground and explore a ghost village from 1953.

Beach cleans
Beach cleans

Take part in regular beach cleanups to reduce litter on Greece’s shores, preserving marine environments and promoting cleaner coastlines.

Bird surveys
Bird surveys

Survey coastal birds and contribute data to Cornell’s eBird citizen science database via transects, point counts and the eBird app.

Assist with turtle tracking
Assist with turtle tracking

Support turtle tagging and tracking for insights into biology, ecology and conservation, aiding informed management strategies.

Skills

  • Coastal conservation
  • Data collection
  • Data entry
  • Population ecology
  • Species identification
  • Survey research

Partners

Some of the partners we work with on base.

Wildlife Sense
Seagrass Watch

Program details

Dates and prices

Select a start date:

Nature, my happy place.

See new locations, habitats & species with up to 15% off on selected programs.

Special offer valid only until 29 February.
Payment plans. Flexible payment plans allow you to pay in instalments.

What happens next?

Once you apply, a personal Enrollment Manager will be assigned to walk you through the rest of the process.

Itinerary

The following itinerary is an example of the activities and project work that participants might get involved in on this program. More specific details of the program are finalised several months before each start date.

06:30

Early morning activities may include bird surveys and seagrass monitoring.

07:00

Meals are self-catered. Get ready to team up for breakfast prep and enjoy eating together with your crew.

08:00

Project tasks can include harbour & bird surveys, marine species ID, coastal maintenance, beach cleanups and turtle monitoring.

12:00

Take a moment to relax and prepare yourself a delicious lunch.

13:00

Project tasks may involve harbour and bird surveys, marine species identification, droning for sea turtle photo-ID of foraging sites and mountain surveys.

16:30

Begin dinner preparations and get involved in cooking duties.

18:00

Enjoy the evening meal together.

19:00

Relax at the accommodation or socialise with other participants.

What’s included?

What's included
General
Food
Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)
Airport pick up (unless stated)
All project equipment
24-hour in-country support from local staff
24-hour emergency desk
GVI Experiences
Activities
Sustainable project work
Data collection and research
Pre-program training
Pre-departure webinar
Pre-departure training (online)
University of Richmond endorsed specialisation course
Welcome training
GVI welcome presentation
Health & safety
Local culture & environment
UN SDGs
Impact & ethics
Child protection
Certificates
Program certificate
University certificate – specialisation (University of Richmond)
What's excluded
Not included
Flights
International and domestic airport taxes
Medical and travel insurance
Visa costs
Police or background check
Personal items and toiletries
Additional drinks and gratuities

Life On Base

Experience the laid-back vibes of Mediterranean living in Skala, Kefalonia, Greece, where our research station is situated. Wake up to breathtaking views from our base in Skala, which is just a five-minute walk from the beach. With its quaint village charm and proximity to the pristine beaches and clear waters of the Ionian Sea, Skala offers the perfect backdrop for your island adventure.

Kefalonia’s underwater world is teeming with life, from colourful fish to graceful sea turtles gliding through the waves. Contribute to the preservation of endangered sea turtle species, including loggerheads, by joining in conservation efforts aimed at protecting their natural habitat. Your involvement will play a crucial role in ensuring the survival of these majestic creatures.

Since 2013, we’ve been teaming up with local NGOs like Wildlife Sense to safeguard the sea turtle population in Kefalonia. From conducting surveys to participating in beach cleanups, our efforts are aimed at preserving the island’s precious marine ecosystems. 

Whether you’re soaking up the sun on the beach or diving into marine conservation efforts, there’s a vibe here that’s all about embracing the beauty of Kefalonia’s natural wonders.

Accommodation

Stay in self-catering accommodation in Skala, featuring shared apartments equipped with Wi-Fi, a kitchenette and a bathroom. Beds include a fitte...

Transportation

You’ll have access to bicycles for getting around and a project vehicle dedicated to scheduled shifts. Transportation is also provided for ...

Communication

Enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi at your accommodation to keep in touch with friends and family back home.

...

Meals

While meals aren’t provided, you’ll have access to a kitchenette in your apartment to cook up your favourite dishes.

...

Climate

In Greece, from June to September, the summer season brings temperatures ranging from 30 to 40°C. While it’s great for hitting the beach or...

GVI experiences included in your program, at no extra cost.

Offered once a month, expand your adventure with GVI Experiences. These are just some of the activities offered on your program!

We want you to make the most of the chance to live in – and contribute towards –  the most diverse and unique wildernesses and communities on earth. Introducing GVI Experiences – immersive adventure, cultural and wellness activities exclusive to GVI that have been specially designed in collaboration with our local partners to support and stimulate sustainable economic development. 

Enhance your impact. Expand your adventure. Explore your world.

Free time

Joining a GVI program not only allows you to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems – but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer over weekends.

Field staff are a great source of advice and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. You can choose to travel before or after your experience with GVI (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships you’ve established on the program. Please note that the below options are not included in the program fee, and would be up to you to arrange at your own expense.

Cultural Immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches global awareness, adaptability and critical thinking – skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and will also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many different activities that you can get involved in during your free time, or before and after your program.

On our community programs, the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore topics like local cuisine and religion, or how sustainable development challenges are affecting local contexts.

Spirituality and religion

While Greece is a secular state, the majority of the population identify with the Greek Orthodox Church faith.

...

Local handcrafts

Greece has a thriving tourist souvenir industry, and sells many locally made souvenirs such as hand woven carpets and rugs, beautifully decorated jewellery, and leather items. G...

Cooking and dancing

A large part of Greek cuisine features fresh Mediterranean ingredients, often featuring staples such as pita bread, olive oil, and feta cheese. Some of the traditional dishes Gr...

Festivals

The Greek people’s most notable holiday is the celebration of Greek Independence Day on the 25th of March. There are also many festivals throughout the year, such as the Patras ...

Languages

Greek is the official language of Greece and spoken by the vast majority of the population. Other languages spoken in the country are Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, Arumanian an...

Speak to alumni

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Get a first-hand perspective

Meet us

Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

GVI is a proud member of the Gap Year Association.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

Arrivals

When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.

As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals.

We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile.

This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.

Your Impact

All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). 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 visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.

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

In collaboration with Wildlife Sense, our project work focuses on conserving loggerhead and green sea turtles and their habitats along the coast of Greece. 

We undertake a variety of activities, including conducting harbour surveys and bird surveys, as well as learning to identify marine species. We also engage in coastal vegetation maintenance and restoration, utilise drones to explore seagrass and mega fauna foraging sites, and participate in beach profile and cleanup activities. Additionally, we use drones for sea turtle photo-ID at foraging sites and conduct mountain surveys.

We assist in the conservation of endangered sea turtles and directly contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as Goal 13: Climate Action, Goal 14: Life Below Water and Goal 15: Life On Land.

Project objectives

 

GVI Skala Kefalonia’s long-term Objectives:

1. Document nesting activities for a loggerhead nesting site in the Mediterranean. This can provide evidence of the importance of continued protection of this endangered species and its ecosystem.

2. Carry out seagrass surveys to monitor green turtle foraging areas in the Mediterranean. This too can provide evidence of the importance of continued protection of this endangered species and its ecosystem.

3. Contribute to the efforts of our local partner to protect marine animals in Kefalonia.

4. Reduce the amount of plastic pollution in the turtles’ nesting area.

5. Educate participants on environmentally sustainable practices and the importance and impact of climate change.

Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.

 

We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.

Our 10 ethical commitments

01

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.

02

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.

03

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.

04

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.

05

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.

06

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that every participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.

07

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.

08

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.

09

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.

10

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.

Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.

However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.

Program ethics

No orphanage programs

We don’t support or allow participants to work in institutional residential care facilities, also known as orphanages. We partner with ReThink Orphanages and Freedom United.

Learn more
Child and vulnerable adult protection policy

Our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy requires all our staff and participants to complete a criminal background check and to learn why you shouldn’t reveal a child’s identifying factors in photographs. We support the ChildSafe Movement.

Learn more
No medical volunteering

We don’t offer any programs where our participants engage in medical treatment. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country. Our participants only assist with public health programs.

Learn more
No disability support programs

We don’t offer any programs where our participants work directly with people with disabilities. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country.

Learn more
Aligned to local objectives

Each one of our initiatives is aligned to objectives set by a local organisation or professional. Our staff and participants work to support these local actors in achieving their specific goals.

Local employees remain employed

Our participants don’t replace the staff employed by local organisations. Rather, they support currently employed staff with achieving their objectives. Our goal is always to increase local capacity to address local problems.

Local employees remain focused

Participants require training and support to ensure that they carry out tasks correctly. Our staff provide this training and support so that local staff can focus on what is truly important to their organisation at the time.

No entertainment-based activities

We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos

No orphaned animal sanctuaries

We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases

Guidelines for touching or movement restriction

When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Animal welfare guidelines

We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.

Local community empowerment

We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.

Learn more
No veterinary programs

We don’t offer any veterinary programs or animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. We don’t allow participants to do any work they would not be able to do in their home country.

Learn more

Training

A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.

For all GVI participants

Orientation: Travelling Responsibly and Ethically

Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.

Orientation: UN Sustainable Development Goals

Introduction to the history and evolution of sustainable development, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and how these related to your project work.

Orientation: Further Opportunities for Impact

Learn about our country locations and further opportunities available to you during or after your program.

For all participants at Skala, Kefalonia

Marine Conservation: Seagrass

Learn about what seagrass is, its importance, how it is formed, and how this ecosystem works.

Conservation: survey techniques and logistics

An introduction to different survey techniques and best practice guidelines for surveys; introduction to different types of data and how to record information via a datasheet.

Conservation: biodiversity & target species identification

Learn about biodiversity and how biodiversity is measured, and classifying different species and how to identify species that indicate the health of the habitat.

Marine conservation: pollution and plastics

Learn about issues with plastic and measures that can be taken to help reduce plastic consumption.

Certificates & qualifications

GVI Online Wildlife Conservation course (optional)

If you have a passion for wildlife conservation then this course will provide you with the foundational skills and understanding needed to achieve your conservation-related goals. You’ll learn about the various methods of wildlife monitoring, as well as exploring the delicate balance involved in terrestrial ecosystem management. After successfully completing the course, which you have the option of doing prior to your in-country program, you’ll receive a certificate from the University of Richmond.

This online course, valued at £295, is included in all volunteering programs. Full course details can be found here.

GVI Online Marine Conservation course (optional)

Learn more about what is contributing to the decline in the health of the world’s ocean and marine species and what can be done to prevent it. You’ll gain a greater understanding of the field of marine conservation, explore how to protect marine ecosystems and discover how you can contribute towards conservation-related initiatives. After successfully completing the course, which you have the option of doing prior to your in-country program, you’ll receive a certificate from the University of Richmond.

This online course, valued at £295, is included in all volunteering programs. Full course details can be found here.

Support & Safety

We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.

Safety

View support and safety protocols

Support

View risk mitigation

Health and safety case studies

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GVI's commitment to safety and security

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How GVI remains prepared for natural disasters

The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes ...

How GVI manages participants expectations

Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations a...