Volunteering on Koh Tao
With the increasing trend towards responsible travel, sustainability, and ecotourism, our staff are often asked about recommendations for volunteer work on Koh Tao. Sometimes the primary factor is to save money by exchanging time for accommodation or food. However, we’ve found the majority of people looking for Koh Tao volunteering opportunities simply want to give back to their host community and make a difference. Whatever your motivations, we’ve put together this list of options for volunteering on Koh Tao to help you get connected with the right organisations.
Before we get started, let’s run through some of the most frequently asked questions about Koh Tao volunteer opportunities:
Is Koh Tao a good place to volunteer?
Yes, we think so. The level of community engagement on Koh Tao is incredibly high. Everyone is used to pulling together for the greater good, and there’s a much higher level of cohesion here between Thai, Burmese, and Western communities than in many other popular tourism locations. So, if you’re looking for cultural immersion and opportunities to meet new people from diverse groups, volunteering on Koh Tao is a great option.
Is there any paid volunteer work on Koh Tao?
Not that we know of. There are several non-profit organisations and social impact programs on the island. However, most rely on donations and funding grants, so there is usually little (or zero) budget left over to pay volunteers.
Are there any places offering volunteer accommodation and food in exchange for work?
There may be, but opportunities like this are rarely advertised because there are several grey areas when it comes to the legality of the ‘work’ you’ll be doing. So if you’re looking for recommendations for volunteer work at hostels and bars, etc., your best bet is to contact a bunch of places before you arrive or just hit the streets when you arrive to ask in person. You could also try posting on one of the Koh Tao community groups on Facebook to see if you get any helpful replies or DMs.
Can I earn scuba certifications on Koh Tao by volunteering at a dive centre?
Not usually, no. Unless you’re a qualified dive professional already and have a work permit to be employed legally, there’s generally minimal benefit to dive centres of having you around. So work-in-exchange programs are very uncommon here.
The 5 Best Koh Tao Volunteer Opportunities
Now we’ve got the basics down, it’s time to look at a more specific list of opportunities for volunteering on Koh Tao.
1. Koh Koh Pups
Koh Koh Pups is a dedicated non-profit organisation that rescues and rehabilitates unwanted, neglected and stray dogs of all breeds and ages. The Koh Koh Pups team is committed to finding safe, responsible and loving forever homes for all adoptable dogs. To date, they have successfully managed hundreds of adoptions, sending dogs to new homes in Koh Tao and across the globe. Koh Koh Pups exists entirely on a volunteer basis, and all donations, adoption fees, and fundraising goes directly back to looking after the dogs currently in their care.
With up to 20 dogs in the Koh Koh Pups kennels at any time, volunteer work on Koh Tao is always available for those who’d like to help with daily walks, poopy scooping, and general maintenance. For more information, please contact the founder, Lara Dakers, directly on the Koh Koh Pups website, Facebook page, or Instagram account.
2. The Right to Learn Foundation
The Right to Learn Foundation is a non-profit organisation providing opportunities to Thai and Burmese children who would otherwise not have access to education. The foundation has recently acquired land on the main road in Mae Haad (next to the Koh Tao Crossfit gym) and plans to open a new, bigger, better school by the end of 2023. They are always in need of extra pairs of hands, and even offer 90-day visas for those with experience caring for young children who are interested in volunteering on Koh Tao on a short to medium-term basis. For more information, please contact the Right to Learn Foundation on their Facebook page.
3. Beach Clean-Ups
Joining a beach cleanup is a great way to make a positive impact on the environment and the local community. Most local businesses keep the beach areas outside their properties clean. However, regardless of how responsible people are about taking trash home with them, every new tide brings in debris from the ocean. At many of the smaller and more remote beaches and bays, this can lead to a significant build-up in a relatively short time. There are several beach clean-up initiatives you can join if you want to lend a helping hand:
Koh Tao Clean Up
Koh Tao Clean-Up meets once a week to remove trash from an area of beach, shoreline, roadside, or mountain, with locations rotating dependent on the urgency of need, conditions, and logistical requirements. New volunteers are always welcome. You can find more information and connect with the team directly on the Koh Tao Clean Up Facebook page.
Plas-Tao is a locally run project that turns plastic waste recovered from beach clean-ups into functional and decorative products like key rings, coasters, plant pots, bottle openers, jewellery, and more. Drop a DM to the Plas Tao Facebook page to find out about the next clean-up, and be sure to swing by their premises at May and Co in Sairee to see how it all works and check out some of the finished recycled items.
Dive Centre Clean-Ups
Many Koh Tao dive centres organise regular beach clean-ups as part of their environmental marine conservation efforts. To get involved, look out for blackboards and posters outside each dive centre promoting the date and time of the next clean-up, or contact a few businesses directly.
4. Marine Conservation
There are several local organisations specialising in marine wildlife and coral reef conservation, and many individual dive centres have their own dedicated conservation programs too. Whether you’re interested in helping with coral transplants, building artificial reefs, conducting marine life surveys, or lending a hand to remove fishing nets or maintain mooring buoys, etc., there is an array of water-based internships and volunteer programs on Koh Tao. Here are just a few examples:
5. Koh Tao Rescue
Koh Tao Rescue is a non-profit organisation that receives a small amount of government sponsorship, but it is primarily funded by donations and run by volunteers. Widely regarded as the go-to emergency service on the island, Koh Tao Rescue provides comprehensive land and sea rescue assistance to tourists and residents, 365 days a year. There are regular opportunities for volunteering on Koh Tao with Koh Tao Rescue. While candidates with
paramedic/medical experience and qualifications are preferred, any kind of assistance to help coordinate community needs and cover peak on-call hours is often appreciated.
You can contact Koh Tao Rescue on +66 (0) 879 790 191 or drop into the Hyperbaric Chamber on Koh Tao to learn more.
We hope you’ve found all of this information helpful. If you’ve already committed to volunteering on Koh Tao and need help with your travel, visa, and accommodation planning, drop us a line. The Island Travel team is waiting to assist you.