Marine Biology Adventure Camp


During this unique program, you will learn about sea turtles while building your knowledge of marine biology fundamentals and ocean conservation.

We have five species of sea turtles that migrate in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina— loggerhead, green, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback and occasionally the hawksbill. Over the course of your stay, you will spend time caring for sea turtles while working alongside the volunteers and interns of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. From preparing food to cleaning tanks, you will understand the enormous amount of time, effort and love poured into every turtle. You will get to share this newfound knowledge during a public outreach event. The goal is to one day return them to the sea after being nurtured back to health. While walking the beaches looking for nesting mothers, we’ll learn about nocturnal adaptations. We’ll also patrol in the mornings looking for fresh tracks.

You will earn community service hours through your work at The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, public outreach and beach sweeps. Trash, especially plastic, kills thousands of marine animals each year, forcing many of them towards extinction. Sea turtles are no exception and ingest or get caught in everything from fishing line to balloons. Sea turtles easily mistake plastic bags for sea jellies, their favorite food, which leads to malnutrition and potentially death.

Each day we will explore different coastal habitats from maritime forests to salt marshes to the ocean’s edge. By understanding these ecosystems we will better appreciate the plight of the sea turtle. Since the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network began keeping records in 1986 the number of stranded turtles has more than doubled, indicating that these creatures are in desperate need of our support.

This camp is designed for students, ages 13-17, who are passionate about sea turtles and the marine environment. Join us on our next adventure as we:

  • Participate in rehabilitation at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center
  • Go on turtle patrols early in the morning and late at night
  • Tide-pool in North Carolina’s only natural rocky outcrop
  • Species identification in the salt marsh
  • Go on a ranger-lead tour of Fort Fisher State Park
  • Participate in a dissection
  • Enjoy a behind the scenes tour at the North Carolina Aquarium
  • Earn fifteen hours of community service credit

Due to our commitment to personal instruction, we maintain a 4:1 camper to staff ratio. Each camp session is limited to 24 students which are broken down into two pods of 12 guaranteeing everyone has a high quality hands on experience.

Camp tuition includes: lodging on Topsail Island, all meals from dinner on the first day to breakfast on the last day, 24-hour same-gender adult supervision, admission to all activities, all equipment, transportation including pickup and drop off from the Wilmington International Airport (ILM), Sea Turtle Hospital donation, community service certificate, Sea Turtle Camp t-shirt and memorable group photo. Campers are responsible for round trip airfare to ILM or transportation to Topsail Island and additional money for souvenirs.

Tuition: $1895

Deposit: $695

2019 Marine Biology Adventure Camp Dates:

Limited Availability
06/09 - 06/14
Ages 13-17
06/30 - 07/05
Ages 13-17
07/21 - 07/26
Ages 13-17
07/28 - 08/02
Ages 13-17




Coastal North Carolina is surrounded by rich marine ecosystems that countless aquatic species call home. From the expansive Atlantic Ocean, with its miles of white sand beaches on barrier islands to the fluctuating and dynamic salt marsh habitats, Sea Turtle Camp gives you the opportunity to explore and study these amazing ecosystems in depth. We strive to provide teenagers with the opportunity to learn more about marine biology and conservation through hands-on, feet-wet experiential educational. Campers get the extraordinary opportunity to work with live sea turtles as well as participate in some amazing daily activities designed to teach them through experience instead of out of a textbook.

During this awesome adventure you will:

  • Volunteer at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center
  • Participate in a night time sea turtle nest/hatchling watch
  • Explore the salt marsh and learn its vital role in the food chain/conduct species identifications
  • Study floating dock ecology
  • Get a behind the scenes tour of the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher
  • Conduct water quality testing
  • Boogie boarding!
  • Get a ranger-lead tour of Fort Fisher State Park
  • Participate in a dissection
  • Study dune/beach Ecology
  • Stand Up Paddleboard eco-tour through barrier island sounds or a surfing lesson with the pros at WB Surf Camp
Daily Itinerary

Sunday- Campers arrive! Counselors will pick up campers flying in at the ILM airport between 1-2pm and parents driving will check in and drop off 2-3pm. Let the fun begin! We will conduct a swim test, do fun ice breakers, and end the first day with camp dinner and an opening bonfire. Campers will divide into their teams for the week and meet all their awesome counselors. We will do our first activity learning about sea turtle anatomy and illegal wildlife trade.

Monday- Campers head to the sea turtle hospital to begin their volunteer work! They will help clean, feed, and bathe the sea turtles, followed by public outreach.  After lunch they will have beach time and do a series of sea turtle related activities outdoors, weather permitting. Then campers will have a chance to observe specimens under microscopes! Dinner will be at the salt and light center and is followed by a walk on the pier and another marine science hands-on activity.

Tuesday- Nest patrol early this morning to check for sea turtle nests or tracks! After that we’ll head to Wrightsville Beach for a SUP lesson and enjoy some Surf Berry, yummm. Next is the behind the scenes tour at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher followed by a range-lead tour on the beach of Fort Fisher State Recreation Center. Campers will also have the opportunity to see and study NC’s only natural rocky outcrop- the coquina. We’ll head back to Topsail for dinner and family time. Night nest patrol with red flash lights ends the night.

Wednesday- Wednesday morning is filled with more sea turtles and volunteering at the hospital! After lunch, we will make our way to Wilmington for some water quality sampling at a local lake and learn about Eutrophication. Maybe even get a chance to ride the paddleboats and see an alligator! We will head to UNCW for a talk about ocean plastics conducted by Plastic Ocean Project founder Bonnie Monteleone. A tour of UNCW is also provided. Finally, dinner time and family time are followed by some marine science activities! Lights out is always at 10pm.

Thursday- Nest patrol in the AM and a hearty breakfast to follow. Next is a fun marine debris lesson and beach sweep to collect any trash on the nearby beach. Squid dissections are to follow! After lunch, campers will explore the fouling community and go seine netting in the salt marsh. Here they will learn about the brackish water community and intertidal zones, then make their way to the beach to do hands-on lessons about beach ecology. The Thursday night luau is what everyone has been waiting for! Burgers are served up with plenty of ukulele playing and games. This is also the time to collect all your new friends phone numbers’ and write evaluations so that we can grow  and After everyone retires their leis, it’s time to pack up and clean up.

Friday- Departing day! Try not to shed a tear as we have the final breakfast and say our goodbyes. Counselors check rooms and take the campers flying out to the airport and make sure they have a safe departure. We hope to see you next year!

* *  Schedule is subject to change! Please keep in mind that we try out best to adhere to this schedule but we cannot control mother nature! In the event of adverse weather, we have rainy day activities in place. We cannot control canceled vendors. We will try out best to incorporate what was missed in later days, but it does not always fit into our schedule **

While at camp, students will be staying in the heart of the sea turtle action on Topsail Island. Pronounced Tops’l by the locals, this 26-mile long, quarter-mile wide barrier island has a rich history filled with pirates, fishermen and surfers. Since Topsail Island is one of the less developed barrier islands in the area, groves of maritime forest still dot the island and are rumored to hide Blackbeard’s treasure. Nowadays, Topsail is known as a laid-back beach town and a sanctuary for sea turtles.

Campers will be housed in fully furnished retreat center with an ocean view and beach access just a few feet away! This is an ideal location, as we will only be steps from our outdoor classroom. Students will see the sun rise over the ocean during morning nest patrols.



Students will enjoy dining together in our very own dining hall.


The rooms are gender-specific and feature air-conditioning, comfortable common areas and gender specific bathrooms. Each participant will have his or her own bed. Sea Turtle Camp staff members are housed on-site and will provide 24-hour, same gender adult supervision.

Campers will not only enjoy the breathtaking sunsets from the decks of the Retreat Center, but also private beach access, campfires and outdoor activities such as volleyball, corn hole, spikeball, basketball and much more.

As we are only minutes from the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center and beach, we can have a more active role in providing care to the turtles at the hospital and assisting the Topsail Beach Nesting Patrol. More hands-on opportunities and nest watching means more fun for the campers!


Do I get to see real live sea turtles?

  • YES!!! We work very closely with the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center who have an average occupancy of about 20 sea turtles with varying degrees of injury or illness. Some are even permanent residents due to the severity of their injury. The NC Aquarium usually houses a few behind the scenes and from time to time we even see them out in the ocean.

What kind of community service will I be doing?

  • At Sea Turtle Camp service is the most rewarding part of our program, and we like to think of it as service learning. Everything we do at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, from working directly with live sea turtles, cleaning, and feeding sounds more like enjoyment than service, but it is. We also participate in a beach sweep.

Should I bring a friend?

  • While most participants come alone, you are welcome to come with a friend. Please indicate in the enrollment that you would like to room together.

How old are the campers I will be rooming with?

  • Roommates are grouped together by age in order to enhance the overall level of comfort. There are 5 campers and 1 counselor to each bunk.

I am a finicky eater. Can you cater to special diets?

  • Yes we can. We know how important it is to eat healthy meals when you are outside and at the beach all day long. We’ll ask you in a questionnaire what types of food, snacks, and drinks you prefer.

What do I need to bring?

  • A complete packing list will be included with your informational registration packet.

What sort of payment do you accept?

  • We accept checks, money orders, or VISA/MC/AMEX credit cards. All credit card payments are processed online using a secure server. There is a $50 service charge for all returned checks. With the exception of the deposit, a 3% credit card surcharge will be assessed to all payments made by credit card. Please review our cancellation policy. Deposits are not refundable after teacher references are received and the camper has been accepted into a program.

What airport is best to fly into for your program, and do you provide a shuttle service?

  • The best airport to fly into is the Wilmington International Airport (ILM), which is located a short drive from our suites on Topsail. Our educators meet all participants at baggage claim. The shuttle cost to and from this airport is included in program tuition.

What if I can’t get in by the set check in time?

  • Please contact our Program Coordinator to discuss arrivals and departures outside of our preferred times. In order to avoid missing any planned activities, participants should try to arrive between 1 – 2 pm on the first day and depart around 1 – 2pm on the last day of camp.

What if my luggage doesn’t make it?

  • Occasionally the airlines will misplace luggage or your suitcases will miss connecting flights. We recommend keeping essentials, such as medications, toiletries, bathing suit, and extra change of clothes, in their carry-on luggage just in case. We also recommend purchasing trip insurance when you select your flight.

What is your cancellation policy?

  • Sea Turtle Camp is an extremely high quality program, with limited space. Therefore, once your student has been accepted into the program, exceptions to this policy cannot be made for any reason, including weather or personal emergencies. Please review the terms of our cancellation policy. In order to enroll in camp you must agree to these terms.

Do you have insurance?

  • We carry a comprehensive insurance package, including general liability. Once again, purchasing travel insurance is encouraged.

How much spending money should I bring?

  • We recommend campers bring $50 to $75 per week of camp. This is for snacks, souvenirs or gifts you wish to purchase while at camp.

Does my child need to know how to swim to be able to attend this program?

  • Yes. Due to the nature of this program, all campers must be able to swim and have a basic level of comfort in the water.

Do you offer financial aid?

  • We offer a handful of scholarships for our Marine Biology Adventure and Immersion programs. Look under the Financial tab for more information and the application requirements.