Costa Rica - Jaguar Research and Conservation
Are you an adventurous nature lover? Join this project to assist in the protection of endangered jaguars and experience living and working surrounded by Costa Rica’s rainforest - an hour's boat ride away from the nearest town!
|Location of Project||Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica|
|Project Length||Min 2 weeks - Max 12 weeks|
|Arrival Airport||Juan Santamaría International Airport (San Jose)|
|Volunteer Work||Help protect endangered jaguars|
|Number of Participants||Up to 4 international volunteers on this project, but up to 20 international volunteers on the base (on various other projects)|
|Age||18 - 70|
|Accommodation||Shared dorms, mixed gender|
|Food||Meals prepared by the volunteers|
|Support||Local in-country team and 24hr emergency support|
|Airport Transfers||Pick up from local hostel|
|Pre-Departure Kit||Full project details will be sent following registration|
|Orientation||All necessary training and introductions provided upon arrival|
What's Not Included
|* This program requires a high level of fitness. Volunteers must be great shape and comfortable with carrying all their belongings with them to base.|
This project takes place in the rainforest of Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean (eastern) side of Costa Rica. The volunteer camp is accessible only by boat and foot, and is nestled in a coconut plantation only 50 meters from the beach!
About the Project
On this project you will assist in the protection of endangered jaguars, whilst living and working in Costa Rica’s rainforest. Jaguars are classified as 'Near Threatened' on the IUCN red list. Since the 1950's the population of jaguars within the Americas has plummeted from over 400,000 to an estimated 14,000 now.
During your stay, you will not only contribute to the preservation of the elusive jaguar, but you will join a team contributing to the development and management of long-term wildlife conservation efforts along Central America’s Caribbean coast. You will be searching for signs of jaguars and their prey species, by setting up remote cameras and surveying a 16-mile stretch of turtle nesting beach. You will be relaying the data you collect to the Costa Rican government and other prominent conservation organizations.
Even though jaguar-related research activities will be a main part of your activities, during your time you will also gain a holistic understanding of the Costa Rican rainforest and its ecosystem by conducting other important research, which may include studies of turtles (seasonal), aquatic birds, and biological assessment surveys.
Through unique and hands-on training you will have the opportunity to understand the rainforest and the variety of wildlife that depend on its future.
Long term internships are also available (8 or 12 weeks). The first half of the internship is the same as the short-term volunteers, but also includes a certificate in Biological Survey Techniques. The second half of the internship is the work placement.
* This program requires a high level of fitness. Some days volunteers walk up to 15 miles in the sand.
Volunteer Work and Contribution
At the core, the goal of this project is the ongoing completion of biological surveys that contribute to increased scientific knowledge and the overall conservation efforts of this particular area. In the field you will work collecting important data and learn a vast array of research skills. With many dawn patrols in the plan, you will get to see some spectacular sunrises on Totrugero’s breathtaking Caribbean beaches. At the station you will learn the technical side of working in the field, analyzing, processing and recording data.
A day in the life of a volunteer:
- You will start the day early! Morning surveys go out at 5:00am which means having breakfast at 4:30am.
- Everyone is back on base between 10:30 am and 2:00pm.
- Lunch is served at 11:00am and there is a briefing at 1:00pm.
- Afternoon surveys go out at 2:00pm.
- Dinner is served at 5:00pm.
- Volunteers will usually be on 2 surveys each day.
It is important to note that the emphasis of the programmes can change according to the time of year.
Also please note that the work you will be doing will contribute to jaguar conservation in the area, however, a real-life jaguar sighting is quite rare and not guaranteed.
Accommodations: Facilities will be more basic than you are accustomed to – please travel with an open mind and a willingness to adapt to local conditions. Accommodation is in shared (mixed sex) dorms with shared bathroom facilities at the field station. There is running water available for washing and cooking, with suitable water for drinking and brushing teeth. Supplies are limited and usage may be restricted when necessary. Bucket flush toilet facilities are available, and participants share responsibility for base duties, including cooking, cleaning, and other chores.
There is limited electricity - only a few hours a day generator supply.
Food: Volunteers take turns to prepare meals for the group. Food is very basic and mostly vegetarian, with meat or fish rarely available. Breakfast could be porridge or occasionally pancakes, lunch is rice and beans, with fruit and vegetables, and a typical evening meal may include lentils, pasta, beans, rice, and vegetables.
Laundry: Volunteers wash their laundry by hand.
Internet: Internet facilities are only available in town (trips can be made on the weekends, at the volunteer's expense). There is some phone reception on the beach, but it is unreliable.
Given your isolated location, a lot of your down time will be spent on base, the rainforest is not a place to go wandering! However there are still some possibilities in the immediate area for you to make the most of your time in Costa Rica. You can visit Tortuguero Village on the weekends, browse its small souvenir shops, visit the delicious bakery and just watch the world go lazily by.
For longer term volunteers on long weekend breaks, you could decide to head off base and further explore the Caribbean region. Hiking, snorkeling, fishing, or canopy and zip-line tours are just some of the activities that are possible in the area. For something a bit more intense, you could raft on the white waters of the famous Pacuare River on class III to IV rapids over the course of 1- or 2-day trips. And if the adventure activities are not for you, then simply relax in a laid back Caribbean village!
Further Traveling Opportunities:
Costa Rica is an amazing country with an abundance of travel opportunities further afield with the following just a snapshot of the many possibilities!
Admire the famous and active Volcan Arenal from a distance and relax in the natural hot springs; surf the Salsa Brava – a hotspot of the Caribbean for the advanced surfer; ride horseback on the beach in Puerto Viejo or simply enjoy miles and miles of beautiful beaches kissed by palm trees; spot migratory raptor birds in the Talamanca Mountains and visit indigenous villages to learn more about their amazing culture; discover the cloud forest at Monteverde, visit the hummingbird gallery, enjoy the locally made ice cream and other fresh dairy products or walk among the treetops on the hanging bridges; enjoy the organized wildlife tours of Braulio Carrillo National Park; travel across the country to discover the beautiful Pacific Coast with its hidden white sand beaches; visit Volcan Irazu and discover coffee farms on the way back to San Jose; back in the capital, visit the Gold Museum or the Jade Museum, attend a play in one of the numerous theatres or take in the Latin American vibe with its lively nightlife.
- Min. age 18
- Basic English
- Very good physical fitness
- Full travel & medical insurance
- Immunizations (please consult your doctor)
- Criminal background check (must be officially translated into English)
1. All volunteers participating on this project for more than two weeks must hold a Scientific Permit. We will obtain the permit on your behalf, however, you must submit the following materials following registration:
- Scanned copy of passport
- Brief CV or resume (1 page maximum), translated into Spanish (must be translated by a professional or native Spanish speaker)
- High quality passport-sized photo
2. Volunteers must apply at least four weeks prior to their desired start date to allow for sufficient time to process the permit.