Costa Rica - Sea Turtle Conservation
On the beautiful beaches of Costa Rica, come and be part of the sea turtles' struggle to survive human poachers and the erosion of their nesting sites. Meet other like-minded volunteers and experience the thrill of returning thousands of baby turtles to their ocean home.
|Location of Project||Various locations on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts|
|Project Length||Min 3 weeks: 1 week orientation/Spanish course + 2 weeks at turtle project|
|Arrival Airport||Juan Santamaria International Airport SJO (arrive on Sunday)|
|Volunteer Work||Beach patrolling, nest re-locations, building hatcheries, and assisting new hatchlings|
|Age||18 - 80|
|Spanish||At least basic knowledge of Spanish (Contact your GoEco advisor to discuss option of additional language classes if a complete beginner)|
|Accommodation||Basic shared rooms with bunk beds|
|Food||2 meals a day during Spanish course and 3 meals a day during project|
|Support||Local in-country team and 24hr emergency support|
|Airport Transfers||on arrival and departure in San José|
|Orientation||Spanish courses, cultural enrichment, and immersion for the first week in San Jose|
|Pre-Departure Kit||Full project details will be sent following registration|
|Travel Insurance||Comprehensive travel & health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage|
What's Not Included
Costa Rica is one of the world's most popular destinations for eco-tourists because of its biodiversity. It has been stated in various places that Costa Rica may contain as much as 6% of the worlds plant and animal species - this in a country that is only as large as the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Costa Rica is Spanish for rich coast. As such, one can expect to find this place to be the ideal tropical paradise with bewilderingly diverse landscapes, flora, and fauna. From rain forests, to dry tropical and temperate forests, to volcanos, to Caribbean and Pacific beaches, to high mountains, and marshy lowlands.
Costa Rican Beach
About the Project
The sea turtle conservation program aims to protect the Kemp's Ridley, Leatherback and Green Sea Turtles' nesting populations on various beautiful Costa Rican beaches. This program has been helping to protect the nests from human poachers and, more recently, from the erosion of the beach. Each season, the Costa Rica turtle conservation program recruits volunteers to help in the research and conservation work, such as night patrolling, working in the hatcheries, collecting eggs, and rescuing turtles. During this time, you will have a chance to work directly with turtles, taking shell and nest-dimension measurements, collecting eggs, and tagging the rear flipper of the turtles. This program is available all year long and volunteers are placed according to demand on some the following projects:
Quelonios del Caribe (June to November, high season in September for Leatherback and Green turtles)
Location: Barra del Pacuare, Tortuguero, in the province of Limon. The closest town is Batan and it is one hour away from the project, where there is internet, a bank, and phone service. There is NO electricity at the project. Very basic accommodation in rustic cabins.
Proyecto Buena Vista, Samara (June to December, high season in September for Leatherback and Green turtles)
Location: Located on the Pacific coast, in Playa Samara, Guanacaste Province. It is 30 minutes away walking from the town of Samara which has all facilities available. There is NO electricity. Very rustic accommodations.
Wildlife Refuge – Playa Hermosa - Punta Mala (mid August to December, high season in September: Olive Ridley turtle)
Location: Located on the Pacific coast, close to the town of Esterillos beach; 45 minute bus ride to Jaco, about 106 km from San Jose.
Volunteer Work and Contribution
Volunteer tasks vary according to demand and necessity. It's important to come with a voluntary spirit, high motivation, and flexibility to cope with unexpected changes. These are the majority of volunteer duties you will conduct:
- Monitoring of the sea turtle nesting activity (night patrols and morning surveys)
- Installation of signs at the beaches regarding location and adaptation of the hatchery
- Construction of hatchery
- Patrolling the beach to look for sea turtles and their nests either during the day or the night, taking turns of 2 or 4 hours at a time
- Collecting the eggs found on the beach and taking them directly to the hatchery (“vivero”) for their protection
- Collecting information on the process by monitoring the hatchery and keeping track of every event
- Releasing “neonatos” (baby sea turtles) from the hatchery into the ocean
- Maintaining the facilities of the project (the shelter)
- Keeping the beach clean (to be done during the day)
Accommodation and Food
Accommodations: while working in their project, volunteers stay in houses provided for volunteers (2-10 volunteers per room). Facilities are basic; rooms, showers and bathrooms are clean and meet conditions for a comfortable stay. Volunteers will share their room with other volunteers or park officials.
Food: three meal times (breakfast, lunch and dinner) at the project are provided. The food follows the daily Costa Rican diet which consists of rice, beans, pasta, red meat, vegetables, and many kinds of fruit. In general terms, meals at the projects are very simple. Vegetarian meals are not a problem as long as the volunteer informs the project beforehand.
Internet: available only in San Jose for a small fee.
First Week Orientation and Spanish Courses
The first week of the minimum three-week program takes place in San Jose. It consists of cultural enrichments and Spanish courses that facilitate acclimation into the Costa Rican culture before the volunteer leaves to begin the project itself. The courses include Spanish grammar rules, emphasis on pronunciation for increased ease of conversation, and allows plenty of practice time for verbal and written Spanish. The goal of this program is to provide the student with basic language skills and functional fluency. Participation in the orientation week is mandatory as it acts as an important stepping stone for the volunteer before traveling into the rural areas where the sea turtles make their nests. (If the participant speaks fluent Spanish before coming on the project, an exception may be made to waive the orientation, though it is highly recommended in order to have the most fulfilling experience. Please contact GoEco to discuss this option prior to registration.)
The first Monday, at 8am, the participant is asked to take a Spanish test in order to gauge their fluency level and correctly place them into appropriate classes.
Here is an example of an orientation week schedule:
As a volunteer in this project, you will have the opportunity to explore and enjoy the beautiful regions of Costa Rica, rich in natural diversity. Swimming, surfing, and snorkeling can always be enjoyed at the beach and are usually the favorite past times of sea turtle volunteers. Before or after the project, a range of adventure and cultural activities, like visits to remote villages, canopy tours, and river rafting, are available. You can arrange these in-country with help from the project staff.
- Minimum age is 18
- Minimum 3 weeks stay: 1 week orientation/Spanish course + 2 weeks at turtle project
- At least basic knowledge of Spanish (contact your GoEco advisor to discuss option of additional language classes if a complete beginner)
- Physically able to walk 5-15km per night (even when raining)
- No severe eye sight problems (night work is conducted without artificial light)
- Able to cope with remote locations and basic living conditions
- Full travel & medical insurance
- Immunizations (please consult your doctor)
- Please consider the following before applying to the project:
- Most rangers and other Costa Rican personnel at the site do not speak English, therefore conversational Spanish is required! See section above regarding details for Spanish courses offered prior to volunteer work on the projects.
- This is hard physical work.
- Sometimes volunteers will be asked to work both during the day and at night. Work might include night patrol and daytime hatchery monitoring.
- Night patrols will take place year-around regardless of the rain, even when there are a few or no turtles nesting.
- It will be hot, with up to 100% humidity and/or rain; there will be mosquitoes and sand flies (no malaria or dengue fever).
- Nature is unpredictable so turtle seasons are not exact and turtle viewings cannot be guaranteed.
- Very simple and basic facilities; hardly any contact with the outside world.
Here's an excerpt of Sam's experience:
Here's an excerpt of Whitney's experience:
Here's an excerpt of Alexis's experience:
Here's an excerpt of Erez's experience:
"I spent 6 weeks at Camaronal Wildlife Refuge, and enjoyed every minute of it! It was the most rewarding experience and I have made some long lasting friendships, despite only getting to know people for such a short time. The rangers were helpful and friendly, which made the time there all the more enjoyable.... Camaronal was a fantastic experience and I look forward to returning one day in the near future! Pura Vida and Yay Costa Rica! :)" - Alice, GoEco Volunteer 2011, New Zealand
For More Information visit the blog of Margy, another GoEco volunteer: http://margysaur.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/turtle-power/
"My volunteer trip to Costa Rica has been great. I am well adjusted to the climate in Costa Rica now and really enjoy the experience of living on the Camoranal turtle reserve. I have seen hundreds of little turtle eggs and have learned a lot more about their species and ways of preserving them. The reserve is very peaceful and the view of the mountains is amazing." - Jonathan GoEco Volunteer 2011, United States
"I absolutely loved going on this project, I would have stayed for longer if I didn't have to go home. It was so different being able to work with people from around the world and so many different animals that I never thought I would be able to handle or really do anything with." - Mara, June 2011
"It was one of the most important, life-changing experiences I have ever had." - Cindy, April 2011
"Costa Rica is the farthest south I have traveled and was the first time being there. I enjoyed the culture I experienced. I enjoy meeting new people. I felt we were making a contribution without greatly disturbing the natural balance of the circle of life. Human interference is a big problem when it comes to poaching, so I feel we as conservationists should be allowed to interfere just as much in order to correct our fellow man."- Nicholas, February 2011
"I spent 6 weeks at the Costa Rica Sea Turtle project, and enjoyed every minute of it! It was the most rewarding experience and have made some long lasting friendships, despite only getting to know people for such a short time :) The rangers were helpful and friendly, which made the time there all the more enjoyable." - Sherry, December 2010