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The volunteer program takes place in the town of Montezuma, on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Once a remote fishing village, Montezuma started attracting many backpackers and tourists since the 1990s. There are several beautiful beaches in the area, scenic waterfalls and the nearby Cabo Blanco Natural Reserve. Montezuma has a laid back vibe and a growing number of wellness and yoga programs and retreats. There are a variety of hotels and hostels for all budgets, as well as restaurants, bars and tour operators.
On the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, on the Pacific coast, Montezuma’s beach is an important nesting ground for endangered hawksbill sea turtles. However, in recent years, it has become a fast-growing tourist destination which affects the nesting cycle of sea turtles, because of costal development and light pollution.
The Sea Turtle Conservation Program at Montezuma Beach is an association and governmental organization that was established with the following goals:
As a volunteer, your tasks will change depending on the season and the duration of your stay. The longer you can commit to the program, your volunteering activities will become more varied and involved. You will be assisting the project staff with some or all of the following tasks:
Seasons: The Montezuma project is open all year long. However, the turtle nesting season is from May to November/December. The peak of the season is August to November, when turtles are still nesting and baby turtles are hatching. Turtle nesting seasons typically remain consistent, but they can be influenced by climatic factors like water temperature, delayed rainfall, and shifts in atmospheric temperatures, which can impact the number of turtles nesting.
A typical day: During turtle nesting season, participants start with breakfast at 7:00 am. Afterwards, there is time for cleaning the facilities, bathrooms and dorms from around 8-10am. The rest of the morning volunteers divide into groups for tasks which include working in the hatchery and beach cleanups. Sometimes volunteers help guide tourists who visit the project or take part in environmental education programs. Lunch time is at noon and in the afternoon volunteers switch activities. After 4:00pm, when the sun’s rays are less strong, volunteers help release baby turtles, if it is hatching time. There is usually some free time in the afternoons when you can relax in the station, go to the beach or town. After dinner, there are several night shifts for patrolling the beach to protect nesting turtles laying their eggs.
During the off season for nesting turtles (Jan-April) there are no night patrols and more work in the hatchery. Volunteers have to make sure all eggs have hatched and conduct an exhumation and data collection process for turtles that didn’t hatch or perished in the nest. After this process, volunteers switch all the sand in the hatchery with new sand for the upcoming turtle season, while making sure there is no plastic or other contamination in the sand. This is physical work and takes about 1 month or more to complete. There is also work cleaning the beach and in the community.
Internship option: For an extra fee, qualified volunteers can join this program as an intern. To ensure a valuable experience, interns must join this internship for a minimum of four weeks (we recommend two to six months). An intermediate level of Spanish is required. Please contact us to discuss this option.
Alternative Placements: This volunteer program fills up quickly! In case your requested date is full, we can also place you with excellent Sea Turtle conservation programs on the Romelia Turtle program (open all year round) or the Caribbean Coast (open from March – August each year).
Internet: Wi-Fi is available on the program (connectivity and speed may vary).
Laundry: There is a laundry service near the program that charges around $2/kilo for washing and drying. A sink and clothes link is also available on site.
Accommodations: During orientation week, you will stay with a host family in San José, which is a short bus ride away from the language school. They will provide you with a comfortable, basic private room in their home. Your accommodations throughout your volunteer placement will be at the program station, which is very simple but has all the necessities. The volunteer house has four dorms with 2 bunk beds in each room, two shared bathrooms, kitchen, dining area, laundry area, and a porch facing the beach. There is capacity for 16 volunteers. Private rooms: couples and families have to option to book accommodation in the town of Montezuma and volunteer on the program. Prices can range from $50 per night in a hostel to $250 per night in a hotel, depending on the season. Following your application, we can provide various accommodation options and assist with the booking.
Food: In San Jose, breakfast and dinner are provided. Throughout your volunteer placement, our friendly local cooks prepare meals 3 times a day, 7 days a week. They can accommodate any dietary restrictions, such as allergies and vegetarian/vegan diets.
Local activities in Montezuma
Volunteers can enjoy various activities during their free time with close access to Montezuma town and stunning beaches. Activities are not included in the program fee and thus volunteers have the freedom to choose to spend their free time as they wish. Activities available in the area: Montezuma waterfall, Cabo Blanco Reserve, El Chorro waterfall, Boat trip to Tortuga island, Horseback riding, Zip lining, Yoga and wellness retreats, Surf lessons.
We recommend traveling around Costa Rica before or after your volunteer placement. You can either explore the country on your own or simply join a tour. Here are a few popular options that you can book with us in advance: