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The placement is based on a research station in Jalova in the heart of the Tortuguero National Park, and aims to provide invaluable data research that will ensure the continued environmental and wildlife conservation efforts of the Costa Rican government. The expedition immerses volunteers in the unique biodiversity of the rainforest, focusing on numerous research and data collection tasks to provide a hands-on and educational experience. Volunteers will need a high level of fitness as the program is physically challenging but rewarding. 

The focus of the project varies between the effect of Jaguars on the turtle population; census of Jaguar and their prey; resident and migratory bird research; as well as Marine turtle nesting surveys (subject to season) and conservation projects.  

Location of the Project:  Tortuguero National Park, Jalova
Project length:  4, 8, 12 or 16 weeks
Arrival Airport:  Juan Santamaria National Airport (SJO)
Volunteer Work:  Research and data surveys
Age:  18 - 70
Number of Volunteers:  Up to 20 international volunteers

What's Included

Accommodations:  Dormitories (mixed gender)
Food:  Meals provided, prepared by volunteers
Airport Transfers:  Included upon arrival the evening before the start date
Support:  Local in-country team and 24 - hour emergency support

What's not Included

Flights, visa, travel health insurance, personal kit, additional drinks and gratuities, extra local excursions, international and domestic airport taxes

The Jalova research base, on the northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, is located within the protected areas of the Tortuguero National Park. The park itself is only accessible via plane or boat and is a stunning network of freshwater canals, remote pristine beaches, and diverse rainforest. The lack of roads means that transportation within the park is via foot, boat, or canoe only. The bio-diversity of the reserve is a result of its eleven different habitats: swamps, beaches, rainforest, and lagoons to name a few. The beaches in the area are also prime nesting locations for the endangered sea turtle making it a focal point of many environmental conservation and research expeditions. 

Volunteers will spend the first week in intensive training, with testing on the material at the end. Conditions can be rough so volunteers will need a good level of fitness. Volunteers are allocated a staff mentor and work with the research team to gather data on the populations of sea turtles, jaguars, and aquatic birds, while gaining an invaluable insight into the delicate eco-system of the Costa Rican rainforest. Partake in daily fieldwork expeditions while receiving professional training and testing in data collection, research, and conservation initiatives. The projects will specifically focus on the following:

  • Canal birds: research is done on canoes looking at specific species distribution
  • Turtles (seasonal): census of the Leatherbacks, Hawksbill and Green, night-walk identification as well as daytime nest excavations
  • Jaguars: set camera traps and identify prey, specifically turtle
Without road access, transportation to and from the base is either by foot or through the beautiful green canals via boat and canoe. This is a great way for volunteers to explore the area, including remote Caribbean beaches. 

Internet:  There is no Internet on the base however Internet cafes are accessible in Tortuguero on the weekends. Phone reception is unreliable.
Laundry:  Hand-washing can be done, although drying is often difficult because of the humidity. Laundromats can be found in town before and/or after your time out in the field.
Accommodations:  Dormitories with mixed sex rooms. Accommodation is basic with only a few hours of generator electricity per day, cold running water for showers, and bucket flush toilets.
Food:  All food is provided, volunteers will take turns preparing meals and doing chores on the base. Meals are vegetarian and consist of rice, beans, pasta, fruits, vegetables, lentils, and chickpeas.

Please take note of the project's minimum requirements:

  • Minimum age 18
  • High level of fitness
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Interest in wildlife and environmental conservation
Important Notes
All volunteers 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 
Volunteers must apply at least four weeks prior to their desired start date to allow for sufficient time to process the permit. 

Volunteers can take a boat to Tortuguero in their spare time, taking the opportunity to kayak on the canals or simply relax in a hammock. Costa Rica itself offers a great travel experience and is a gateway to Latin America. Though there is not enough spare time during the project to take any long trips, volunteers can continue their adventure after the program. Buses and regional flights are generally affordable, and make it easy to discover new adventures and cultures that thrive in Central America. 

Project Add-On:

Volunteers staying for a minimum of 8 weeks will have the opportunity to take part in the Biological Survey Techniques Course for in-depth training that will allow for effective planning and execution of your own field surveys in the future. Please note that there is an additional cost for this program.

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