Volunteer in Costa Rica – Sea Turtle Conservation

Posted by: Whitney J.

It was the wonderful people. This is what I’d say if you asked me my favorite thing about volunteering in Costa Rica. I didn’t fully realize their warmth until I landed in Dallas, Texas on my way home. Once back in the states, people were noticeably colder, and I’d only been gone for 16 days!

I stayed with a home-stay family for the first two days and the last night of my trip, and they were some of the most fabulous people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. They made me feel welcome and like a part of the family instantly. Plus, my home-stay mother is an excellent cook – there was an endless array of vegan food she prepared for me, as much as I could eat! They also introduced me to a number of Costa Rican fruits and vegetables. I could write about the food for days! My biggest food surprise was a new found love of tomatoes – which I previously hated.

The 7 hour bus trip from San Jose to the Sea Turtle Conservation project in Corozalito was an adventure in itself, and I was glad to share it with Frankie, a fellow volunteer from England. Days on the project were typically spent lounging by the pool, spending time at the local elementary school, or doing exhumations.

Every day was fantastic, but I especially loved the days spent on the beach doing research. Exhumations included locating and digging up nests that had already hatched and documenting the remains. Nights were either an evening beach patrol followed by sleeping in the next day or early to bed for a pre-sunrise patrol. Keep in mind each trip to the beach was about a 20 minute walk one way; other project sites may be closer or even right on the beach.

I’ve never been a morning person, so rising at 3am didn’t seem appealing at first, but the morning patrol was always my favorite. At least during my time on the project, the morning patrols were much more active. Tortuguitas [baby turtles] were hatching from their nests, and we helped them down to the ocean so they could avoid beach predators. Only 1 in every 1000 turtles lives to adulthood, so saving those that actually hatched, from a beach massacre was important!

The best patrols were when we found momma turtles laying eggs. We typically took the eggs as they were being laid to relocate the nest for protection from poachers, but sometimes we’d have to wait until she was done laying if that option was less disturbing for her. However all work stopped every time we encountered a momma turtle in the daylight – it was picture time!

I spent time with volunteers from around the world who 6 months later, I still have contact with. I just spoke with my host family last week, and still their warmth is genuine and great. Unforgettable. Life changing. Inspiring. Passion. That is volunteer tourism in a nutshell.

If you’d like to read more detail about each day of my adventure, including pre- and post-project happenings, please visit www.ittakesmorethan80days.blogspot.com. There are 3 posts in total about this Costa Rica trip, and many more about my other adventures. GoEco has my contact information as a reference, should you have any questions for me, or you can contact me through my blog. Enjoy, and happy travels!