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Latin American Sea Turtles

In water Sea Turtle Studies

Osa, Costa Rica

Monitor the feeding habits of turtles in the Peninsular de Osa, by laying nets, catching and taking data from turtles. This is combined with mangrove reforestation

About the Program

At our Osa in-water program you have the unique opportunity to get hands on experience with scientific research. 

On Playa Blanca, our work focuses on Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Easter Pacific Green turtles (Chelonia mydas). Sea turtles spend only 1% of their lives on the nesting beaches and due to this behavioral pattern, mainly only adult females are studied. Very little information is available about juvenile populations and sex ratios of adult populations. Therefore, more in water work is needed to increase knowledge about habitats used by sea turtles in different life stages in order to assess the types of threats they are exposed to.

We carry out in-water studies and operate a rescue and rehabilitation center, which has opened its doors at the end of 2011. Since then we have received more than 100 sea turtles, which we could rehabilitate and afterwards release back into the wild. Most of the turtles suffered different traumas or epibionts. Although Olive Ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea) don’t forage in the Golfo Dulce, this is still a transit area for them. This is why we also treat this species when it is needed. Our rehab procedures and installations follow international best practices and provide us with 9 tanks for sea turtles. 

Our plan for the future is to include a hospital area to enhance veterinarian treatments.

The in-water studies consist of monitoring the feeding habitat used by sea turtles in different life stages to collect data about population structure, genetic origin, health status and in-water habitat use. This will help us to assess the types of threats that sea turtles are exposed to in this area. We capture individuals, tag them, take biometric data, tissue and sometimes blood samples and release them back to the ocean.

Since mangroves play an essential ecological role for coastal ecosystems and therefore for sea turtles, we have implemented a mangrove reforestation program in Playa Blanca together with a local grassroots organizations, in our conservation activities. In the long term this will improve the health status of mangroves and water quality in the area.

Another important but vulnerable ecosystem are the off shore sea grass beds, on which sea turtles and other marine animals feed, and which provide a living habitat for a wide range of organisms and small marine species. In 2013, LAST started to conduct sea grass bed studies near Playa Blanca to gain knowledge about the health status and biomass production. We found two species of sea grass which are essential in their contribution to a healthy ocean – the main condition for maintaining its biodiversity.

The Location

The Osa In-water program is located in Playa Blanca on the Dulce Gulf of the Peninsula Osa, South Pacific of Costa Rica. The region is one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots of the world including the Dulce Gulf, which is one of the 4 tropical fiords worldwide. Surrounded by different kinds of beaches, mangroves & estuaries it creates unique habitats for permanent and migratory species. More than 40 different fish species, as well as dolphins, whales, whale sharks and sea turtles thrive in various ecosystems of the Gulf. The Osa Peninsula hosts a large variety of tropical ecosystems, providing habitats to numerous animals like scarlet macaws, monkeys, sloths, wild cats and other wildlife, and countless tropical plants. A truly lush nature that still needs to be explored and researched is awaiting volunteers, to turn conservation work into a really exceptional experience!

Playa Blanca and the surrounding communities are all small, rural villages with lots of tradition and rich culture. Our philosophy is to involve the local community in our program – making the volunteers’ experience much more authentic, cultural, and enjoyable. 

What to Bring

  • Quick dry shorts/ shirts for every day work, Light weight long sleeve shirt and pants
  • Socks and plenty of underwear, Swimsuits
  • Raincoat/poncho and/or umbrella
  • Sunglasses and hat, Sunblock, Insect repellent, water bottle
  • Quick dry towels
  • Close-toed beach shoes that can get wet, Flip flops, Sneakers
  • Headlamp
  • Day backpack
  • Snorkel and mask
  • Plastic bag for backpack
  • Dry bag

Typical day

Usual working days are Monday - Saturday from 08:00 AM - 3:30 PM.

Your Tasks

In-Water Monitoring:

A monitoring trip takes 7 hours; you will leave early in the morning and return after lunch time. Volunteers help with the preparation of boat equipment, adequate maintenance of the turtle net and will follow the instructions by the staff during their stay on the boat. You will be needed for checking the net in the water, getting the turtles out of the water and ensuring that the turtles stay calm while on board. 

Additionally you will assist in taking important data and samples from the animals. After an in-water trip, there is still maintenance work to do on the net and equipment so the next trip can be prepared and carried out smoothly. Sometimes we are busy like working with 25 turtles in 7 hours.

Field Rescue and Rehabilitation Center:

When we receive or find a injury turtle to treat at our center, you will be involved in the daily care for sea turtles, which includes feeding, water change and cleaning tanks, as well as assisting our staff in taking and recording data. Our facilities are rustic, however, they follow international standards and our protocols are based on them too. 

Our goal is to proceed to enhance the existing facilities and built a hospital area to improve veterinarian treatment for the sea turtles. This a great opportunity to future biologist, marine ecologists, veterinarians or environment enthusiasts because is direct involvement on sea turtle care.

Mangrove Nursery and Reforestation:

Reforestation activities involve the collection of seeds in the mangrove forest of the Gulf, preparation of mud boxes, transplanting the seeds in germination bags, watering the propagules, transport the small trees to the reforestation area, planting the small trees in areas where mangroves are declining and finally you will join field trips to look out for new areas of mangroves and to get seeds again. The work can be dirty but really great, so old clothes are necessary to bring with you, as you will work exposed to the sun often, so don’t forget your sun cream, hat and water bottle.

Sea grass studies:

You will work in couples by transepts and squares of a marked area near shore to count sea grass leaves for biomass monitoring, and every three months we remove seagrass of the monitoring quadrants to estimate the regeneration of the sea grass bed. 

Sea grasses have a lot of important characteristics for coastal marine ecosystems and sea turtles, they are important source of food for green turtle, also this benthic ecosystem process huge amounts of carbon fixed releasing oxygen into the atmosphere, while a hectare of seagrass processes the carbon released by a car on a journey of 2,500 km so it is very important to get to know them better since there is no existing data of them in the Golfo Dulce. Be part of the process to collect first scientific data of sea grasses in the Golfo Dulce, get to know the work depending on tides and dynamic coastal ecosystems.

Free-time activities

The project lies close to Corcovado National park - which volunteers can visit on days off
The nearest town is Puerto Jimenez, with many shops, bars, restaurants and tours.
In Playa Blanca, it is possible to rent kayaks, horseride, or even take a canopy ziplining tour or an ATV tour.
Volunteers have one free day per week to enjoy activities. Our staff at the project will be happy to help organize.

Water Sports

Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s). Of course, there is an exception for children that are accompanied by their parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Health Declaration
Required Documents
Letter of motivation
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
Enthuisasm, willingness to work. Basic Spanish is an advantage.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 08:00 - 15:30

Suitable for


Any questions? Just ask. We at Latin American Sea Turtles are happy to help you.

Contact Project Coordinator
Contact & Reservation

Included Services

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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by Latin American Sea Turtles.
Services by Latin American Sea Turtles
  • Accommodation
  • 3 Costa Rican meals per day
  • Training
  • Materials used for conservation work
  • Manual
  • 24 hour staff support

  • We can provide airport pickup, but the costs are not included in the fees. 

Fees vary according to category of accommodation - volunteers can choose from basic homestays to air conditioned hotels. Prices shown are for beach cabins

We work with local families who are committed to the conservation effort in the area.

Guest Family Youth Hostel
Food & Beverages

Breakfast will usually consist of "gallo pinto" - rice and beans, eggs, corn tortillas and coffee. Main meals will consist of rice and beans, plantains, salads, vegetables, pasta and some protein.
There will occasionally be fresh fruit.
Coffee is very common in Costa Rica, as is fresh fruit juices.

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees. An airport pickup isn't included within the program fees either.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose. We assist you to find cheap flights to Costa Rica.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Costa Rica provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Costa Rica you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Costa Rica.
Costs (Prices in USD)
1 week (min. stay)
2 weeks
3 weeks
4 weeks
6 weeks
8 weeks
12 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees

You can volunteer at the project site in Osa/Costa Rica between 1 week and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Latin American Sea Turtles will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Crowdfunding Service
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Costa Rica.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Latin American Sea Turtles during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

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