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Latin American Sea Turtles

Leatherback Turtle Conservation

Barra de Pacuare, Costa Rica

The program works with the local community, trained in sea turtle conservation who work together with volunteers to protect endangered turtles.

About the Program

Pacuare beach is located on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. Surrounded by beautiful nature, Pacuare beach is very remote, only accessible by boat, and it is a nesting site for Leatherback, Green and occasionally Hawksbill turtles. 

Illegal egg poaching and hunting for sea turtles, pollution and beach erosion are threatening the survival of the already critically endangered animals in Pacuare. This has caused an alarming decline in turtles being born on this beach. In particular the 7.1 km covered by the program are in danger, it has no legal protection whatsoever. Volunteers play a very important role in changing this situation. In Costa Rica the poaching of sea turtles or sea turtle eggs is considered a crime by the Law 8325, but the enforcement remains rather difficult.

This conservation program works together with the local community, former poachers trained in sea turtle conservation who, together with volunteers protect the critically endangered animals. The program does nightly beach patrols and operates a hatchery to protect the fragile eggs . 

Volunteers play an important part in Pacuare, as their fees generate an income for the local inhabitants. We strive to increase alternative livelihoods for coastal communities to take the need for poaching and hunting turtles away. From March to October, volunteers help patrol 7.1 km of nesting beach, collecting important data on nesting female turtles and their nests. Outside of main nesting season, volunteers are needed to help with vital hatchery construction and station maintenance.

The Location

The program is located on a remote Caribbean beach in Costa Rica, 2km north of the Pacuare river mouth. It covers 7,1 km of coastline of a black sand barrier, surrounded by rain forest and several coastal lagoons and palm swamp forests. The beach is part of the 50 km stretch between Tortuguero National Park (famous for its sea turtles) on the north Caribbean coast and the Port of Limón city. Fresh water canals and the tropical vegetation in Pacuare provide habitat for not only an abundant quantity of birds and mammals such as monkeys, tamanduas, raccoons, coati, sloths, but also for manatees and fresh water dolphins, turtles, crocodiles and iguanas. 

The area is not only unique in every way, but is also a famous nesting site for many Leatherback, Hawksbill and Green sea turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs. 

. Remember we do not have standard electricity (we use solar panels), there are no grocery stores, no roads, and no public phone service or internet facilities.

you will need to purchase a SIM  card from ICE Kölbi (1000 colones), due to the fact that this is the only provider that works in Pacuare and in most remote areas. Your phone needs to be 3G and unblocked for it to work.

The Best Time to Volunteer

At the Caribbean Pacuare program, sea turtle work depends on nesting seasons. From March - October you have the chance to work with nesting turtles and to observe the babies hatch (usually from May to November). Volunteers who want to participate during November - February will support our program with maintenance work at the station, beach clean-ups and beach preparation for turtle season, hatchery construction, inventory, etc. to keep the program station and our surroundings in good shape.

What to Bring

Pack for hot weather and dirty conditions. Lightweight, DARK and fast-drying articles are best. Don’t bring denim. It NEVER dries in tropical humidity.

  • Besides sufficient t-shirts and shorts, also dark* long sleeved shirts and long trousers for the nightly patrols
  • Raincoat or poncho, mosquito protection, Anti-ich 
  • Plenty of socks/ underwear
  • Swimsuits; Sunglasses/ hat; Towels (fast drying); Sunblock, A water bottle; Alarm clock
  • Headlamp with RED LIGHT – essential for night work since sea turtles don’t get disturbed by this light.
  • Padlock
  • Extra batteries, or a charger with rechargeable batteries
  • Day backpack for hikes 
  • Close-toed beach shoes that can get wet; Flip flops; Sneakers
Why Choose Us?

  • Observe giant Leatherbacks, beautiful Green and rare Hawksbill turtles in the wild
  • Actively protect endangered species from being poached
  • Support a good cause and to contribute to the improvement of local living conditions and the economy, to minimize poaching
  • Live surrounded by nature and in a remote place which offers a unique experience for everyone who is used to a modern life style

Typical day

Volunteers will work 6 days per week, with one day off . This will be coordinated upon arrival.

Volunteers will participate in the following activities:

Night Patrol: 

Between March and November volunteers, international research assistants and local research assistants of the community of Pacuare will patrol the beach in three sectors (ca. 2.4 km each) and two shifts from 8 pm to 12 am and 12 am to 4 am. It will take at least 4 hours to patrol the beach effectively and if a nesting turtle is found, the eggs will be collected and relocated into a hatchery. 

The turtle work will be done following an official protocol and involves tagging, taking biometry and other important data of the nesting female. Former poachers using their know how and now trained in conservation techniques together with previously trained volunteers carry out the important work and are also responsible for guarding the nests at the hatchery and releasing baby turtles.

The Nest Hatchery:

The hatchery is an area prepared, cleaned and fenced on beach, exactly located on correct beach zones to relocate the nests by specie. This enclosure needs protection 24/7 and you will be involved in this work, by doing 4 - 6 hours shifts. You will receive training to relocate nests in this area, take environmental, physical and biological parameters.

Day shifts:

Day time work can be anything from beach cleaning, hatchery maintenance, station upkeep, and light construction.

Day shists will be for approx 2 hours in the morning, and 2 hours in the afternoon.

please note from February to April we will be constructing the hatchery - and most day shists will involve shovelling sand!



Details on Arrival

Arrival and departure days are Mondays and Thursdays only.

Volunteers must visit our office in Tibas before travelling to the project, so we recommend booking flights that arrive on Sundays or Wednesdays, and have one night in San Jose.

Free-time activities

Volunteers receive one free day per week, but due to the remoteness of the program there are few activities to do! Time is spent catching up on sleep, relaxing on the beach or sharing with the local community. We often organize football or volleyball games with the locals.
For an additional cost, you can take a boat trip to Tortuguero, and the National Park.

There are many areas to walk or hike to , for wildlife spotting - including monkeys, sloths, crocodiles and birds!
Our staff can help with organizing any free time activities.

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) and Spanish (basic level)
Health Declaration
required
Required Documents
Letter of motivation
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
Enthusiasm and willingness to work!
Prepared to adapt to basic conditions, and live without modern ameneties.
Willingness to work at night.
Good level of physical fitness.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Suitable for

Singles
Couples
Families
Groups
50+

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

Contact Project Coordinator
Contact & Reservation
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Included Services

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We refund your fees if Latin American Sea Turtles cancels your trip
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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
  • Orientation in San Jose
  • Volunteer manual
  • On site training
  • 3 meals per day
  • Shared accommodation at program
  • All materials used for conservation duties
  • Qualified staff 24/7
  • Fee does not include $45 return boat transportation.
Accommodation

  • Shared beach cabins, dorm style, shared bathrooms
  • Basic but comfortable accommodation
  • No electricity (solar energy)

Dorm Room
Food & Beverages

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided. We can cater for any dietary requirements. Local costa rican cuisine is served - expect lots of rice and beans, vegetables, salads, pasta, plantains etc.
Cold drinks, tea and coffee are also available.

Internet Access
Sorry, no 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.
Vaccines
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)
$280.00
2 weeks
$560.00
3 weeks
$840.00
4 weeks
$1,120.00
6 weeks
$1,680.00
8 weeks
$2,240.00
12 weeks (max. stay)
$3,360.00
Average fees
$280.00/week

You can volunteer at the project site in Barra de Pacuare/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.
Americas Central America Costa Rica Barra de Pacuare, Barra de Pacuare
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