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The Great Projects

Turtle Conservation Experience

San Jose, Costa Rica

Help protect turtles who are in danger from poachers by volunteering in Costa Rica!

This project was set up at the Reserva Play Tortuga site by community members and Costa Rican scientists in an attempt to create a culture of environmental conservation in the country. The project site is based on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and once you arrive at the project you will immediately be immersed in a wide variety of habitats and locations which are unique to this part of the world and also home to four species of sea turtle.

About the Project

The aim of the project is to work with the local communities, national and international governments, and non-governmental organisations to promote environmental awareness and conservation actions which they in turn hope will help to promote the development of responsible tourism in the area.

Whilst on the project you get the chance to learn about and aid in the conservation efforts of the Olive Ridley Turtle. You will do this by caring for the babies at the hatchery, collecting crucial scientific data, and relocating eggs to the hatchery or beach as and when it is needed. All of these tasks are crucial in protecting the endangered turtles which nest on the island, and your efforts as a volunteer will help to secure the future of these incredible marine animals.

Volunteers are helping to ensure that there is a future for the turtles in this region, and working alongside the local scientists is the best way to do this. The project was created by community members with the intention of protecting the local wildlife, and volunteers play a big role in ensuring this happens.

Please note, although this project runs throughout the year, turtle nesting season is from July - November and hatching season from August - December. Outside of these times the activities will be based on crocodillian, mammal and bird research and the teaching program.

Prior to Arrival

British Nationals don’t need a visa to enter Costa Rica. Visitors can stay for a period of up to three months, but the exact number of days will be at the discretion of the immigration officer on arrival. For other nationalities you will need to check with the Costa Rican Embassy in your country. Immigration authorities are very strict about foreigners who have overstayed so please bear this in mind.

You will need to arrive at the San Jose International Airport (SJO) before 3pm on the day of your project start date. If you do then you will be collected and transferred to the project site. If this is not possible then we recommend arriving the day before and staying the night in San Jose before being picked up from your hotel the following day. We recommend staying at the Holiday Inn Express San Jose as this hotel provides 24-hour transfers from the airport. The project representative will then collect you from the hotel the following day. This transfer is around 3.5 hours. If flying from the UK you may have to get a connecting flight from another major European City such as Madrid.

Typical day

Day 1-2:

After arriving into San Jose (and staying the previous night in a local hotel) you will be transferred to the project site to begin your volunteering trip. Once settled into the accommodation at the reserve, you will receive an induction all about where the project is located, a brief summary of the project activities, and how you’ll be helping the turtles during your time here!

You will receive a full days training about nesting sea turtles, their biology, the difference between the species, and what to look out for in their behaviour. Later in the day you will visit the Tortuga Beach to learn about the research protocol and turtle hatchery.

Day 3:

You will be spending the day exploring the reserve, seeing many of the local mammals, When night comes you will then switch to turtle duties, spending 3-4 hours searching for nesting sea turtles and collecting the eggs to bring them back to the safety of the hatchery. This will be your first chance to truly study the turtles up close and help gather biometric data from the adults.

Day 4:

After spending some of the previous night working with the turtles, you’ll be pleased to hear you’ve got the morning off to catch up on some rest! After this you will spend the afternoon working with the educational collaboration officer, taking care of the butterfly garden or producing educational material for the schools you’ll be visiting.

Day 5:

Today you will head off into the forest to help set up trail cameras in an attempt to spot the mammals who live in the area. Since 2013 when the mammal monitoring began there have been more than 17 medium sized animals spotted, and you’ll be learning how to set up the camera, identify footprints and pick up skills you can only really learn in the field!

Day 6:

After working hard for five days this is your chance to rest or further explore the area. You may want to spend the day relaxing on the beach, or maybe even book one of the tours which are available in the area including trips to waterfalls and, if you travel between July to October, the Marino Ballena National Park where you may be able to spot Humpback Whales!

Day 7:

Depending on the weather conditions you could be spending today monitoring the local crocodilian population by kayak on the waterways around the reserve, taking notes on the number, size, and species of any you come across. During the night and depending on the research protocol, you could partake in an exciting night walk in the rivers and estuaries under starlight, or even go on a boat trip down the longest river in Costa Rica the Terraba to capture, mark, and identify individuals.

Please note that this is only a rough guideline, and the itinerary may be subject to change depending on the needs of the reserva. Nevertheless main tasks will include:

Data collection
This will include monitoring the turtles nesting in the area and gathering crucial information on them. You will also help with the tagging and management of both the adult and baby turtles. You may also get the chance to help relocate some of the eggs back to the sanctuary, and if the timing is right you could even be on hand for a baby turtle release, helping to scare away predators as they make their way to the ocean.

Night patrols on the beach
Another very important part of the turtle conservation effort you will be a part of throughout your stay, you will spend time monitoring the beaches where the turtles nest, keeping an eye out for poachers and other threats to their safety.

Crocodilian, mammal and bird inventory
The project is not just about turtles and you will be helping to monitor and then inventory some of the crocodile, small mammal, and bird species from the region!

Beach Clean Up
This is a major part of the work here; as you will need to make sure the nesting sites remain as healthy and safe as possible to give the turtles the best chance of survival. Something as simple as a plastic bottle can be a death trap for a baby turtle, so you will need to be thorough in this task.

School Visits
You will help educate the local children about the wildlife in their area with the help of the Butterfly Garden. You’ll be preparing workshops, making crafts, and participating in outreach activities like beach and river clean ups alongside helping in the maintenance of the butterfly garden!

Details on Arrival

Turtle season in Costa Rica is from August to December.

It is possible to start the project on any date from the start of August until the middle of December in both 2017 and 2018 (subject to availability)


Please contact us to check whether your preferred start date is still available!

Free-time activities

This project is not all work and no play and there is good opportunity to enjoy some time off. You will have the chance to take part in many different activities including: surf lessons, horseback riding, hiking, diving and many others! There are plenty of shops and restaurants within walking distance of the Reserva, but if you want to take part in any of the activities then get in touch with your project facilitator.

Water Sports
Swimming
Diving/Snorkling
Hiking
Riding

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).
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
For this project you will be walking through the forest floor and maybe through river beds so you will need to have a moderate level of fitness to take part. You won’t need any particular skills to be a volunteer except a passion for animal conservation!
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday

Suitable for

Singles
Couples
Groups

Any questions? Just ask. We at The Great Projects are happy to help you.

Contact Project Coordinator
Contact & Reservation
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Included Services

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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by The Great Projects.
Services by The Great Projects

Airport transfers to and from San Jose Airport - Three meals a day - Accommodation at the project site - Wifi Access - Snacks - Use of the washing machine and drying room once a week - Knowledgeable project coordinator

Airport Pickup at Tobias Bolaños International

You will need to arrive at the San Jose International Airport (SJO) before 3pm on the day of your project start date. If you do then you will be collected and transferred to the project site. If this is not possible then we recommend arriving the day before and staying the night in San Jose before being picked up from your hotel the following day. We recommend staying at the Holiday Inn Express San Jose as this hotel provides 24-hour transfers from the airport.

Accommodation

On this project you will be accommodated in the volunteer center where there is enough room for up to 15 volunteers to stay at once. Your will have your own room which is spacious with a good quality mattress, storage for your clothes, screened windows to keep out the bugs and at the turtle camp mosquito nets are provided for the nights you may stay there. Linens and a towel will be provided, and once a week you will be able to use the washing machine and the solar powered drying tent.

Guesthouse Bedroom (Single)
Food & Beverages

All food and drinks are included within the cost of the project (apart from extra alcoholic drinks you may want to buy in the local towns and villages) and you will receive 3 meals a day. You will prepare these meals on your own with the assistance of the volunteer coordinator, and the food will give you a taste of the local cuisine with elements of what you are used to back at home! Dishes may include: tortillas, salads, chicken, beef, pastas, cereals, sandwiches, and fresh fruit and vegetables

Internet Access
Good access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Tobias Bolaños International (SYQ) 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)
$676.00
2 weeks (max. stay)
$967.00
Average fees
$580.00/week

You can volunteer at the project site in San Jose/Costa Rica between 1 week and 2 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. The Great Projects 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 The Great Projects during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.
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