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.
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.
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.
You will be doing the following tasks.
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.
After spending some time with the turtles, you’ll be working with the educational collaboration officer, taking care of the butterfly garden or producing educational material for the schools you’ll be visiting.
You will also 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!
Depending on the weather conditions you could also be spending time 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.
On rest days it's your chance to relax 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!
Every day is different on our project site but tasks will include:
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.
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.
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.
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