Costa Rica is one of the world's most popular destinations for eco-tourists because of its biodiversity. It has been stated in various places that Costa Rica may contain as much as 6% of the worlds plant & animal species - this in a country that is only as large as the States of Vermont and New Hampshire (combined) in the U.S.A. Costa Rica is Spanish for rich coast. As such, one can expect to find this place to be the ideal tropical paradise with bewilderingly diverse landscapes, flora, and fauna. From rain forests, to dry tropical and temperate forests, to volcanoes, to Caribbean and Pacific beaches, to high mountains, and marshy lowlands.
About the project
The sea turtle conservation program aims to protect the Kemp's Ridley, Leatherback and Green Sea Turtles' nesting populations on various beautiful Costa Rican beaches. This program has been helping to protect the nests from human poachers and, more recently, from the erosion of the beach. The nesting season of turtles runs from May to December (depending on the beach) but it goes all year long, reaching its highest peak in December. (In December 2002, about 1,200,000 arrived to the beach in the nestling week at the Ostional Project). Each season, the Costa Rica turtle conservation program recruits volunteers to help in the research and conservation work, such as night patrolling, working in the hatcheries, collecting eggs, and rescuing turtles. During this time, you will have a chance to work directly with turtles, taking shell and nest-dimension measurements, collecting eggs, and tagging the rear flipper of the turtles. This program is available all year long and volunteers are placed according to demand on the following projects:
Ostional Turtles Project (Olive-ridley-pacific): this refuge is located at the 200-mts. zone of beach between Punta India and Ostional town.
Gandoca-Manzanillo Turtles Project (Leatherback): This park located at the Caribbean coast, in the Talamanca County, province of Limףn.
Playa Hermosa/Punta Mala Wildlife Refuge: The Playa Hermosa Wildlife Refuge protects a nesting beach of the Olive Ridley turtle on the Pacific Coast of Puntarenas.
Quelonios del Caribe Turtle Project: The station is located in the Caribbean sea (Atlantic Ocean) of Costa Rica, in the province of Limon.
Marino Las Baulas Nacional Park: This park protects the Playa Grande, one of the most important nesting sites on the planet of the Green Sea turtle.
Important note: Sea Turtles programs are located in remote wildlife reserves with very basic living conditions and a limited variety of food. There is a lack communications: no Internet, weak mobile signals, public phones may not be in order as well. Volunteers need to walk up to 10km on soft sand at night to sight sea turtle nests during dry or wet/stormy weather.
Volunteer orientation takes place in San Jose on each Monday from 08:00, therefore its important that you arrive on a Saturday or Sunday. In the orientation you will learn about subjects such as living in Costa Rica, things volunteers can do and things they shouldn't do, money in Costa Rica, host families, rules and projects, food, drinking, etc.The orientation includes a basic Spanish placement test. If you don't know Spanish, no problem, you can easily join a Spanish course (see below).
Volunteer work and contribution
Volunteer tasks vary according to demand and necessity. Its important to come with a voluntary spirit, high motivation and flexibility to cope with unexpected changes. These are the majority of volunteer duties you will conduct:
Monitoring of the sea turtle nesting activity (night patrols and morning surveys)
Releasing of hatchlings (baby turtles) and assisting them to reach the ocean.
Operation and monitoring of sea turtle hatcheries.
Necropsies and Biopsies (If volunteer has a degree in Biology)
Beach cleanups and separation of waste.
Helping with office tasks.
Maintenance of park trails.
Accommodation & food
During the project you will be provided with basic accommodation with bunk beds, laundry and shower facilities. Electricity is partial at times. You will live close to where you are working (usually within walking distance) but occasionally you might take public transportation to sites further afield. Sheets and towels, as well as soap, shampoo etc. are not provided, so please be prepared.
Three meals a day will be provided for you. Your diet will be basic, and consists largely of locally sourced rice, vegetables, beans and noodles. Luxuries such as candy and soft drinks are only available in San Jose, so make sure you stock up before heading to the project site!
As a volunteer in this project you will have the opportunity to explore and enjoy some beautiful regions of Costa, rich in natural diversity. Swimming, surfing and snorkeling can always be enjoyed at the beach and are usually the favourite past times of sea turtle volunteers. After or before the project. A range of adventure and cultural activities like visits to remote villages, canopy tours, and river rafting are available. You can arrange these in-country with help from the project staff.
Min age 18 - Max age 60
Physically able to walk 10-15km per night (even when raining)
No severe eye sight problems (night work is conducted without artificial light)
Able to cope with remote and basic conditions
Full travel & medical insurance
Immunizations (please consult your doctor)
Its important to have intermediate Spanish before you join the volunteer project. If you don't, no problem, you can join a fun week (or more) Spanish course. The course includes Spanish grammar rules, emphasis on pronunciation for increased ease of conversation and allows plenty of practice time for verbal and written Spanish. The goal of this program is to provide the student with basic language skills and functional fluency.
To apply for this program, see Sea Turtle Conservation