Sea turtle conservation efforts started in this part of Latin America in 2004 when the initiator established a volunteer program for the protection of the sea turtles. Such conservation approach was unique and still has a special attention of various organizations around the world, most notably the WWF (World Wildlife Fund). In 2011, the sea turtle conservation activities were handed over to an organization you would volunteer with. This Caribbean coast turtle volunteer program comprises an important beach monitoring and a hatchery operation. Furthermore, it offers environmental education and outreach program to rise the awareness about sea turtle conservation and involve local Costa Rican communities.
Why volunteer for the sea turtles? How would a volunteer ‘help the world’ in protecting the sea turtles in Costa Rica?
Sea turtles are over 100 million years old. They travel through the oceans and are not limited by the states’ borders. Thus, all the nations living around a certain ocean area need to act together in the sustainable measures to protect these marine animals. Why are sea turtles important? They keep the sea in an ecological balance and through this keep the ecosystem healthy. Not long ago a survival of these sea turtles where you’d volunteer for was at risk due to the poachers, who are now helping in the protection (see below). If sea turtles cannot survive, this might have the consequences also on humans in the future, thus we need to preserve them. Costa Rica is very lush, green and mountainous, and has one of the most beautiful nature. This will inspire you to make a notable contribution and experiencing even a special volunteer adventure. Come along to this valuable sea turtle volunteer project.
Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica
1 week to 12 weeks
Airport of Arrival:
San Jose (SJO), Costa Rica
Data collection and protection of the Leatherback Sea Turtles, Green Sea Turtles and Hawksbill Sea Turtles.
18 – 70
# of Volunteers:
30 International volunteers (e.g. USA, Canada, Denmark, UK)
To be added.
What is included?
Volunteers will make their own way, via public transport, to and from Bataan, where they will be collected.
Shared room in beach huts, in the research station
All inclusive; vegetarian, vegan also available; typical food of Costa Rica.
Volunteers must provide their own comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage.
To be added.
Due to the remote location of the project no excursions are available
24h emergency support and local in-country sea turtle conservation team
Flights, personal expenses, transport to and from the airport, transport to and from Bataan.
- Minimum age: 18
- Participant must be in good physical condition
- Language: basic English, Spanish
- Interest: enthusiastic, team player, willing to help in turtle conservation;
- No vaccines are needed
- No police Background check is needed
The country is extremely safe, however precautions must be taken with your personal belongings.
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I had such a great volunteering experience with Vivamar Society in the NE Adriatic. It was my first volunteering and I absolutely loved every minute of it. The project leader is like a little guardian angel for Dolphins. Its so nice to see someone who has given up everything in order to serve something bigger than herself. We had so many great adventures to nearby towns and villages and also on the water adventures. Going out on the research boat is a thoroughly enjoyable experience, seeing dolphins in the wild is one of the best things you’ll ever see not to mention doing it on many occasions. You really get to know each dolphin by the end of your time as you spend many hours trying to spot the fin. I learn’t so much and there was never a dull moment. The food was also some of the best I’ve eaten. It was a great chance to meet people from all walks and who all share the same goals. Thank you project leads and Vivamar for all that you do and I hope that Vivamar can continue to be an Ambassador for Dolphins in the NE Adriatic.
I decided to volunteer at Costa Rica Caribbean sea turtle project because I was meeting a friend and travelling in Costa Rica for 2 weeks but wanted to spend more time in the country. It sounded like a great project that works towards helping endangered animals but also improved the local community by giving locals job opportunities. Contributing to wildlife conservation and experiencing Costa Rican outside of the popular tourist towns seemed to be a fun way to extend my stay in the country. After arriving at the project I quickly realized that it was an amazing and made a huge impact therefore I decided to return for the remainder of my summer. Deciding to volunteer ended up being the best decision I could have made, I enjoyed my time with the program more then I enjoyed my actual travel vacation that was the original reason for being in Costa Rica.
“Where to start? This is the best experience of my life; the people, the place, the nature of the work, the beautiful leatherback turtles! I added extra days as I didn’t want to leave! Considering the remoteness of the beach the facilities and food was fantastic and I liked that it was rustic. The work was hard in the humidity but rewarding and despite not seeing any hatchlings I was lucky to work with so many giant mummy turtles in the middle of the night and help dig nests to keep their babies safe from poachers. For the money I paid I think it’s definitely worth it and I’m already looking at returning! Thank you to everyone for having me at Costa Rica Caribbean sea turtle project and keep up the great work!”
Before I came to the Costa Rica Pacific side project I had never seen a sea turtle, been out of the country, or been away from my family for longer than a week. It was the scariest thing I had ever done but it was also the best decision I ever made. I learned more about myself in the three months that I spent in Costa Rica than any other time in my life.
Every day is filled with new adventures and experiences, whether we were working with turtles, in mangroves, or education. Working with the turtles was a remarkable experience that I will never forget. Coming from the desert, I have never been so close to marine life. Working with such a big beautiful animal that you pull right out of the ocean was incredible. I was so happy that I got the chance to be part of a mangrove reforestation project. Work in the mangroves is hard messy work but during your time here you get to see the seeds you planted at the beginning grow into little trees and it is all worth it. The days we got to work with the kids were always so much fun! They were always so excited to meet the “turtle people” and were always enthusiastic to learn.
I met many interesting people during my time in Costa Rica from different backgrounds. Not only people from Costa Rica but also people from all over the world. I became friends with many of the locals and became very close with the research assistants.
I very much enjoyed my time at the Costa Rica Pacific project and definitely plan on returning to Costa Rica!
The Costa Rica Pacific project caught my attention the moment I started looking for volunteer projects. Within days of starting my placement I knew the following months were going to be invaluable for my personal and professional development. Throughout the course of my placement I learned so much about sea turtles and was empowered to strengthen my ability in sharing that knowledge with others. Most importantly, I grew so much as an individual, made lifelong friendships, enjoyed many laughs, and was able to unplug and enjoy the natural beauty that the area has to offer. I’m so thankful for my experience Costa Rica Pacific project and the joy and enrichment those months brought to my life.
My experience at Costa Rica Caribbean sea turtle project was one of the best experiences I have had! Although it certainly was something out of my comfort zone, I don’t regret doing it. It opened my eyes to how prominent poaching is, and how important it is for there to be patrols to help. The people and the activities that I had to do made me feel so helpful and supportive to the community, certainly a trip that you come out from realising how much off the world you are normally secluded from. Would recommend it to everyone! Best food and everyone is so friendly and happy that you are there.
A great and memorable experience!
The time I spent with the project leader and the other volunteers was an experience I surely will never forget. You get a good insight into the life of the dolphins living in the adriatic sea and the threats that endanger them. This knowledge that we gained from this dedicated Dolphin conservation society Team we could apply directly on our trips on the research boat, while enjoying the sunset -and the dolphins of course- at the same time. On the days we didn’t visit the dolphins, a project leader showed us a part of the scienific work of dolphin research which was very interesting.
The atmosphere was relaxed the whole time, we all got along well. That’s why we also had a lot of fun during our free time which we spent snorkeling, laying at the beach and visiting some beautiful towns. I definitely recommend this volunteering project to anyone who is interested in helping the dolphins and keeping the sea healthy!
After a short search on volunteer opportunities I became quickly aware of the project for the bottlenose dolphins, which was, in my opinion, a total jackpot. From the first day on I got the feeling I was into something important. From the little tasks like washing the dishes to gardening I was always feeling the spirit. We did good work on research comparing dolphin fins on the pictures we took. In our free time we enjoyed the underwater world of the Adriatic Sea, snorkeling for hours! Of course, the most beautiful time I spent here was when we went out on our boat trip to get new pictures and data of our lovely dolphins.
I will always remember the first time when I saw a fin breaking through the surface of the sea and the joy I felt having a look into the eyes of an animal that is so intelligent and free!
I have always been into the sea and dolphins so I was really excited when I found out this project for dolphin conservation. I thought to volunteer for such a purpose would be a good thing. When I had to choose what to do for my matura, final work exam at school, I asked if I could do it about dolphins and from what they are endangered and the project leaders agreed with it.
By volunteering for dolphins I learned more about the research work. But not only this, I also had a good time during doing my work with the other volunteers.We went swimming in the sea, sunbathing at the beach or just drinking a beer and get to know each other better.
But what’s the best of all: you see dolphins in the wild. It’s so great to see them swimming in the wide ocean free and their movements. I can’t believe people are catching them and put them into an aquarium.
I would recommend this poject to everybody who wants to have a closer look at the researcher life and wants to do something good for the sea and its amazing inhabitants.
I have come to do the volonteering for dolphin conservation because I have been fascinated by the dolphins since my childhood. While volunteering we have learned so much about these wonderful creatures – and to see them LIVE in the nature was an absolute highlight!
Last but not least, especially our team was so unique because it team was the oldest ever J and we had one younger volunteer that we at once ‘adopted’ and called her »our baby«. So we have harmonized very well. We have worked together, cooked, cleaned, harvested even olives and did also the tours. Almost like in a family! We laughed until our bellies hurt! Everything fitted just perfectly! And then, of course, there is a team leader, who, by her cordial, open manner and her presence is a real personality! It is absolutely a joy, that you can, through the love to the dolphins meet even so dear people!
The project is located in the north of the Caribbean province. The beach is part of the 50km coastline stretching between Tortuguero National Park towards South of Costa Rica. The project is very remote, and access is only by the boat through the canals of Tortuguero.
Within the area we can find tropical rainforest, mangroves and rivers, which are home for a lot of exotic animals like monkeys, sloths, crocodiles and a numerous variety of birds and insects.
This sea turtle Costa Rican conservation project works together with the local community, where former poachers have been trained in sea turtle conservation and work together with volunteers to protect the critically endangered animals. The project does night and day beach patrols and operates a hatchery. Volunteers take an important part, as their fees represent an income for the local inhabitants. The volunteer organization strives to increase the alternative livelihoods for coastal communities versus poaching and hunting turtles and to achieve a sustainable sea turtle management.
The main threats for sea turtles in this part of Costa Rica are: egg poaching and hunting nesting turtles which are the cause for a population decline. Especially in the Caribbean, the consumption of sea turtle meat and eggs or the utilization of turtle shell for jewelry production is rooted in long-lived local traditions and a strong belief that sea turtle eggs serve as aphrodisiac. Along, sea turtles face the negative effects of global warming, contamination, habitat loss due to the beach erosion, entanglement in fishing gear and trash. Through the involvement of local inhabitants of this isolated and small community, the sea turtle project provides a unique opportunity for volunteers to experience a community-based Costa Rican conservation. It also offers a legal and sustainable revenue for community members. The data taken from nesting females improves our understanding of their behavior and helps coordinating conservation efforts worldwide.
The main nesting activities here are from the Leatherback Sea Turtle, but also Green Sea Turtles and Hawksbill Sea Turtles are coming to the beach and lay their eggs. All sea turtles species are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Green Sea Turtle at this location is ranked as “Vulnerable” and the Leatherback and Hawksbill Sea Turtle as “Critically Endangered”. Therefore your sea turtle conservation volunteer position here will not only help to the sea turtles but also a local community! Exciting, isn’t it?
Each volunteer will receive orientation in our offices in San Jose before travelling to the project. During the orientation, we will explain the volunteer work roles, explain why we need volunteers and give helpful tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Between March and October volunteers, together with the sea turtle research assistants, patrol the beach from 8:00 pm to 4:00 am in different shifts and sectors of the beach. 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 turtle. Former poachers, now trained in conservation techniques, and the trained volunteers carry out the important work and are responsible for guarding the nests at the hatchery and releasing baby turtles.
Not only for the sea turtles – volunteers are involved also in the daily tasks, like cleaning, gardening, kitchen work, painting, maintaining, beach cleaning etc., depending on the season and the needs.
Typical Day: You will volunteer about 6 – 8 hours per day, 6 days out of 7.
After breakfast, you will receive a briefing from the previous night’s activities. After that, you will participate in the volunteer activities around the station. This could be maintenance, hatchery construction, cleaning, painting or beach cleaning – depending on the needs. After lunch, you will have time to relax.
In the afternoon we will continue with our volunteer activities.
In the evening, dinner will be served, and you will prepare for your night shift. Patrols take place from 7pm though until 4am – so you will be put on a 4 hour shift during this time.
Hatchery monitoring takes place 24 hours per day – so if you do not go on a patrol you will be put on a hatchery shift.
Volunteers will stay in one of 6 shared beach cabins. Each cabin is equipped with bunk beds and can sleep 6 – 8 people. The shared bathroom and shower block is separate. The property is very open and just meters from the beach.
There is a kitchen, office for staff and a common area for the sea turtle volunteers, with hammocks and reading material.
Three meals a day are included (meals are mostly vegetarian). Meals will be prepared and served for volunteers, unless there are very few volunteers, in which case everyone will prepare and serve meals together.
Volunteers must wash their own dishes.
Meals are mostly vegetarian and typical dishes include Costa Rican food, rice, black beans, plantains, salads, vegetables, pasta and soups. There are no amenities around, so volunteers must take their own snacks.
Tea and coffee are available all day.
Alcoholic drinks are not permitted whilst participating in the project.
There is no WiFi or internet connection at the project
Volunteers can hand wash clothes. A detergent is available.
This is a beautiful area on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and has a lot of wildlife. It is common to see sloths, white faced and howler monkeys and many species of birds. Our work takes place at night on the beach – even when it rains, we must patrol the beach.
We are studying three different species of sea turtles, of which two are critically endangered – which is our biggest highlight!
In your free time, with no volunteering for the project, you are free to organize your own activities, such as morning exercises on the beach or taking a walk through the small community.
Swimming in the ocean is not recommended due to strong tides and rip currents.