To be a turtle volunteer in Costa Rica is a great choice to help in sea conservation.
The organization you would volunteer with has discovered an important foraging area for the sea turtles here, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. In 2012 this resulted in a creation of the important rescue center. Namely, they noted many turtles in need of medical assistance or rehabilitation. This volunteer opportunity runs all year round as the foraging Hawksbill and Pacific Green sea turtles are present in the area during all seasons.
Why volunteer for oceans and sea turtles?
Why sea turtle conservation? How does a volunteer ‘help the world’ in helping the sea turtles in Costa Rica and rescue them?
We can learn a lot about the planet’s conditions when observing the sea turtles. They travel through the oceans and are, evolutionary, over 100 million years old! Sea turtles eat the sea grass and help it to grow. This way turtles maintain the health of the sea grass beds which provide breeding and development for numerous fish, crustaceans and other sea animals. If sea grass beds are lost we could lose important species that even human harvest. In the recent past the survival of sea turtles is at risk due to unsustainable pressures of human activities. For some of them you will learn through the project and will help in mitigating them. If sea turtles cannot survive, the human species might have soon difficulties too. Therefore we need to preserve them and educate other people about it. Costa Rica, with the most beautiful nature might thus be one of the most interesting, valuable and exciting actions you can expect as a volunteer. Join us in this exciting sea turtle volunteer project.
Close to Puerto Jiménez, Costa Rica
1 week to 12 weeks
Airport of Arrival:
San Jose (SJO), Costa Rica
Protection and data collection of sea turtles in their natural habitats
18 – 70
# of volunteers:
30 International volunteers (mostly from USA, Canada, Denmark, UK…)
To be added.
What is included?
Volunteers will make their own way, via public transport, to and from Playa Blanca near Puerto Jiménez where they will be collected.
Accommodation is organized in the local homestays or guesthouses.
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.
Local excursions include horse riding, kayaking, a chocolate tour and zip lining. There is a National park quite near for a great wildlife spotting and hiking.
Local in-country team and 24h emergency support
Flights, personal expenses, transport to and from the airport, transport to and from Playa Blanca.
- Minimum age: 18
- Participant must be in good physical condition and be able to swim
- 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
Click here to get a free volunteer advice!
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.
Location of the sea turtle project:
The project is located close to in the southern Pacific province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica. The surrounding landscape is a lot of flat farmland. However, most of the area is under some kind of protection. The Golfo Dulce, is one of the four tropical fiords worldwide, that hosts additionally a fascinating marine life – including sea turtles. As a volunteer at the sea turtle rescue project you will be surrounded by a natural paradise!
The sea turtle project in Costa Rica:
This sea turtle volunteer project was founded in 2010, after the successful WIDECAST project with the same in-water monitoring method in 2007 in the South Caribbean of Costa Rica. The dynamics of the local sea turtle populations is poorly understood, and while some information on females has been gathered from nesting beaches, little is known about the population structure, genetic origin and in-water habitat use.
Sea turtles spend only 1% of their lives on the nesting beaches and due to this behavioral pattern, mainly only adult females are studied. Very little information is available about juvenile populations and sex ratios of adult populations. Therefore, more in-water work is needed to increase knowledge about habitats used by sea turtles in different life stages in order to assess the types of threats they are exposed to.
The volunteer and conservation organization on this peninsula of Costa Rica is working here mainly with the Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the Pacific Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), also known as the Black sea turtle. Both species are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Pacific Green sea turtle is ranked as “endangered” and the Hawksbill sea turtle as “critically endangered”. Therefore sea turtle volunteer project is of great importance to help in activities towards implementing the measures for their conservation.
Each volunteer will receive orientation information in the office of the organization in San Jose before travelling to the project. During the briefing, they will explain your work roles, explain why they need sea turtle volunteers and give helpful tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
The project recruits national and international volunteers to support our field work as part of the research and conservation project. It is essential that the monitoring and tagging efforts continue in order to gain a better understanding of different size classes, their roles in coral reefs, different habitat uses, and health status. Volunteers support our scientists and research assistants in the field work. This will include different tasks in our three different working areas.
Foraging sea turtles are mainly found in shallow waters (<50m) with hard-bottom substrates or sea grass beds in coastal areas, in some cases around coral reefs. By sampling it is possible to gain information on the demographic structure of the sea turtle population, such as abundance of immature sea turtles, male and non-breeding females, and their behavior. Throughout this volunteer project you will also go to the survey area by boat, and will as well have to get in the water with snorkels to check the nets.
Rescue and Rehabilitation Center:
If we catch a weak sea turtle or receive one from another beach, we will take it to our field rescue center at the project site. Patients are usually very stressed, so it is incredibly important to try and keep the area quite so that the patient/turtle is as comfortable as possible. Part of this is keeping the sea turtle’s water clean and the temperature at a reasonable level. Keep in mind, having no patients in the rescue center is a good sign. Conditions in captivity are only done if considered to be necessary and follow international and national criteria.
Mangrove Reforestation Program:
Mangroves play a very important role in the coastal ecosystems. They benefitting to the fishes, birds, invertebrates, humans and also the sea turtles. Since the majority of the mangrove forests along the coast of Playa Blanca have been destroyed, a reforestation program was put into place to help restore some of the populations.
You will volunteer about 6 – 8 hours per day, 6 days out of 7. Volunteers must make their own way to the meeting point from their chosen accommodation.
Depending on the day’s activity, you will generally start work at 7.30am after breakfast. If you are participating in an in-water day, you will take a packed lunch to eat on the beach. You must help carry all materials down to the boat.
The nets must stay in the water for a certain amount of time – so this may involve a lot of waiting with possibly no turtles being caught.
If you are participating in a mangrove day, you must carry all materials to the reforestation site or nursery.
You will generally finish work at 3pm, when volunteers must help clean the equipment and store it ready for the next day.
You will stay in one of 4 accommodation categories:
These accommodations are located further inland, you will be provided with a bicycle for traveling to and from the project site (4km or a 30 minute bike ride). The rooms are basic, and are located in a very calm area surrounded by green and lush nature. This accommodation’s rooms are individual and with a shared bathroom.
These cabins and rooms have a capacity of 1 – 5 people in each, some with private and some with shared bathrooms. They are located less than 1 km from the beach and are within walking distance of the main project site.
These rooms have the capacity of 1 – 4 people with a private bathroom. They are located directly next to the bus stop and a 5 minute bike ride – bicycle provided!
These cabins accomodate 1 – 4 people. All have a private bathroom. They also have amenities like TV with SKY-TV and air conditioning (additional fees apply for A/C). The site is located in 4km away or a 20minute bike ride – bicycle provided!
Three meals a day are included. Meals will be prepared and served for volunteers, and we can cater for every dietary requirement. The volunteer organization can deal with all dietary requirements. You may wish to bring supplements with you as it is difficult to find protein alternatives in Costa Rica.
Meals are mostly typical dishes of Costa Rican food, rice, black beans, plantains, salads, vegetables, pasta and soups. There is a small “pulperia” or convenience store where volunteers can buy snacks.
Tea and coffee are also available.
Alcoholic drinks are not permitted whilst participating in the project.
there is limited WiFi in just the hawksbill category of accommodation.
Volunteers can hand wash clothes, or pay the accommodation provider to do laundry, about $5 per bag.
The highlight of this sea turtle volunteer experience is the hands on, educational aspect. Volunteers will work alongside a professional biologist, and 3-4 research assistants, on a new research on sea turtles.
The area is of outstanding natural beauty, and there are many activities that volunteers can do on their days off – such as a hike in a nearby Corcovado National Park, a boat trip across the gulf to Golfito, or even a trip to the second capital city of Panama – David.