Whilst on the project, you will spend your time caring for the turtles and you will do so in a variety of ways including:
This will include monitoring the turtles nesting in the area and gathering crucial information on both the adult turtles (for example, their size) and the health of the nests (how many eggs hatch, and how many turtles survive.) You will also help with the tagging and management of the adult turtles, working alongside a member of project staff to place a metal tag on the turtle's flippers and marking the GPS location of nests.
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. Activities tend to take place around once a month but are not a guaranteed part of your itinerary.
Night Patrols On The Beach
Prepare for a few late nights on this project - you'll be taking part in night patrols of the beach! Between the hours of 6pm and 5am, volunteers will monitor the beaches at night alongside a member of staff, keeping an eye out for poachers and taking note of turtle sightings. This activity will be completed in 3-hour shifts.
Working With School Children
You will help educate the local children about the wildlife in their area with the help of the on-site Butterfly Garden. You may also be preparing workshops, making crafts, and participating in outreach activities like beach and river clean-ups. Additionally, you may have the ability to visit children at the local schools, teaching them about sea turtles, marine resources, and recycling activities. Please note that this activity does not take place in December, and is only a part of your itinerary when necessary.
Crocodilian & Reptile Monitoring
This project is not only about turtles: you will also be helping to monitor some of the crocodile, small mammal, and bird species from the region, adding information on each of these species to an inventory. Take a boat along the Terraba river at night, counting crocs and capturing individuals for tagging and data (such as size, sex and weight.) You will also learn how to set up camera traps in the forest, and identify animal footprints. You may also take part in the monitoring of reptiles, such as tree boas, taking part in capture and tagging of the animals.
The area around the project site is very pretty, with some great local eateries in town which you may like to try out. Alternatively, if you would like to take part in an activity during your day off, there are plenty of waterfalls reachable within a couple of hours hiking, or from 30 minutes by car. Please speak to the project facilitators for recommendations - they'll be happy to help!
Please note that this is only a rough guideline, and the itinerary may be subject to change depending on the needs of the reserve.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
After arriving into San Jose, 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! (For those with flights arriving after 3pm, you will need to spend the previous night in a hotel in San Jose. Please see the 'Getting There' section for this project, via the 'Details' tab.)
Day 2 - Training Day:
You will receive a full day's 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 (located a 5-minute walk from the volunteer house.)
Day 3 - Field Work:
You will be spending the day exploring the reserve, possibly spotting some of the local birds or mammals! When night comes you'll 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 data from the turtles and their nests.
Day 4 - Working With School Children:
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. Please note that this part of your itinerary may vary depending on necessity.
Day 5 - Forest Walk:
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 learn in the field!
Day 6 - Day Off:
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 at a nearby beach, or maybe you could book one of the tours which are available in the area including trips to waterfalls! If you travel between August to October, the Marino Ballena National Park where you may be able to spot humpback whales!
Day 7 - Cayman Monitoring:
This is your final project day. 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 Terraba to capture, mark, and identify individuals. Just make sure to get a good night's sleep - you're heading home in the morning!
Dates, Availability & Price
To secure a place on this project, a deposit of £195 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.
Please be advised, although we are able to offer a 7 night option, a minimum duration of 14 nights is recommended for a more in depth experience. If taking part for only 7 nights there is no guarantee that you will be involved in all the activities listed.
Select a duration below to see the available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project! Please note that you can join this project on any day of the week; please contact our travel team if your preferred start date is not listed.
Updates & Outcomes
Playa Tortuga is primarily an Olive Ridley turtle nesting beach (although it is possible that other species occasionally arrive) and, thanks to the efforts of the Reserve, the beach was officially declared a nesting beach in 2014.
In the past two seasons, they have successfully protected over 140 nests and released 5,000+ hatchlings (each nest contains on average 100 eggs.)
Volunteers work 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 making this happen.
Human-Animal Relationship Awareness Week is all about highlighting the sensitive nature of the relationships between humans and animals. In a time where food and shelter is so fragmented, and the expansion of human populations, means that wild animals and humans can often come into conflict. Learn about Human-Animal Relationship Awareness Week 2017 by checking out our infographic.
- posted on Nov 13, 2017
- by Matthew Prior
Our western calendar is full of unofficial observances, celebrating anything from ‘Ice Cream For Breakfast Day’ in January, to ‘Monkey Day’ in December. There are some serious ones, and some downright ridiculous. However, today’s blog is all about one of the more uplifting occasions: World Kindness Day! Join us as we celebrate the hard work of our amazing volunteers, and see how you can help too!
With turtle season fast approaching, find out why now is a vital time to volunteer in Costa Rica. With the Costa Rica Turtle Conservation Experience on offer for a limited time only, now really is the time to get involved!
Is this trip for you?
On this project, you will be accommodated in the volunteer centre where there is enough room for up to 15 volunteers to stay at any one time You will have your own spacious room, complete with a good quality mattress, storage for your clothes, and screened windows to keep out the bugs. At the turtle camp, mosquito nets are provided for the nights you may spend 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.
There are also two rooms available for couples or small families (one with a queen-sized bed, and one with a queen-sized bed as well as a bunk bed) but these are only available on a first come first serve basis. Finally, there are two communal bathrooms on site - one for males, one for females. Both communal areas come with three toilets, as well as with three showers with running water.
All food and drinks are included within the cost of the project (except alcohol, which is not permitted) and you will receive enough food for three meals a day. You will prepare breakfast and your evening meal on your own, while a member of staff will prepare lunch for you, Monday-Friday. All weekend meals are to be prepared by the volunteers. The food will give you a taste of the local cuisine with elements of what you are used to back at home, with dishes including tortillas, salads, chicken, beef, pasta, cereals, sandwiches, and fresh fruit and vegetables! The project can also cater to vegetarians and vegans, however, please do inform us of your requirements well before the project start date.
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. Please be aware that the forest walks can be somewhat treacherous, with metal staircases which can be slippery during the rains. With this in mind, please ensure that you are somebody who is steady on their feet - and do wear calf-high shoes with good grip!
You won’t need any particular skills to be a volunteer, except a passion for animal conservation! People of all abilities are welcome on this project as long as they are willing to put in the effort required.
The vaccinations required will depend on your medical history. We recommend that you consult with your GP regarding your own immunisation needs. In conjunction with this, we would also recommend that you check Fit for Travel’s website.
When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?
Turtles start nesting at the beginning of August, with the eggs taking seven weeks to hatch. From then, hatching season begins around mid/late September, with the peak hatching season typically falling in October. The last chance to see turtles is typically in December. To catch turtle season in Costa Rica, it is suggested to join this project between the aforementioned dates.
The weather in Costa Rica can be variable, with some days being very hot and rains falling within the afternoons and evenings. The rainy season in Costa Rica runs from May until December, and while it may still be very warm between these months, it is advisable to check weather reports before leaving your home country. (We would also advise taking spare clothes and some waterproof articles of clothing, just in case!)
If you're ideally looking to travel between February and April, you may want to consider checking out The Great Turtle Project in Sri Lanka.
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 at a hotel close to the airport, 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 between the hotel and the airport. The project representative will then collect you from the hotel the following day; please note that if you select a hotel in the city centre; this will cost you an extra $20 which will be paid to the driver upon arrival. This transfer is around 3.5 hours.
you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flight page and fill out the form. A member of our team
will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
Please note that if you are travelling from an area which has not been given the all-clear for yellow fever, you will need to produce evidence that you have been inoculated against the disease or you will be refused entry into the country.
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.
Your passport will need to have at least one day’s validity from the date you are leaving Costa Rica, but if you have anything other than a British passport different regulations may apply. You may also be refused entry into Costa Rica if you are unable to produce evidence of return or onward travel plans (E.G. a plane ticket) so please have this to hand on arrival.
Currency and Exchange Rates
The currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colon. The exchange rate is around 10 CRC = 0.01 GBP, 0.05 USD, 0.07 EUR. Please note exchange rates are subject to change.
You can, however, use the American Dollar throughout the country and this is dispensed from cashpoints throughout the country. Please note, however, that cashiers/restaurant owners etc are at liberty to round up USD at will, meaning you may at times be short-changed. With this in mind, it is worth taking some Colones.
What's included in the price of the project?
- Airport transfers to and from San Jose Airport or a hotel near to the airport (any volunteers needing transfers from the city centre will have to pay an additional $20 to the driver on arrival)
- Three meals a day (lunch prepared by staff Monday-Friday; weekend meals are to be prepared by volunteers with food provided by the project)
- Accommodation at the project site
- Wifi access (though this may be weaker in your accommodation!)
- Use of the washing machine and drying room once a week
- Knowledgeable project coordinator
What's not included?
- Travel and health insurance (please check you have one covering all aspects of the trip)
- Weekend leisure activities
- Alcoholic drinks (not permitted onsite)
- Visa fees if applicable