Costa Rica Turtle Conservation Experience

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Help protect the endangered Olive Ridley turtle, as well as other vulnerable wildlife species in coastal Costa Rica.

Founded in 2009, the Costa Rica Turtle Conservation Experience is a conservation initiative which was started by community members and local scientists in an attempt to create a culture of environmental conservation in the country. Based on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, the project is surrounded by a wide variety of habitats which are unique to this part of the world, while the nation itself is home to four species of sea turtle!

In addition to working alongside local communities and various organisations (both governmental and non-governmental) in their understanding of conservation, the project team also work hard to bring a sense of responsible tourism to the area. By working alongside the team and your fellow volunteers, you could make a difference to their efforts, helping them to achieve this goal whilst also learning a great deal about turtle conservation, particularly that of the endangered Olive Ridley species.

Whilst on the project, you will contribute to the welfare of Costa Rica's wildlife through methods such as collecting crucial scientific data, taking part in beach clean-ups, and monitoring the animals in the area. Each of these tasks is crucial in protecting Costa Rica's wildlife species, particularly the vulnerable sea turtles. Your support will help the project continue its mission of securing a future for these at-risk wildlife species - so what better way is there to visit one of the most species-rich destinations on earth, than by volunteering to protect the animals which call this nation home?

Founded in 2009, the Costa Rica Turtle Conservation Experience is a conservation initiative which was started by community members and local scientists in an attempt to create a culture of environmental conservation in the country. Based on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, the project is surrounded by a wide variety of habitats which are unique to this part of the world, while the nation itself is home to four species of sea turtle!

In addition to working alongside local communities and various organisations (both governmental and non-governmental) in their understanding of conservation, the project team also work hard to bring a sense of responsible tourism to the area. By working alongside the team and your fellow volunteers, you could make a difference to their efforts, helping them to achieve this goal whilst also learning a great deal about turtle conservation, particularly that of the endangered Olive Ridley species.

Whilst on the project, you will contribute to the welfare of Costa Rica's wildlife through methods such as collecting crucial scientific data, taking part in beach clean-ups, and monitoring the animals in the area. Each of these tasks is crucial in protecting Costa Rica's wildlife species, particularly the vulnerable sea turtles. Your support will help the project continue its mission of securing a future for these at-risk wildlife species - so what better way is there to visit one of the most species-rich destinations on earth, than by volunteering to protect the animals which call this nation home?

Your time spent on the project is vital for the protection of Costa Rica's wildlife, and some of the ways in which will you assist are outlined below. Activities can vary, but may include:

Measuring a Turtle at the Costa Rica Turtle Conservation Experience
Data Collection
You will monitor the turtles found nesting in the area and will also help to gather important data, such as the size of the adult turtles and the health of the nest they leave behind. You may also assist with the tagging of the adult turtles and marking the GPS location of nests so that their movements can be tracked.
Night Patrols On The Beach
Night Patrols On The Beach
Prepare for a few late nights on this project, as you’ll be taking part in night patrols! You and your fellow volunteers will take it in turns to monitor the beach between the hours of 6pm and 5am, keeping an eye out for poachers and taking note of any turtle sightings.
Crocodilian & Reptile Monitoring
Crocodilian & Reptile Monitoring
While turtles are the main focus of this project, you will also help to monitor some of the region’s crocodile and reptile species. You will gather information on a range of species, entering your findings into an inventory whilst also developing your skills in identification and data collection. This activity will take place between 5pm and 1am, either on the Térraba River or in the forest.
Beach Clean at the Costa Rica Turtle Conservation Experience
Beach Clean Up
The project hosts monthly beach cleans and you will be asked to take part if one takes place when you are here. It is important that the local beach stays as clean and safe as possible, as this is where turtles will come up to nest, and something as simple as a plastic bottle can threaten their survival.
Working With School Children
Working With School Children
The project aims to build a general understanding of conservation efforts in the region, and what better way to do this than by working with the local school children! By visiting schools, running workshops or even conducting visits to the on-site Butterfly Garden, you will instil a sense of care for the environment into the minds of Costa Rica’s young people. (Please be aware, this activity does not take place during December).
Free Time
Free Time
The area around the project is rather pretty and there are some great restaurants in the local town if you want to try some of the local cuisine. Alternatively, you might like to take part in an activity or excursion, such as a hike or visit to a waterfall in one of the surrounding national parks!

The following is an example itinerary for a 1-week stay, however, itineraries are subject to change depending on the needs of the project when you visit.

Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
After arriving into San José, you will be transferred by private car to the project site. You will have some time to settle into your accommodation before receiving an induction to the project, including the activities you will be taking part in during your time here.
Day 2 - Training Day:
Today you will learn all about the turtles which nest in the area, their biology and what to look for in their behaviours. Later on, you will pay a visit to the turtle hatchery, which is just a 5-minute walk from your accommodation, where you will learn more about the research protocol on this project.
Day 3 - Field Work:
You will spend the day exploring the reserve, keeping your eyes peeled for birds and mammals. In the evening, you will spend a few hours searching for nesting sea turtles on the beach, collecting any eggs you find and bringing them back to the safety of the hatchery.
Day 4 - Working With School Children:
After spending some of the previous night working with the turtles, you’ll be treated to a morning off! Once you have caught up on some rest, you will spend the afternoon assisting the educational collaboration officer in taking care of the butterfly garden or creating educational materials for the schools you’ll be visiting.
Day 5 - Forest Walk:
Today you will head into the forest to help set up trail cameras in an attempt to spot the animals which live in the area. Since the project began monitoring mammals, there have been multiple medium-sized animals spotted, and you will learn how to set up the cameras, identify footprints, and pick up skills that can only be taught in the field!
Day 6 - Day Off:
Today is your day off, which you may choose to spend exploring the local area or beyond! There are a number of trips you can take, either on your own or by joining a tour. If you travel between August and October, you might want to visit the Marino Bellena National Park in the hope of spotting some humpback whales!
Day 7 - Cayman Monitoring:
If weather permits, you will spend today monitoring the local crocodilian population by taking a kayak out on the river. You will then spend the evening either on a night walk or on a boat trip down the Térraba to capture, mark and identify any wildlife that you see.
Day 8 - Departure Day:
Sadly, it’s now time to head home, so bid farewell to your fellow volunteers and the project team before transferring back to San José. Please note that the journey back to the airport takes around 3.5 hours, so do be sure to leave yourself with plenty of time to check in and board your flight.

To secure a place on this project, a deposit of $245 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.

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Accommodation

Whilst on the project, you will stay in the volunteer centre which can accommodate up to 15 volunteers at any one time. You will stay in a private room, complete with a single bed, storage for your belongings and screened windows to keep any bugs at bay. The bathroom facilities are shared but split by gender and there are western toilets and warm showers in each.

There are also two rooms available for couples or small families, one with a queen-size bed, and one with a queen-size bed as well as a bunk bed. Should you wish to book either of these, please contact us to check availability.

Meals & Beverages

All meals are included in the cost of the project. From Monday to Friday you will prepare your own breakfast and dinner, while lunch will be made for you by a member of the team. On the weekends you will need to prepare your own meals. The food will give you a taste of the local cuisine with elements of what you are used to back home, with dishes including salads, chicken, beef, pasta, cereals, sandwiches, and fresh fruit and vegetables! If you have any dietary requirements, please let us know in advance and suitable items will be bought for you.

When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?

This project only runs from August to December each year as this is turtle season. 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. December is usually the last time you are able to see turtles.

If you are looking to travel between January and May, you may want to take a look at The Great Turtle Project in Sri Lanka.

Getting There

You will need to arrive into San José International Airport (SJO) before 3pm on your project start date. You will be met at the airport and transferred by car to the project site.

If you are unable to book a flight that arrives by 3pm on your start date, we recommend arriving the day before and spending the night at a hotel close to the airport. You can then be met at your hotel the following morning and be transferred to the project site. A popular hotel choice is the Holiday Inn Express San José as it offers 24-hour transfers between the hotel and the airport. Please note that while your transfers are included in the price of the project, there will be an additional charge if you stay in the centre of San José/a hotel further away from the airport.

On your final day, your return transfer will arrive at San José Airport at 10:30am at the earliest, so please ensure your departure flight is booked for no earlier than 12:30pm.

Visa Requirements

Most nationalities, including British and American citizens, do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica and will be granted entry for up to 90 days on arrival. You will, however, need to provide evidence of onward travel plans such as a flight ticket or bus ticket exiting the country. As entry requirements can change, we recommend checking with your local embassy regarding visa requirements prior to your time of travel.

Fitness & Skills

During the project, you will take part in a number of walks through the forest or across tricky terrain, therefore, a moderate level of fitness is recommended. Please be aware that the forest walks can be particularly treacherous, as the rains can make the ground and metal staircases rather slippery – be sure to bring along a pair of boots/shoes with good grip! No particular skills are required to take part, all we ask is that you have a passion for animal conservation and are willing to work as part of a team!

Vaccinations

The vaccinations required will depend on your medical history. We recommend that you consult with your Doctor/GP regarding your own immunisation needs and that you check Fit for Travel's website. Also, please be aware, 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.

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What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Transfers to and from San José Airport or a hotel nearby (transfers from elsewhere in the city will be subject to an additional charge)
  • English-speaking project coordinator
  • Wi-Fi
  • Use of the on-site laundry facilities

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Visas
  • Travel Insurance
Where you can go
Contact Info
UK Office
The Great Traveller Ltd,
3 Dairy Yard
Star Street
Ware, Hertfordshire
SG12 7DX
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
   Mon-Fri 8:30am–5:30pm
   Sat 10am-4pm

T: +44(0) 208 885 4987