Turtle ConservationCosta Rica

The Turtle Conservation team in Costa Rica protect and conserve the sea turtle populations and work closely with the local community to educate them on the importance of conserving turtles.

You will assist the local team by collecting data, placing eggs in safe hatcheries and patrolling the beaches to reduce the likelihood of the eggs being eaten by animals or taken by members of the local community. Olive Ridley turtles which is the species most frequently found in the area, are categorised as ‘vulnerable’ accordingly to the IUCN Red List, so their protection is vitally important. Volunteers enable more night patrols to occur, which has led to a drop of around 80% in the number of nests that have been taken in the area.

Immerse yourself in rural life and experience the ‘off the beaten track’ side of Costa Rica with secluded beaches and rugged mountain landscapes.

Join the active conservation team to help protect sea turtle populations.

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Key Info

key info
  • Location: Nicoya Peninsula
  • Start dates: Every week on a Monday
  • Duration: 1 – 12 weeks
  • Age requirement: 18+ (5+ for families or groups)
  • Availability: Spaces available Jul - Dec
  • Cost: From £895 / €1045 / $1145 - see fees table below *Special £100 discount for placements starting between 16 Sep to 14 Oct *
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Project Information

Volunteer role: What will I be doing?

The project monitors and protects sea turtle populations by collecting data, placing eggs in safe hatcheries and patrolling the beaches to reduce the likelihood of poaching.

Volunteers will be allocated to one of the two research bases; North Beach or South Beach, depending on the needs of the project at the time. The two sites are only a 15 minute drive apart.

All tasks are managed on a rotational basis. Each day may differ and there are two main volunteer roles:

Hatchery duty

This involves monitoring the hatchery site at regular intervals to check for any new arrivals (baby turtles which have hatched)! You will record data on the number of new hatchlings and then release them into the ocean. This is an incredible experience as there are often around 100 hatchlings in a single nest.

Night patrol

Every evening between 7pm and 7am (depending on the tides), volunteers will be given a shift of 2-3 hours to assist a research assistant or member of staff, walking along the length of the beach to keep an eye out for adult turtles who are making their way to land in order to nest. If you do encounter a female turtle you will collect data on her and collect the eggs. Turtle eggs are a valuable commodity and beach patrols reduce the likelihood of eggs being taken by members of the local community or eaten by animals, as any eggs found are collected and placed in the hatchery.

Other roles

  • Assisting the long term research assistants with their project research
  • Nest excavations
  • Help with the local community project
  • Beach clean ups
  • Support the local reforestation project

Working days and hours

Volunteers work 6 days per week. The timings are varied due to the shift nature of the volunteer role. Hatchery shifts are generally 3 hours long and can be scheduled during the day or night. Patrols usually last around 3 hours but this includes breaks. There is plenty of free time between your scheduled tasks.

Other volunteers

There are usually 1-10 volunteers with a maximum of 15, but this varies considerably throughout the year. Volunteers work alongside research assistants and local staff.

Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) award

This placement has been approved by the DofE as meeting the requirements for the Residential section of the Gold Award.

Why are volunteers needed?

Volunteers enable the project to carry out additional patrols which reduces the risk of poaching. They help the project’s scientists and research assistants to collect scientific data about nesting turtles in the area which is used to gain an understanding of sea turtle reproductive behaviour, and improve their conservation strategies in the future. Volunteers also help to monitor and maintain the hatcheries to ensure that incubation conditions are optimal for egg development.

The funds received from volunteers are used to run the turtle projects, and help provide an income for local community members through employment opportunities such as guiding patrols and cooking meals. The work that volunteers do helps to build a sense of awareness among locals regarding the importance and benefits that come from protecting the animals, nature and their environment.

“All of our past and present volunteers have contributed enormously towards the success of our projects. Running sea turtle conservation programs is hard work both physically and mentally, by having volunteers, work load can be spread more evenly ensuring maximum time spend patrolling the beach which leads to decreased numbers of nests being poached. Our volunteer program has also enabled us to provide jobs for a number of local residents, raising awareness about the importance of the work we do within the small communities surrounding the nesting beaches.”
Lotti, General Manager

Accommodation

During your placement, there are two accommodation options; the volunteer house and a private cabina. The volunteer house is located on site and the cabinas are a short walk away. All accommodation is located within 100m of the beach.

The volunteer house consists of simple shared rooms with shared bathrooms.

The cabinas are a private accommodation option, ideal for families and couples. They consist of bedrooms, a bathroom, a living area and some have kitchen facilities too. Please note that these are subject to availability and there is a weekly supplement for this option.

There are communal areas where all volunteers can relax and eat. WIFI is not available at the project site but there is WIFI available a 5 minute walk away which volunteers can access in their free time.

Meals

Main meals are provided for volunteers during their stay at the project. Lunch and dinner is prepared at the volunteer house by members of the local community.

Here are typical examples of the food you will have: 

  • Breakfast – volunteers are provided ingredients to prepare their own breakfast including; eggs, bread, cereals, fresh fruit and pancake ingredients
  • Lunch and dinner – a traditional meal of meat, lentils and salads served with rice and beans 

Vegetarians and vegans are welcomed and can be catered for.

The tap water in Costa Rica is safe to drink and can be kept cool using the fridge provided. 

Location and free time

The project is based in the Nicoya Peninsula on the west coast of Costa Rica by the Pacific Ocean. This is the largest peninsula in the country and is a great location for experiencing an ‘off the beaten track’ escape. The area is often overlooked by travellers allowing you to experience quiet, secluded beaches and immerse yourself in local community life. It comprises a wonderful combination of rugged mountains and stunning beaches. There is also abundant birdlife in the area including boobies, cormorants and parakites.

Volunteers have free time between their allocated shifts and also have one day off per week. During your free time you may wish to play football and volleyball with volunteers, staff and locals. There are hammocks available for relaxing and reading a book. The local team can assist you with organising activities such as mangrove tours, waterfall tours, bird and butterfly watching tours, horse riding and nature walks. These activities are best booked locally once you are at the project.

Due to the location, and transport in the area, free time activities are limited and if you wish to explore other areas of Costa Rica during your trip, we would recommend doing this before or after your placement.

Travelling in Costa Rica before or after your placement

Costa Rica is a nature-lover’s paradise, with a quarter of the country being made up of protected forest or reserve, it provides a home to over 900 species of bird and 250 species of mammal including the beloved sloth. It’s easy to understand why it’s recently been voted the world’s happiest country! Popular activities in Costa Rica include:

  • Exploring the many national parks
  • Wildlife and bird watching
  • Visiting the stunning waterfalls and volcanoes

To find out more, see the Lonely Planet Costa Rica.

Dates

Start dates are every Monday. The project is closed to volunteers between 11 Dec 2018 - 30 Jun 2019.

What's Included

Included

  • Dedicated Pod Volunteer Specialist to support you
  • Airport pick up from San Jose airport and return transfer
  • Hotel on first and last night in San Jose
  • Transfer to and from bus station
  • Return bus from San Jose to project
  • Accommodation - a shared or private room
  • Food - all main meals whilst at the project
  • Induction
  • T-shirt
  • Support from the local team
  • Support from the Pod Volunteer UK office by phone and email
  • 24/7 emergency back up
  • Volunteering certificate and reference (on request)

Not included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)
  • Vaccinations and medication
  • Living costs - food when not at project site, snacks, drinks, laundry
  • Any tourist trips / activities you choose to do in your free time
Price table
1 week £895 GB Pounds
Extra weeks £270 GB Pounds

Discounts

  • Special £100 discount for placements starting between 16 Sep to 14 Oct
  • £75 discount for every additional project you book as part of the same trip
  • £300 discount for any family members who are under 18
  • £75 discount if you have previously volunteered with Pod Volunteer 

Where the money goes - financial transparency

Your fee covers the overseas costs of volunteering and the costs of running our organisation in the UK, on a non-profit basis.  For more details and a breakdown of our costs please click here.

Book with confidence - financial protection

All monies paid to us are financially protected through The Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT). 

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Fees in currencies other than GBP are indicative only and volunteers are invoiced in GBP. For current exchange rates please see www.xe.com

Read volunteer reviews from the Turtle Conservation project

Erin

“I absolutely loved my time at the Turtle Conservation project in Costa Rica. The location is stunning and you often have the whole beach to yourself. The work is interesting and it’s great to know that you’re contributing to research that is so worthwhile. There’s a good balance between work and free time but always more to do if relaxing in a hammock isn’t for you!

The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and it’s great getting to work alongside them and the research assistants as you can learn so much during your time there. Releasing hatchlings onto the beach at sunset was a truly incredible experience and one I will never forget.”

Angus

“I had a great time, as well as the once in a lifetime opportunity to see an Arribada! Overall a great experience.

Seeing the baby turtles hatch and make their way into the sea made all the late nights and long patrols worthwhile! I had a fantastic time - would recommend!”

Melissa

“My overall experience at the turtle conservation programme in Costa Rica was unforgettable. The beach was amazing and the scenery was very beautiful.

It was very exciting to be working closely with the turtles and it felt very rewarding to release the hatchlings into the sea. The locals and volunteers were friendly and the staff working at the project were helpful and supportive.”

12,940

turtles released last season

"It was an amazing experience that will stay with me forever! Pod Volunteer provided the ideal amount of support and guidance"Satvinder

Lucy

Pod UK Specialist

Lucy has visited the project, apply and you'll hear from her soon!

We look forward to receiving your application! There is no commitment by applying and we will send more information.

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VOLUNTEER REVIEWS

  • Costa Rica Turtle Conservation volunteer - Brandy

    "I had an absolutely delightful experience. A gorgeous beach, nice accommodations, good food, and great group of people. The joy of seeing these tiny Olive Ridley hatchlings make their way to the ocean, overcoming the surf and fighting for survival is something I could experience many times over with equal emotional impact."

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Costa Rica Turtle Conservation volunteer - Erin

    "The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and it’s great getting to work alongside them and the research assistants as you can learn so much during your time there. Releasing hatchlings onto the beach at sunset was a truly incredible experience and one I will never forget."

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Costa Rica Turtle Conservation volunteer - Angus

    "Seeing the baby turtles hatch and make their way into the sea made all the late nights and long patrols worthwhile! I had a fantastic time - would recommend!”

    Read more volunteer reviews

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AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

  • Tourism Concern
  • Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
  • Right Tourism
  • DOFE
  • theguardian
  • the independent
  • Sunday Times
  • Year Out Group
  • Best Volunteering Organisation
  • Wall Street Journal