Turtle Conservation

Costa 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 poaching. 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 poached in the area.

Immerse yourself in village 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+ (8+ for families or groups)
  • Availability: Spaces available
  • Cost: From £845 / €990 / $1080 - see fees table below

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 10 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), the beaches need to be patrolled to reduce the likelihood of poaching. Volunteers will assist a research assistant or member of staff with this and walk the length of the beach keeping an eye out for any adult turtles making their way to land in order to nest. If you do encounter a nesting female, you will help to collect data on her and catch her eggs in order to place them in the hatchery to avoid the risk of them being poached or taken by animals.

Other roles

  • Assisting the long term research assistants with their project research
  • Nest excavations
  • Help with the local community 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 lasts 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

Closure dates

The project is closed to volunteers from 12 Dec 2017 - 1 Jul 2018.

Location, free time and accommodation

Costa Rica

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.

Local area 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, surfing, waterfall 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.

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.

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.”

What's Included?

Before you go:

  • Carefully selected and vetted volunteer project
  • Support from our friendly and highly experienced Pod UK team
  • Single point of contact - Gemma is your dedicated Pod Volunteer Specialist
  • In-depth volunteering and planning your trip guides
  • Travel information - visa, health and safety advice
  • Access to specialist travel insurance at exclusive rates
  • Recommended travel agency for flights and tours
  • Access to special deals and resources
  • Fundraising guide and support
  • Financial protection for monies paid to Pod

On your placement:

  • Conservation volunteering placement
  • Airport pick up and drop off (San Jose)
  • Hotel on first and last night in San Jose
  • Transfer to and from bus station
  • Return bus from San Jose to San Miguel
  • Accommodation - a shared or private room
  • Food - all main meals whilst at the project
  • Induction and conservation training
  • T-shirt
  • Onsite support from local team
  • Support from Pod UK office by phone and email
  • 24/7 emergency back up
  • Incident Management and Emergency Response Plans

On your return:

  • Contact from your Pod Volunteer Specialist
  • Feedback scheme
  • Volunteering certificate (on request)
  • References (on request)
  • Member of the Pod community

Not included: Flights, travel insurance, visa (if required) and food whilst not at project site. Budgeting guidance is provided in our Volunteering Guide which we will email you when you apply.

Pod Volunteer is run as a non-profit organisation. Fee levels are set to match costs and any surplus monies are distributed to the projects we work with via the Pod Charity.
Price table
1 week £845 GB Pounds
Extra weeks £250 GB Pounds
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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

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

Gemma

Pod UK Specialist

Apply and you'll hear from Gemma soon!

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

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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