Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica

Groove to a Latin beat, soak in the culture, catch some waves (or simply admire them), roll up your sleeves and get heavily involved in sea turtle conservation when you volunteer in Costa Rica! There may be no better combination of the fun, nature, culture, language and philanthropy than this Sea Turtle Conservation program.

Program Overview

Set on a pristine coastline on the Pacific side of beautiful Costa Rica, the sea turtle hatchery and its facilities provide an exceptional setting in which you can make a significant contribution to the local endangered guests. Volunteers enjoy a fun, social setting with other like-minded volunteers, while living in a rugged, natural setting in an environmentally-protected area. You can expect an active and variable work environment, with hours split between day and night shifts, and tasks varying based on the turtle activity at the time. Be prepared to get your hands dirty, work odd hours, see some amazing sights and make a difference. Come with a decent level of fitness, otherwise those beach patrols can take their toll!

Work revolves around the hatchery, where endangered turtle eggs are incubated. You’ll also roam the beaches in search of eggs to deposit in the hatchery, ensuring a successful start for the hatchling turtles when their time comes to take on the open water. Time off can be spent surfing at nearby beaches, enjoying any of the other abundant outdoor activities, or heading into populated areas for some culture.

To round out the program even more, you’ll get to spend a few days in San Jose (at the start and end of your experience), Costa Rica’s largest city, where you’ll get orientated and take in some culture in the form of cooking and dance classes.

Project Details: 

  • Project Activities: Physical maintenance of hatchery, collecting and protecting eggs, data collection, releasing baby turtles into the ocean, cleaning beach, beach patrols
  • Project Availability: Year-round. There are some limitations in high demand / peak season. There are a variety of different turtles that call this area home and they return each year to lay their eggs. There are different turtles at different times of the year. In off-peak seasons there are still many tasks to be completed to prepare for the peak seasons. Volunteers can arrive and start their programs nearly every Monday of the year. Demands vary with turtle egg-laying timing.
  • Project Duration: Minimum 2 weeks. CISaustralia recommends 4 weeks for optimal cultural and environmental immersion.
  • Working Hours: 6 days per week. An average of 5 hours during the day and 3 hours at night.
  • Location: North Pacific coast of Costa Rica, 15km from Samara Beach, in Guanacaste Province
  • Excursions: Nearby attractions include beach resorts, good surf breaks and lazy beach towns. City tour (only when multiple participants), plus cooking and dance classes included. Local staff can assist with recommendations.
  • Support: 24-hour on-site support from Project Leaders and Site Director (in San Jose)
  • Minimum Age: 18+
  • Language: English. Introductory Spanish is recommended – classes can be arranged at an additional cost before and/or after the program. Contact CISaustralia for further details.

Sample Itinerary

Each volunteer works an average of five hours during the day and three hours during the night. Volunteers have a day and a night off per week, which can be used to relax, enjoy all the attractions of the area and/or explore the surroundings.

A sample daily routine of Monday to Saturday:

  • 8am: Breakfast is prepared by our friendly cook.
  • 9:30am: Depending on the weather conditions, volunteers work during the morning for some hours. There are always many things to do in and around the station as well as on the beach.
  • 12pm: After work, volunteers eat a delicious and nutritious lunch together with the rangers. (Vegetarian meals are available). Volunteers help care for the tidiness of the station and so are expected to clean their plates after eating and tidy up the kitchen after using it. There is also a washing machine that can be used by everyone.
  • 2pm: Depending on the weather conditions and the incoming work that has to be done, volunteers might work for some hours during the afternoon. Sometimes there is free time and it’s possible to play volleyball at the beach or relax and read a book.
  • 5pm: There is no specific dinner time, in fact everyone can have dinner at the time s/he wants to eat. There is always rice and beans, and in general the cook prepares a dinner that can be warmed up in the microwave.
  • 6pm: Night patrols begin; all the station’s services are closed for the night (kitchen, office, transportation). Volunteers may need to rest so they have enough energy for their patrol shift, which could be late at night or early in the morning. Patrol shifts will be posted in the afternoon on the information board that can be found by the administration office.

Every Sunday is free, but at night the patrol shifts are normal. The cook does not work that day, so food will be made by volunteers and Park Rangers.

The Volunteer's Role

Refuges were created to protect important nesting sites for the Pacific Olive Ridley, Leatherback, Green and Black Sea Turtles and occasionally Hawksbill Turtles, which have all been declared endangered species, threatened by poachers and predators.

The incredible thing about this program is that turtles come to nest year-round, making this beach an ideal place to work for the conservation of sea turtles and to learn about their behaviour. Like many large protected areas, this project does not have sufficient resources to hire enough personnel or invest in new technologies to support local staff in their work. Therefore, the project relies on the support and help of volunteers to undertake this important conservation work effectively.

Within the Sea Turtle Conservation program, volunteers work under the guidance of site administrators in projects such as:

  • Conservation and monitoring of sea turtles
  • Construction and maintenance of structures related to the conservation of sea turtles
  • The maintenance and daily operation of the facilities
  • Construction and maintenance of trails
  • Additional projects requiring volunteer support

Specific volunteer tasks include:

  • Installation of signs at the beaches, location and adaptation of the hatchery
  • Construction of hatcheries
  • Patrolling the beach to look for sea turtles and their nests either during the day or the night, taking turns of 2 or 4 hours (during high season, some shifts can last longer)
  • Collecting eggs found on the beach and taking them directly to the hatchery (“vivero”) for their protection
  • Collecting information of the whole process by monitoring the hatchery and keeping track of every event
  • Releasing hatchlings from the hatchery, taking them to the beach and into the ocean
  • Maintenance of the facilities of the project (the shelter), keeping the beach clean (to be done during the day), as well as other maintenance chores at the site, especially during low nesting season
  • Participation in any specific environmental projects developed by the community
  • Assistance with community-oriented activities to improve local facilities

Excursions

There are a number of possible adventures in and around the area. On-site staff are happy to help you plan and provide advice. Participants on group programs have the option to spend one full day each weekend off-site at a local beach or beach town to relax and refresh, such as in Samara where you can snorkel or surf. Transport will be organised for you but participants will need to pay extra for the day’s transport. Individual students on the program can also opt to head to numerous local beach towns but will need to organise and pay for local transport. Local staff can assist in these areas with recommendations.

Nearby attractions include beach resorts, good surf breaks and lazy beach towns. San Jose city tour (only when multiple participants), plus cooking and dance classes are also included.

Location

This Sea Turtle Conservation program is located in the North Pacific coast of Costa Rica, 15km from Samara Beach, in Guanacaste Province. The territory is under the protection of the Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT) and is administered by MINAET (government Environmental Department) officials, supported by the local foundation. The sea has a strong and continuous current with waves up to 6 metres, suitable for experienced and brave surfers.

About 4km to the south is Punta Islita, where there are 5-star hotels and is another good spot to catch the surf. Tranquil Samara Beach is about 15km to the north, where you’ll find all the services you might need: banks, restaurants, chemists, doctors, canopy tours, kayaking and all that is found at an urban centre.

The project site is a place far from urban centres, where volunteers will be in direct contact with nature. Volunteers stay in dorms with bunk beds, share bathrooms and use the volunteer dining room for their meals or meetings. This turtle project is a place for people who love nature and desire to live within it, with all its environmental charms.

Leave your city life, culture and thinking behind. Erase any preconceptions. Come with an open-mind, willing to learn, ask questions, engage and contemplate what you are experiencing. This is Central America – don’t come expecting to change the culture, people or the pace of life – relax and settle in for an amazing experience.

Accommodation

Accommodation in San Jose at the start and end of the program is in a shared dorm/hostel, with 2-3 volunteers per room. It is simple and comfortable and includes breakfast.

Project accommodation is in shared, same gender cottages, with 10 volunteers per dorm room. Simple but comfortable and 3 daily meals are provided, regardless of the schedule. They are nice, clean cabins with a central kitchen, free internet, games room and laundry facilities. Linen and a towel are included, but it would be a good idea to take a spare towel. No smoking allowed.

Why Volunteer with CISaustralia

CISaustralia believes strongly in supporting volunteer initiatives across the world that promote sustainable and long-term societal, environmental and economic change to benefit and empower local communities.

While the term volunteering is widely known and accepted, we prefer to use the term Experiential Service Learning. This better relates to our philosophy surrounding close community engagement as well as a focus on projects that have a long-term approach and a range of positive impacts for both communities and our students. Over 98% of CISaustralia participants receive academic credit for their program abroad, which fosters a more culturally immersive and deeper reflective experience.

CISaustralia volunteering programs contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which aim to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. While not every program will achieve all seventeen of the UN goals, your role as a volunteer will have a positive impact by doing work that really matters. We partner with organisations that have in-depth, first-hand knowledge and close relationships with local communities. Prior to your departure, our team in Australia will prepare you with extensive resources so you feel supported every step of the way. You will also be supported throughout your entire overseas program by our fantastic and experienced in country staff. 

Volunteering abroad is a life-changing experience, enabling you to learn and grow on many personal and professional levels, to broaden your perspective on the world and to become a global citizen. CISaustralia prides itself in having the strongest global partners who are socially responsible and equally committed to their local communities and ethical practices. We love what we do at CISaustralia and are here to provide you with the support you need to successfully volunteer abroad – so that you can contribute to positively changing the lives of others, and yourself, along the way. Get ready for an exciting once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Read more: Why Volunteer Abroad with CISaustralia?

Program Fee & Dates

2+ weeks - Year Round
Application deadline is 60 days prior to commencement. CISaustralia recommends 4 weeks for optimal cultural and environmental immersion. If you would like to join a 4-week group program, see below for dates.
Program Fee A$ 2,499
OS-HELP A$ 6,913
November-December 2019 - 4 week group program
Application deadline is 60 days prior to commencement. Places are limited. Please enquire for availability.
Arrival Date10 November 2019
Departure Date07 December 2019
Program Fee A$ 3,147
OS-HELP A$ 6,791
January-February 2020 - 4 week group program
Application deadline is 60 days prior to commencement. Places are limited. Please enquire for availability.
Arrival Date05 January 2020
Departure Date01 February 2020
Program Fee A$ 3,147
OS-HELP A$ 6,913

 

Program fees include the following:
  • Volunteer placement and supervision
  • CISaustralia support services before, during and after the program
  • Academic advising
  • Financial advice
  • Assistance with travel arrangements
  • Pre-departure guide and session
  • Airport pick-up and drop-off (on specified program dates within designated times)
  • On-site orientation
  • Hostel accommodation in San Jose – basic shared room, dormitory-style
  • Shared accommodation at project site – same gender, shared dorms, up to 10 volunteers per room
  • Meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner provided while on-site
  • *Transport from San Jose to the project site
  • Cultural activities
  • Access to Wi-Fi at project site
  • 24/7 on-site support – Project Leaders and Site Director
  • CISaustralia Certificate of Completion

*Transport costs from San Jose to the project (+ return) are included in your program fee. Individual students will be provided with clear instructions on transport, which includes a combination of public bus and private car. The bus takes students to a small town near the project. The last 17km will be travelled in a private car arranged by the on-site project team.

If you are interested in participating in a CISaustralia group program, the following extras will also be included as part of your program fee:

  • **Staff person on the project site 24/7 – fluent in Spanish and basic English
  • 2 lunches
  • Welcome dinner
  • City tour
  • Private / public transportation from San Jose to the sea turtle project site + return
  • Farewell dinner

**Note: Local on-site staff speak fluent Spanish and some staff speak basic English. We HIGHLY encourage and recommend all students take introductory Spanish classes prior to participating in this program (either in Australia and/or in San Jose). Optional on-site Spanish classes can be organised for groups of 6 or more in week 1 of the program. The classes involve 5 days x 2-hour sessions (10 hours total) at an additional fee of A$189. Please let your Program Advisor know if you are interested in participating in Spanish classes.

What is not included:

  • Flights
  • Health and travel insurance
  • Visa (90 Day Tourist Visa—no fee)
  • Optional Spanish language class(es), which can be arranged before or after your volunteer program. Please enquire with CISaustralia for more information.
  • Vaccinations (if required)
  • Meals (unless mentioned above)
  • Extra travel/excursions (other than those mentioned above)

Please do not book flights until you have received the dates in your acceptance paperwork and you are confirmed on the program.

CISaustralia reserves the right to alter fees at any time due to currency fluctuations and/or fee changes made by our partners.

Adventure Awaits

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