Costa Rica Turtle Conservation
2-4 weeks from $1,161
- Volunteer at a magical sea turtle project on either the Pacific or Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica
- Stay with a friendly local family in San José and immerse yourself in true Costa Rican life
- Assist with important research and conservation work as a volunteer on the sea turtle project
- Help build solid shelters for turtles and collect newly-laid eggs on beach patrol to take to the hatcheries for safety
- Take part in hatchling releases and watch the baby turtles you’ve cared for brave it to the ocean
- Explore beautiful Costa Rica in your free time
Go to Costa Rica for an incredibly rewarding conservation programme and help assist the passionate sea turtle team patrol the beaches, collect newly-laid eggs to keep in the hatcheries until they've hatched, and release baby turtles into the ocean. You'll also carry out a number of other tasks to help sea turtles survive the hazardous conditions on the beach and ensure they get to the safety of the sea to thrive. You'll be staying on either the Pacific Coast or Caribbean Coast for the duration of your programme, and you'll have the opportunity to explore your surroundings and try out a whole host of different activities in your own time. A truly rewarding volunteer programme, this is a chance for you to help protect the future of an incredible species.
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Download more trip information and detailed itinerary
What to expect at the project
To become a volunteer at our turtle conservation project in Costa Rica you will need to have a high level of Spanish. If you're a beginner, we recommend you take lessons before you fly out to Costa Rica or, if you're thinking of being in Costa Rica for a little longer, try out our Learn Spanish in Costa Rica programme first. Ask us more about this option when you contact us to book.
You'll be met at Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José by our friendly team on the first day of your itinerary, to be taken to your homestay accommodation in the heart of San José. You'll be staying here for the first couple of days getting settled in and finding your bearings on the first day, before then having a comprehensive orientation on day two to find out more about your project placement and to give you the opportunity to ask any questions. The next day you'll head to your allocated placement – which could either be on the Pacific or Caribbean Coast. Please note, transport costs from San José to your project placement aren't included in the price of your trip and will need to be paid by you in Costa Rica.
You'll have a varied workload once at the project site, so expect plenty of hard work and shifts throughout both day and night. The humidity in Costa Rica can be testing at times, so try and make sure you'll be as comfortable as possible by packing lightweight, practical clothing that will keep you cool whilst also covering your skin to limit the effects of the sunshine and to stop mosquitoes and other bugs from bothering you so much.
Try to bear in mind that turtles don't exactly keep to a timetabled schedule, so you might find that you'll be working at unusual hours during the day and night, sometimes with just a few hours' break between each shift. You'll have one full day each week to relax and explore the area but, the rest of your time, you'll dedicate to helping out with conservation efforts - it's an amazing opportunity to get involved in vital conservation work to protect the future of Costa Rica's precious turtles.
Day in the life
As every day varies so much from one day to the next on this programme, you could start shift work at any point during the day or night, with a multitude of different tasks to carry out. This is because nature (specifically weather and wildlife) are often hard to predict, so you'll need to be pretty laidback, and just go with the flow. Typically though, you'll be working between 8pm and 4am.
You'll need to be pretty hardy and physically fit as well, as most of the work you'll be carrying out involves patrolling the beach, come rain or shine, and usually in the dark for around 5km-10km on wet sand and slightly difficult terrain. You'll also need to be able to carry a heavy backpack (around 5kg.
Your main duties will include:
- Day and night beach patrols to protect turtle nests and eggs (shifts are between 2-4 hours)
- Taking newly collected egg clutches to the hatchery (vivero) for protection and monitoring
- Recording detailed information and tracking the development of the eggs
- Helping baby turtles make the journey to the sea
- Constructing hatcheries
- Installing signs on the beaches
- Beach cleaning (during the day)
- Participate in environmental community projects
- Assist with community-oriented activities for the improvement of local facilities
It's not all work, work, work though, you'll have at least one day each week to enjoy yourself in your seaside location. You could explore the local town, take part in some pretty awesome adrenaline-rushing optional activities, or visit local attractions, including national parks and historic sites, or simply relax in the sunshine and sip cocktails on the beach.
Please note that all activities, inclusions and itineraries are subject to change.
Purpose and aim of the programme and how do you benefit the programme
A range of sea turtles visit Costa Rica's coastline (Pacific and Caribbean) each year to lay their eggs, from leatherbacks to Pacific olive ridleys and green sea turtles. Numbers of these remarkable sea turtles have sadly been declining in Costa Rica, due to habitat destruction, poaching and low hatchling survival rates, which is where our sea turtle project and you come in...
Aiming to conserve, protect, and sustain different species of sea turtle, turtle protection and refuge projects were set up to encourage growth of turtle populations and prevent the species' numbers from dwindling even further. The conservation programme aims to collect newly laid clutches of eggs and put them into hatchery protection, whilst also releasing baby turtles into the sea to give them the best possible chance of survival.
Giving volunteers a fantastic insight into conservation and animal welfare, this project is a hands-on experience where you'll work alongside passionate and knowledgeable project staff to help provide support and assistance in a challenging but fun environment – essentially helping protect the future of this wonderful species for many years to come.
As well as doing something incredibly worthwhile and rewarding, you’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime experience working with adult turtles and baby hatchlings, and at the same time you'll gain an education in the conservation and care of sea turtles and their environment. You’ll put your stamina to the test on late night beach patrols and by building sturdy shelters for the turtles, as well as making new friends and getting to experience some truly heart-warming moments. In your spare time you'll get to see Costa Rica, whether you're based on the Pacific or Caribbean Coast. This programme is a great introduction for anyone looking to get into marine biology or conservation, but is equally just an amazing travel experience.
- Airport transfer from Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) on programme start date
- 2 nights' accommodation in a local family homestay in San José
- Turtle volunteer placement
- Accommodation in either a homestay or in a volunteer house at your project
- 3 meals a day on your project
- Full support from your in-country co-ordinator
- 24/7 emergency support
- Travel insurance
- All transport between San José and your volunteer placement (we will help you to arrange this)
- Snacks and other meals not at your project
- Optional activities during your free time
You'll spend your first two nights in San José, where you'll stay with a friendly and welcoming local family in the heart of the city. Your accommodation will be basic, but clean and safe, and staying with a local family is a great opportunity to brush up on your Spanish language skills.
After your first couple of nights in San José you'll make your way to your allocated placement, either on the Caribbean Coast or Pacific Coast, where you’ll be staying at a volunteer house or in a homestay with a local Costa Rican family, depending on availability. Accommodation during the turtle conservation volunteer placement is often very basic and rustic and in a rural location - some do not have electricity.
There are two locations on the Caribbean Coat: Barra del Pacuare in the province of Limon, and Gandoca in the district of Talamanca. In Barra del Pacuare you'll stay in basic, rustic cabins where there isn't any electricity – and therefore no internet connection. The closest town is Siquirres, which is around a four hour drive from San José. In Gandoca, you'll stay in Doña Gladys’s cosy cabins where you'll have access to shared facilities as well as electricity and WiFi.
There are two locations on the Pacific Coast as well: Refugio Mixto de Vida Silvestre Romelia, which is a 45-minute walk from Montezuma, and doesn't have electricity but does have solar panels for lighting. And Proyecto de Tortugas Marinas Bahía, where you'll be staying with a family and the closest town is Matapalo. There's also electricity, and even a laundry machine!
Three meals a day will be provided at your accommodation, and will typically consist of: rice, beans, vegetables, pasta, meats and seasonal fruit. Your host family or cabin owner will be happy to cater for most dietary requirements as long as you let us know when you book your place. Please remember to bring your own towels as these are not provided.
You will need to arrange your flights to arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport, San José (SJO) on the first day of your itinerary, where you'll be met by the in-country team who will take you to your accommodation. You can depart any time on the last day of your itinerary.
To arrange your flights, contact our fantastic flights team on 01892 277037 or email them at [email protected] They will be able to search for the best flight offers to your chosen destinations, so you can plan and organise your trip in one place. Just make sure you give them your full name, as stated in your passport, along with your chosen departure dates, return dates, and any other details you want to include.
It is important that once you have booked your flights you add these details to your online account or alternatively you can contact us with your departure date, the flight number and arrival time at your destination.
The minimum age for this programme is 18 years.
To volunteer on this programme, it’s important that you’re able to communicate sufficiently with the staff at the project and are able to understand their instructions, which means you’ll need to have a high level of spoken Spanish before working at the turtle conservation project. If you don’t currently speak Spanish, or if you know the basics but would like to brush up your skills, we’d recommend enrolling on our Costa Rica Spanish School programme first. Feel free to contact us for more information.
It’s worth noting that you’ll need to have a reasonable level of physical fitness too, as much of your work will be carried out in a hot climate. You’ll need to be able to carry a heavy backpack, weighing in at around 5kg as well as walk between 5km and 10km across sand during each shift.
You will be working shift patterns throughout the day and night, so be expected to alter your sleep patterns regularly as well as working through any weather conditions. You’ll also need to have pretty good eyesight for night shifts.
Be prepared to be staying in very basic, sometimes rustic accommodation. You won’t always have access to electricity or hot water.
British nationals aren’t required to have a visa to enter Costa Rica and can remain in the country as a visitor for up to three months. You will, however, need at least six months’ validity remaining on your passport following your planned departure from Costa Rica as well as proof of onward travel or return home. Please note, there is a 29USD fee payable on exiting the country.
If you are travelling into Costa Rica from a country at risk of Yellow Fever you must ensure that you obtain the required Yellow Fever vaccinations and bring a Yellow Fever certificate with you when you enter Costa Rica. Please consult your GP for more information.
How Much Spending Money Should I Bring With Me?
The majority of your meals are included in the cost of this programme, and general costs in Costa Rica are pretty reasonable, so you won’t need a huge budget to get by comfortably. Just make sure you plan for travel and optional activities in your own time as there’s plenty you’ll probably want to do while you’re out there. You can expect to pay between 3,000CRC-10,000CRC/£4-£14 for a meal and between 800CRC-2,000CRC/£1-£3 for drinks, so a weekly budget of around 75,000CRC/£100 should be a good amount to keep in mind, minus any costlier activities.
Do I Need To Be Able To Speak Spanish?
Yes; in order to take part in this turtle conservation project you will need to have a high level of Spanish. If you're a beginner, we recommend you take lessons before you fly out to Costa Rica or, if you're thinking of being in Costa Rica for a little longer, you can book on onto our Costa Rica Spanish School too. Ask us more about this option when you contact us to book.
When Is The Best Time To Visit The Project?
The main laying season for turtles is from May to November, where you’ll get the opportunity to help hundreds of hatchling turtles make it to the ocean.
Due to Covid-19, many of our partners and suppliers across the globe are putting in place new procedures and policies regarding health and safety in response to the outbreak. These new measures will adapt and change as the state of travel evolves, and the policies and procedures will vary depending on each trip. Some changes that you may experience on our trips are:
Updated safety & hygiene procedures
Health and safety measures will be adapted by our partners and suppliers, dependent on local laws and restrictions.
Different transport & accommodation
You may find yourself on transport or in accommodation that would not typically be used, such as hostels that are more secluded, or on more private transport. This may vary by trip, or even by individual departure dates.
Most trips include a meeting on arrival with the guide or local team to discuss the trip, and this is an opportunity for you to ask any questions. You should arrive in time to attend these briefings.
Emergency support 24/7
We have a UK based 24/7 emergency phone line if you have a genuine urgent matter that you need attending.
Knowledgeable & Trained Staff
We can help answer any questions or concerns you may have before you depart. Whilst travelling the guide or local team on our trips are there to help, and to ensure the smooth running of our trips.
Should you require medical assistance whilst travelling, the local team or guide will be able to help you get to a point of care. Medical facilities and standards can vary across the glove, so you should ensure you have adequate travel insurance in place.
Varying group sizes
To begin with, many trips will run with amended group sizes, so you may find smaller groups than would be typical. This may vary by trip, or even by individual departure dates.
Whilst there may be changes on our trips, it is vital that you make travelling safer for yourself, your travel companions, the local staff and guides, and the people of the country you are visiting. You should follow all local laws and restrictions, and follow the guidance of the local team. In addition, you can help make travel safer by bringing and using your own face coverings/masks and hand sanitiser, social distance where appropriate, wash your hands frequently, and cover your face when coughing or sneezing.