Volunteer with sea turtles in Costa Rica
Head off the beaten track and onto a remote stretch of Costa Rican coastline to help conserve adult and baby turtles. Patrol the beach at night time to spot nesting mother turtles, and help to release hundreds of babies out to sea. Get involved in the local community, from teaching children to conserving the beaches to get a real glimpse of life in rural Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is home to stretches of lush turtle nesting beaches all along its unspoilt coastline. In such a tropical paradise, it is hard to imagine the extinction of the turtles, however the sea turtle population is rapidly plummeting. Due to natural predation from animals and severe human interference such as turtle egg poaching, industrial fishing and selling turtle shell products, all turtle species from the Pacific Coast are, to some degree, in danger of becoming extinct.
Working alongside an influential NGO, the local community and other volunteers, you will be protecting nesting turtles and their eggs, and ensuring that more adult and baby turtles can make it safely to the sea. The hard work of volunteers over the past few years has resulted in thousands more turtles making their way out to sea.
What will I be doing?
- Beach patrols and data collection
By night you patrol the beaches, watching for nesting turtles coming up out of the sea. This is an incredible sight – one which many volunteers will never forget. Research and measurements on the turtles are recorded, and the eggs transported to a hatchery, where they can hatch in safety. This all takes place under the Milky Way, seen in incredible clarity due to the lack of light pollution.
- Working in the hatchery
By day and by night you check the hatchery for hatching turtles and help with background research.The research is linked to a worldwide study, and helps with global campaigns to end industrial fishing close to land.
- Helping around your new home
You will also be asked to do a few chores around the project house to keep it clean and tidy. Local children often pop by to practice their English and encourage you into some of their games – you are encouraged to join them!
- Conservation projects
An important role for you as a sea turtle conservation volunteer is preserving the turtle’s nesting habitat and educating local people about the importance of this task. You will be helping with beach clean ups, teaching local children about sea turtle conservation and assisting with any ad hoc research and data collection tasks.
Where can I stay?
There are two project sites in which you can volunteer, each with its own charm and beauty:
- The paradise beach project: A buzzing little community of both Costa Ricans and American expats, this project site has a stunning white sand beach and plenty to keep you busy, with excellent surfing and other outdoor activites, and lots to explore. Find out more…
- The tropical beach project: Volunteers here are spoiled with a beach front property in a close-knit community of about 100 residents. The beach is stunning, lined with coconut trees and facing a small fishing port over the estuary. This is a beautiful base, with great access to the beach, great surfing, strong community ties and a real opportunity to work with locals and improve your Spanish. Find out more…
What can I do in my free time?
Whilst it is remote, there are plenty of things to do in your free time – you are at the beach after all! Many volunteers simply enjoy chilling out in hammocks, walking the beach, swimming, helping in the local community, getting involved at the local school and playing games at the beach with the local children. For those who wish to explore further however, there may be the opportunity to go surfing or horse riding, as well as enjoying walks around the locality. The beaches are unspoilt, making the perfect place for relaxation and exploration as well as protecting the turtles. With the amazing wildlife on your doorstep, this project feels a long way from the hustle and bustle of life in busy San Jose.
Accommodation and Food
- Simple beachside Costa Rican houses or cabins, sharing with other volunteers
- You will be sharing a mixed dorm with up to 5 other people
- Bathrooms are en suite with refreshingly cool showers
- Breakfast is a DIY affair – cereals, fruits, toast, spreads etc
- Lunch and dinner are prepared by the local community- a mixture of traditional Costa Rican foods as well as more western influenced foods.
- The project caters for all dietary requirements, however please remember that you are in a very rural area and the same products that you are used to back at home won’t be available here.
When should I book?
Whilst late-availability is possible, we would advise booking as soon as you can to guarantee your ideal dates. Our projects are very popular and spaces can fill up several months in advance, especially for the months of July to September.
- Get hands-on conservation experience and make a valuable contribution to important research that will help to protect Pacific turtles from extinction.
- Witness nesting turtles emerging from the sea at night under a glittering Milky Way.
- Experience local life in a remote village community, and immerse yourself in the laid back ‘Tico’ lifestyle – a great way to learn some Spanish!
- Spend your down-time swinging in a hammock or relaxing on the beautiful beaches only minutes from your door.
- Sample delicious and authentic Costa Rican cuisine.
- Get involved in local community initiatives and join in community celebrations.
Whyshould I do this?
The sad fact of the matter is that the turtle populations around the world are plummeting. Volunteer turtle conservation gets you stuck in to actively protect these vulnerable creatures. To volunteer with sea turtles, protecting adult and baby turtles, is not just an important thing to do, it is also a step in the right direction to preserving this species for generations to come.
The setting of these projects comes in a close second to why you should do this. Several of our volunteers over the years have chosen to travel Costa Rica either before or after the project- and each one has said that the project beaches were the most stunning that they have seen in the entire country. Patrolling the beach under the Milky Way, relaxing in a hammock beneath the palms, releasing baby turtles out to an azure sea… the location just makes this project unforgettable.
Volunteers arrive into San José (SJO) on a Monday. You will be met and taken to a guest house in San Jose. On Tuesday you will transfer down to the project site. The project runs Tuesday – Tuesday, with participants leaving San Jose for homeward flights or onward travel on a Wednesday.
You will be well looked after by our team on the ground in Costa Rica. Working with expats and locals means that you will be well supported both culturally and linguistically! Friendly, passionate and enthusiastic, they will help you to settle in to your new way of life.
What is provided
- Personal contact with your Destination Manager to help with planning, either via phone, email or in person
- Access to your personal ‘My Oyster’ account – our online portal where you can find out much more about the programme and manage your booking.
- Pre-departure advice covering medical, safety and project advice
- Help and advice from our UK office 24/7 whilst in Costa Rica
- Advice on obtaining a visa
- Full orientation and induction to project before you begin
- Meet and greet at San José airport and transfer to guest house for your first night
- First night hotel accommodation in San Jose (does not include meals)
- Transfer to the project site from San Jose on arranged public transport
- Shared accommodation with en-suite facilities at the beach project
- Food at the project site (three meals a day)
- Return transfer with public transport to San Jose
- Final night hotel accommodation in San Jose
- Return transfer to the airport
- Contribution to Oyster’s adopted turtle
- Oyster Worldwide volunteer t-shirt
- Oyster luggage tag
On your return:
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
What do I need
- A full passport valid for the duration of your stay plus 1 day
- If you will be flying through the USA you need to comply with US regulations- make sure you have an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) at least 72 hours before you leave
- Insurance covering your project time and any planned independent travel – we can introduce you to a policy
- Return flights to San Jose. We can help organise these
- Cost of changing your return flight date if you need to
- Independent travel costs
- Any additional costs such as trips, snacks, entertainment (allow maybe £25 per week depending on lifestyle)
- Departure tax from Costa Rica is $28. This is not included in your flight. Make sure you have enough money left over, as you are not allowed to take Costa Rican currency either into or out of the country
- No visa is necessary for under 90 days from UK and most western European countries
- No compulsory inoculations are necessary although do check with your doctor to make sure polio, typhoid and Hep A&B jabs are up to date