Family volunteering with turtles in Costa Rica
Take the ultimate family beach holiday, combining the golden sand beaches of Costa Rica with a turtle conservation trip you’ll never forget. Step off the beaten track and into a remote paradise, living on unspoiled beaches alongside friendly locals, helping to protect both baby and adult turtles from extinction.
Dates: Annually from July 1st – December 15th
Suitability: You know your children best, but we would suggest a minimum age of 5 for this project. You will need to be happy to get stuck in, prepared to live in rustic accommodation and be open to a very different experience.
Immerse yourself and your family in traditional Costa Rica, living in a remote village community alongside one of the most stunning stretches of beach that the country has to offer. Join a conservation team working to protect both nesting and hatching turtles off the Pacific Coast, working together to protect this endangered species.
In line with the turtle nesting season, you and your family can volunteer between the beginning of July and the middle of December. The turtles start nesting in July and continue until December, and the babies start hatching in late August / early September. Kids love the hands on nature of this, as well as knowing that what they are doing is helping hundreds of turtles from each nest to survive to adulthood. Last year 15,000 turtles were released back to the sea.
Costa Rica, the meaning of which in English is “Rich Coast”, is home to stretches of lush turtle nesting beaches. Despite these safe havens, the turtle population here is in rapid decline thanks to natural predation from animals, industrial fishing and the selling of turtle shell products. Because of this, all turtle species from the Pacific Coast are, to some degree, in danger of becoming extinct.
Working alongside a growing 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- with more of them surviving to promote future development. This is a vital project, set in one of our most stunning backdrops on the Pacific Ocean.
What will we be doing?
Much of the volunteering actually happens at night on this project, as this is when the turtles come up to nest. You and your family will walk the beach watching for nesting turtles coming up out of the sea. This is an unforgettable sight- and one that you and your family will cherish for years to come. Once the mother turtle is safely on land, you will help to take measurements of the turtle, collect the eggs from the nest and take them to a protected hatchery, where they can hatch in safety.
The night patrols are a real highlight for adults and children alike. It is a peaceful time to be walking the beach beneath the Milky Way, watching the sea lap on the shore and seeing these beautiful creatures coming up out of the waves. There is a lot to learn here, and the kids love the hands-on nature of this. If you’re worried about the slightly different sleeping patterns, the kids are often the ones begging their parents to let them patrol! There is plenty of time in the day for taking a nap and getting in some rest. We will always try to arrange for your family to patrol at a time that would be best for the kids’ sleeping patterns.
In the day time you help to maintain the hatchery, check for hatching turtles and help with a few simple chores around the project house. In addition to this, you may be able to get involved in the research, which is linked to a worldwide study supporting global campaigns to end industrial fishing close to land. It’s not all work though, with plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful beaches, taste the delicious Costa Rican cuisine and relax in the hammocks between the palm trees.
Where will we be based?
You and your family will be living in a community of about 200 people on the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste. The location is remote, about 5 hours from San Jose, and this is part of the huge appeal of this project. The white sand beach spreads over 3.2km and boasts plenty to keep you busy. Families to date have enjoyed horse riding on the beach, taken surfing lessons, visited a local butterfly farm, explored the rock pools and waterfalls, trekked through the forests and swam in the natural lagoon.
In addition to this, a real highlight for families has been complete immersion into the local community. You can visit the local school to help out with English lessons, play football and volleyball on the beach with the locals, build sand turtles with the village children and even welcome the local kids to the project house for games. Some families in the past have even arranged a sports day at the local school, complete with the sack race and egg and spoon race. This is a fantastic way to understand different ways of life, practice a bit of Spanish and really integrate with the local community.
Accommodation and Food
You will be living in simple Costa Rican cabins with your family. These are rented from locals and are traditional and comfortable – but basic. The rooms have fans on the ceilings and you will need to bring mosquito nets. The accommodation is located close to the main project house, the beach and the local community. Everything is on your doorstep!
Your meals will be prepared by the local community, who will offer a variety of traditional Costa Rican foods as well as more western influenced foods. Food is varied, fresh and delicious. 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 June to September.
- All the family can enjoy getting hands-on with the turtles and making a valuable contribution to protecting this endangered species.
- Experience complete immersion in a local Costa Rican community with your family – kids can make friends with local children, learn about a different way of life, and practice their Spanish.
- Create unforgettable family memories as you patrol the beautiful beaches together at night, on the look out for nesting turtles emerging from the waves.
- Enjoy the luxury of having a stunning beach on your doorstep – perfect for playing or relaxing together in your free time.
- Introduce your family to delicious and authentic Costa Rican cuisine.
Whyshould I do this?
Many of our families in the past have been incredibly passionate about getting their children to experience a different way of life and make a genuine contribution to conservation. This is a great way to experience something very different all together, learn to communicate in another language and gain an understanding of turtle conservation. The sad fact of the matter is that the turtle populations around the world are plummeting. This project gets you all stuck in to protect these vulnerable creatures for generations to come.
The setting of these projects comes in a close second to why you should do this. Families have loved exploring the local area, getting to know the locals and enjoying a wholly different way of life.
You will arrive into San José (SJO) on a Monday. You will be met by a member of the team and taken to a guest house in the capital for the night to rest and get over your flight. The following day you will be collected again and transferred to the bus station for a public bus journey down to the project. Please note this journey takes about 5 – 6 hours. We can arrange a private transfer from San Jose to the project at an extra cost. The leaving day is generally a Wednesday.
You will be well looked after by our team on the ground in Costa Rica. Working with both expats and locals means that you will be well supported both culturally and linguistically! Our coordinators are passionate people who fell in love with Costa Rica and the turtles and moved out here to dedicate their lives to the cause. Friendly and enthusiastic, they will help you to settle in to your new way of life.
What is provided
- Phone or face-to-face planning and briefing
- 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 (where necessary)
- 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 family 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 (three meals a day at the project site)
- 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
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