How volunteering in Costa Rica has changed all future family holidays

Family holidays will never be the same again if you choose to volunteer together. A mother and daughter at the beach on a turtle conservation project in Costa RicaIn November 2017, Karen Chadfield decided to take a different type of holiday with her youngest daughter, Ruth. Here she tells us all about how their holidays took them to a rural beach in Costa Rica to care for turtles.

Our holidays will never be the same again!

So…it gets to that time of year again and I get thinking about holidays. Last year I decided that the traditional all inclusive/package holidays really weren’t for us so I started looking for something a bit different. I wanted to go somewhere new, preferably hot, near a beach, no cooking/shopping, “uncomplicated and back to basics”, few distractions of the technology type and tacky souvenir type places. But I also wanted us to learn something and do something worthwhile.  An impossible mission I thought….or maybe not! I came across Oyster on an internet search looking for family volunteering trips and everything I wanted was just sat there waiting for us. The biggest decision was whether to do turtles, elephants or monkeys. I let Ruth my 9 year old decide as we were going to be away for her 10th birthday. Turtles it was in Costa Rica.

How do you sum up the most amazing experience? It ticked all of the above boxes so to speak. We started the day taking the beach walk (a few minutes) to the Station House from our Cabana. Breakfast was the only meal we got for ourselves but all the ingredients were there including local seasonal fruits and there is something very lovely preparing and eating food on the open veranda. Days were spent on the beach, in the sea, at the lagoon, bumpy rides into town once a week, card games, reading, ball games and chatting to everyone. Our main “work” was between the hours of 7pm and 5am with our 3-hour shift patrolling the beach looking for turtles and nests and checking the hatchery. We went at a great time and saw both turtles laying and hatchlings hatching so got the best of both worlds. We also helped in the day with hatchery duties. There was something totally magical watching the turtle find its nesting place, digging the nest and laying the eggs but the icing on the cake was watching the hatchlings hatch and crawl to the sea.   We were lucky and saw an Arribada on a neighbouring beach, a daytime turtle laying eggs and a very rare Hawksbill turtle that was rescued by a local fisherman.

Volunteers check the turtle hatchery for baby turtlesWe learnt so much and the staff were a constant source of information. They made it fun and never tired of Ruth’s endless questions – especially at 3am! Our night patrols went so fast and I was amazed at how we just got up and then back to sleep at odd times. The Milky Way stars were awesome and the sunsets, sat under a palm tree on the edge of the beach, with the sun dropping into the sea was just the perfect ending to each day. Hopefully we have made a difference to these little comical Olive Ridley turtles too…having released 1000’s of them during our stay.

Ruth was asked to do a 15 minute power point presentation to her class….she was worried that they would laugh at her and be bored as it is not the normal type of trip her class mates would do. After 40 minutes Ruth was still being asked questions….need I say more?

So our dilemma now is do we do the monkeys or the elephants next?

The sun sets over the sea in Costa RicaHow to plan your own volunteering family holidays

We love getting families involved in our family volunteering holidays. We have sourced out some of the best volunteering holidays out there for families, and have had many happy participants over the year. It’s not your average type of holiday – you will be working together towards a goal, your accommodation will be more basic than the norm and you may encounter local challenges that you would not on a resort holiday. All of the quirks simply contribute towards the incredible experience, meaning that you and your family will all come away with memories for life.

To find out more about our family volunteering holidays, check out our family volunteer projects.

Volunteer at a stunning beach site in Costa Rica on your family holidays

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