Being a volunteer for the Turtle & Sloth Conservation Program in Costa Rica, you'll be working alongside the local staff who are already engaged in saving the lives of these animals. Over the last few years, there has been a massive decline in the number of turtles and now, they are on the endangered species list. If we don't act now, we might lose these animals forever.
This incredible project is located at a distance of about 30mins south of the small town of Quepos on Costa Rica's central Pacific coastline, roughly 1 hour south of Playa Hermosa and Playa Jaco and 2 and a half hours from San Jose. Offering a relatively remote expanse of beach, largely unpolluted by noise and light, this is a popular nesting ground for thousands of sea turtles each year. The most common species include Olive Ridley, Pacific Green, Leatherback, and Hawksbill.
Volunteers will be protecting and nurturing the turtle eggs laid across the beach during the nesting season - which is from August to February. Apart from that, volunteers will get to support the research and conservation work which involves counting turtles, measuring nests, collecting scientific information, and going for night beach patrols. They will also help protect turtle nests from human poachers, assist in the egg-harvesting programs, and help in the hatcheries. Volunteers may also get the fantastic opportunity to participate in the subsequent release of hatchlings to the sea!
Additionally, volunteers will also get to monitor local sloth populations to protect and conserve this species. Needless to say, it'll be an amazing opportunity to gain unique experience on conservation projects, learn more about the Costa Rican people and culture and travel to beautiful locations.
Volunteers must be 18 years or older at the time of joining the project. You need to have an open mind and a flexible attitude for working in a new and different environment. The volunteer should bring energy and enthusiasm to make a difference. Participants must be fit and healthy at the time of joining the program and should be prepared to work outdoors and get their hands dirty. Participants in the program should have a keen interest and love for animal conservation work. Participants should have no criminal convictions and should provide a clean criminal background check report.
Volunteer Roles & Responsibilities
As a volunteer for the conservation program in Costa Rica, your major tasks would be:
- Beach cleaning, night patrolling, monitoring the turtle eggs
- Preparing and maintaining the turtle hatcheries
- Assist the local staff and work on projects to improve the environment for nests and to make the hatchlings journey to the Pacific Ocean safer
- Reforestation activities and maintaining the natural habitat for the sloths
- Educate the local people about turtle trafficking and its consequences
Volunteer Work Schedule
Volunteers will have to take a flight to San Jose, from where they will be taken to host family accommodation in Santa Barbara de Heredia, 40mins north of San Jose. (Arrival is on Saturday)
On Sunday the local team will arrange your pickup from host family and transfer to the project location by public bus. A representative from the local project team will meet you on arrival at the bus station and take you to the accommodations to settle in.
Monday: You will be taken to your project site and introduced to the project leader who will provide specific information about your role.
Volunteers need to be flexible to work in this program, as the schedules are largely dependent on the season and breeding activities that take place. However, a general day would look something like this:
4:30 am - Beach Patrol
This is a year-round activity, even in the low season (March to July). Volunteers have to go for an early morning patrol of the beach to monitor and protect turtle breeding grounds.
8:00 am - Breakfast at the accommodation
Volunteers are usually free post-breakfast and can utilize this time by reading, exploring the local area, swimming or chilling on the beach.
1:00 pm - Lunch at the accommodation
Afternoon Volunteering duties Post-lunch, volunteers will be assigned various duties that mostly vary depending on the season. Usually, volunteers can expect to work for 2 - 3 hours each weekday afternoon completing tasks to monitor, preserve and care for sea turtles and wildlife (such as sloths, parrots, macaws, alligators and more) in the local area.
Evenings/Nights Free time/Night patrols
During the nesting period (from August through February) volunteers will be involved in night-time beach patrols to protect turtles, collect eggs and generally monitor the breeding grounds.
Being an International Organization, we try to make sure that our volunteers are given the kind of comfort and flexibility they seek. In terms of airport pick up, stay, local travel or work and even city tour, we help our volunteers and facilitate everything for them.
Volunteers are picked up from the San Jose International Airport by the local coordinator or representative and transferred to the host family accommodation in Santa Barbara de Heredia for the first night.
Upon arrival in Costa Rica accommodation is provided in a host family for a night.At the project site, participants stay at the volunteer house in Matapalo, where the rooms are dorm-style, shared among four volunteers. The house has all the basic amenities including western-style bathrooms, electricity, cold water showers, wifi, communal areas, and a well-equipped kitchen. Bedding is provided so volunteers need only bring toiletries and a towel.
All volunteers are given an Orientation beginning on their project start date. Orientation is conducted by the local staff at the project and covers topics such as Project Overview, Rules and Expectations, Safety and Introduction to your project and placement.
At the host family, two meals a day are provided. While at the project, Breakfast and lunch are provided daily in the program. Dinner can also be arranged with the project site for a small fee or volunteers may enjoy dining out in the local area along with other participants.
During your Free Time
Volunteers are free to visit and see places during their free time or weekends The country offers unparalleled natural beauty, active volcanoes, rainforests, and a wide range of national parks and eco-tourism. In addition, Costa Rica has over 1,000 miles of gorgeous white-and-black sand beaches.
Please Note: -An application fee of $199 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment) Please Note: -An application fee of £149 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment) Please Note: -An application fee of $259 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment) Please Note: -An application fee of €169 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment)
What are you Paying for?
- 24 hrs Assistance and support from VS Staff
- Comprehensive Pre- Departure Information
- Pickup from San Jose International Airport and transfer to accommodation
- Bus transfer to Playa Matapolo and pickup from bus station
- Orientation on arrival at Project
- Dorm style accommodation at the project
- Certificate Of Completion (Upon Request)
What's NOT included?
- Weekend trips and excursions
- Any personal expenses
- Travel insurance (available at nominal cost)
- Post project stay in San Jose
- Return travel back to San Jose
FAQ's Application and Program Details
Volunteers must be 17 years or older for Teaching, Childcare, and Spanish Immersion at the beginning of the program. For all other programs, you need to be 18 years or older.
Volunteers joining the medical volunteer project must be either Pre-Medical, Medical or Nursing student or possess other qualifications related to medical and nursing field. Medical professionals such as doctors and nurses are also welcome to join the program.
Volunteers need to have an open mind and flexible attitude for working in a new and different environment.
The volunteer should bring energy and enthusiasm to make a difference.
The participant must be in good health.
Knowledge of Spanish (basic to intermediate) is necessary for all the programs.
To add to the project experience, you can also join the Spanish Immersion Week which gives you a crash course in Spanish and even tests your current Spanish skills which would help you in volunteering, and you would also get a chance to experience Costa Rican culture, learn cooking and Latino dancing before beginning the program.
Note: Host accommodation is located in suburbs of San Jose in the Heredia and Santa Barbara areas, along with your projects placements.
The Childcare, Teaching and the Medical Healthcare projects are located near San Jose, primarily in the areas of Heredia and Santa Barbara.
The Turtle Conservation project is located in both Pacific and the Caribbean coasts.
The Wildlife and Animal Rescue Center is located 4km away from Puerto Viejo and 220km from San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital.
Flights and Visa
For those flying in from Europe, direct flights are available, and the recommended airlines are:
Health and Safety
If you already have a valid Travel and Medical insurance, you can email us a copy of the same. It is also advised to bring along the Insurance documents during your trip.
Connect with Past Volunteers
To read alumni interviews from past participants, visit ?the Meet a Volunteer section on our website.
Accommodation and Living
Volunteers working in Turtle Conservation Project stay in ranger house, host family or volunteer house accommodations close to the project near the beach. Dorm-style accommodation is provided where you will be sharing rooms with other volunteers (same gender basis). Upon arrival in Costa Rica, volunteers are provided lodging in a host family accommodation in Heredia or Santa Barbara. After completing the orientation and project introduction on the first days, volunteers join their respective Turtle Conservation Project in either Pacific or Caribbean Coast.
For all other projects, volunteers will be staying with host families. More details about the host families would be provided after you apply for the program. Volunteers would be provided meals 2 times a day.
Volunteers working in the animal rescue center project in Puerto Viejo are provided accommodation in a hostel in San Jose on arrival. While at the project volunteers stay at a dorm style hostel accommodation. Meals are not included but volunteers cook their own meals at a fully equipped kitchen.
The local coordinators will be happy to help you with more information.