Turtle Conservation Project (Osa Peninsula)

Travel to a remote and stunning locations to work with a team helping to save endangered sea turtles. You’ll enjoy pristine beaches, live inside a forest, catch turtles to tag them and collect other information before releasing them and nurse injured turtles back to life.

Millions of sea turtles return annually to Costa Rican beaches to nest. Our volunteer project sites are chosen due to the influx of turtles to these areas. The nesting season for the different species of sea turtles varies but there is plenty of work all year, including research work, which needs to be conducted to collect vital information on sea turtles. The project mainly works with endangered Hawksbill and Black sea turtles. Volunteers will patrol beaches and nesting sites and help protect turtles and eggs from poaching. Volunteers also gather valuable research information.

Enroll now or contact us for more information and be part of this amazing project saving endangered species from extinction.

Skills/Qualifications Needed

No specific skills, qualifications or experiences are required but volunteers must be able to understand basic Spanish and swim. Volunteers must also be able to live in a rustic environment that is hot and wet. The area is known though for breathtaking beauty though and the beaches are very pristine. You must also be 18 or above, if you are underage you will need your parents’ permission or them to accompany you.

Volunteers must also be physical fit, as you have to walk long distances, boat and go on turtle catching expeditions in the Bay of Dulce. The project won’t tolerate consumption of any illegal drugs or alcohol. Volunteers are expected to dispose cigarette stubs at a disposable bin. Volunteers must also have a personal insurance without which you won’t be allowed to volunteer.

Volunteer Responsibilities

Volunteers will work in the Gulf of Dulce with Hawksbill and Black Sea Turtles. The sea turtles have been coming to the pristine beaches in the Osa Peninsula to lay eggs for thousands of years. But the habitat destruction, loss of eggs and turtles getting tramped in all kinds of human activities threaten their survival. There is a distinct need to study their behavior and health and protect the place where they come offshore to lay eggs. Volunteers will be involved in both these activities.

To study turtles and determine their current health and long-term future, volunteers will join our team of scientist to head for the Golf of Dulce to catch turtles. Once the turtles are caught, you will measure their size, weight, and take blood, tissue and mucus samples. Before releasing them, you will tag them. Once released, you will have to take down details of their tag number and all the details.

Volunteers other work includes protecting the area where turtles lay eggs. You will clean the beaches of garbage and any other things that the nearby rivers dump. You will also work in the reforestation of mangrove forest by helping grow plants. You will work in a nearby nursery for that.

Lastly, volunteers will also work in a rescue center to rehabilitate turtles that are injured or sick. You will feed them, clean their enclosures and learn about their behavior and feeding habits. The turtles are released once they recover.

Accommodation/Food/Supervision

The volunteer project is based in Playa Blanca, close to Puerto Jimenez, the main town in Osa Peninsula. In Playa Blanca, all volunteers will stay in a cabin inside a forest. A single cabin can house up to 8 volunteers. Accommodation will be clean, safe but very rustic. There will be an outhouse where volunteer will go for toilet and showers. There will be electricity but no internet. Volunteers can use their mobile phone to go online. You will be served 3 local meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner).

Throughout the volunteer project, our local staff stays in contact with volunteers either with face-to-face visits or via email/telephone. With longer placements, we visit our volunteers every two weeks (when possible) and volunteers are always welcome at the local office. If project placement is local, we request that volunteers stop by the office once a week to keep us posted on how they are doing with their home stay and project. If project placement is very far, then our local staff members maintain communication by either email and/or phone.

Hawksbill and Black Sea Turtles

In the area around Playa Blanca the sea turtles can come offshore to lay eggs are usually Hawksbill and Black. Volunteers will mostly work with these sea turtles. The hawksbills grow up to about 45 inches) in shell length and 150 pounds in weight. While young, their or upper shell is heart-shaped and as they mature it elongates. The upper shells are also serrated and have overlapping thick bony plates. Their tapered heads end in a sharp point resembling a bird’s beak, hence their name. Male hawksbills have longer claws, thicker tails and somewhat brighter coloring than females. Hawksbills are listed as Critically Endangered species. The Black sea turtles have black upper shell and it is dramatically teardrop shaped. They weigh in around 220 pounds and measure up to 39 inches. There are about 5 -10 thousand Black sea turtles in the ocean and are listed as endangered. Offshore poaching with shark gill nets and incidental capture in shrimp trawls are the main factors contributing to the turtle’s decline.

Other Informations

Volunteers must come prepared for the project, as it is located in a remote location. Recommended clothes you need to bring are:

  • Clothes that light and dry out quickly. Denims are not recommended.
  • Raincoat
  • Socks & underwear
  • Sunglasses and swimsuit

Other equipment you need to bring are:

  • Good hiking shoes and sandals
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Bottle of water
  • Sun block lotion
  • Mosquito net
  • Insect repellent
  • Toiletries
  • Cameras and other personal equipment

FAQ

  • Please provide a typical day schedule for this project.

    The Caribbean site is typically night work, patrolling the beach for nesting turtles with several shifts available.

    The Osa Peninsula project is an in-water project, going out on the boat during the day and checking on the turtles in the water. The time would depend on the day.

  • Where do I stay? How far is the project from the accommodation? How do I commute every day? Where would I be placed? Where is the project located?

    The Caribbean site in North Limon has volunteer housing on-site.

    The Osa Peninsula offers different options for accommodations which volunteers can state their preference of in advance. Depending on the choice of accommodations, volunteers may either be within a short bike ride or walk to their project.

  • What is the difference between Caribbean and Osa Peninsula project?

    The Caribbean site works on conservation with nesting turtles and is typically night work, patrolling the beach for nesting turtles. This project is best from February- August because that is when the turtles come to shore to lay eggs.

    The Osa project is an in-water project, going out on the boat during the day and checking on the turtles in the water and operates year-round.

  • Which airport do I need to arrive for this project? How far is the project from the airport I would be arriving?

    San Jose Airport (SJO), which is actually located in Alajuela, Costa Rica.

    The Caribbean site is about 5 hours from San Jose.
    The Osa site is about 8-9 hours from San Jose.

    With both projects you will need to stay overnight at a hostel or hotel and take a taxi to the sea turtle office early on Monday morning. Specific instructions for the taxi driver will be in the placement materials.

  • How can I go to the project site?

    In both projects, you have an orientation early on Monday morning at the sea turtle office in Tibas (a suburb of San Jose).

    From there, they put you in a taxi to the appropriate bus station.

    For the Caribbean site, you will get on the bus and they will have someone meet you at the bus stop and you will go by boat out to the site.

    For the Osa site, you get on the bus and they have someone waiting for you at the bus stop in Osa to take you to your housing.

    We do not charge in advance for sea turtle transportation as it involves public transportation, which cannot be paid in advance. All fees are explained in the placement, but can vary between $50-70 each way.

  • What are the activities involved at this project?

    At the Caribbean site, you will be patrolling the beach protecting the sea turtles from poaching and helping to gather up the eggs and move them to a safe spot. When they are hatching you help them towards the ocean.

    At the Osa site, you go out on the boat and tag and measure sea turtles. Some days you will be working on the beach for beach maintenance.

  • Will I be handling the project on my own or will there be someone assisting me while working?

    There will be someone assisting you throughout the project.

  • How many hours a day will I be working?

    Depending on the shift and the day, maybe 6 hour shifts approximately.

  • Do I need to bring any material?

    For the Caribbean project, bring dark clothes and a flashlight with a red cellophane paper to cover the light.

  • Is this project available all-round the year? If not, when does it close for how long?

    They are both available year-round, but on the Caribbean side, the turtles only nest from February to August, so it is best to go during that time. The Osa site is available year-round since it is in the ocean.

  • Any important information you want to share about this project.

    As these locations are remote, cell phone service and internet are rare, especially on the Caribbean. It also takes a lot of time to travel to/from the site, so it’s best to arrange travel plans before or after the volunteer project. The boat to the Caribbean site only goes out on Monday and Thursday, so you should plan your travel around that.

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