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Costa Rica Turtle Conservation Volunteer(OSA Peninsula, Pacific Coast)
Do you dream of working with sea turtles? How would you like to travel to Costa Rica and join a team of scientists researching these amazing animals? This turtle conservation program with IFRE allows you to do just that and more!
The Osa Peninsula is a remote and beautiful region on the southern pacific coast of Costa Rica. Named one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, this place is the stuff of dreams. You’ll find massive rainforest trees, macaws flying overhead, whales and sea turtles swimming just offshore, sloths browsing for leaves, monkeys at play, beautiful beaches, and spectacular sunsets.
Unfortunately, many of these natural wonders face degradation by human encroachment, and that includes the sea turtles. These majestic creatures are killed by boat propellers, get tangled in fishing nets, ingest plastic debris, are hunted for their meat, and have their eggs stolen by poachers.
While a lot of sea turtle programs are seasonal and study only nesting mothers, thisleaves a gap in the scientific data IFRE is helping to fill with our unique research-based sea turtlevolunteer project in Costa Rica, available year-round on the Osa Peninsula. Help scientists carry out in-water research to learn more about sea turtles at all stages of their lives by catching, tagging, and tracking wild turtlesin the Golfo Dulce sea grass meadows.
Are you interested in improving the health of the ocean’s marine life? Then contact IFRE today to help research and rescue sea turtles in Costa Rica!
Costa Rica Turtle Conservation Volunteer: On Going Projects
This unique research-based program is run by a team of experienced biologists and scientific researchers who will guide you through your work on a number of different projects.
Take a look at some of the projects you’ll be working on while volunteering with sea turtles in Costa Rica!
Sea turtles only spend about 1% of their lives on shore, but most of the scientific data that has been gathered on the species so far has come from mothers laying eggs on nesting beaches. As a result, little is known about young turtles,what the ratio of male to females is in the adult population, or what sea turtles are doing whilethey’re in the water.
More data is needed to understand these animalsand help assess what threats they face and how best to protect them. The Golfo Dulce is home to meadows of sea grass, the perfect habitat for foraging sea turtles and the ideal place to carry out this research. Join our team of volunteer sea turtle conservationists in Costa Rica and help carry out in-water monitoring!
You’ll go out on boats trawling for sea turtles, and once they are captured you will bring them back to the beach for study. You will tag them if they are not already, measure and weigh them, and take tissue samples. This is a great chance to be trained in scientific research techniques and try them out firsthand!
Rescue & Rehabilitation
IFRE’s Costa Rica Sea Turtle volunteer project also has a field rescue center on site. If an injured turtle is captured, or if one is brought from another beach, you can join in the help of rescuing and rehabilitating that animal until it is ready to return to the ocean. You will help carry and restrain turtles, clean tanks, change the water, remove parasites, and help to measure and record data.
Mangrove Restoration Program
Mangroves are important and unique ecosystems that help prevent the erosion of a coastline and offer homes to countless plants and animals. Since most of the mangroves have been destroyed along Playa Blanca, the beach that houses the project site, IFRE has enlisted the help of volunteers to restore this habitat.
While helping with this aspect of the Costa Rica sea turtle volunteer program, you’ll collect seeds, gather mud, and plant the seeds in a nursery. When the plants have grown large enough, you will transplant them back into their natural habitat, doing your part to restore the mangroves to their former glory.
Sea Grass Monitoring
The beds of seagrass in the Golfo Dulce are foraging grounds for both the Green Sea Turtle and the critically endangered Hawksbill. The beds also perform important functions within the ecosystem like cycling nutrients and chemicals, linking the coral reefs and the mangroves, preventing shoreline erosion, creating a nursery area for fish and crustaceans, oxygenating the water, and more.
Every three months, our Costa Rica sea turtle volunteers help participate in a sea grass monitoring study. Blades of grass are counted and what types of grass make up the beds are documented to better understand and manage them.
Once a week our volunteers help clean up the beach, Playa Blanca. This provides a nicer, cleaner beach to enjoy, and helps protect wildlife like sea turtles from ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic debris and other trash that has been discarded.
You’ve decided you want to travel to the Osa Peninsula and help carry out important research on endangered sea turtles. This is amazing, and IFRE is here to help you make it happen! Before you go, there are some things we feel you should know about this project:
Respect the wildlife
At this project, sea turtles come before your own personal comforts and desires. You will be joining in serious scientific research and should behave accordingly. Always listen carefully to instructions and follow the directions of the biologists and staff who are experienced in this type of work. Show the animals the respect they deserve.
This is the jungle
If you haven’t spent much time in the rainforest, there are a few things you should be prepared for. It’s hot, and this project’s location experiences 100% humidity. Even when it’s not raining, everything will be damp, and your clothes and personal objects may suffer the consequences of this. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking lots of water and be sure to wear sunscreen.
There are a lot of insects in the jungle, and you’re bound to get bitten by some of them while volunteering with sea turtles in Costa Rica.You’ll be dealing with mosquitoes and sand flies, which are worse during rainy season. Bring along your own mosquito net to sleep peacefully and be sure to bring extra bug spray and anti-itch cream.
Volunteer Responsibilities & Impact
You will carry out a variety of duties that will vary based on the time of year, the movement of the sea turtles, and the current needs of the project. These duties might include in-water monitoring, catching sea turtles for tagging and data collection, performing scientific research using a variety of methods, helping rescue and rehabilitate injured sea turtles, participating in mangrove restoration efforts, doing beach clean-ups, and helping monitor the sea grass beds.
Your time volunteering with sea turtles in Costa Rica will have a tremendous impact on both you and the turtles. You will gain invaluable experience working with a scientific research team gathering much-needed data in the field. This data will be used to help better protect endangered turtle populations and allow scientists to gain a better understanding over a part of these animal’s lives that has so far remained a mystery.
Skills and Qualifications:
You don’t need to be a scientist to join IFRE’s conservation efforts. All you need is to be 18 years oldand have a genuine desire to make a difference helping sea turtles. We recommend Spanish language skills, but they are not required.
You will need to be prepared to work in varying conditions, including extreme heat, humidity, rain, and during both the day and night. You should be in good physical shape to participate in our Costa Rica Sea Turtle conservation volunteer program, and able to help lift and handle large sea turtles. A lot of the research work is carried out on a boat, so you’ll need to be able to swim.
If you have experience, related skills and are available for three months or longer, you may be eligible for a research assistant position.
Costa Rica Turtle Conservation Volunteer: Dates and Fees
IFRE programs begin every Monday year-round. If you have travel constraints, you can still start your chosen program on any day of the year.
Since 2006, IFRE has been the most trusted and respected volunteer abroad organization in the world, and also the most affordable. We’re dedicated to providing the highest quality volunteer programs at the lowest fees, which make it possible for everyone, especially students, to volunteer internationally and make a positive impact in the lives of others.
We believe in 100% transparency. Rest assured, we never use middlemen. Your one-time registration fee of $299 covers our administrative costs. The low weekly fee is paid in the host country directly to your host family and project (via country coordinator), and includes housing, food, and minor expenses. IFRE is a non-profit organization, so your program fees are tax deductible.
Volunteer Program Fees (US$)
Mandatory Comprehensive Travel Insurance $3.49/day »
No Spanish Language Program with the Turtle Conservation Project
Program Fees Cover:
- Accommodation (host family)
- Food (only breakfast and dinnery)
- Program Orientation
- In-country support
- Personalized project
- Pre-departure information
- Certificate of completion
- Fundraising ideas and letters
- Discount for returning volunteers
Program Fees Exclude:
- Personal expenses on soft drinks and foods
- Daily transportation
- Airport return transfer
Osa Peninsula (Airport Pick up and Transportation)
The Osa Turtle Conservation site is 100 miles from San Jose. Here are the details of the airport pick up and transfer fee.
- Airport Pick, first night at a hotel in San Jose $45
- Sanjose to Punterenas by bus $8
- Punterenas to Osa by bus $6
You will pay your airport pick up/transfer cost directly to staff in Costa Rica
Pacuare (Airport Pick Up and Transportation)
Pacuare Turtle Conservation site is 80 miles from San Jose. There are two options for you to choose from.
Option one- organized by IFRE Volunteers
- Airport Pick, spend the first night in a hotel in San Jose $45
(If you arrive before 2 p.m. you can go directly to the project by taxi without staying in a hotel.)
- San Jose to Pecaure in a private taxi $150
- The boat transportation cost is 35$
Option two- travel by yourself to the project
If your flight arrives early in the morning, or before 10 a.m., you can choose to go to the project directly by public bus
- San Jose to Siquirres $6
- Siquirres to Las Vegas de Imperio $3
- The boat transportation cost is 35$
Bus Departure time from San Jose: 11 a.m.
Directions - traveling to your project
- From the Gran Terminal del Caribe of San José, take the 11:00 a.m. bus to Siquirres. You will arrive at Siquirres around 1:15 p.m.
- From the terminal at Siquirres walk to La Estación Intercantonal, also called Parada de los Calvos, (300m). (If you are not sure, just ask people where you can get on a bus to Las Vegas de Imperio).
- Take the 2:30 p.m. bus to Las Vegas de Imperio, getting off at the last stop.
- A staff member will be waiting for you there. The boat transportation cost is 35$ per person, both trips.
You will pay your airport pick up/transfer fee directly to staff in Costa Rica: Map
Gran Terminal del Caribe of San Jose: Map
The volunteering overseas in Costa Rica program fees will cover expenses that will begin on the first day of the program (usually the first or third Monday of the month) to the last day of the program. If you arrive before the first day of the program or you decide you stay beyond your program’s last day, you will be responsible for the additional expenses, which would typically be around $30 a day for room and meals at a hostel.
Meals and Accommodations
At this project, our volunteers will stay in four different types of cabins which all offer comfy bedrooms equipped with clean beddings. These accommodations are situated in tranquil area enclosed by green and lush nature, providing you a safe and the best living environment.
Your daily commute to and from the project site will be about 20-30 minutes from the accommodation. You will receive three local meals a day. Your meals will be flexible within the possibilities of your host. Costa Rican cuisine is simple, not spicy, and typically includes rice, beans, salad, fresh fruits, and coffee.
For more readings
Volunteering with sea turtles in Costa Rica may be your dream come true, but your volunteering adventure doesn’t have to stop there! This project is located on Playa Blanca, a beach near a small village on the rugged and beautiful Osa Peninsula. You’ll have plenty of beach and sun to soak up right there at the project site during your time off.
Not far away is the town of Puerto Jimenez, a great spot to visit on your days off. Considered an outpost to the more difficult to reach spots on the Osa, you’ll find beautiful beaches, chocolate tours, kayaking, whale and dolphin watching tours, sportfishing, and a variety of hotels and restaurants to suit a backpacker’s budget or offer you a little taste of luxury during your excursion.
While you’re in Puerto Jimenez taking time off from ourCosta Rica Sea Turtle volunteer program, be sure not to miss world renowned Corcovado National Park. Most of the Osa is wild and green with the lush, thick rainforests that make up this park, and you will find tapirs, jaguars, macaws, sloths, and monkeys in abundance. From Puerto Jimenez you can do everything from a day-hike into Corcovado to a multi-day trek and a stay at a ranger station.
The rest of Costa Rica awaits as well, and the public bus system makes travel cheap, easy, and scenic through this small beautiful country.
Discover what to do in your free time while volunteering in Costa Rica.
Safety and in Country Support
Your safety is always our biggest priority here at IFRE. We will carefully plan your trip every step of the way, using our years of experience to ensure you have a safe, satisfying, and meaningful time abroad. Our in-country team will be right there in Costa Rica helping you whenever you need them.
Read more about IFRE’s dedication to safety and our in-country support.
Costa Rica Turtle Conservation Volunteer-FAQs
You probably have a few lingering questions about your trip. We get asked questions by prospective volunteers every day, and we’ve compiled some helpful answers here in one easy to find spot. Here’s a list of helpful information we think you should know when traveling with us:
Arrival and Departure
You will fly into Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. Please make yourself sure you have provided us your final flight information. Our representative will be waiting you at the arrival point for your pick up on the schedule date and time. Contact us as soon as possible if you miss your flight or the flight is delayed. We will arrange a new pick up schedule for you.
IFRE doesn’t offer departure transport services.
You will need a tourist visa in order to volunteer in our turtle conservation volunteering project in Costa Rica. Costa Rica provides a 90 day tourist visa; and you can extend further up to 90 days depending on your interest and need. You can simply visit immigration office in your country to secure visa or can also get visa in the airport. However, on arrival visas are only available for some nationalities. Please visit Immigration site of Costa Rica to know the Costa Rican visa policy in details.
Before you head off to Costa Rica, make sure you meet with a doctor to discuss your trip and get up to date on needed vaccines.
You can also find the information on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Global Health Canadaor in Travelers' Health United Kingdom. You should be up to date on your routine vaccines, as well as Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid.
For further readings:
Safety tips for your volunteer abroad trip
Can I volunteer at the project year-round?
Yes. While most sea turtle projects are only available during nesting and hatchling season, thisCosta Rica sea turtle research volunteer project is unique. Instead of only studying nesting mothers, we are trying to get an accurate picture of the overall life of sea turtles in the water, where they spend 99% of their time. As a result, you can join us year-round!
What kinds of sea turtles will I be working with?
You will work with both the Pacific Green Sea Turtle and the critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle.
What should I wear?
Pack for hot weather and working in dirty conditions. Denim never fully dries in the humidity, and you definitely won’t want it for your work clothes. We recommend lightweight, fast-drying fabrics. You’ll want shorts and t-shirts, and lightweight long-sleeves and pants.
Bring a pair of flip-flops, some sneakers or boots for hiking, and waterproof closed toed shoes like crocs for beach work. A headlamp with a red light is recommended in case you need to work with the turtles at night.
Our project is located right on the beach, so make sure to have a couple of swimsuits, a sun hat if you need it, a pair of flip-flops, and some sunglasses. Although not apparel, a healthy supply of sunscreen and bug-spray will serve you well!
Why Costa Rica Turtle Conservation Volunteer?
Volunteering with the sea turtles in Costa Rica is a great way to gain insight into conservation research and fulfill your passion for marine animals while on an exciting adventure in Costa Rica.
Gain professional experience in the scientific field
If you are pursuing a career in the scientific field, you will gain amazing professional experience that looks great on your resume. You’ll learn different data collection techniques like live capture, tissue sampling, tagging, biometrics, and more.
Contribute to groundbreaking research
Nearly everything modern science knows about sea turtles is derived from research performed on nesting mothers. Since turtles only spend 1% of their lives on land, there is a lot left to still learn! With the discovery of the sea grass meadows in the Golfo Dulce as recently as 2012, this area offers unprecedented access to study the turtles during all phases of their life and in the water.
Help protect endangered species
At our Costa Rica sea turtle volunteer project, the data collected by you and our team of scientists will help better protect endangered sea turtles and understand the threats they face in their underwater environment.
Travel with purpose
You’ll have the chance to travel to the exciting destination of Costa Rica, but you’ll also be making a huge difference while you’re there! Instead of just going on vacation, you are going to work alongside scientific professionals and contribute to important sea turtle research in paradise.
Work with sea turtles up close
If you love sea turtles and can’t wait to learn more about them up close and personal, this is the project for you. From helping collect turtles and gathering research to assisting in the rescue and rehabilitation center for injured animals, your dreams of working hands-on with sea turtles will come true when you join us.
Contact IFRE today to get started planning your Costa Rica sea turtle research volunteer trip!
Other Wildlife Projects in Costa Rica
You can make a difference for animals in Costa Rica with many different IFRE projects. You can
work at a sanctuary in Natuwa,
help protect the sea turtles on the Caribbean coast,
take part in wildlife research and much more!
Contact IFRE today to find the perfect wildlife project for you!
Other Sea Turtle and Wildlife Projects Worldwide
The planet’s wildlife is in critical danger all over the world, especially the critical sea turtles. IFRE arranges wildlife and sea turtle conservation projects all across the globe to help solve this problem, and we need passionate animal lovers like you to volunteer! Check out the list below for some of our most popular wildlife and sea turtle projects: