Wildlife Volunteer Costa Rica(Tortuga Beach, Puntarenas)
“An incredible wildlife volunteer program that allows you to work on multiple projects including turtle conservation, crocodilian monitoring, butterfly garden mammal inventory and environmental education outreach”
Would you like to make a difference in the rainforest by studying wildlife like crocodiles and Scarlet macaws? Have you dreamed of volunteering with endangered sea turtles and helping protect nests and hatchlings from poachers?
Costa Rica is alive with rainforests, rushing rivers, spectacular beaches, and mountains that scrape the sky and are cloaked in clouds. Less than 20,000 square miles in size, the small country of Costa Rica is nevertheless home to a colorful and dizzying array of plants and animals.
Although the government and many people in Costa Rica work hard to protect the natural world, the country is still recovering from decades of previous deforestation. Wildlife struggles to hold on in the rainforests, getting electrocuted by powerlines, hit by cars, or captured and sold into the illegal pet trade.
At this unique Costa Rica wildlife volunteer opportunity located in a nature reserve, scientists and volunteers study animals like crocodiles, scarlet macaws, tree boas, and more in their natural habitat. During sea turtle season (at this location, July- January), you can help protect endangered sea turtle eggs from poachers, collect scientific data, and ensure a new generation of hatchlings makes their way out to sea.
Do you share you passion for endangered species and help the amazing sea turtles survive into the future? Then contact IFRE today and learn more about wildlife volunteering opportunities in Costa Rica!
Projects Carried out at Reserve
Sea Turtle Conservation:
Your help is needed to conserve endangered sea turtles! Three different species of sea turtles nest at the beach in the reserve, all of which are in danger of extinction. The Olive Ridley is the species you will be doing the most work with.
The sea turtle eggs are in danger from poachers and beach erosion, so volunteers and reserve staff patrol the beach at night and move the nests to a protected hatchery where they are monitored 24 hours a day.
In the hatchery, important scientific data is gathered such as incubation periods, nest temperatures and the effect upon gender, environmental factors, and more. In September, the eggs begin to hatch, and Costa Rica sea turtle volunteers help to release the babies back into their ocean home.
In the past two seasons, volunteers have helped protect over 140 nests (each nest has over 100 eggs), and they have helped release over 5,000 hatchlings safely back into the wild! By joining this project, you can make a huge impact in protecting endangered sea turtles that need your help!
The Costa Rica sea turtle volunteer project is available only during the nesting and hatching season, from July to December/January. You can expect nesting adults from July through December, and babies hatching from September and on into January.
Volunteers will also participate in the variety of other ongoing research projects being carried out at the reserve. You should be aware most of the work with sea turtles is done at night, and only 8 people at a time can go out on patrol per night.
This project is quite popular, so volunteers with their hearts set on should book as far in advance as possible, sometimes 6 months or more, to ensure space is available.
Crocodilian Monitoring Project:
Twice a week, (depending on the tide and weather conditions) volunteers will go out at night from 5 pm to 2 am to conduct exciting and important research on the different crocodilian species that make their home in the reserve.
Using flashlights, Costa Rica wildlife volunteers detect the eyes of the animals, their numbers are counted, and their location marked on a GPS. Smaller animals less than one meter in length are captured to determine their species, sex, size, and health, and then they are tagged and released back into the wild.
This research is being carried out to determine the distribution of crocodilians in the area, their relationship with the environment, the impact humans are having on their habitat, and to help in the conservation and management of this ancient and often misunderstood species. You will gain valuable experience doing exciting scientific research in the field.
Bird Monitoring Project:
When you join this wildlife volunteer program in Costa Rica, you will help monitor the fascinating and numerous bird species present in the reserve and surrounding region. Costa Rica volunteers and staff will make weekly observations to maintain an updated record of which species are living in or visiting the area.
At low tide, volunteers will head to the beach to look for the presence of the magnificent Scarlet Macaws. You will record when, where, and how many macaws are seen, if they are nesting or just visiting the area for food, and which trees the birds are using to learn what their diet consists of.
Butterfly Garden Project:
When you join Costa Rica wildlife volunteering program , you help maintain a fascinating butterfly garden designed for educational purposes. A variety of butterfly species, including the famous Blue Morpho, are bred and studied. You will work in keeping up the garden, collecting and identifying butterflies, transplanting host plants, pupae, and larvae, and collecting data in the laboratory.
You may also have the chance to work with visiting children and teach them all about the butterflies, their life cycle, the ecological role they play in nature, and their biological and cultural relationships.
Mammal Inventory Project:
Many mammals make their home in the reserve, including coatimundis, sloths, river otters, tayras, anteaters, capuchin and howler monkeys, possums, raccoons, kinkajous, weasels, and even an ocelot!
Through the use of camera traps and observation, volunteers at IFRE’s Costa Rica Sea Turtle and Wildlife Research Volunteering Opportunity help gather data on these mammal species including behavior, diet, and local movement. This research is very important and is being used in reforestation plans along the coast of Costa Rica to establish much needed biological corridors.
Tree Boa Population Study:
Join experienced staff members on fascinating night walks in the forest to carry out this study. You will spot and catch tree boas, measure them, and use pit tags to identify individuals.
Environmental Educational Outreach:
The children in the area surrounding the reserve are the heirs to the ecological wealth of this rainforest region, and you will help educate them in how to protect their natural environment and how to live in sustainable ways.
Through educational programs hosted at the reserve or visits to local schools, volunteers at this wildlife conservation project in Costa Rica will help teach the next generation of children to respect and protect the beautiful place in the world they were born into.
Pitch in to help keep the beach clean and free of trash, making it a more pleasant place to spend time, as well as protecting wildlife from the dangers of ingesting plastic or becoming entangled in debris such as discarded fishing line.
Be prepared to work at night
Both the sea turtle night patrols and the crocodilian monitoring are done at night, so be prepared to work some odd hours and stay up late. However, you always have the first part of the day free after doing a night-time activity, so you won’t be losing much sleep.
Pack dark colored clothing to avoid disturbing the sea turtle sand bring along a headlamp with a red light to avoid damaging their eyes. You’ll want lightweight, fast-drying long sleeves and pants for your night work to cut down on the mosquito bites.
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 humid, and at times you get quite a bit of rain, particularly in the afternoon. 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 the rainy season. Be sure to bring extra bug spray and anti-itch cream. The good news is you’ll be staying in a nice private room with screens and fans, so you’ll sleep quite comfortably.
Volunteer Responsibilities & Impact
When you join wildlife volunteer program in Costa Rica, you will be volunteering 6 days per week, Monday-Saturday, for an average of 6 hours per day. The activities at this unique project will vary greatly from day to day, and you can expect to participate in the full range of research projects being carried out at the reserve.
A weekly schedule is prepared Sunday or Monday, and this varies from week to week. One day you might be busy in the butterfly garden, the next surveying troops of monkeys, and the next out on the beach observing a mother sea turtle laying her eggs.
If you are out late at night working on the crocodilian monitoring project, patrolling for sea turtles, or tagging tree boas for the population study, your volunteer work the next day will not begin until the afternoon to allow you time to rest.
Your hard work will have a big impact as you contribute to important scientific research and conservation efforts. You can feel great knowing your time volunteering abroad is making a real and lasting difference. You will work under the close supervision of experienced conservation professionals, and gain experience doing scientific research in a variety of ways and implementing many different techniques.
Skills and Qualifications:
Anyone who is over the age of 18 and wants to engage in research being done to help protect the rainforest and sea turtles is welcome to join us. You will need to be in good physical shape and prepared to work both day and nighttime hours. You should have a deep love and passion for animals and research, as well as a willingness to go outside your comfort zone.
Although you don’t need a background in conservation or wildlife to join this exciting Costa Rica conservation volunteer project, we welcome you to come and share your passion with us if you do. Longer term internships are available for students and people pursuing careers in a related field.
Wildlife Volunteer Costa Rica: 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 $299 covers our administrative costs. The low weekly fee is paid in the host country directly to your host family and project (via country coordinator), and includes housing, food, and minor expenses. IFRE is a non-profit organization, so your program fees are tax deductible.
Volunteer Program Fees (US$)
|Duration||Wildlife Volunteer(Tortuga Beach, Puntarenas)|
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
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.
Accommodation and Meal
Your room, food, and supervision at our Costa Rica Sea Turtle & Wildlife Research Volunteer Opportunity are all covered by the program fee.
Volunteers will stay in nice, spacious single rooms equipped with comfortable mattresses, fans, storage, and screens to keep the rainforest bugs out of your living area. A handicap accessible room is available, as well as two rooms typically reserved for families. One of these has a queen-sized bed, and the other has a bunk bed with a double bed on the bottom and a single bed on the top.
There is a large common area with space to hang out and dine together with staff and other volunteers, along with a nice, large kitchen that will suit all of your needs while volunteering in Costa Rica. Volunteers will have one complimentary use of the washing machine per week, and a solar tent dryer is provided as well as free Wi-Fi.
Lunch is prepared daily, and this is a nice time for everyone to come together, eat, and talk about the exciting work you are doing at this amazing wildlife research volunteer project in Costa Rica.
Commonly served meals include rice and beans, tortillas, salads, chicken, fish, beef, pasta, soups, cereals, sandwiches, cheese, fruits, vegetables, and fresh tropical juices. Snacks, breakfast and dinner you will prepare for yourself, and basic local staples are provided for your use in the kitchen.
If you would like special food items, a small grocery and a number of restaurants are about a 15-minute walk from the project.
Free Time and Weekend Exploration
Sunday will be your day off, and this will be your free time to explore the beautiful rainforests and beaches you have traveled all this way to see. You can stay at the site relaxing, walk five minutes to the beach, or participate in the wide range of recreational opportunities available in the area. Costa Rica is a true paradise, and this is your chance to explore it!
Some things you might do in your time off are take surf lessons, visit nearby beaches/towns to get a feel for the country, check out the Marina Ballena National Park,take tours of wildlife sanctuaries, go zip lining or horseback riding, make a trek to a waterfall, snorkel, and more.
The coordinator of the Costa Rica conservation volunteer project is happy to let you know all about the various activities available in the area and advise you on how to book your excursions. Since everyone is off on the same day, this is a fun opportunity to get to know your fellow volunteers who come from all over the world to make a difference, just like you!
Learn more about the exciting things you can do while in Costa Rica.
Safety and in Country Support
Your safety is always our number one 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.
Wildlife Volunteer Costa Rica: FAQs
Arrival and Departure
You will fly into Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica.Send us your flight details before heading to Costa Rica. As a part of the program fee, we will set up your airport pickup schedule. Our airport representative will be waiting for your pick up.
IFRE doesn’t offer departure transport services.
You will need to apply for a tourist visa in advance of your Costa Rica sea wildlife volunteer trip. You may be eligible for a visa stamp after your arrival at the airport, depending on your nationality. You will be eligible for a 90-day tourist visa and can extend for further 90 days while you are in the country. You can visit the official Immigration site of Costa Rica for more detail information.
You’ll need to meet with a doctor to discuss your upcoming trip and get up to date on your vaccines.
Since you’ll be volunteering with wildlife, you might consider the Rabies vaccine. Although the virus is quite rare in Costa Rica, talk with your doctor if he feels this is something you need. The shot takes three boosters, so you’ll need to get started well in advance of your Costa Rica sea turtle and wildlife volunteer trip.
You can also find the information on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Global Health Canada or in Travelers' Health United Kingdom. You should be up to date on your routine vaccines, as well as Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid.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, but keep in mind the sea turtle project is only available seasonally, from July-January.
What should I bring with me?
Keep in mind you’ll be traveling to a tropical, humid rainforest environment and pack accordingly. While the project has clean and comfortable accommodations, it is not a hotel and you will need to bring along your own amenities, including towels. Here is a list of things you should pack when coming to volunteer at our Costa Rica Sea Turtle & Wildlife Volunteer Opportunity:
- Good-quality poncho (not as hot as a rain jacket)
- BPA-Free or Stainless-Steel Water Bottle (at least 2)
- Alarm clock
- Waterproof watch
- Binoculars (if you have them – good ones, preferably waterproof)
- Flashlight and LED head lamps w/red light are ideal. The project has chargers for ones that use re-chargeable batteries
- Quick drying clothing for a warm/hot tropical climate (cotton can take a long time to dry). Bring clothes that you are not worried about ruining - you will get dirty!
- Black or dark-colored clothes for nighttime beach patrols/walks (During the turtle season, the use of dark clothes is required to participate on night patrols)
- Several t-shirts, shorts, light long pants w/pockets, light long-sleeve shirt (Enough clothes for one week. Remember, we have a washer.)
- Two pairs of sturdy shoes for walking the beach at night (water shoes work great for the beach walks) and hiking in the area (bulky hiking boots are not necessary) day hikers, rubber boots, or tennis shoes.
- Sandals (good ones!), rubber boots and/or water shoes
- Insect repellant (not to be used on the beach with turtles!)
- Beach/Bath towels
- Waterproof sunscreen
- Biodegradable shampoo, soaps, personal toiletries (be kind to Costa Rica’s water system)
- Camera (waterproof is always good)
- Things to donate to local schools and/or our community education center are welcome!
- International calling cards are available in local stores or cell phone rental in the airport. Local SIM cards will only work on phones that are unlocked.
- Two photocopies of your passport
- Entertainment: books, games, music, guitar, paints, soccer balls, etc.
- Students and researchers who come to do their own investigations o research should bring their own laptop or device to store information of their research.
Why join Wildlife Volunteer Costa Rica?
This project is an amazing opportunity to give back to the environment and help collect valuable research data on endangered species, greatly furthering conservation efforts.
Join important scientific research efforts
The research being carried out at this project has wide-ranging implications in the conservation of countless rainforest species. Work alongside scientists gathering data in the field and learn a variety of fascinating and useful techniques.
Advance your future career
If you are pursuing a career in the wildlife or scientific field, this is the perfect opportunity to develop new skills, get professional experience, and make important contacts. This experience looks great on your resume!
Carry out your own research
If you have a research project you’d like to carry out, the people at the reserve would love to talk to you about it! There are also longer-term internships at the Costa Rica Sea Turtle & Wildlife Research volunteer project available for you to really dig in and do some exciting work here.
Become a citizen scientist
Maybe you aren’t ready to devote a lifetime to a career in biology, but you still love wildlife and want to study them up close and contribute to their conservation. We welcome volunteers from all backgrounds to join us in our research efforts!
Help save the rainforest!
Many people dream of visiting the rainforest, and now you can make that dream come true while helping make a difference and doing your part to save the rainforest at the same time!
Become a citizen scientist volunteer in Costa Rica with sea turtle conservation and wildlife research with IFRE’s affordable and exciting volunteer abroad program. Contact us today to learn more!
Other Wildlife Projects in Costa Rica
There are many other projects for you to share your love for animals and the environment with IFRE in Costa Rica. You can
work in a sanctuary in Natuwa,
help save sea turtles on the Caribbean coast or on the Osa Peninsula, and much more.
Contact IFRE today to learn about these amazing opportunities!