Nearly all species of sea turtles are endangered – their numbers dropping due to poaching and over- exploitation, climate change and pollution, habitat destruction, accidental capture in fishing gear and trauma from boats.
Our partner organization in Costa Rica helps sea turtles through conservation, research, sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation. This organization is composed of an expert network of biologists, managers, community leaders and educators who are committed to the recovery and sustainable management of sea turtle populations that are dangerously low in number. Their project in the Osa Peninsula offers volunteers a unique opportunity to help with a scientific study involving sea turtles, like the rare Eastern Pacific hawksbill turtle. Volunteers assist with in-water research that is conducted by the research team to assess the threats that sea turtles are exposed to in the area. Turtles are carefully captured and tagged, and samples collected before the turtles are released once again into the ocean. Their facility also houses a Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre where a small number of sick and injured turtles can be cared for and eventually returned to the wild. Osa Peninsula hosts a large variety of tropical ecosystems, providing habitats to animals like scarlet macaws, monkeys, sloths, wild cats and other wildlife. The beaches, mangroves and estuaries are home to sea turtles, dolphins, and at certain times even whales and whale sharks.
Read about our latest trip to Costa Rica on Pink Pangea, a community for women who love travel!
Volunteers provide help with all of the programs carried out at the Osa location. On Ocean Days volunteers will spend the day out on the boat, and on the beach. Nets are carefully placed in the water and once a turtle is caught, volunteers help bring it to the beach where it is measured, tagged and samples taken. The turtle is then released back to the ocean. Volunteer duties include helping to carry material and field equipment to and from the boat, preparing and organizing the nets, untangling deployed nets, watching deployed nets to detect sea turtles, measuring and recording scientific data, and restraining and carrying the sea turtles.
Mangroves play a very important role in the coastal ecosystems. Unfortunately, the majority of the mangrove forests along the coast have been destroyed, negatively impacting the wildlife. On Mangrove Days volunteers are asked to help with the reforestation project. Volunteer duties include the collection of seeds and propagules, gathering mud for the seeds and seedlings, sowing and planting seeds and juvenile plants in their natural habitat and maintenance work at the nursery.
When sick or injured sea turtles are being treated at the Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, volunteers help with their care. Volunteer duties include changing tank water, cleaning tanks, restraining and carrying sea turtles, monitoring the patients’ progress and measuring and recording scientific data.
Sea grass monitoring takes place every three months. Sea grass meadows are crucial to the health of the ecosystem as well as providing food for the Pacific Green sea turtles. Volunteers who are at the project during one of the monitoring periods are asked to help count the blades and leaves of different species of sea grass in an effort to monitor their status.
Volunteers normally work from 7:45 am to 3 pm on Ocean Days, and 8 am to 4 pm on Mangrove Days, with an hour off for lunch. Volunteers have one day off per week, which is organized at the project.
You will be staying with a host family that has committed to sea turtle conservation and is closely associated with the project. AEI volunteers stay in the Black Sea Turtle Accommodation, less than 1 km from the main project site and the beach. Volunteers stay in a cabin or room with up to four other volunteers (of the same gender). There are western bathrooms that are shared between a few volunteers. Three delicious traditional meals are provided each day.
Do you have questions about safety? We have answers right here!
Airport pick up and drop off (at the closest airport), accommodation, meals, on-site training, donation to Placement Partner, AEI Travel Manual, emergency support while at placement, carbon credits to offset 3 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, premium Individual Travel Insurance (up to $500, 000 USD in emergency medical coverage), travel discounts (through automatic membership to a volunteer only travel discount program), 24/7 travel and emergency assistance, enrolment with the Global Travel Academy to earn a certificate in International Volunteering. This 3-hour online course is curated by travel professionals and is designed to help you get the most out of your adventure.
Flights, entry visa costs, international and domestic airport taxes, immunizations and medications.. Note: The rabies vaccine is recommended but not required for this Experience however, if volunteers are interested in becoming rabies vaccinated, the average cost is $600- $1000 in North America.
What is Serious
Our partner’s vision is to realize a future where all inhabitants of the Costa Rican coasts, human and sea turtle alike, can live together in balance; where healthy populations of sea turtles fulfill their ecological roles and economic potential; and critical natural habitats are sustainably managed. To accomplish this, help is needed to complete their work in the recovery of mangrove forests and sea grass beds and their studies of the rare Eastern Pacific hawksbill turtles. This is a great opportunity to gain experience with hands-on field work - learning how to organize and set-up the equipment, and record your findings.
Working with project biologists, you will be shown how to safely capture and handle adult sea turtles. You will get to participate in the collecting of scientific data, such as blood and DNA samples, and you will help take measurements of the turtles. This information is essential for the scientists to gain a larger understanding of sea turtle biology and population dynamics. Your contribution will add to this growing body of knowledge that will be shared within the scientific community.
What is Fun
It is impossible not to be amazed by the beauty of the Southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. While at the project, you will be surrounded by beaches and jungles. Scarlet macaws, toucans, and sloths will be seen in the trees. And your spare time can be spent on beautiful beaches or snorkelling in the ocean. There is always a group of friendly biologists and volunteers that you will be working with each day. And depending on the time of year, there may be several other international volunteers at this placement - friends that you will meet and memories you will make to take home with you. After a day of volunteering, you can relax with the other volunteers, visit the local restaurants, or explore the area looking for wildlife and enjoying the views. If you are hoping for a little more adventure, ask about the horseback and snorkelling tours offered in the local community. On your days off you can visit Puerto Jiménez for time in the internet cafes, shopping, eating out or just exploring the town. Want to read more about this experience? Our founder, Nora wrote a blog when she visited the centre again in 2018.
Consider staying longer so you can take a guided hike through Corcovado National Park. While you are volunteering you will be able to chat with locals about what they recommend you do in your off days, there are cocoa tours, kayak trips, tree top adventures and more!
Dates and Details
This is an ongoing program with operations every day of the year. There are no specific start or end dates. We work with you and your schedule so you can serve this community and help animals when you are available. Placements start on weekdays and volunteers are asked to arrive on the day they start their experience.
Are you thinking of fundraising for a portion, or all your fees? Many of our clients have been very successful with their fundraising efforts. To learn more about their successful fundraising projects and see how you can fund raise for your experience, please visit our fundraising page!