Volunteer Abroad FAQ Costa Rica

Voluntary work and internship

Prior to departure to Costa Rica

Do I need specific requirements or abilities to apply for this project?

Volunteering: In order to participate as a volunteer, you need to be physically fit, at least 18 years old and also need to be able to speak and understand English. Prior Spanish knowledge is appreciated but not mandatory. To make sure you are fit to do the physical work in the hot and humid topic climate, we need a doctor’s certificate confirming your state of health and physical fitness. You need to be able to adjust to the different climate and the different working shifts easily, besides that no special abilities are required.

Internship: In order to participate as an intern, you need to be physically fit, at least 20 years old and also need to be able to speak and understand English as well as Spanish. To make sure you are fit to do the physical work in the hot and humid topic climate, we need a doctor’s certificate confirming your state of health and physical fitness. Moreover, an academic background is required (undergraduate, graduate) in subjects like Biology, Marine Biology, Resource Conservation or Ecology, to only name some. Former experiences in working with sea turtles is appreciated. Furthermore, since you will be working with volunteers in a leading position, you should also have social and some leadership skills. It is important to be enthusiastic about what you are doing and to share your knowledge with them. You need to be able to adjust to the unfamiliar climate and the different working shifts and be prepared for physically as well as emotionally demanding tasks.

What services are included?

We will save you a place on the project and support you during preparation and organization. We will help you arrange your flights, your travel insurance and transfer to the project. There will be some additional costs for your first night at a hostel of your choice in San José and your transfer from the airport as well as your bus ride to Bataan. The taxi and boar transfer from Bataan to the Project site will be included as well as accommodation and food during the project.

Do I need certain medical precautions or requirements?

You will need a travel insurance to start your volunteering work with NATUCATE. We can provide you with all the necessary information. In general you need to talk to your doctor and make sure you are vaccinated against Morbilli, Mumps and Rubella. We advise you to get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B, Polio and Tetanus. For current information and warnings regarding your destination you should check out the homepage of the foreign department and inform yourself beforehand about possible risks like Malaria or Dengue.

What kind of equipment should I take with me?

Volunteering: You don’t need to bring special equipment. But you should be prepared for any kind of weather conditions. Therefore it is very important to bring rain clothes as well as clothes and shoes of light material that dry fast. Furthermore you need closed, comfortable shoes and dark colored clothes for beach patrols, light shoes (e.g. sneakers and sandals) and clothes for hot weather during the day and also headgear. We also suggest you to bring sunblock, sunglasses and a refillable water bottle. Additionally you will need a padlock, towels, a day backpack for hikes, insect repellent, a mosquito net, personal hygiene products, as well as a personal first aid kit including any medication you might need. It is essential to bring an alarm clock as well as a flashlight/headlamp (and some extra batteries) with a red light option.

Internship: You don’t need to bring any special equipment. But you should be prepared for any kind of weather conditions. Therefore, it is very important to bring rain clothes as well as clothes and shoes of light material that dry fast. Furthermore you need closed, comfortable shoes and dark colored clothes for beach patrols, light shoes (e.g. sneakers and sandals) and clothes for hot weather during the day and also headgear. We also suggest you to bring sunblock, sunglasses and a refillable water bottle. Additionally you will need a padlock, towels, a day backpack for hikes, insect repellent, a mosquito net, personal hygiene products, as well as a personal first aid kit including any medication you might need. It is very important to bring an alarm clock as well as a flashlight/headlamp (and some extra batteries) with a red light option. In case you want to do your own project e.g. for a thesis or a journal you need to bring your own material and equipment.

When is the best travelling time?

The nesting season on the Caribbean east coast of Costa Rica is between March and October with hatching usually occurring in the time between March and November. At that time it is likely that you will see turtles crawl out of the water to lay their eggs and to release hatchlings to the beach. However, support in the project is needed throughout the whole year.

Arrival in Costa Rica

How do I arrive at my destination, do I have to organize it myself?

We will help you plan your arrival, but cannot execute the booking. You have to book the flight on your own. You should book a flight to Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José, the capital city of Costa Rica. At the airport you can take a taxi to the city or for an extra fee, we can arrange a private transfer for you. As there will be an orientation meeting on your first day at the office of the organisation in San José, you will need to arrive at least one day earlier. Therefore also an overnight stay in a hostel will be necessary. To get to the project site in Pacuare, first you will take a public bus to Bataan. After about 2.5 hours you will get off at the centre and a staff member will meet you at the stop to take you to the boat of the organization that will get you to the project site. The taxi ride will take about 40 minutes.

What happens after my arrival?

After your arrival in San José you will either get a taxi or will be picked up (not included) and spend one or more nights e.g. at a hostel in the city. The following day you will attend the orientation meeting at the office to get to know the project and your future working environment. After your arrival at the project site a staff member will welcome you and introduce you to the station as well as to the work tasks. Afterwards you will be assigned to different working shifts.

During the project in Costa Rica – general information

What is the project’s procedure?

A great number of highly endangered sea turtles visit the Atlantic coast for their egg deposition. The conservation work of this project aims at protecting the turtles at the beach of Pacuare.

During the project in Costa Rica – Volunteering

What is my main function? Can I choose my tasks and will I be working independently?

In the sea turtle conservation project you will help out with research tasks, work in direct contact with the animals and also around the station. You will accompany nocturnal beach patrols on the search for nesting turtles, support the generation of data concerning the turtle, the nest it is building and also the amount of eggs it is laying. Moreover, you will also dig up buried eggs and bring them to the hatchery. Volunteers in the hatchery will bury eggs, keep track of the nests to keep them save and collect hatching turtles. The young turtles will be brought to the beach to make their way into the sea. In addition to that you will help cleaning the beach, assist with maintenance work and further tasks that might become necessary. You will be introduced to the different tasks and taught how to do it, so you can work independently. It is usually not possible to choose your tasks as they depend on the season and the urgency of the different assignments. Nevertheless you can always talk to the staff if there are problems or concerns.

How big is the group?

The group size depends on the season but in general there are between 5 and 25 volunteers working at the station at the same time. In the busiest season from April to July the groups can be even bigger.

During the project in Costa Rica - internship

What is my main function? Can I choose my tasks and will I be working independently?

As an intern a main function is amongst others the work with volunteers in a leading position. You will be responsible for night patrols, tagging and collecting samples as well as instructing volunteers how to do measurements and how to collect the eggs. Furthermore you can be assigned to different tasks that deal with the introduction and training of the volunteers, the work with the community or alternatively taking over responsibility for the supervision of the hatchery or the equipment. Moreover, you will also assist in assignments and maintenance work around the station. As a staff member, you will take over more responsibilities and generally work more than volunteers. Upon arrival you can tell us how you would like to set your focus and if the position is still available, you will be assigned to it. If not, we will supply alternatives. During the project you are trained to work independently but it is normally not possible to choose your tasks as they depend on the season and the urgency of the different assignments. Nevertheless you can always talk to the staff if there are problems or concerns.

How big is the group?

There are only limited positions for interns. In general three interns can participate as research assistant, in busy seasons sometimes even four.

Life on site in Costa Rica

What is the accommodation like?

The accommodation in Pacuare is very basic and simple. Located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica the station is located in a quiet and remote area. You will share a cabin with other volunteers or interns and use a communal bathroom. In general there are seven cabins; one cabin for up to four interns and six cabins for six to eight volunteers each. Clean pillows, blankets and sheets will be provided and there will also be small lockers that you can use. The electricity in the station is provided by solar panels, so availability depends on the time of the day and the weather. Moreover, water for the bathroom will not be heated. You can wash your clothes by hand during your stay.

Is it possible to get placed with a partner or friend?

In general it is possible to be placed in a cabin with your partner, but it always depends on the current booking occupancy. Let us know if you want to be placed with a partner when applying.

How is the food provided?

Volunteers and interns will receive food for three meals a day at the project (breakfast, lunch, dinner). At times a cook will prepare the meals for the staff but occasionally also voluntary helpers will need to assist with cooking. Food is provided according to a typical Costa Rica diet, and consist mainly of rice, beans, chickpeas, lentils, salads, pasta, tortillas, soups, vegetables and fruit.

Is it possible to receive vegetarian meals?

In general there will be very little meat as the electricity supply depends on the weather and might not be sufficient to guarantee reliable cooling. Therefore vegetarian meals are no problem and also special dietary needs or allergies can be attended. Please contact us in advance so the staff in Pacuare can prepare for it accordingly.

How are working hours and free time divided?

Volunteering: The shifts you are working will be rotated so that you will have three night shifts and three hatchery shifts per week. During the day you will also do some additional work for two to three hours that might include some work around the station, recycling, maintenance or beach cleaning. In total you will work six to ten hours a day, depending on weather conditions and season.

Internship: As an intern you are part of the staff and will have more responsibilities than volunteers. You will be responsible for volunteers and lead four to five night patrols à four hours every week. Additionally, you will work for about two to three hours in the morning and in the evening. Your working times depend on the position you are assigned to and therefore they may also depend on the number of volunteers you are responsible for, the time of the year and how busy the hatchery is. In general, your daily working time may vary between six to ten hours. Every month you will have four days off.

How can I spend my free time?

As Pacuare is located in a very remote area there are no shops and it will also take a while to get around for sightseeing. During the project you can therefore use your free time to relax and enjoy the tropical rainforest and the beach at Pacuare. There are many beautiful places in nature you can explore around the station. Moreover, you can enjoy some social as well as private time, refresh a little, read a good book or e.g. engage in some volleyball with other volunteers and interns. To get to know other places and see more of Costa Rica you might consider adding some extra time for travelling before or after the project. Furthermore, a wildlife tour through the canals can be arranged and you can also see how coconut oil is made.

Do I have a contact person on site?

On site you will be living and working in a team of volunteers, interns and project leaders. The supervisors will be responsible for you and help you with your problems.

What expenses do I have to expect during the project? Can I withdraw cash on site and do I have to pay in local currency?

In general, you do not need a lot of money during the project as there will be no possibility to spend it in shops. Also ATMs are not available in this remote area, so you should bring sufficient funds (e.g. for your way back) as well as everything else you might need during your stay. Moreover you should bring some money in case you are planning some further travelling before or after the project. In Costa Rica you usually pay in the local currency Colones but also US-Dollars are widely accepted. Both can normally be withdrawn at ATMs that you can find in almost every city. Moreover you can exchange and withdraw money easily at the airport. Inform yourself about the current exchange rate before leaving your country.

How can I contact family and friends at home?

There is no internet access at the project site and the cell phone signal is often quite weak in Pacuare as it is located in a remote area. Therefore, you and your family and friends should be prepared to go without regularly communicating. You might consider buying a Costa Rican prepaid card as the reception is generally better. Especially the service of ICE Kölbi/KOLBI can be recommended as it usually works on the beach in Pacuare. In towns and cities communicating should not be a problem and there usually are internet cafés and also cafés or bars that offer WiFi for customers.

What’s the weather/climate like?

Costa Rica has a subtropical to tropical, typically hot and humid climate with raining season from May till November. The temperatures lie between 26°C and 35°C. The air humidity varies between 50 and 95%.

Do you have further questions that you did not find here?

Then call us at +49 241-91994357 or send an e-mail to info@natucate.com

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