Project: Volunteering in Costa Rica – Protecting endangered sea turtles
Location: Pacuare/Costa Rica
Duration: August 2018 – 2 weeks
Support from NATUCATE-Team: ★ ★ ★ ★ ✫
Arrival: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Project partner: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Accommodation: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
1) Could you give us a short overview of your activities/tasks in the project?
- Hatchery guarding
- Night patrol
-Beach cleaning operations
- Camp maintenance
- Hatchery maintenance
- Trash sorting
- Patrol and hatchery training
We had two activities a day plus either a patrol at night or working in the hatchery. If you were really eager to get involved it was also possible to do hatchery plus patrol plus two activities.
2) What were your biggest challenges during the project?
My biggest challenge was on the emotional side. Work is hard, night schedule is never fixed and you get to see poached / killed turtles and unhatched babies. You have to be mentally strong and remain positive.
3) Was there anything that you liked most? Or anything that left you with a negative impression?
We saved a turtle from poachers! Thanks to the coast guards, we found her alive and released her to the sea. Also I was lucky to witness two hatchlings. I’m a mommy of 38 and co-mommy of 57 babies.
4) Did you have certain expectations before you started the project? If yes, did the project meet your expectations, disappoint or maybe even exceed them?
Everything was absolutely perfect. I was just upset that I couldn’t do more about pollution… I was able to take the initiative to present a paperpoint presentation (it’s like a powerpoint but without electricity) about plastic and trash alternatives. Some information given about nesting and hatching periods actually depend on the species. So about my case, in August the last leatherbacks nested and it was the beginning of the nesting season for hawksbills and greens, and it was also the hatching season for leatherbacks and beginning for hawksbills. We nearly had one hatchling every day.
5) Did you do anything during your free time that you can recommend to following participants?
Work was very hard. We used our free time to rest or to do extra beach cleaning if we had enough energy. There was a boat tour to observe Costa Rica’s wildlife but places were limited. Sometimes though, no activities had been settled by staff and we played volleyball. On Sunday there are usually no activities, but it’s almost impossible to get out of Pacuare as it is only accessible by boat.
6) Which tips/recommendations would you give to other participants who would like to do this project? (e.g. tips that would have helped you before your journey)
Even if you are not in such a good shape participating in the project is possible. Activities are quite accessible – some people were not super strong or super fit but it is more important that the person arrives rested and highly motivated. You don’t have mobile connections over there, only one operator worked fine (Kolbi).
7) Can you guess how many additional expenses you had? – We can give this information to following participants
During the trip I spent almost additional 200€. All in all, I stayed 2 ½ weeks and I really had enough money with me. I decided to do couch surfing during the first days after my arrival in the country, and I didn’t have any expenses in the project except personal expenses in the community (like a snack, some fruits, etc.). For the last few nights in Costa Rica I took a hotel. Don’t know if you have this information but it was quite cheap: 15€ for the night + breakfast and the taxi to the airport. In fact I had taken a bit too much money with me. I bought a lot of local chocolate and coffee to bring home. On my last day in San José I did a lot of sightseeing with friends I got to know during the project.
8) Here is some space for further questions/suggestions/ideas/reports or stories:
For this project, you should include a pair of gardening gloves in your must-have list. I didn’t have this info, and I had to use plastic gloves to pick up plastic and trash on beach cleaning operations. It doesn’t make much sense to me.
Plus I don’t remember if it was said in the document, but 10km patrols take place at night.
And it wasn’t quite clear on the website about what were the differences between volunteering (what I did) and intership (what I did + staff level + research assistant to the scientist).