Volunteering Costa Rica – Stefanie
Volunteering in Central America: Stefanie became involved in conserving endangered sea turtles in Costa Rica. Here you can learn more about her volunteer experience.
Project: Turtle conservation in Costa Rica
Locations: Pacuare/Costa Rica
Duration: Beginning of September until beginning of October 2018 – 4 weeks
Support from the Natucate team:
Volunteering in Costa Rica – Feedback: Eight questions for Stefanie
1) Could you give us a brief overview of your tasks in the project?
The two main activities are: Night patrols on the beach and surveillance of the hatchery. During patrols, you are on the beach with a research assistant and another volunteer, looking for turtles to protect them from poachers and bring the eggs safely to the hatchery. Furthermore, the research assistant is supported in measuring the turtle and filling out a checklist (data acquisition for the turtle, the nest and the eggs).
During the night shifts in the hatchery, the nests are guarded from predators and poachers together with another volunteer. As soon as the baby turtles hatch, they are counted, measured and then released back onto the beach so that they can find their way into the ocean. During the day you usually have two tasks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Daily tasks include beach cleaning, maintenance work in the camp, support for small science projects (seed counting) and waste separation.
2) What was the biggest challenge for you during the project?
To realize how vulnerable the turtles are and to see how much garbage is washed up on the beach. It is very frustrating to clean up a beach section one day and the next day it looks like you haven't done anything. It was also difficult for me that there were some people who took part in this project for the wrong reasons (among others the following was said: "A week in this project is cheaper than spending a week in the National Park"). However, these people came from other organisations and fortunately there were more people who were there for the right reasons.
3) Was there something you liked most? Or something you remember particularly negatively?
I was completely cut off from the rest of the world and it was AWESOME!!! The feeling I had when I saw "my" first mama turtle was indescribable. I will certainly remember that for many years to come. I met many special people there, had many good conversations and protected small and large turtles. What more could you ask for???
4) Did you have certain expectations before travelling to the project?
The closer I got to my departure date, the more I imagined what it would be like to be a part of this project. My expectations were exceeded. I was warmly welcomed, most of the people are friendly and you get an insight into the small community of Pacuare. The work can be very hard, but every blister was worth it for me to experience this adventure.
5) Have you done anything in your free time that you can recommend to future participants?
Be sure to join the boat trip across the river, if offered. I have been able to take many beautiful pictures of nature and animals. Otherwise I read a lot, chilled in the hammock, chatted with people and went for walks along the beach.
6) What recommendations would you give to other participants?
The phone call with Chrissy, a member of the Natucate team, helped me because she informed me very well about the project. Don't take too much stuff, because you can wash your clothes by hand on site. I wish I had more snacks. ALSO: Less clothes, more snacks. :-) Good footwear is especially important! It is also recommendable to take a card or dice game with you. We often played cards in the evening and laughed a lot. I would definitely take a Bluetooth speaker with me next time.
7) Can you estimate how many additional costs you had on site?
In my case, I had extra costs with flights, the hostel and the transfer via taxi and bus. The hostel proposed by Natucate was good and not too expensive. Since you receive meals during the project, there are no further costs. However, there is a small kiosk not far from the camp and it is quite expensive there, but if you want a coke or cookies, some additional "pocket money" is useful. There is also a small market once a week where locals offer jewellery and sweets. I bought souvenirs there and it's worth it because the money stays in the community. If you want to travel around before or after, please take enough money with you. Costa Rica is quite expensive...
8) Here is still room for other suggestions or stories from you:
The project is awesome and your support (Chrissy, you did a great job) is really great. My next adventure will be with you, too. :-)
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