Volunteering Costa Rica Turtle Conservation - Emily
Volunteering in turtle conservation: Emily travelled with us to Costa Rica to contribute to the protection and conservation of endangered sea turtles. In the following, she reports about her experiences in Latin America.
Project: Turtle conservation in Costa Rica
Location: Pacuare in Costa Rica
Duration: 2 weeks
Support from the Natucate team:
Volunteering in Costa Rica – Feedback: seven questions for Emily
1) Could you give us a brief overview of your tasks in the project?
During the project, most of the work was done at night. We would do night patrol shifts, which were 10 km walks along the beach looking for turtles. These shifts would start anywhere from 21:00 to 23:00. If we found a turtle, we would wait for her to nest or go back into the ocean and record data on our findings. If she ended up nesting, we would collect her eggs and bring them back to the hatchery, where we would dig a hole to rebury the eggs in a safe place where they would be kept from predators and protected 24/7. During the day, we would sometimes get shifts of up to 4 hours in the hatchery, where we would watch over the eggs.
2) What was the biggest challenge for you during the project?
The biggest challenge during the project was the night patrols. Having to wake up for them and doing the 10 km walks night after night was a bit tiresome, but it was always worth seeing the turtles! The bugs are also quite bad at night, so I recommend bringing some form of After Bite or Benadryl to help relieve the itchiness.
3) Was there something you liked most? Or something you remember particularly negatively?
Being able to be involved and experience the whole process of the turtle nesting was surreal. These creatures are wonderful to watch, especially the hatching. The highlight of the entire project for me was seeing the baby turtles making their way out to the ocean and getting pulled in by the waves.
4) Did you have certain expectations before travelling to the project?
My expectations of this project were exceeded. I enjoyed seeing the turtles and getting involved in a significant part of their life cycle. I did not expect to be able to see the entire nesting process as well as the hatchery, so it was amazing to be able to have experienced both.
5) Have you done anything in your free time that you can recommend to future participants?
Since most of the work during the day was the night patrols, we had a lot of free time during the day. During my free time, I would read a lot. There are plenty of books to pick from in the library that one of the volunteers built during his time in the project. I would go swimming, take walks along the beach and in the forest, and play frisbee. We have also knocked coconuts down from the trees and cracked them open to drink the water from them. We discovered as well the almonds and how to open them. There was also a boat tour that would run every Sunday and Wednesday where we could take a ride and see all the different animals that lived in the area. Sometimes we would sit and chat and enjoy each other’s company while playing card games.
6) What recommendations would you give to other participants?
As Costa Rica is very hot and humid, especially in Pacuare, I would recommend bringing something that can help you to cool down. Most nights were very hot when going to bed, and it was a bit uncomfortable, but still mostly bearable. Bringing Costa Rican Colonies is very helpful, as the locals sometimes have a bit of trouble when converting from US Dollars. A solar-charged portable charger is also something that would be useful, as the generator for charging only runs once a day at most.
7) Can you estimate how many additional costs you had on site?
During the project, my only additional expenses were from shopping at the little store down the lane and the boat tour. The boat tour was $20, and I personally spent about $30 at the store during my 2 weeks at the project.
8) Here is still place for other suggestions or stories from you:
I highly recommend getting the private transfer to the project. Due to unforeseen circumstances, having to make my own way to the project was quite difficult as I speak very limited Spanish and most of the locals on the way did not speak any English. I also recommend learning some Spanish before you go, as it will be very helpful with the local guides during the night patrols and just in general. If possible, I suggest that you explore other parts of Costa Rica or the countries nearby before or after the project too!
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