Volun­teering Costa Rica - Amelia

Volunteering in species conservation: Amelia worked in Costa Rica to protect and conserve endangered sea turtles. Read more in the interview.



Name: Amelia

Age: 20

Project: Schildkrötenschutz in Costa Rica

Location: Pacuare in Costa Rica

Duration: July - August


Support from the Natucate team:


Project partner :


Volunteering in Costa Rica - Feedback: Eight questions for Amelia

1) Could you give us a short overview about your activities/tasks during the project?

When we first arrived at the project after a long day of travel, the other volunteers greeted us and helped us to our rooms. The head biologist showed us around the site and explained the general overview of what we would be doing during our stay. During a typical day you would wake up and have breakfast at 8:00 am, lunch at 12:00 and dinner at 6:00. The day time is very relaxing and it is usually extremely hot, however the weather is so unpredictable and one moment it is sunny, the next is a tropical storm. People wore swimsuits and shorts around the site, and read books, played cards and went in the ocean.

Your interaction with turtles is predominantly at night. Every night you are either on patrol or on watch in the hatchery. During patrol you walk 7 miles along the beach looking for turtles coming up to lay eggs. If you find a nest, you record data on the turtle and bring the eggs back to the hatchery. The patrol shifts start anywhere from 8:00 pm to 12:00 am and usually take up to 4 hours. Hatchery shifts are anywhere from 4-6 hours, 6:00 pm to 12:00 am or 12:00 am to 6:00 am. At the hatchery you check on the nests every 15 minutes to see if any babies have hatched, you dig the nests when the patrol group finds them, and you record data and release the baby turtles once they hatch.


2) What were your biggest challenges during the project?

One of the biggest challenges for me during the project was the adjustment to living conditions. Throughout the duration, we lived like the locals, with only the basics. The site had a single solar panel for a few outlets and lights, no air conditioning, and the showers were cold salt water. Living this way was a big transition for me and it took me a while to get used to it. However, it was really eye opening and made me grateful for how lucky I am.

3) Was there anything you liked most? Or anything that left you with a negative impression?

I really enjoyed meeting and interacting with new people from different places around the world, but most of all I enjoyed our interactions with turtles. Throughout the duration of my time at the project, I was lucky enough to see 2 turtles come up to the beach to nest during our night patrol along the beach. I also assisted two hatches on my night shifts while watching over the hatchery. I was able to participate in collecting data such as nest size, turtle size and weight, as well as releasing the baby turtles into the ocean.

4) Did you have certain expectations before you started the project? If yes, did the project meet your expectations, exceed them, or perhaps not live up to them?

Nicki, the project manager was very honest about what to expect. When we met her at the hostel in the morning, her instructions regarding travel to and from the project were very clear and the journey was seamless. She let us know that living conditions were extremely basic, and that we had to be conscious of our usage of water and electricity at the project. I did not expect to have as many interactions with turtles as we did, which was a pleasant surprise, however it really depends on the nests and timing of your trip. I had expected to food to be just beans and rice, but it was surprisingly good and is was different every night!

5) Did you do anything during your free time that you can recommend to future participants?

The station is located in a small village with no more than 45 locals, and is super isolated from any main cities, so there aren’t many activities to do during your free time. We made a goal to go in the ocean and play in the waves with the other volunteers every day, rain or shine (be careful because there is a strong current!). Most of the days we sat around playing card games and reading lots of books. My sister and I brought friendship bracelet string and made bracelets with the other volunteers. The project managers plan some activities for you such as jungle hikes, beach clean-ups and turtle education, but I would strongly recommend bringing crafts, multiple books, board games, ball games or other things to do during your leisure time.

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)

Bring more bug spray than you think you may need! There are so many bugs near the station. I would recommend spraying yourself with bug spray as soon as you wake up. Make sure to bring long clothing that is light and flowy (cotton or linen), because the bugs will bite you through tight athletic material. At night the station provides a mosquito net, and there will be bats in your rooms that help eat the mosquitos.

The best advice I received was to use Uber for transportation. It is the cheapest, most efficient, and in my opinion the safest mode of transportation to use in Costa Rica. I also wish I had packed a few more long clothes for night shifts, because when things get wet they never dry in the humidity! Make sure that you have two quick dry towels for the beach and for after showers!

7) Can you guess how many additional expenses you had?

Before and after we left the project site was where we had the most expenses. Many places will accept both U.S. dollars and colones. Next to Hostel Finca Escalante is a small grocery store, where I would recommend you stock up on a few non-perishable snacks to have at the project. Barrio Escalante is a hustling and bustling neighbourhood with many places to eat. It is on the pricier side but still reasonable. The only other additional costs on either side were Ubers and the bus, and once you are at the project everything else is paid for. About a 10 minute walk from the station there is a lady named Patricia who sells food and drinks from her home. The selection is very limited, but includes sweets, crisps, and beers!

8) What else do you think is important to know before departure?

There are two spots that you can get service, on the beach in front of the hatchery and under the tree on the left when you go to the beach. When you meet with Nicki the morning that you travel to the project, she can provide you with a SIM card for $10. Patricia, the lady who owns the small shop, can reload and fill your SIM card for you throughout your stay. You can charge your phone at the site during the day using the solar panel, and the outlets are the same as U.S. ports.


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