The species conservation project in Costa Rica gives you an opportunity to play your part in the survival of endangered sea turtle species by helping the animals to lay their eggs in a safe part of the beach and monitoring their clutches. You will act as a go-between between people and the natural environment, which will involve documenting the behaviour of these animals and their clutches. You will be part of an international team working at Costa Rica’s picturesque Caribbean Coast at the location Pacuare. Experience all of the variety which Costa Rica has to offer and play an active role in helping endangered sea turtle species.
It is largely due to Costa Rica’s proactive and rigorous nature conservation programme that the country’s Caribbean and Pacific coastline, with its abundance of areas of natural beauty, continues to be a habitat of global significance for numerous animal and plant species. More than a quarter of the surface area is legally protected, so that there are many nature reserves and national parks in Costa Rica. Although it is no longer an insider tip, the country has not yet been spoilt by mass tourism and has therefore managed to retain its original character.
After your arrival at Juan Santamaría airport in the capital San José on Sunday you spend a night in a hotel/hostel of the city and make your way to the office of our partner the next morning for an orientation meeting. For an extra charge ($45) you can also be picked up from the airport via private transfer. After that you take public transportation to get to the project site in Pacuare. The cost for the hotel/hostel stay and for transportation of about $15 for the public bus from San José to Bataan, the meeting point of staff and volunteers, must be paid by each volunteer.
This voluntary project is devoted to protecting sea turtles in order to maintain the Central American country’s natural biodiversity. As a volunteer, you will play an active role in the species conservation project and work together with other volunteers from around the world to research and conserve these animals on the Pacific west coast of Costa Rica. As a voluntary helper, you can experience conservation work in practice at the Pacuare beach, situated in the north of the province Limón. The focus of this project lies on protecting the animals which come to lay their eggs on the beach as well as the eggs themselves in the nests along the beaches. Because the animals return to the beach on which they were born to lay their own eggs, natural processes like coastal erosion or events such as floods following heavy rainfall pose a threat to the animals’ nests. Their survival is also threatened by predators and urban expansion in coastal areas.
The second important aim is to acquire a better understanding of the animals themselves through detailed data collation. You document the behaviour of various species like the Leatherback Sea Turtle, the Green Sea Turtle, or the Hawksbill Sea Turtle and record data regarding their clutch. Together with your team you document which turtle species can be found on the beaches at which time, collect information regarding the number of laid eggs and the hatchlings. The findings made can be used to enable artificial breeding grounds to be improvised at more suitable locations.
To monitor and observe the animals, beach patrols will be organized every day but also at night. You and another group of volunteers walk the beach together with an experienced patrol leader and look out for nesting female turtles. Once you find one, you record measurements and data and relocate the eggs in the project’s own breeding ground. The work in this breeding station involves monitoring the nests, keeping away enemies, and measuring and releasing the hatchlings. In order to guarantee optimal conditions for the relocated eggs, this breeding station gets newly prepared every year. There will also be small volunteer tasks like maintenance work, cleaning the beach etc.
The highlights of the year are of course the weeks when the eggs are laid and when the animals hatch out. Sea turtles always return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs and that is why it is so important to protect these beaches and enforce rules to guarantee the harmonious coexistence of man and animal. This project is the ideal opportunity to learn about nature conservation work and make an active contribution to preserving Costa Rica’s natural habitat.
The project site is situated in a very quiet region at the east coast of Costa Rica. Since it is located between the Caribbean Sea and a canal it can only be reached by boat. The accommodation that you share with other volunteers is a basic guesthouse where you sleep in multi-bed rooms and use shared bathrooms with a cold water connection. Furthermore, the house offers lockers for personal objects; electricity is produced via solar cells and should be used economically. You will receive three meals per day – these are either already prepared or need to be cooked by yourself using the provided food. Drinking water will be provided from a well. To get in contact with friends and family at home you should buy a Costa Rican SIM-card.
Everybody interested in volunteering abroad should be able to adjust to entirely unfamiliar standards of living in their future host country. Therefore, we would like to point out the importance of being flexible and adaptable regarding the accommodation and sanitary facilities provided by the project. Those are very basic and – depending on the project – cannot be compared to European standards. The equipment and furnishings are limited to a minimum; air conditioning is not available. Depending on your host country occasional power blackouts or water outages are quite common. Please contact us if you have further questions about your accommodation. We are pleased to provide you with comprehensive information since we would like you to feel entirely prepared for your time abroad.
It is difficult to say in advance just how much free time you will have during your volunteer period. The tasks and the time spent on the project depend on the season and the weather. You will work together with the team between 6 and 10 hours per day, so that there will be plenty of time left to explore the location and surroundings, or just relax in the house or on the beach. The project is located quite remotely, surrounded by Costa Rican rainforest with no shopping facilities available. However, you can make excursions into the exotic natural environment and surrounding sandy beaches, participate in wildlife-tours on the canals or take a look at the production of coconut oil.
Sea turtles are found in tropical and subtropical seas across the world. Their fins make them perfectly suited for life in water. However, because they are descended from land turtles, they have to come on land to lay their eggs. To do this, they dig deep holes on the beach before laying up to 100 eggs in them. Their eggs are then incubated by the heat of the sun. Ultimately, only 1 out of a 1000 newborns will reach the age at which they can reproduce. Because of this low fertility rate and the additional threat posed by a loss of habitat, pollution, fishing and illegal egg gathering, it is particularly important to monitor clutches and register as many animals as possible to ensure that sea turtles breed successfully.