Join the JCR program partner wildlife conservation team in the heart of Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica and help protect endangered sea turtles. Our team directly monitors endangered green turtles, and critically endangered hawksbill and leatherback turtle species during their nesting season. We can make serious contributions to ensure their continuous survival by recording vital data to track these animals.
During your stay, you will not only contribute to the preservation of marine turtles, but you will join a team contributing to the development and management of long-term wildlife conservation efforts along Central America’s Caribbean coast.
Even though turtle conservation will be a main part of your activities, during your time on this expedition you will truly gain a holistic understanding of the Costa Rican rainforest and its ecosystem by conducting important research on jaguars and aquatic birds, as well as conducting biological assessment surveys of the area. In addition you will receive additional training across a wide variety of subjects and gain a plethora of skills that will help you further your ability to operate professionally in the field.
Run in conjunction with the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET) and the Sea Turtle Conservancy, this project offers unique opportunities to explore the natural habitat of these amazing turtles, as well as offering continuous hands-on training.
Getting the chance to go on this unique adventure in a Costa Rican National Park; enjoying life at the research station; learning about the wildlife and their habitat; seeing unique wildlife in marine and coastal rainforest environments including remote Caribbean beaches and tropical rainforest, seeing endangered species; watching turtles nest on a remote beach as they have been doing for millions of years; exploring this wonderful Central American country.
The majority of your time will be spent working directly in the field, collecting data for ongoing projects and learning vital research techniques. The work you do is extremely important, and days can be long and work can continue throughout the day and night.
Apart from nest checks and possible nest excavations during the day, you will be conducting some night-time patrols along the tropical beach, looking for nesting turtles and counting tracks. In the event of finding a turtle during your patrol, you may assist the JCR program partner Patrol Leader by helping to measure the turtle, count the eggs being laid, look for previous tags and distinctive markings and record the data. You may also be lucky enough to see and record the juvenile turtles emerging from the nest and record data on hatchling success, poaching rates and mortality rates.
When not in the field, the rest of your time will be spent at our base, processing data and getting to know your fellow volunteers.
In order to study and track these turtles in their natural habitat you will be living in a basic and remote setting. The base is a one hour boat journey from the nearest small shops, phones and internet facilities.
Our base is small but comfortable, with enough space for people to relax together or in private.
In order to track and collect data on endangered and critically endangered green, hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles, tasks will involve – recording spatial and seasonal distribution; monitoring nest numbers; determine levels of illegal poaching on turtles and their nests; record success rates of turtle hatchlings; track returning turtles to the nesting beach and migrations between beaches; determine whether jaguars are having an impact on the marine turtle populations.
You should also expect to be involved in other on-goingresearch projects taking place on our base depending on requirements at any given time. These projects could include – jaguar, mammal and prey species abundance studies, designed to track and monitor jaguar numbers and their prey; or the monitoring of 30 key aquatic bird species to collect long-term seasonal trend data on resident and migratory birds.
Our goal is to develop and sustain the long term conservation of the Tortuguero area and aid in the preservation of their native sea turtle populations by providing data to the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment.
Jalova’s short, mid, and long-term objectives:
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualize their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfill our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in Jalova:
1. Increase scientific knowledge of Tortuguero National Park
2. Increase awareness of JCR program partner Jalova projects and the ecological value of the Tortuguero National Park
3. Build local capacity to support long-term conservation of biodiversity and sustainable community development in Costa Rica
4. Continue to minimize our environmental impact on Tortuguero National Park and raise awareness of environmental issues amongst volunteers and visitors
How this project makes a difference:
JCR program partner data goes out to national and international organisations, is presented at international conferences, and is used in species and area management policy development.
Sea turtle conservation efforts have been successful in decreasing poaching rates and improving protection of beaches and other natural habitats for sea turtles.
International marine turtle conservation protocol for aiding and conserving green, leatherback (March to June) and hawkbills which includes night patrols, nest checks and excavations.
Turtle season is March-October. July/August is best for Green Turtles.
Volunteers will also receive introductions to marine turtle conservation and biology.
Opportunity to take part in surveys for other projects dependent on the current work being carried out. This may include jaguar, mammal, reptile, amphibian or canal bird surveys.
Volunteers get training on all species and surveys, so they go out on Forest biodiversity, birds, incidentals and turtle surveys. They normally go out on 1 or 2 surveys a day, except when they stay on base to do chores.
ROUGH schedule –
Wake up 5/6am, 1st survey 6-10am, lunch, 2nd survey 1-4pm, dinner, bed by 9pm.
Night time turtle patrols are 8/9pm-2am (they would have the morning off the following day!). Volunteers go out on 1 or 2 surveys per day.
Volunteers get training on all species and surveys even if they sign up only for turtles or jaguars
Volunteering with JCR not only allows you to participate on programs assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your program. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program.
Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with JCR. Our Jalova field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in Costa Rica!
Optional Side Trips
Given your isolated location, a lot of your down time will be spent on base, the rainforest is not a place to go wondering! However there are still some possibilities in the immediate area for you to make the most of your time in Costa Rica. You can visit Tortuguero Village, browse its small souvenir shops, visit the delicious bakery and just watch the world go lazily by. For longer term volunteers on long weekend breaks, you could decide to head off base and further explore the Caribbean region. Hiking, snorkelling, fishing, or canopy and zip-line tours are just some of the activities that are possible in the area. For something a bit more intense, you could raft on the white waters of the famous Pacuare River on class III to IV rapids over the course of 1- or 2-day trips. And if the adventure activities are not for you, then simply relax in a laidback Caribbean village!
Further Travelling Opportunities
Costa Rica is an amazing country with an abundance of travel opportunities further afield with the following just a snapshot of the many possibilities!
Admire the famous and active Volcan Arenal from a distance and relax in the natural hot springs; surf the Salsa Brava – a hotspot of the Caribbean for the advanced surfer; ride horseback on the beach in Puerto Viejo or simply enjoy miles and miles of beautiful beaches kissed by palm trees; spot migratory raptor birds in the Talamanca Mountains and visit indigenous villages to learn more about their amazing culture; discover the cloud forest at Monteverde, visit the hummingbird gallery, enjoy the locally made ice cream and other fresh dairy products or walk among the treetops on the hanging bridges; enjoy the organised wildlife tours of Braulio Carrillo National Park; travel across the country to discover the beautiful Pacific Coast with its hidden white sand beaches; visit Volcan Irazu and discover coffee farms on the way back to San Jose; back in the capital, visit the Gold Museum or the Jade Museum, attend a play in one of the numerous theatres or take in the Latin American vibe with its lively nightlife.
Hands on turtle research! During turtle nesting season volunteers get to physically touch sea turtles (measuring their carapace and counting their eggs by feeling them lay in your hand!!!!!)
Unique behavior of jaguars – one of only a few places documented where Jags predate nesting turtles
The canals connecting the caribbean side of Costa Rica are absolutely beautiful.
Wildlife sightings are AMAZING. In the middle of the jungle where you can often find sloths, tamanduas, agutis etc
2 – 12 weeks
CRJL0261P Costa Rica Turtles
2 WEEKS $2,085
4 WEEKS $2,865
6 WEEKS $3,645
At JCR we have successfully been organising and sending young Australians on overseas placements for over 15 years. We think JCR has some great programs and we sincerely believe that cultural travel is a wonderful experience, an amazing learning curve and can help to positively prepare you for life’s rewards and challenges.
JCR have one goal and that is to make your volunteer experience the most amazing it can be. We work together to ensure that you are matched with the right program, we discuss your options and answer any questions you may have.
It is the reason JCR Volunteer overseas was created: to create lasting memories from amazing cultural exchanges.
Learn more about this volunteer program