Travel to 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.
Develop key research skills while monitoring beaches for mother turtle tracks and nests. 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.
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.
Every year from April to October mother turtles come to Tortuguero beach to lay their eggs. Leatherbacks and Hawksbills tend to come earlier in the season, whereas green turtles tend to arrive later. After an intensive training program, including learning about turtle biology, behaviour, and global abundance as well as research methods used on the project, you will form part of a group of participants conducting night-time patrols on the tropical beach looking for nesting mother sea turtles, their tracks and whether any sea turtles have been preyed upon by jaguars.
Due to the fact you will work in a national park, you will need special scientific permit to approve you for conducting research. Further permits are required for turtle and jaguar research. The permit for turtle research takes about one month to process and we will of course assist you with this process.
Mornings start early at 5/6am, you will do your 1st survey from 6-10am before taking a break for lunch. Your 2nd survey will be from 1-4pm and then return back to base for dinner.
Night time turtle patrols are 8/9pm-2am (you would have the morning off the following day if you ares scheduled on this patrol!). You can expect to head out on 2 surveys per day.
Volunteers get training on all species and surveys.
If you aren’t scheduled for a night time patrol, evenings will be free to relax and reflect on the days sightings. Project work is 5-6 days a week.
Tortuguero National Park is a key area for many interlinked conservation efforts. It is a popular nesting area for vulnerable and endangered sea turtles. It is also a natural stronghold for jaguars and the only place where these cats are known to prey on sea turtles
The data we collect on this program will help researchers with determining the number of turtles returning to the beach, and the number of new ones, how they are spread out across the nesting season, and how migrations between beaches work.
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs.
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.
2 – 12 weeks
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