The below description has been provided by our implementing program administrator and is subject to change.

Program Overview

Make an environmental impact at your conservation internship

The conservation internship program is split into two phases. In the first three months, you’ll take on volunteer duties and responsibilities, and in the final three months you’ll be placed with a local partner organization, based on the recommendation of local field staff. During the volunteer phase, you’ll be required to demonstrate leadership and time management skills. Upon successful completion of the volunteer phase, you’ll be awarded a placement — the placement is not guaranteed, and is at the discretion of the field staff.

During the volunteer phase of the internship you may be involved in the monitoring and conservation of green and leatherback sea turtles (March to October), the research of marine turtle predation by jaguars, mammal and prey species abundance studies, and resident and migratory bird research and data collection. You may also be involved in Biological Assessment Surveys (BAS), which aim to identify all species of amphibia, aves, mammalia, and reptilia in the region.

Data collected for all projects in Jalova goes directly to the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment (MINAET), and provides the basis for developing an accurate management plan for Tortuguero National Park. More specifically, all turtle and jaguar data is recorded and passed on to local partners Panthera and the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC). STC has been involved in the area since 1959, and Panthera is one of the world’s leading wild cat authorities.

This expedition requires a full time commitment. Depending on your length of stay, you can expect to have a few free weekends to explore the surrounding areas of Costa Rica and nearby Latin American countries.

Conservation Internship in Costa Rica

Where you’ll stay

During your time in Costa Rica, your accommodation and food are included in the internship  cost. Our research station is located in Jalova, which is within the Tortuguero National Park. Facilities will be basic, so prepare to “rough it” — travel with an open mind and a willingness to adapt to local conditions.

Accommodations are shared, mixed-gender dorms with shared bathroom facilities. There is running water available for washing and cooking, and suitable water for drinking and brushing teeth. Flush toilet facilities are available.

You’ll share the responsibility for base duties  that include cooking, cleaning, and other chores. Food is basic and mostly vegetarian — meat is rarely available. Breakfast is usually porridge  with an occasional treat of pancakes. Typical lunches and evening meals may include lentils, chickpeas, pasta, beans, or rice, with vegetables. Fresh fruit is provided each afternoon.

Activities & Training

Things to do during your conservation internship

Volunteers are welcome to organize side trips during their free time or before/after their project experience. All associated costs and travel expenses are not included in the internship  fee, and must be factored into the volunteer’s own budget. Given the isolated program location, down time will generally be spent on base; the rainforest is not the place to go wandering! However, there are still ways to explore the immediate area, such as visiting Tortuguero Village — here you can browse small souvenir shops, visit the delicious bakery, and enjoy the laid back Costa Rican culture. For longer term volunteers, weekend breaks can be spent exploring parts of the Caribbean region —  hiking, snorkeling, fishing, canopy zipline tours, and whitewater rafting are some of the activities nearby.

Macaws in Costa Rica

Orientation and Training

Staff in the field will provide training on the skills required, but you may benefit from learning more about Costa Rica’s local history, culture, and customs before you travel.

The internship’s first phase concentrates on training alongside other volunteers. The second phase of the internship is a work placement. Successful interns may be asked to stay on as field staff members supporting our conservation research programs, or be placed with one of our local conservation partners in other regions of Costa Rica to assist in local conservation efforts and/or scientific research. Please note that meals may not be included in the second phase of the internship depending on your placement.

By the end of the internship program, participants will have the skills to monitor a wide range of ecosystems in a very diverse location. By developing and applying a holistic approach to conservation, you will receive a range of conservation certifications alongside valuable

Good to Know


In order to obtain a scientific permit, the following information is required for all Jalova bookings:

  • Name, birthdate, passport number, passport country, and exact dates of stay
  • Legible scanned copy of passport
  • BRIEF (1-page max) CV or resume, translated into Spanish (ideally by a professional translator, a university professor, or a bilingual native Spanish speaker)
  • Passport-sized photo — High-quality digital headshots (4.5cm by 3.5cm)

Preparing for your conservation internship

All volunteers are encouraged to learn more about local history, culture, and customs before travelling. We encourage applicants to learn some Spanish either before arriving or once in Costa Rica.

The following reading materials are also suggested: :

  • The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide (Paperback) by Richard Garrigues
  • Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica by C.L. Henderson
  • The Amphibians & Reptiles of Costa Rica by J.M. Savage

Application Requirements

You need not have any specific skills to participate in the conservation internship, just enthusiasm and passion for contributing to the project and the local partner objectives. You must be physically fit and healthy, as you will be hiking long distances daily. As a result of the basic living conditions, you must also be flexible and open to working in teams and with people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds.

You must be fluent in English. Spanish language skills are beneficial, but not essential.

Turtle in the Tortuguero river, Costa Rica.

Health and safety

Physical Fitness

Volunteers will need strong fitness levels. Walking on soft sand is very physically demanding and volunteers may be required to walk as much as 20 miles in a single day, carrying up to 6 liters of water per person and will be doing surveys 6 days a week in hot, wet, and humid weather.

Changes in environment, climate, food, and lifestyle can result in minor, and occasionally more serious, illnesses. Please inform program staff if you feel unwell at any time. The nearest emergency medical facilities are located in Tortuguero, approximately 1 hour from base via motorboat. In the event of an emergency, we can access hospitals via river/road, light aircraft, or helicopter. We have emergency procedures for foreseeable events —  the staff are first aid trained, and you will receive a safety briefing upon arrival. The base camp is equipped with a comprehensive first aid kit.

Please note that we cannot provide specific medical advice. Consult your primary care provider or visit a travel clinic for further information before traveling. Please be forthcoming about any health issues before you join the project. Failure to do so may have serious consequences for you, the staff, and other participants, including your removal from the program.

It is also recommended that you take a credit card with you to ensure you can receive immediate treatment in the event of a medical emergency (and that you can seek reimbursement from your insurance afterward).

While it is safe on base, always be aware and use common sense while in town or away from camp. We recommend you not carry large sums of money or valuables at these times.

Additional Information

Field staff advise that you enter the country using a 90-day tourist visa. Requirements are dependent on your citizenship — for most nationalities, this does not need to be arranged in advance. Check with the immigration authorities of the countries you intend to visit. Also, please ensure that you comply with your airline’s rules regarding visa and entry requirements for Costa Rica.

For 6 month interns and any volunteers staying longer than 90 days, you will need to do a border run to renew your tourist visa. This will be at your own expense — however, we will assist you in this process. Most interns and volunteers use this as an opportunity to see more of Central America. Please note that you might be asked to provide proof of departure within 90 days of arrival. In order to comply with this requirement, you may wish to purchase a flex-ticket which you can change once in-country.