Experience a friendly Latin American culture while helping to preserve the region’s natural beauty
Gain valuable experience and help collect critical conservation data on this volunteer program in Costa Rica. Through your projects, you’ll help impact important environmental decisions and ensure the survival of the biodiversity of this unique area of the rainforest.
Volunteers may be involved in the monitoring and conservation of South American sea turtles (from March to October), research of marine turtle predication by jaguars, mammal and prey species abundance studies, and resident and migratory bird research and data collection, as well as Biological Assessment Surveys (BAS), which aim to identify all species of amphibia, aves, mammalia and reptilia in the region where we are based.
Data collected for all our 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, the Sea Turtle Conservancy and Panthera respectively. STC has been involved in the area since 1959 and Panthera is one of the world’s leading wild cat authorities.
Where you’ll stay
During your project dates your accommodation and food are included in the project cost. The research station is located in Jalova which is within the Tortuguero National Park. Facilities will be basic, so you’ll definitely want to travel with an open mind and be ready to “rough it.”
Accommodation is in shared (mixed gender) dorms with shared bathroom facilities. There is running water available for washing and cooking, with suitable water for drinking and brushing teeth. Flush toilet facilities are available.
Participants will share the responsibility for base duties, including cooking, cleaning, and other chores. Food is basic and mostly vegetarian, with meat rarely available. Breakfast could be porridge or occasionally 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
Volunteers are welcome to organize side trips for their free time or before or after their project experience. All associated costs and travel expenses are not included in the project fee and need to be factored into your own budget. Given the isolated location, downtime will generally be spent on base; the rainforest is not really a place to go wandering!
There are still some possibilities in the immediate area; visit Tortuguero Village, browse its small souvenir shops, visit the delicious bakery and watch the world go lazily by. For longer-term volunteers, weekend breaks can be spent exploring parts of the Caribbean region; hiking, snorkeling, fishing, or canopy and zip-line tours and whitewater rafting are some of the activities nearby.
Orientation and Training
Staff in the field will provide training on the skills required, but you may benefit from learning more about local history, culture and customs before you travel.
Good to Know
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. Montaña Linda in Orosi Village offers week-long one-on-one courses.
The following reading materials may also be of use ahead of time and while on base:
- The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide 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
Volunteers need not have any specific skills, just an enthusiasm and passion for contributing to the project and the local partner objectives.
Volunteers need to be physically fit and healthy as they will be hiking long distances daily. As a result of the basic living conditions, volunteers need to be flexible and able to work well in teams and with people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds.
Volunteers are required to submit the following additional documents so that we can apply for a scientific permit which is a requirement for the project
- Name/birthdate/passport number/passport country/exact dates of stay
- Legible scanned copy of your passport
- BRIEF (1 page max) CV or resume, translated into Spanish (ideally by a professional e.g. translator, a university professor, bilingual native Spanish speaker, etc… not by the volunteer themselves nor by Google translate)
- Passport-sized photo — High-quality digital headshots (4.5cm by 3.5cm)
Volunteers will need to be fluent in English. Spanish is beneficial but not essential.
Health and safety
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.
A change of environment, climate, food and lifestyle often result in minor, and occasionally more serious, illness. Please inform 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 is first aid trained and volunteers receive a safety briefing on arrival. The base camp is equipped with a comprehensive first aid kit.
Please note that we cannot provide specific medical advice. It is important that you consult your primary care provider (doctor, GP, etc.) or visit a travel clinic for further information. 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, and could result in your removal from the program. It is also recommended that you take a credit card with you to ensure you can get immediate treatment in the event of a medical emergency (if suitable insurance is held, you will be reimbursed by your insurance company). While it is safe on base, volunteers need to be aware and use common sense while in town or away from camp. We recommend volunteers do not carry large sums of money or valuables at these times.
You will meet your group at Casa Colon in San José, Costa Rica at 07:30AM on your project start date. Volunteers arriving between 6pm and 10pm the evening before the start date will be transferred to their accommodation. Those arriving outside of this time, or arriving in San José by other means, will be responsible for their own transport to Casa Colon.
We can recommend the following accommodation:
Hostel Casa Colon
Located on Paseo Colon, Calle 24, en frente de la Torre Mercedes
Centrally located and only a 10 minute walk from Gaudy’s
Tel: 011 (506) 2256-0276
At the end of your project you will be transferred back to San José. Volunteers must only book onward travel from the following day onwards.
Field staff advise volunteers to enter the country using a tourist visa. Requirements are dependent on citizenship. For most nationalities this does not need to be arranged in advance. Check with the Costa Rican Embassy for the latest information on visas. Also, please ensure that you comply with your airline’s requirements regarding visa and entry requirements for Costa Rica.