Volunteer Experience | Environmental & Wildlife

Costa Rica: Volunteer Sea Turtle Conservation

Osa, Costa Rica


LocationOsa, Costa Rica. 

Duration: Minimum 1 week commitment

Cost: from £1000 GBP Project Fee for the 1st week – see Costs tab for more information

Includes: 3 meals a day, accommodation, airport pickup, orientation and all project related activities

Does not Include: flights, travel insurance, visas and vaccinations


  • Collect data about population structure, genetic origin and in-water habitats of endangered sea turtles.
  • Hands-on experience in conservation efforts, including options for research, environmental education and community projects.
  • Ideal for those studying animal science, marine biology, zoology, ecology, conservation.
  • Keywords: sea turtle research and conservation, environmental education, reforestation, eco-systems
Costs Explained


The Dulce Gulf, meaning the Sweet Gulf is located off the Osa peninsula, one of 25 biodiversity hotspots worldwide. In fact, the Dulce Gulf is one of only four tropical fjords in existence. Yet very little is known about this place and its inhabitants, which include macaws, monkeys, dolphins, whales and of course sea turtles. This astoundingly beautiful area is the home of this important In-water Sea Turtle Conservation programme. The international NGO running this project has been working for over two decades together with scientists, conservationists and educators to promote sustainable sea turtle projects in the wider Caribbean region.

The project focuses on carrying out in-water studies of the Hawksbill and Eastern Pacific Green Turtles. Because of the unique biological characteristics of sea turtles, the marine conservation efforts surrounding them is very complex, challenging to predict and requires a long-term commitment. The goal of this project is to protect and help the turtles while at the same time educating and involving the local community, which in turn will generate an alternative and sustainable source of income for local families.

Sea turtles spend a large part of their long lives migrating between nesting and foraging areas. These foraging areas often include both young and adult turtles, as they can sometimes also be habitats for nesting. As a result, the quality of these areas is of critical importance. Despite this, very little is in fact known about the habitats and their use, since most conservation efforts are focused solely on nesting beaches. The in-water studies consist of entering feeding habitat used by sea turtles in different life stages to collect data about population structure, genetic origin, health status and in-water habitat use. This data is used to assess the types of threats to which sea turtles are exposed to in the area.

This project also runs a rescue and rehabilitation centre, as well as a mangrove reforestation effort. Studies are also carried out on the health of the off-shore sea grass bed, which is an important feeding habitat for many species, turtles included.

Daily Life

In-Water Sea Turtle Monitoring

It is important to remember that sea turtles always come first. This may mean working long, hard hours under hot and humid conditions; but in the end, it is worth it!

In-water monitoring surveys will be conducted at least twice a week (weather permitting) for about 6 hours at a time. Before setting out, the boat has to be prepared and you will be needed to help make sure all the necessary equipment is ready and on board. Once a sea turtle is caught, you will help take biometric data, tag and collect tissue and blood samples if needed. Depending on the condition of the turtle it will either be taken back to the rescue centre or released immediately back into the water.

Rescue Centre

The rescue centre was built to treat injured or sick turtles encountered during the in-water monitoring work or nearby beaches. When a sick or injured turtle is admitted to the centre, you will assist staff in evaluating the patient, recording data and helping stabilize the turtle. Other general duties in the centre include preparing food and feeding the turtles, changing water and cleaning holding tanks as well maintaining the centre tidy and clean at all times.

Mangrove Reforestation

Mangroves play a very important role in the coastal ecosystems on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and their rapid decline is a major cause of concern, not only for the sea turtles, but for the many other species they benefit as well.
Duties involved with this work include:

  • Looking for seeds
  • Gathering mud for plants and seedlings
  • Sowing seeds in the plant nursery
  • Planting propagules in the designated reforestation areas
  • Maintaining plant nursery
Sea Grass Monitoring

Sea grass meadows are a crucial reason as to why we find sea turtles in the area and they are one of the most productive ecosystems on earth.  As a part of the project you will help monitor the health status of these beds. Monitoring activities carried out will depend on local conditions.
During your time off from the conservation work, you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the Osa peninsula, a biodiversity hotspot in Costa Rica. Due to the absence of strong currents and waves, the water is perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The nearest town is 30 minutes away from the project, where you will find a greater variety of amenities.

Book with Confidence

Travel & Accommodation

You will be met at San Jose International airport and taken to a nearby hostel for your first night. The next day the coordinator will meet you at the hostel and give you an introduction and orientation to the project. You will then take the mid-day public bus to Osa. The project is located about 8 hours drive away from San Jose and goes through some of the highest points in Costa Rica so be sure to bring a warm sweater as it can be cold in places!

You will be staying 200 meters from the project base and staff house, in basic dorm style rooms shared with other volunteers. 3 meals per day will be provided by our local cook, and all volunteers will eat together.

Fundraising Help


  • Minimum age 18
  • Be keen and enthusiastic to get involved in the project
  • Ability to work within a team environment
  • Minimum 1 week commitment
  • Police check (or equivalent) showing that you have no previous criminal convictions
  • Signed medical form
  • Fluent English skills
  • Necessary vaccinations
  • Necessary flight & visas
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Duration Price (GBP)
1 week £1000
2 weeks £1,800
3 weeks £2,600
4 weeks £3,200
Additional weeks £800

* 30% deposit required to confirm your place. The balance will be due 4 weeks prior to your departure.
** For the latest currency conversions, go to xe.com.
*** All payments incur a 5% bank transfer fee

What’s included
  • Airport pickup & transfer to the project (including first night stay in hostel)
  • Program orientation and training
  • Emergency and 24/7 In-Country Support
  • Accommodation and 3 Meals Daily
  • Certificate of Completion and CV Reference support
What’s Not included
  • Additional meals, drinks, and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Police or background check
  • Visa costs (where necessary)

Full assistance will be provided in getting all these arranged if you choose our Premium Support.

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We understand there’s a great deal to plan and organise for your trip. When booking a Placement, many of our participants choose to purchase our Premium Support Upgrade to benefit from the expertise, knowledge and experience of our Project Coordinators.

We can provide the personal advice you need to ensure your trip is organised with excellence and planned with efficiency; ensuring the very best experience possible. Read more about how we can help you.

Note: Map coordinates are approximate