Location: Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
Duration: Minimum 3 months commitment (or 7 days as a volunteer)
Cost: $10 USD per day (negotiable) – see ‘Costs’ tab for further details
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Travel & Accom.
You will be given easy-to-follow instructions on how to get to the project location from San Jose International Airport. 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 interns. The project will provide local ingredients, but interns are responsible for cooking their own meals in addition to performing housekeeping and gardening duties. You will all take turns to cook and clean whilst living in a communal environment.
- 20 years of age or older
- Good physical condition
- Good swimmer
- Conversational English and Spanish
- Educational background in Biology, Marine Biology, Resource Conservation, Ecology, Environmental Education, Veterinarian Medicine, Wildlife Management, Oceanography, Zoology and/or experience working with sea turtles
- Willing to commit for at least three months
- Responsible, hardworking, communicative and enthusiastic person
- Willingness to share knowledge and stimulate volunteers’ interest in sea turtle protection and conservation
- Capable of living in rustic and basic living conditions under adverse climatic conditions
- Travel & medical insurance
$10 per day Project Fee depending upon experience ($50 p/d if you wish to join as a volunteer – minimum 7 days)
* Negotiable – please discuss this with us when applying.
** All payments incur a 5% bank transfer fee.
Project Fee includes all food, accommodation, orientation, theoretical and practical training, in-country support and project related activities.
What’s Not included:
Flights, airport pickup, insurance, visas (if applicable) and vaccinations. Full assistance will be provided in getting all these arranged if you choose our Premium Support.
Airport pickup from San Jose International Airport can be arranged for $40.
You should budget $20 each way for transport by bus from San Jose to the project location.
Premium Support Upgrade
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.