WHAT WILL BE EXPECTED OF ME?
In beautiful Costa Rica, we have two very different sea turtle projects!
Depending on each, the duties of the volunteer are totally different.
The project is located in the north of the Caribbean province Limón, 1km northwards of the Pacuare River. This beach is an important nesting beach for Leatherback and Green Sea Turtles and sometimes also visited by the rare Hawksbill Sea Turtle.
The night patrols, a group of volunteers led by an experienced patrol leader, walk one of the sectors of the 7.1km long beach searching for nesting females. An average night patrol will take 4 hours but can last longer in case of sea turtle encounters. Once a turtle is encountered on a night patrol, the volunteers assist in taking carapace and nest dimension measurements, collecting eggs, tagging or collecting DNA samples. The collected eggs will be relocated on the beach or taken to the hatchery. As soon as they hatch, hatchlings must be counted, measured and released so they can start their journey to the sea.
Since this beach is an important nesting site and there is no sea turtle rescue or rehabilitation facility on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, we are run a rescue and rehabilitation center for sea turtles. Volunteers help with cleaning and feeding the sea turtles and other related duties. In addition to night time patrols, volunteers with also do daytime work like beach cleanup, or small projects, including initial construction of the hatcheries.
The main threats for the sea turtles at the beach are human poachers and beach erosion. Through the close involvement with the very remote village of the area, this sea turtle conservation project provides not only a unique opportunity for volunteers to experience a true community-based Costa Rican conservation project but also provides legal and sustainable revenue to the community.
Playa Blanca is located close to Puerto Jiménez on the Peninsula de Osa in the southern Pacific province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica where we work mainly with the hawksbill and the Pacific Green or Black sea turtles.
The In-Water Program in the Golfo Dulce started in 2010 as a response to the need to improve knowledge about the biology and ecology of the sea turtles in this area. By sampling the foraging area in the Golfo Dulce, it is possible to gain information on the demographic structure of the local sea turtle population, such as the abundance of immature males, adult males, non-breeding females as well as their behavior.
Volunteers will assist with in-water surveys that are conducted twice a week (weather permitting) and consist of capture/recapture of turtles using nets and habitat characterization. Once a sea turtle is caught we untangle them from the net, bring them into the boat and take blood and/or tissue samples as needed. We also obtain data about the biometry of the turtle (size of the carapace, wounds) and tag them with metal tags (if the sea turtle isn’t already tagged), before we release them again. All the numbers (e.g. size, tag-number, sample numbers) need to be written down as protocol.
In addition to the in-water work, volunteers will help with beach cleaning, mangrove reforestation and rescue center work. For turtles, a healthy environment is very important and the beach is constantly being filled with debris wood and garbage brought by nearby rivers. Reforesting mangroves will help improve water quality and recover the local natural ecosystems of the Golfo Dulce. Volunteers collect mangrove seeds; plant them first in a nursery and finally, when they are strong enough, in their natural habitat.
The sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center is where injured or sick turtles are treated and rehabilitated before being released into the wild again. Volunteers help with cleaning and feeding sea turtles.
There is little known about the Dulce Gulf and its inhabitants, surrounded by a lush and magical nature where you can find, macaws, monkeys, dolphins, and sometimes even whales and whale sharks!
HOW LONG CAN I VOLUNTEER FOR?
Volunteers are welcome to join us at any time during the season for at least one week (7 nights, 8 days).
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS, IF ANY, DO I REQUIRE?
There are no specific requirements – just these few general ones:
You must be 18 or older; volunteers younger than 18 years need a supervisor or written permission from their parents.
You must be in good physical condition and able to live in basic conditions.
No severe eyesight problems (most work is at night without help of artificial lights)
Osa In-Water –
If you do have prior experience with sea turtle conservation, marine biology or related field, we do offer limited positions for research field assistants.
WILL I NEED TO KNOW ANOTHER LANGUAGE?
Since the volunteers are from all over the world, the spoken language will be in general English. If additionally Spanish is known, it will make the volunteer stay a better experience, because you would be able to communicate with our local staff. However, Spanish isn’t required!
HOW DO I GET TO YOUR LOCATION?
In San José you take the public bus from the bus station, Los Caribeños, to Batan. From there we will organize the transport to Goshen (about 45 minutes), a small boat port, where a boat will bring you to the project. The way from Goshen to our Pacuare project is about one hour long through the beautiful Tortuguero canals (rain forest) and the Río Pacuare, you get to see in general a lot of animals (sloths, birds, crocodiles, otter, river turtles, monkeys, …). Please consider that for individual volunteers (not groups) the boat leaves the project to Goshen only Mondays and Thursdays.
Osa In-Water –
Take the public bus to Puerto Jiménez from San José, the “Blanco Lobo” Bus station. Get out of the bus at Playa Blanca, which is about 2 kilometers after the town of La Palma. We will arrange that you will be picked up by someone of the project. It is a ten minutes/1km walk from the bus stop to the project.
ARE THERE ANY COSTS INVOLVED TO VOLUNTEER?
Click HERE to find out up to date costs and requirements for volunteering with WIDECAST.
WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION, MEALS AND FACILITIES CAN I EXPECT TO BE AVAILABLE TO ME?
Meals – Volunteers can be responsible for their own accommodation and meals, however, meals (including vegetarian meals) can be provided at both volunteer locations if requested
Volunteers are going to sleep in shared cabins belonging to the station of the project area. Three delicious, costa-rican meals a day are included. The project is located in a quiet remote area, bordered by the sea on the one side, a canal on the other side and only accessible by boat. Therefore the accommodation is very basic and simple. Electricity is available to light the community area at night but not for personal needs. Drinkable, very good water (!) comes from a well. There is no internet and cell phone signal only with good luck.
Osa In-Water –
You will stay in Playa Blanca, north of Puerto Jiménez. Volunteers will stay with host families. We have four different categories which all include different services and amenities. However, all of them guarantee comfortable rooms or cabins for your precious sleep and meals to keep you full of energy for your work with the sea turtles and their habitat. Three meals a day are included. There is limited internet access.
WHAT WILDLIFE SPECIES ARE THERE?
Sea Turtles, Monkeys, Dolphins, Sloths, Crocodiles
WHAT ATTRACTIONS CAN I EXPERIENCE DURING FREE-TIME?
Every volunteer gets one day off a week to explore the area.
In your free time you can choose from a wide variety of activities, like Spanish classes, fishing, playing soccer or volleyball, kayaking, hiking or just relaxing on the beach or in a hammock.
You can swim in one of the worldwide 4 existing tropical fjords, relaxing at the beach or at our community area. Maybe also a trip in the Corcovado national park would be possible! This national park is one of 25 biodiversity hotspots worldwide, with a vast variety of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects. You may also spot dolphins and whales in the Golfo Dulce.
LAST (Latin American Sea Turtles) Association (former WIDECAST-Costa Rica), is member of WIDECAST, an international scientific network with country coordinators resident in more than 40 countries and territories of the Wider Caribbean Region. Our office in Costa Rica is centrally located in Tibás, just outside the bustling capital city of San José. This ideal location enables our staff to maintain contact with community partners and international sponsors alike, in addition to servicing our volunteer programs and pursuing innovative research, conservation, training, and livelihood initiatives in Costa Rica and beyond. The vision of the Association LAST is to realize a future where all inhabitants of the Latin American – Caribbean and Pacific – Region, human and sea turtle alike, can live together in balance; where healthy populations of sea turtles fulfill their ecological roles and economic potential; and critical natural habitats are sustainably managed.
For more information on WIDECAST, please visit www.latinamericanseaturtles.com
For important information on travelling overseas, please read ‘KNOW BEFORE YOU GO WILD!‘