Join the GVI wildlife conservation team in the heart of Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica and help protect endangered sea turtles. Our team directly monitors endangered green turtles, and critically endangered hawksbill and leatherback turtle species during their nesting season. We can make serious contributions to ensure their continuous survival by recording vital data to track these animals.
During your stay, you will not only contribute to the preservation of marine turtles, but you will join a team contributing to the development and management of long-term wildlife conservation efforts along Central America’s Caribbean coast.
Even though turtle conservation will be a main part of your activities, during your time on this expedition you will truly gain a holistic understanding of the Costa Rican rainforest and its ecosystem by conducting important research on jaguars and aquatic birds, as well as conducting biological assessment surveys of the area. In addition you will receive additional training across a wide variety of subjects and gain a plethora of skills that will help you further your ability to operate professionally in the field.
Run in conjunction with the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET) and the Sea Turtle Conservancy, this project offers unique opportunities to explore the natural habitat of these amazing turtles, as well as offering continuous hands-on training.
Please note, due to the fact that we are working in a National Park, we need to have a special scientific permit to conduct research so you will be asked for some papers to be able to process it. It is a fairly simple process.
Getting the chance to go on this unique adventure in a Costa Rican National Park; enjoying life at the research station; learning about the wildlife and their habitat; seeing unique wildlife in marine and coastal rainforest environments including remote Caribbean beaches and tropical rainforest, seeing endangered species; watching turtles nest on a remote beach as they have been doing for millions of years; exploring this wonderful Central American country.
"It was great to be in such an amazing location with people from all over the world and from all walks of life. Everyone wanted to get something different out of the trip, but essentially we all shared a common interest in conservation. It was brilliant to experience a completely different way of life in an environment so alien to my own. Everything I had studied at school suddenly became a reality and it was awe inspiring. I loved having the opportunity to work with such creatures as majestic and mysterious as marine turtles and know that few people will get the chance to have direct contact with them in their natural habitat. I was also pleased that we had the chance to see the country; I would have been disappointed had I not been able to visit other places in Costa Rica and not been able to participate in activities such as white water rafting and ziplining that the country is renowned for."
What's Not Included
The majority of your time will be spent working directly in the field, collecting data for ongoing projects and learning vital research techniques. The work you do is extremely important, and days can be long and work can continue throughout the day and night.
Apart from nest checks and possible nest excavations during the day, you will be conducting some night-time patrols along the tropical beach, looking for nesting turtles and counting tracks. In the event of finding a turtle during your patrol, you may assist the GVI Patrol Leader by helping to measure the turtle, count the eggs being laid, look for previous tags and distinctive markings and record the data. You may also be lucky enough to see and record the juvenile turtles emerging from the nest and record data on hatchling success, poaching rates and mortality rates.
When not in the field, the rest of your time will be spent at our base, processing data and getting to know your fellow volunteers.
In order to study and track these turtles in their natural habitat you will be living in a basic and remote setting. The base is a one hour boat journey from the nearest small shops, phones and internet facilities.
Our base is small but comfortable, with enough space for people to relax together or in private.
What's Not Included
In order to track and collect data on endangered and critically endangered green, hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles, tasks will involve - recording spatial and seasonal distribution; monitoring nest numbers; determine levels of illegal poaching on turtles and their nests; record success rates of turtle hatchlings; track returning turtles to the nesting beach and migrations between beaches; determine whether jaguars are having an impact on the marine turtle populations.
You should also expect to be involved in other on-going research projects taking place on our base depending on requirements at any given time. These projects could include - jaguar, mammal and prey species abundance studies, designed to track and monitor jaguar numbers and their prey; or the monitoring of 30 key aquatic bird species to collect long-term seasonal trend data on resident and migratory birds.
Our goal is to develop and sustain the long term conservation of the Tortuguero area and aid in the preservation of their native sea turtle populations by providing data to the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment.
How this project makes a difference:
GVI’s data goes out to national and international organisations, is presented at international conferences, and is used in species and area management policy development.
Sea turtle conservation efforts have been successful in decreasing poaching rates and improving protection of beaches and other natural habitats for sea turtles.
What's Not Included
Volunteering with GVI not only allows you to participate on programs assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your program. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program.
Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with GVI. Our Jalova field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in Costa Rica!
Optional Side Trips
Given your isolated location, a lot of your down time will be spent on base, the rainforest is not a place to go wondering! However there are still some possibilities in the immediate area for you to make the most of your time in Costa Rica. You can visit Tortuguero Village, browse its small souvenir shops, visit the delicious bakery and just watch the world go lazily by. For longer term volunteers on long weekend breaks, you could decide to head off base and further explore the Caribbean region. Hiking, snorkelling, fishing, or canopy and zip-line tours are just some of the activities that are possible in the area. For something a bit more intense, you could raft on the white waters of the famous Pacuare River on class III to IV rapids over the course of 1- or 2-day trips. And if the adventure activities are not for you, then simply relax in a laidback Caribbean village!
Further Travelling Opportunities
Costa Rica is an amazing country with an abundance of travel opportunities further afield with the following just a snapshot of the many possibilities!
Admire the famous and active Volcan Arenal from a distance and relax in the natural hot springs; surf the Salsa Brava – a hotspot of the Caribbean for the advanced surfer; ride horseback on the beach in Puerto Viejo or simply enjoy miles and miles of beautiful beaches kissed by palm trees; spot migratory raptor birds in the Talamanca Mountains and visit indigenous villages to learn more about their amazing culture; discover the cloud forest at Monteverde, visit the hummingbird gallery, enjoy the locally made ice cream and other fresh dairy products or walk among the treetops on the hanging bridges; enjoy the organised wildlife tours of Braulio Carrillo National Park; travel across the country to discover the beautiful Pacific Coast with its hidden white sand beaches; visit Volcan Irazu and discover coffee farms on the way back to San Jose; back in the capital, visit the Gold Museum or the Jade Museum, attend a play in one of the numerous theatres or take in the Latin American vibe with its lively nightlife.
Senior Country Expert
Meet Cormac, our lovely Country Expert for Thailand and Costa Rica. This Scotsman is a rather eccentric guy and his fantastic sense of humour is one of his most appreciated characteristics. He achieved a Master's degree in History and Politics, and quite evidently can keep his own in any conversation on any topic.
His love for travelling started in his younger years already and since then he has explored New Zealand, Canada, the states, and South Africa! What is his one travel must-have? "A towel of course (for further information please read a Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy)."
Mac particularly enjoys getting the chance to have a bit of banter on the phone with people who are really passionate about volunteering. He thinks of himself as Carl Frederickson from the movie Up. "Just a bloke who enjoys sitting in a comfy chair; I think we can all relate to that." Mac, we absolutely agree!
Jaguar Project Leader
Meet Grant, our Jaguar project leader in Jalova. Having had previous experience with big cats at the South African GVI wildlife program, he enjoys getting his hands dirty with the awesome jaguar project here in Jalova.
This is his third location working with GVI, having also worked with GVI in Greece for the conservation of loggerhead sea turtles. His goals while he’s here in Jalova are catching site of the ever-elusive jaguar, seeing a manatee, and contributing to wildlife conservation.
Bird Project Leader
Meet Edwin, our Bird project leader in Jalova. The Amazon rainforest sparked his love for the tropics and its incredible wildlife. From glass frogs to the prehistoric Hoatzin, he had the amazing opportunity to learn and work with some unbelievable animals and even add a few new ones to the species list during his time with GVI Yachana (Ecuador).
He enjoys cruising down the canals in the Tortuguero National Park, spotting the illusive Agami Heron, and seeing the huge waves of herons migrating down from the north. My other passions of music and football have also followed him to Jalova and he’s always up for listening to something new from around the world or a good kick about.
Incidentals Project Leader
Meet Megan, our Incidentals Project Leader in Jalova. She loves anoles, frogs, and all the other animals she can find in the jungle, which seems to be a good fit with what she is doing here with us at GVI. Megan has previous experience working on a dairy farm and with local conservation groups in New Zealand.
While working with GVI she gets plenty of chance to see and identify interesting animals. Costa Rica is quite a change from what she is used to but she loves the chance to use her training in zoology and ecology with a very different ecosystem than any she would find in New Zealand, her home country.
Meet Alejandra our Base Manager! Originally hailing from Mexico, with a Bachelors in Biology from the University of Guadalajara. Alejandra has travelled and lived in many different countries such as the USA and Holland throughout her conservation career.
Besides working with turtles in conservation and rehab, she also has experience in marine mammal rehabilitation, research and training from different facilities. Her favourite experience so far has been a turtle night patrol were she encountered three leatherbacks and one hawksbill turtle nesting! Ale loves outdoor activities and to learn about different cultures.
Director of Programs
Meet Danny, our Director of Programs. Although he’s based in Playa del Carmen, Danny oversees the development and running of all of our field operations. He started out with GVI as our Country Director in Mexico and quickly became an invaluable part of the team.
Although being Director of Programs is a pretty demanding job, Danny manages to find time to do the other things he loves in-between. He’s an avid photographer and is always training for a triathlon or ironman.
What’s Danny’s favourite aspect of his job? “Starting new projects – we get lots of request for assistance and it’s difficult to decide when funds are limited. The evaluation process and those initial talks with local partners are very interesting. Seeing projects grow from an idea to full programs is very exciting. I also love the relationships you create with local organisations, they become friends and we jointly work to achieve the project aims.”
Director of Program Enrolment
Meet Laura. In addition to once being a promising figure skater, Laura is also a trained animal handler, and used to volunteer at a zoo in NYC. She likens herself to Blossom from the Powerpuff Girls, “She’s the brains of the operation”. We can’t argue there, HQ would fall apart without her!
She joined the Costa Rica Wildlife Expedition as a volunteer and immediately knew there was no going back to working for The Man. She became an ambassador and started planning her next trip when we sent her the Regional Coordinator vacancy. 5 weeks later she was in Cape Town!
Laura’s one travel must-have she recommends to volunteers? Coconut Desert Essence shampoo… “It smells amazing and it’s environmentally friendly. No-one should have to sacrifice their hair while travelling, even in remote environments.”
Cynthia Arochi Zendejas
Costa Rica Country Director
Meet Cynthia, our Country Director in Costa Rica. She started out with GVI as one of our National Scholarship Program participants in 2006 and later became our Programme Coordinator in Mexico. Her skills and enthusiasm just made it too hard to let her get away!
Cynthia is a certified Veterinarian, an EFR Instructor and holds a Master’s degree in International environmental Science. She is also a member of the Mesoamerican Society for Biology and Conservation, chapter Costa Rica.
The most interesting things she’s experienced during life in the field? “Watching the turtles hatching! Also finding jaguar tracks and being able to participate in community tours.” Apart from those, Cynthia also loves arranging and participating in the fun Charity Challenges with volunteers.
What does Cynthia think volunteers bring to the projects? Since our goal is to provide support to local organisations which don’t have the human or economic resources to achieve their conservation or sustainable development objectives, our volunteers play a key role by being the hands needed, or helping to fund raise for those projects.”