insyte to the programme

sea turtle conservation

“Totally Travel were fantastic! This was my first time volunteering and initially had no idea where to start - however Matt and the team coached me through it quite easily, and helped create one of the best experiences for myself and my girlfriend we've ever had abroad. We're now planning our next volunteering adventure.” Liam & Amber (VIC)

At our turtle conservation project you have the unique opportunity to get hands on experience with scientific research. Based in the sleepy village of Playa Blanca on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, this project gives you the chance to not just help with our sea turtle studies but to immerse yourself in the true Costa Rican experience. 

Researching population demographics and ecology of the endangered Eastern Pacific Green and the critically endangered Eastern Pacific Hawksbill turtles, you help our vital research having real life implications on the conservation of these amazing animals.

The surroundings are of spectacular natural beauty. Named one of 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world, you will have the once in a life time opportunity to spot an incredible array of different plant and animal species. Surrounded by different kinds of beaches, mangroves & estuaries and with rainforest and coral reef habitats alongside each other, the area boasts more than 40 different fish species, dolphins and whales, migratory birds, scarlet macaws, four species of monkey, sloths and of course the majestic sea turtles. A truly lush nature that still needs to be explored and researched is awaiting volunteers, conservation volunteering here truly is a once in a life time experience.

On Playa Blanca, our work focuses on Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Easter Pacific Green turtles (Chelonia mydas). The in-water studies consist of monitoring the 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 will help us to assess the types of threats that sea turtles are exposed to in this area. We capture individuals, tag them, take biometric data, tissue and sometimes blood samples and release them back to the ocean. 

We also operate a rescue and rehabilitation centre, as often we find turtles which have suffered traumas or illness. Our rehab procedures and installations follow international best practices and provide us with 9 tanks for sea turtles. We receive dozens of sea turtles each year, most of which we can rehabilitate and release back into the wild. 

Since mangroves play an essential ecological role for coastal ecosystems and therefore for sea turtles, we have implemented a mangrove reforestation project in Playa Blanca together with a local grassroots organisation. In the long term this will improve the health status of mangroves and water quality in the area.
Another important but vulnerable ecosystem are the off shore sea grass beds, on which sea turtles and other marine animals feed, and which provide a living habitat for a wide range of organisms and small marine species. In 2013, we started to conduct sea grass bed studies near Playa Blanca to gain knowledge about the health status and biomass production. We found two species of sea grass which are essential in their contribution to a healthy ocean – the main condition for maintaining its biodiversity.


itinerary

Days 1 and 2 (Sun/Mon or Wed/Thurs)

Arrive at San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport (airport code SJO) and say a big Hola to Costa Rica. After clearing customs and immigration, you’ll be picked up and taken to a hostel for your first night. No matter the time of arrival we’ll be there for you, so no worries regarding your flight time.

Early next morning, you will meet our coordinator who will welcome you and run through an orientation/briefing. Then we’re off – first by taxi and then a long journey by public bus to the Osa Peninsula. On arrival, relax, meet the on-site team and settle in to your accommodation. 

Project Work

Volunteers assist the project staff in four key areas: the rescue and rehab centre, the mangrove nursery, sea grass studies, and field trips by boat to capture and study turtles. Our aim is that each volunteer will undertake at least two in-water field trips to capture turtles and two days working in the rescue centre. The field trips leave early morning and return mid afternoon. Volunteers first help with the preparation of boat equipment and maintenance of the turtle net. Once on board, you will monitor the net in the water, get the turtles safely out of the water and ensure the turtles stay calm while on board, assisting with recording important data and taking samples from the animals. Sometimes we are busy working with 25 turtles during the 7 hour shift.


At the Rescue and Rehabilitation centre you will be involved in the daily care of injured turtles which includes feeding, water change and cleaning tanks, as well as assisting our staff in taking and recording data. This a great opportunity for future biologists, marine ecologists, veterinarians or environmental enthusiasts because it involves a direct role in sea turtle care.
Mangrove reforestation activities involve the collection of seeds, preparation of mud boxes, transplanting the seeds and watering the propagules, planting the saplings as required and on occasion field trips for research. The sea grass study involves counting sea grass leaves for biomass monitoring, and targeted removal of seagrass for regeneration studies. You’ll be part of the team collecting the first scientific data of sea grasses in the Golfo Dulce.

Your last day (Monday/Thursday)

Oh no …… whether you’re here for 1 week or 10 weeks one of these days it will be time to say goodbye to paradise. You will catch the bus to the capital San Jose, arriving early afternoon. If you are flying straight home and, if taking the bus back to San Jose, then book a departure after 5pm – for a significantly more comfortable to end to your program, we can arrange a 50 minute domestic flight out of Puerto Jimenez airport. 

your digs

Accommodation is your own room with private bathroom and a fan, the cabins are family run and are right in the village.

meals

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in your program cost. We will do our best to work with dietary requirements, but please check this prior to booking. 

snapshot

start date

Sundays & Wednesdays all year

minimum age

you gotta be 18 to do this program

important info

  • Fly In & Out : San Jose (SJO)
  • What’s included: Accommodation, all meals, airport pickup, briefings and training from on-site biologist, all materials, equipment and permits, local guides and 24/7 support
  • What’s not included in cost: Flights, transfers between San Jose office and bus station, return bus ticket from San Jose to Osa, drinks and snacks, travel insurance
  • *Prices from £825pp based on a 1 week program. Prices will be confirmed in writing prior to booking. 

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