On Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast you will join a team of international volunteers as an expedition member. Our expedition base camp is located in the Tortuguero National park of Costa Rica. Your hands on work will contribute to the long-term management and conservation of this stunning rainforest.
Gain a thorough understanding of the Costa Rican rainforest and this important ecosystem whilst participating in important research on species’ population studies as Jaguars, aquatic birds, and sea turtles (depending on nesting seasons). Professional development is very important, and as such a range of practical skills and practical knowledge are key parts of the expedition through additional training and field experience.
Please note, this program offers durations up to 24 weeks. It is a fairly simple process speak to your Country Expert for more details of extending your stay in-country. Also, due to the fact that we are working in a National Park, we need to have a special scientific permit to conduct research so your Country Expert will ask you for some papers to be able to process it.
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 sea turtles, monkeys, neo-tropical birds and amphibians; exploring the area by boat and canoe, including remote Caribbean beaches, gaining a wide variety of skills, including learning survey techniques and gaining real field experience, joining the research team to undertake turtle nesting surveys and monitor nesting sites during turtle season; participating on jaguar surveys; setting up and checking camera traps and tracking in the rainforest.
"Surrounded by amazing, rich and diverse rainforest is surreal. Whether its trudging knee deep in mud or working a leatherback, it is truly a rewarding and unforgettable experience!! Plus, there aren´t many opportunities to meet people from such different walks of life."
What's Not Included
This expedition is the essence of remote adventure as there is no road access to the base, you will truly be surrounded by the amazing natural beauty of Tortugero’s Caribbean beaches and rainforest, with all transport via canoe and boat, courtesy of the green canals. Although challenging, you will find the work extremely rewarding as you work on research projects and receive training on field skills.
With enough room for research and relaxation, the base is small but comfortable; and provides a great environment for volunteers to get to know their fellow participants. Camp duties are shared rotationally amongst all the expedition team.
What's Not Included
The expedition will provide a solid base of personal training and development whilst getting you immersed in the ongoing conservation efforts. The program is engaged in a number of key areas, including the study of jaguar predation of sea turtles and assessment of any possible impact on turtle populations, jaguar tracking and prey monitoring, turtle nesting studies and conservation (during the nesting season), migratory/resident bird species long-term trend data, and biological assessment surveys in specific habitat areas.
How this program makes a difference:
The volunteering carried out by GVI Costa Rica has provided critical data to the Costa Rican government to help them make important conservation decisions and ensure the survival of the biodiversity of this unique area of the rainforest. GVI works closely with the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET) and partners with world-renowned organisations such as Sea Turtle Conservancy and Panthera to provide data and collabourate on conservation efforts in Tortuguero. Having GVI volunteers in place not only allows more areas to be surveyed, and in greater detail, covering areas of beach and forest not previously under regular study, but also helps greatly to decrease poaching of sea turtle nests by maintaining a constant presence at the park boundary
The work carried out by GVI Costa Rica has provided a huge amount of critical data to the Costa Rican government to help them to make important conservation decisions and ensure the survival of the biodiversity of this unique area of the rainforest.
For example, much of our work has been used to achieve massive reductions in sea turtle nest poaching.
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.”