ASVO Volunteers


We are a Costa Rican NGO, operating out of San Jose, Costa Rica, and with 25 years experience in conservation and investgation in protected areas. We support the country´s National Park systems, as well as providing volunteers and interns to our sea Turtle Conservation projects. Apart from our international program, we also have a permanent national program that includes volunteer forest fire fighters, and a volunteer program for Costa Rican nationals.



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Yes, I recommend this program

Turtle conservation in Montezuma, Costa Rica

An amazing experience looking after and releasing baby turtles into the Pacific Ocean. Montezuma is a beautiful remote location on the coast of Costa Rica where we were able to make a difference to endangered turtle species whilst enjoying the jungle style natural habitat. The living conditions were basic but not impossible, plenty of free time to explore the area as shifts were generally between 4 and 6 hours per day. Also a great chance to meet like minded people from all over the world and share in this extraordinary experience. Highly recommended!

What would you improve about this program?
Better organisation upon arrival in Montezuma would be better, especially for those arriving at night like I did. I would have preferred to be picked up at the bus station instead of having to find my way to the house in the dark.
With regards to information sent beforehand this must be checked and updated. Two examples: on all literature they tell you not to drink tap water, when you arrive at the house that's all there is. This was quite unsettling even though I obviously did drink the water and it was fine. Also, I asked in advance if I needed a mosquito net or if I would have been able to find one on site and was told I did. I went crazy in Europe trying to get hold of one in the middle of winter only to find it was already available in the house once I reached Montezuma... waste of time and money...
Otherwise, all very positive.
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Yes, I recommend this program

costa rica is beautiful

Just like most sea turtle conservation projects, this project asks for interns and volunteers to do their share of work on night patrols and hatchery shifts. None of the work was too exhausting or extensive, however you do need to get used to a weird sleeping schedule. The beaches were pretty and being a part of conservation work was incredibly rewarding. The turtles are so majestic. This is a great way to experience a new culture and country while doing good for the world!

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Yes, I recommend this program


Your schedule was new every week and posted on a big whiteboard in the dining area.
You switched between day- and night watches at the hatchery, general maintenance work or night patrols, where you walk along the beach for 2-3h to spot turtle tracks.
If you encounter a turtle it is measured and marked and the eggs are then brought back to the hatchery.

The general attitude was nice and relax and at the same time, people were instructed to be on time for tasks, so you could rely on the schedule.

On our off-time we would go to the beach, some took surfing lessons, ride in the mangrove or take a bus out of time to some of the nearby beaches or parks.

Always remember to bring good walking shoes, that dry quick for night patrols. Also long pant and a long sleeved jacket, as it can get chilly, especially when you're doing night watch at the hatchery and sitting still.

Mosquito repellent is not allowed near the turtles as it ruins their sense of direction.

Many people come and go from all over the world - witch was both good and bad as there would always be new people.

The living arrangements are pretty small and filled with people, so definitely remember to bring earplugs (essential!)

All in all it was a lovely stay and I would recommend it :)

What would you improve about this program?
I was not informed that I would have to spend 2 days in San Jose and general information was sparse before departure.

The kitchen hygiene was really bad, and the food not very varied ... Most people bought their own snacks for in between meals.
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No, I don't recommend this program


Let me start by saying I have worked with many non-profits in the states. That being said this was the worst organized non-profit I have ever encountered. The tipoff should have been the heavy emphasis on paying the fee, the secondary emphasis on description of the actual work being done. When we arrived in San Jose we were informed we had to pay in cash for our volunteer service, then we were given little to no information on what we would actually be doing. The facility in Montezuma was dirty and quite run down, the staff tried to bring some structure where there seemed to be little but it was evident this was not well thought out. We encountered maggots in the kitchen facilities upon waking one morning and rotten food was also found in the refrigerator.
The hired cook cared little about food safety and preparation. Even after we discussed this with the staff after several of the volunteers became sick.

Response from ASVO Volunteers

I am deeply dismayed to read these comments, and I have taken immediate action to investigate and resolve some of these issues. I appreciate all feedback - it really is the only way that we can focus on what needs improving.
Although I have no experience in working with a US based NGO - I am sure that things are structured very differently in developed first world countries. That, however, is not an excuse for lack of cleanliness. I am happy to report that the situation with food preparation and hygiene has been taken very seriously, and thanks to these comments ( and these volunteers!) we have implemented a strict cleaning plan which is supervised. The local lady that cooks for us is also taking a food safety course - which not only benefits our projects, but will benefit her in the future.
The financial aspect of our program should not take priority in our information, and I have taken measures to change this, but it is also important for volunteers to know how and where this money is spent. We have various permanent volunteer units that are supported by our international program, and they would cease to exist without that support. Again, I sincerley apologise for the negative experience that you had with us, and i hope that positive changes can be made because of this.
Many thanks for your comments!

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Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteering with ASVO

ASVO is a great volunteer program for those who'd like to get down and dirty and really just *work*. On my group's first day on the project, we spent hours learning about sea turtle nesting habits, why the work is important to the community, how to work with the turtles themselves, and more. Each day, we helped with beach cleanup (like removing fallen trees or palm fronds left after a storm) and camp chores, and at night we traded three-hour shifts monitoring the beach. This consisted of walking miles along the sand, watching for any nesting turtles, while other groups stayed at the hatcheries at different points along the beach to protect eggs from poachers. Short-term and long-term volunteers were put to work immediately, with a "three strikes" system, meaning if you were late to/didn't show up for your patrol three times, you were out of the project.

So basically, if you're looking for a program with guided excursions or lots of opportunities for daily outings on the town, you might want to work with another program--Gandoca is close to the Panama border (which had the closest town, I think), but honestly, you probably won't find time to go over the border if you're on the project for, say, a week or two. Volunteers with ASVO work with the community (really! the whole small town we stayed in was involved on the project!) as an extra hand where it's really needed, because there just aren't enough locals in the area to take on the whole project themselves. The staff all were extremely helpful and friendly, the volunteers were a very cool, international group, and we all had a great time. It's a fantastic program if you'd like to work your tail off and REALLY look forward to every meal!


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

First off, tell me about yourself!

I am a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Honduras, 2007—2009) currently working in a government role in the area of graduate partnerships. I have been passionate about volunteer work since my college years in the DC area, through involvement in alternative spring break projects for Habitat and Humanity, as well as weekly volunteer stints at a bilingual preschool. My love of volunteering later moved overseas, as I participated in a year-long study abroad program in Costa Rica during junior year of college. This experience only increased my love of volunteering, a love that led to a two-year stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

How did you decide on ASVO?

ASVO was recommended to me by our study abroad staff. I paid a visit to their office in San José and also checked out the website, which was pretty extensive. They were very reasonably priced and had a wide variety of options. While most of their programs focus on work in the national parks, there was also a chance to live with a family and volunteer on a coffee cooperative in Monteverde. This sounded the most interesting to me, and I chose this option…within a few weeks, I was on my way to Monteverde!

What kind of volunteer work did you do, and how long were you there?

I spent three weeks on this cooperative, living with an older woman and getting to know her family members who would visit on a daily basis. I was put to work picking the last of the coffee crop on the farm. In addition, I assisted with basic construction of a few buildings on the property.

Was the volunteer work about what you expected when you signed up?

The work was not as intense as I’d originally anticipated. I had heard of ASVO volunteers who lived in less plush surroundings; I was living in a house with running water, electricity, and a room to myself, while other volunteers lived on the park grounds in cabin-like accommodations. In this regard, I think work varies from site to site; overall, however, I did feel that the work was meaningful.

Would you have changed anything about the trip?

I would have loved to stay longer—three weeks was not long enough!

What was your favorite part of volunteering with ASVO?

The interaction I had with the locals in my area was unparalleled. In my case, I learned so much about the campo lifestyle, one that I had never experienced before ASVO.

Would you recommend ASVO to a friend?

Absolutely. I have nothing but fond memories of my volunteer experience through ASVO, and I praise this program as a credible, cost-effective and easy way to volunteer in Costa Rica.