Go wild with sea turtles! Experience sustainable travel with a splash of conservation by participating in STC's Eco-Volunteer Adventure in Costa Rica. This fun and educational opportunity blends research with an exotic location to get you involved in protecting endangered sea turtles.
Being an Eco-Volunteer for the Sea Turtle Conservancy is definitely an adventure! To get to Tortuguero, I first took a bus ride through the mountains and then to the coast. From there I boarded a small boat to take me through the canals. It was here that I first started to experience the wonderful wildlife that can be found in Costa Rica . From monkeys, to iguana's, countless native birds, and butterflies there is always something to see! Once I arrived at the station, I learned how to measure and record data for when a turtle is nesting. Right away I was included in the night patrols and various activities that take place during a usual week at the station. During the week I got to know the research assistants better and learned about the countries that they are from. The night patrols are not always successful in terms of seeing turtles but there is always something interesting to see, from the brilliant night sky to small crabs that glow in the dark. Since nature, and turtles, are not always predictable, I recommend staying for two weeks. That way there are more opportunities to see a turtle! Seeing the turtles was definitely the highlight of my trip! I was able to count the eggs, help check the flippers and shell for any damage, and measure the turtles. Being so close to these amazing animals is truly a life changing experience. Working with the turtles up close gave me a new appreciation for these creatures, while also motivating me even more to help conserve them. Staying two weeks also gives you time to become a part of the weekly schedule and see even more wildlife. There is always something to do in or around the station: going in to Tortuguero for shopping or food, bird watching, relaxing on the beach, taking a canal tour or even just reading a book. Costa Rica is truly a beautiful country, from the plants, to the animals, and even the gorgeous sunsets. Being an Eco-Volunteer in Tortuguero is definitely a once in a life time experience. If you have the chance, you should definitely go!
I volunteered for one week with the Sea Turtle Conservancy in September 2010. It was a great experience! I actually refer to it as my jurassic park experience as the emotions of being out on the beach and watching the turtles ride the waves in was very much other worldly. The research staff were great. I had the opportunity to get to know people from around the world. I enjoyed assisting with the nightly patrols and tagging/taking measurements of the green sea turtles. You could see the tremendous difference that the program made on the community at large. I was there during Turtle Fest so had a fun time with the festivities.
I would definitely come back sometime and help out again. It was wonderful to see a program have such a dramatic effect on a species as well as provide tourism and income for the locals.
Two weeks searching for turtles in utter darkness on beaches at night...
Jun 27, 2011
The title sums it up! This volunteer opportunity was definitely an adventure and not your typical volunteer abroad gig. I did this program during the summer of 2008 but I still keep in touch today with the friends I made during those two weeks and even have visited some of them in places all over the world. I learned a lot about the nesting habits of green and leatherback turtles, and about the turtle poaching problems on Central American beaches. Walking along the beaches at night, in total darkness for four hours at a time, looking for vague turtle-shaped forms in the dark was definitely interesting. I would do it again and recommend this to anyone with a sense of adventure. Just be ready for traditional Costa Rican food every day, mosquitoes, extreme humidity and heat, giant bugs, and total immersion into a Spanish-speaking culture. Tortuguero is gorgeous and the black sand beaches are amazing. Look for bioluminescence at night. Open your mind, learn some Spanish, get in shape for the long walks on the beach at night, and have fun!
A place to meet very interesting people, who are together for a good cause. I learnt a lot about community centered conservation and the importance of eco-tourism through volunteering in this program. Everyday was filled with new experiences, which were truly memorable.
Rachel Bladow volunteered from May 5-20, 2012 at the STC in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Rachel is from St. Louis, Missouri, and is currently attending the University of North Florida as a coastal biology major. She enjoys music, traveling, reading, and of course, sea turtles.
Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Costa Rica?
I decided to volunteer abroad with the STC in Costa Rica because I wanted to gain hands-on experience working with sea turtles since my future dream career is to work with sea turtle conservation.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
During the day I had time to relax, read a book, and spend time with the research assistants. The nights were set aside for night patrols where you would spend a few hours walking the beach looking for nesting turtles.
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What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?
The main aspect that made this experience unique and special,and which was also the highlight of my trip was getting to see my first sea turtle! Not only did I get to see turtles, I got to help count the eggs, measure the turtles, check them for any injuries and mark the nests. I was able to see and work with a Leatherback and a Hawksbill turtle! It was amazing to be able to work with the turtles up close!
How has this experience impacted your future?
This experience has impacted my future by solidifying the fact that sea turtle conservation is what I want to do in my life. I was able to learn even more about turtles and gained a unique experience that will hopefully set me apart from other people in my field when I start applying for internships and eventually a job.
These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.
Tell us a little about Sea Turtle Conservancy and your role at the company.
STC is the oldest sea turtle research and conservation group in the world. Our Eco-Volunteer Adventures help support the work that STC began in the 1950s. While I have several roles at STC, I’m work with directly people interested in participating in STC’s Eco-Volunteer Adventures in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?
When I started working at STC, we had a small staff. I was not originally hired to coordinate our Eco-Volunteer Adventures. But my background in conservation and ecology made it a natural fit for working with people who want to have the hands-on experience of being a sea turtle biologist for a week or two.
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What makes Sea Turtle Conservancy unique?
There are several things that make STC’s Eco-Volunteer Adventures unique from other volunteer travel programs. Many volunteer programs are coordinated through a third party, and they connect a person with a project. With our program, eco-volunteers are directly connecting with research staff the group, through a donation of time and money, that is actually doing the research and conservation. That gives our program a level of experience and training that people won’t find with other programs. STC eco-volunteers get training in field biology and work as part of our research team, rather than just being along for the ride. The work we do with sea turtles is not easy, but it can be very rewarding.
How do you prepare your volunteers for their projects, either before they leave or as they arrive in-country?
We provide eco-volunteers with materials that describe the living conditions, the environment, the location, how to pack, what to bring, and the research methods they will be following. We provide the information in both print and video format. Once they are at our research station, they receive several training sessions to prepare them for the work.
How do you ensure your programs are responsible, sustainable and mutually beneficial for you, the community, and the volunteers?
STC works hard to train its staff on how to work with the Eco-volunteers and the local community. We can ensure this because there is no middle group, the eco-volunteers are working directly with us, so we are responsible to ourselves to make sure that the program benefits sea turtles, the Eco-volunteers and the community. We have been in Tortuguero for more than 50 years and the lessons we have learned in that time make our program tried and tested.
About Sea Turtle Conservancy
It is the mission of Sea Turtle Conservancy to ensure the survival of sea turtles within the Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific through research, education, training, advocacy and protection of the natural habitats upon which they depend.
The Sea Turtle Conservancy, formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, is the world's oldest sea...