Conduct biodiversity research in rainforests along the vibrant and diverse Caribbean coast AND get career training from Conservation Careers!
On this program, participants will hike through the rainforests of Tortuguero National Park conducting biodiversity surveys. Data from these surveys assists park management and the Costa Rican government with making decisions about the effective sustainable management of the area.
Join a team of international participants stationed in the heart of Tortuguero National Park. Observe rainforest species in their natural environment, noting species type and abundance to assist the Costa Rican government with understanding the health of the habitat and assist them with managing conservation efforts in the region.
You will be trained in how to identify a wide range of species identified as important by the Costa Rican government including birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians and learn how to input this information into the database we have being building to prove the benefits of reforestation.
In addition, you may be asked to assist with endangered sea turtle, jaguar, and aquatic bird research projects. Our request for you to work on these projects will depend on the time of year, the current number of participants, and the needs of our local partners. We ensure that all our work contributes to long-term sustainable conservation goals.
Taking part in a program like the rainforest exploration and biodiversity conservation volunteer program in Costa Rica shows college admissions advisors and employers that you are committed to your personal and professional development. All our partner’s volunteer programs provide volunteers with a range of specific technical and transferable professional skills. In the case of this conservation volunteer program, you will earn training and work experience allowing you to explore the field of wildlife conservation as a career path. You will also learn teamwork and intercultural communication skills that can be used in any vocation you choose to pursue in the future.
Our partner prides themselves on the development of global citizens, those who are aware of sustainable development issues and goals as well as the importance of cross-cultural and cross-border collaboration, and connecting them to other changemakers around the world.
Due to the fact you will work in a national park, you will need a special scientific permit to approve you for conducting research. Further permits are required for turtle and jaguar research. The permit for turtle research takes about one month to process, while the permit for conducting jaguar research takes about 2 to 3 months to process.
- Make new friends from all over the world who share your passion for conservation.
- Call a Costa Rican National Park your adventure-filled home during your stay.
- Explore a remarkable coastal rainforest environment.
- Learn more about bird species, sea turtles, monkeys, reptiles, and amphibians.
- Visit an incredibly jaguar-dense area and one of the only locations in the world where jaguars are known to prey on adult sea turtles.
- Gaining practical experience in the field, setting you up for a career in conservation.
Our Award-winning Partner
Conservation Careers has teamed up with an award-winning, mission-driven organisation with a team of passionate experts across the globe who will make your experience a truly unforgettable one.
Founded in 1998, they run programs in 21 locations, in 13 countries around the world, each aligned to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as well as the objectives of local partners. They welcome participants from all around the world and help facilitate their development into global citizens. This is how they achieve their mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Their commitment to running high-quality sustainable development and experiential education programs has earned them recognition from numerous organizations such as Panthera, the Seychelles Parks & Gardens Authority, as well as Stanford, NYU, Duke, and Ohio State.
If you register your interest below, you’ll put you in touch with our partner to take the booking and to plan your trip!
To see all our Conservation Careers Internship opportunities, please click here.
Life On Base
Unplug and get in touch with nature in Tortuguero National Park. Situated in the heart of the jungle on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, 20 minutes away from the nearest small town, Jalova base is a photographer’s dream. During field work, you’ll walk the protected beaches looking for signs of turtles and jaguars, travel by canoe through foliage-draped canals spotting aquatic bird species, and, if you’re lucky, catch sight of a manatee in the water below. While trekking through the jungle, you’re likely to see howler monkeys and toucans. Sloths and tamanduas (a type of anteater) also live in the jungle, but due to their elusive nature you’re unlikely to spot them during your stay. Morning patrols feature spectacular sunrises over the Caribbean sea, and nightwalks reveal a star-filled sky. In their free time, staff and team members from all around the world relax at the base. For those with a passion for wildlife and conservation, Jalova is the ideal location.
Our base is located in a coconut plantation surrounded by rainforest, with a beach right on your doorstep. It’s incredibly remote as no one else has access to the area. All the buildings are wooden huts, raised off the ground to protect them from flooding. Sleeping areas are dorm-style and bathrooms are shared. While on base, you’ll be sharing the jungle with the abundant wildlife, who often pass through the property, allowing many opportunities for sightings.
For project work, you’ll only need your feet, although boats are available for canal bird surveys. To participate in the turtle project, you’ll need a good pair of rubber boots, thick socks, and dark-coloured, long-sleeved, lightweight clothing. Once a month we go on a weekend excursion to Tortuguero. On these trips we have three different activities which participants can choose from: kayaking in the national park, hiking up the local hill in the national park (as the only hill in this predominantly flat area, it provides a great aerial view of the greater Tortuguero area), or visiting a chocolate farm. Due to time limitations we can only do two of these activities, which are chosen by majority vote.
Our research base is in a remote area, which means that phone signal is limited. The Wi-Fi on base is strictly reserved for research purposes by staff. This is your chance to unplug and live in the moment. You might have the opportunity to visit Tortuguero town two or three times during your visit, where you can make use of several internet cafés. You’ll also be able to buy a SIM card on arrival in Costa Rica which will allow you to access a 3G connection from the beach. Beach times are limited to daylight hours due to the nesting turtles and jaguars.
Many of our ingredients are brought in from a little store in Siquirres. Breakfast consists of fruits, porridge, and pancakes on Saturdays. Lunches and dinners feature a variety of vegetarian cuisine, from pastas to stir-fries. We’re like a big family on base, and share cooking and cleaning duties
Costa Rica is a tropical country, with a climate ranging from warm and rainy to hot and humid. Being a rainforest, the weather is highly variable and it can rain at any time of year. On average July is the wettest month and September the driest. The maximum temperature is around 29°C (84°F) with the minimum temperature around 17°C (63°F).
The program is physically demanding. Every day during turtle season, a survey party goes out for 9.5 kilometres (on sand) in the heat, exposed to the elements. Three times a month, during jaguar season, we walk on the beach to Tortuguero, returning to base via boat. Shorter forest surveys are 3 to 5 kilometre-long return trips through difficult terrain. You will definitely be hitting your 10,000 steps.
This program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.
FOR ALL PARTICIPANTS | ORIENTATION
Orientation: Your Health, Safety and Wellbeing
Learn about COVID-19 pre-departure guidelines, base expectations, personal and area hygiene practices and what we are doing to keep you safe.
Orientation: Travelling Responsibly and Ethically
Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.
Orientation: UN Sustainable Development Goals
Introduction to the history and evolution of sustainable development, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and how these related to your project work.
Orientation: Further Opportunities for Impact
Learn about our country locations and further opportunities available to you during or after your program.
FOR ALL PARTICIPANTS AT JALOVA
Community: Women’s Empowerment
Learn about gender equality, skills development and examples of income generating activities.
Community: Human Empowerment
Learn about our empowerment principles.
Conservation: Survey Techniques and Logistics
An introduction to different survey techniques and best practice guidelines for surveys; introduction to different types of data and how to record information via a datasheet.
Conservation: Biodiversity & Target Species Identification
Learn about biodiversity and how biodiversity is measured, and classifying different species and how to identify species that indicate the health of the habitat.
Marine Conservation: Pollution and Plastics
Learn about issues with plastic and measures that can be taken to help reduce plastic consumption.
Jaguar Monitoring Training
Learn about jaguar biology and behaviour, how to identify a specific specimen, how to identify tracks, and how to set up a camera on a trail or on a predated turtle.
Turtle Monitoring Training
Learn about turtle biology, how to measure a turtle, perform a health check, how to distinguish between old and new turtle tracks on the beach and how to excavate a nest.
Canal Bird Identification Training
Learn how to identify the 30 target species important to MINAE and Tortuguero park, and how to input data from these surveys.
Biodiversity Survey Training
Learn how to identify 40 jungle species that indicate the health of the habitat, how to record and enter data, and the protocol of forest surveys.
All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to be an active global citizen after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Exclusive local experiences:
- Learn to pick and husk a coconut
- Visit the world’s oldest sea turtle research group
- Meditate on the beach at sunrise
- Take a jungle nightwalk and frog watch
- Canoe along jungle river canals at dawn
- Stargaze and learn the northern constellations
- Hike an extinct volcano, Cerro Tortuguero
- Visit a sustainable chocolate farm
Engaging intimately with a new context teaches global awareness, adaptability and critical thinking – skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and will also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many different activities that you can get involved in during your free time, or before and after your program.
On our community programs, the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore topics like local cuisine and religion, or how sustainable development challenges are affecting local contexts.
Tortuguero National Park
The name “Tortuguero” can be translated as “land of the turtle”. The park is most well-known for its green turtle population, with leatherbacks and hawksbills frequenting its beaches. Very occasionally a loggerhead might pay a visit. Incredibly remote, Tortuguero is one of the least visited areas in Costa Rica. It has an incredibly high density of jaguars and is one of the only locations in the world where jaguars are known to prey on sea turtles. Its wide range of habitats, including rainforests and beaches, also allow many other species to flourish, like the endangered great green macaw and even manatees.
Costa Rica is a wildlife lover’s paradise, featuring one the highest biodiversities in the world, approximately 4% of the total species on the planet. There are literally hundreds of species which can only be found here. More bird species call this nation home than the United States and Canada combined. Researchers attribute this natural wealth to the country’s plethora of habitats and its location between North and South America.
BONUS! Conservation Career Kick-Starter online training programme (worth £295)
Do you want to spend your career helping wildlife to flourish, but are feeling a little lost, confused or disillusioned?
Start your career in wildlife conservation with a unique programme of training, support community & jobs from Conservation Careers!
The Conservation Career Kick-Starter is a proven step-by-step system to get clear, get ready, and get hired as a professional conservationist.
Whether you’re at university and planning your next steps, a graduate in the job hunt or working in an unrelated job but interested to switch into conservation, this course is designed to help you.
After going through the course, you’ll have created a personal career plan which will give you confidence in your job hunt and will make everything quicker, simpler and more fun!
All you need to do is register your interest in the project below, and if you choose to make a booking we’ll save a place for you on the Kick-Starter when you get back from your placement.
Included with the Kick-Starter is a year’s full-access to the world’s biggest conservation job board with over 15,000 jobs, plus access to our private online support community, CC Pro.
Duration, Dates & Costs
Register your interest below to learn about upcoming start dates, durations and costs.
- 24-hour emergency desk
- 24-hour in-country support
- Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
- All project equipment
- Food (except on long-term internship placements)
- Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)
- Group introductory call
- Welcome presentation
- Endorsed Leadership Course
- Sustainable project work
- Leadership responsibilities
- PDF reference – upon request
What’s Not Included
- Additional drinks and gratuities
- COVID-19: Health and Hygiene Fee
- Extra local excursions
- International and domestic airport taxes
- Medical and travel insurance
- Personal items and toiletries
- Police or background check
- Visa costs