Between the Night and the Nest

Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica

Work to conserve green, hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.

Durations:  2 - 12 weeks

Program information

Travel to Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park to assist with the conservation of critically endangered hawksbills, endangered green sea turtles, and vulnerable leatherbacks. Develop key research skills while monitoring beaches for mother turtle tracks and nests.

undefined 31 May 2022

Included in your program

Make the most of our unique programs with these exclusively curated local adventure and wellness 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

Connect with our alumni
Want to connect with some of our past participants about their adventures? Get in touch with hundreds of friendly ambassadors all over the world who would be more than happy to answer any questions.
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Amanda Schultz

15 Aug, 2018
No amount of photos can prepare you for the beauty of Costa Rica as you step off the plane. From miles of palm trees, to the cloud forests of the mountains, there is nature to be appreciated in every glance. Preparing for my adventure, I was ready to observe turtles and be a bystander for data collection. Imagine my surprise when on the first day I was combing the forest for species, and identifying anoles, and spider monkeys. Finding GVI was one of the best things I could have done, stumbling over the site while searching for Eco volunteering I read the description and fell in love. My whole life I have been drawn to the outdoors, and my passion to protect the biodiversity that is ever changing drives me to do my part. From day one the GVI staff were there to answer every one of my million questions as I got ready to spend a month in the jungles of Costa Rica. Arriving in Tortuguero National Park I had to keep my jaw closed as we flew through the canals and waterways of the park, awestruck by the beauty around me. Arriving at the Estuary with my roller bag and backpack in hand I laughed at my over packing skills. After walking through the coastal forest opening up to the coconut plantation, I saw my home for the next month and couldn’t have been happier. From the first second I arrived on base I felt like I was a part of a family, through every test and trek the staff and volunteers were there for a lending hand or a good time. From “Jungle Raves” to partners games there was never a shortage of fun to be had. Although it may not have been smooth sailing always as it is hard work, the benefits of knowing you are making an impact on the sustainability of the forest is best reward possible. Every day was a new thing to be learned; from identifying new birds species that you would have never known before, to understanding the stages of turtle nesting. I learned so much, as well as developing invaluable team working skills. Each day I woke up ready to see what nature had in store for me. I will never forget the accomplishment of being able to spot and identify birds in the canals, or the sheer magnitude of laying on the beach hand under a turtle counting eggs and knowing you impacted the research of those turtles. On base I learned how to cook in an ecologically conscious way, seeing base gardens flourish, and being a part of a low impact base in terms of environmental footprint. My advice to anyone who is considering this project is to trust your abilities and go for it. Before coming here I never would have believed I could walk 8 miles on the beach counting turtle tracks and nests, or walking though the forests spotting and identifying species. For me the environment is our most precious resource and if people never get to experience the true power nature exhibits we can never truly understand how important it is to protect nature. Leaving Costa Rica I am bringing with me a new understanding of biodiversity, and a newfound passion to protect and make a change in the way we approach, and use our resources. As well as helping others to understand the impact we have on the planet. It has helped me to reinforce the fire I have inside me to inform, and influence a positive change. I cannot thank GVI enough for giving me this experience, I will never forget my temporary home in the jungle and it will live in my heart forever.

Suzanne Giboon

15 Aug, 2018
GVI Jalova base camp is in the middle of nowhere and was my home for two months. I loved it! I decided to join the wildlife expedition in Costa Rica volunteer programme to get some experience in field research before going to University to study Ecology and Wildlife Conservation. It was everything and more I thought it would be. The staff were all enthusiastic and knowledgeable in their field of work. The variety of different cultures and backgrounds among the staff and volunteers made life on base very interesting and enjoyable, with different people bringing different stories to the very full tables. I definitely made some friends for life in the two months I was volunteering with GVI and gained some valuable experience. My most amazing moment has to be when I saw and got to work a Leatherback turtle. While the rest of base camp was getting ready for bed, I and four others were heading out for the first turtle night walk of the season. Walking out onto the beach, the moon was almost full so not being able to use lights wasn‘t a problem. We made it to mile 14 our furthest point and were half way back to base without seeing a single turtle. Yet just as I was giving up hope there she was on the bank digging her body-pit. Her carapace was 175cm long, and she made me feel very small compared to her. After we worked her we stayed with her for over two hours just watching her disguise her nest and head back to sea. Once the first wave hit her the whole group felt her relief - she was safe now and back into her natural habitat. This experience made me very interested in turtles and inspired me to do a talk on turtles and geomagnetic imprinting for all the staff and volunteers that were interested. This experience has strengthened my decision to work with endangered animals in the future. Just by doing something as small as patrolling the beach for a few hours, we deterred poachers and Jaguars which probably saved a few turtles lives. I have now decided that after completing my degree at university I would like to do a GVI internship and work on community wildlife projects in the future. Doing the Wildlife Expedition in Costa Rica opened my eyes to possibilities that I had never thought of before. I undertook the leadership award during my stay at Jalova and had a wonderful time planning and executing a treasure hunt and task day. It was a very successful day with GPS’s, clues and face-paint. I would love to be part of another GVI project in the future, possibly even as a staff member.

James Cunning

15 Aug, 2018
Being able to act as such an integral part of the information gathering process made it a great experience to be a part of... Overall it was an amazing eye opening experience and one that I would recommend to others looking to become involved in hand on conservation work of endangered and iconic species – James Cunning – Jalova, Costa Rica Wildlife volunteer

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