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Volunteer at a Turtle Reserve in Costa Rica

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Volunteers at Endangered Wildlife Trust

Volunteers look on as a researcher opens a leatherback turtle nest to count the number of surviving embryos.

Chrissie Long

If you are looking for a volunteer vacation experience that combines beach time with an up-close-and-personal encounter with Costa Rican wildlife, consider the Caribbean-based Turtle Protection Reserve of the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Volunteers can assist researchers in documenting turtle nesting habits and warding off poachers looking to profit off the black market sale of sea turtle eggs.

Endangered Wildlife Trust

The England-based Endangered Wildlife Trust maintains two reserves (one in Panama and one in Costa Rica) with some of the most important beaches in the world for turtle protection.

Their turtle protection program began in 2000 at a time when 99 percent of turtle nests were opened and the eggs in the nest sold on the black market. Today, only a small percentage of eggs make it to the black market.

Volunteer Opportunities

Pacuare Nature Reserve of the Endangered Wildlife Trust

The Pacuare Nature Reserve is a thousand-hectare protected property on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

Chrissie Long

Volunteer opportunities are available for those interested in helping with beach clean-up, nightly beach walks and documenting turtle nesting habits.

Volunteers must plan on spending at least a week on the reserve.

The cost to participate in the volunteer program is $140 per week ($70 for Costa Rican nationals), which covers housing, meals, transportation to and from the docks in Matina and educational opportunities related to turtle protection.

Payment must be made by visiting the office in San José, which is located on Avenida 10 between 25 and 27th streets near the court buildings.

For those unable to stay a week, there are still opportunities to visit the reserve. Rates are $58 per night for foreigners and $32.20 for locals.

What to Bring

- A flashlight (there is no electricity in the Pacuare Reserve)
- Soap and towel
- Long pants and shorts
- Hat
- Dark clothing to patrol the beach
- Closed-toe shoes
- Mosquito repellent
- Sun block

There is no need to bring your own bedding. Two sheets and a pillow are provided to every guest.

When to Visit

Turtle Protection Program in Costa Rica

Three meals are included at the Pacuare Nature Reserve in Costa Rica.

Chrissie Long

The reserve is open from March to September.

The best time to see the massive leatherbacks is early in the season (March to June), and the green turtles, between June and September.

By August and September, fewer turtles are nesting, but you might see babies hatching and paddling out to sea. The reserve is also home to 20 species of mammals and many birds and reptiles.

You may also see caimans, monkeys, herons and parakeets.

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