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I am really excited to share that I will be spending a week as a volunteer in Costa Rica with sea turtles later this month!
Using some of the budget travel skills I wrote about last week, I booked a flight into San Jose, Costa Rica on JetBlue and Copa Airlines using Skyscanner’s great search function. I was able to fly out of Boston Logan Airport on a Tuesday early morning and arrive at 11am the same day. My return flight also leaves a little bit early but it allows me to be home by the early afternoon. I’ll be flying out Tuesday and back on Wednesday since those were the best and cheapest days to travel.
I am really lucky that my work schedule is pretty flexible and allows me to work from anywhere, for the most part, especially during the summer. I saw I had a couple weeks open this summer, so I took the opportunity to research some volunteer abroad programs in Costa Rica. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I found lots of great programs to volunteer in Costa Rica where you can work with animals, children, and in local communities.
One of my friends volunteered with turtles when we were in college, and ever since then I thought it would be such a cool and fun thing to do. So when I had some open time in my schedule, I knew I had to find a way to make it happen.
I started researching different volunteer opportunities with sea turtles and came across one place in particular that have especially high reviews from former volunteers. It is a non-profit organization called La Tortuga Feliz, and they’re located on the east coast of Costa Rica near Limon, about four hours away from San Jose.
Since I have never volunteered like this before, I searched through their “frequently asked questions” section to find out how long we can volunteer (the minimum is one week), what sorts of things we should pack, how much it costs, what is included, and how much we will be working directly with the turtles.
Luckily, La Tortuga Feliz’s website is full of great information for potential volunteers. They even recommend a hostel to stay at in San Jose when you land called The Turtle Saving Hostel whom they have a partnership with. Volunteers can stay at The Turtle Saving Hostel in the days before and after they go out to the La Tortuga Feliz volunteer site. From San Jose, we take a bus to the east coast town of Bataan, and then staff from La Tortuga Feliz will pick us up and take us in a small boat over to their volunteer site right on the water.
From what I read on their site, you stay in dorms at the volunteer site. Your accommodations and three meals per day are included in the price you pay in order to stay there to volunteer. Part of your volunteer fee also goes to supporting local workers and the salary of locals who work at the turtle rescue center. They have over 100 five star reviews from former volunteers who were touched and inspired by the time they spent there.
It seems like we will spend our days busily working at the facility, manning the turtle hatchery, weighing and measuring turtles, and keeping the space generally in good condition. At nightfall, volunteers can go out and search for mother turtles who are laying their eggs before they return to the open waters. Volunteers can gently move the eggs and make sure they hatch safely before returning them to their natural habitat to swim away. Doing volunteer work with the sea turtles also helps to ensure that people don’t steal the eggs to sell for profit.
About the species of sea turtles, La Tortuga Feliz says:
“The leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is the most critically endangered of the marine turtles and is also the largest. Leatherbacks can exceed 540 kg (1180 lbs). Unfortunately, leatherback turtle eggs are among the most desirable turtle eggs, mistakenly believed by many to have potent aphrodisiac powers.
Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) are not actually green but take their name from the colour of their body fat. These turtles are hunted for both their eggs and their meat, which is widely held to be the most delicious of all the sea turtle species.”
In addition to long days working at the hatchery, we will also have the opportunity to take Spanish lessons. This could be a great in-person complement to my online Spanish lessons on italki and I’m excited to practice with locals and the other volunteers.
I’ve started putting together a packing list based on a number of recommendations from the La Tortuga Feliz website. It seems like we will need a lot of quick dry clothing, clothing that we can wear while working on the beach with the turtles, and biodegradable toiletries and sunscreen.
I am hoping to keep the blog and my Instagram up to date as the date approaches and once I get to Costa Rica. I’ll have some time to explore San Jose and the surrounding areas while I am there, too.
I hope you will follow this exciting and heartwarming journey with me as I volunteer in Costa Rica! If you have any questions or want to volunteer yourself, ask them on Instagram or Facebook and I will find out answers for you!