Top 10 Reasons to Volunteer in Costa Rica
In 2017 Abi Phillips travelled through Central America and into Costa Rica to volunteer for 2 months on the Caribbean coast near the Tortuguero national park. Abi had always been interested in volunteering, conservation and nature and so she joined a turtle conservation project called La Tortuga Feliz which turned out to be the best experience of her life.
Here she shares her experience and top 10 reasons why volunteering in Costa Rica is awesome.
Rich in biodiversity, a top game player in eco-tourism and ecological research facilities, Costa Rica is a prime location for any sort of volunteer experience. Any hostel I visited I was sure to meet someone who had either finished up an amazing volunteer programme or was working on some exciting monkey or plant study. Everyone is on the nature vibe, climbing volcanos, venturing ancient jungles and immersing themselves in the green belt.
2. Techno Debunk
One of my favourite things about my experience volunteering with turtles in Costa Rica was the technology debunk! Sure, if you want you can bring with you a solar charger and spend a while soaking up the sun’s rays to send a few texts home (depending on power facilities). But when do you ever have the experience now days to spend time completely technologically isolated, with no phone attached to you. I felt cleansed, mindful and far more social without any technology and what we think to be modern necessities!
3.Turtles, Turtles, Turtles
With 4 species of turtles visiting the beach during the night over several busy months of the year. You will see at least one turtle at the bare minimum and it will be awesome. Perhaps under a full moon, a sky of stars or a tropical thunderstorm you will see her crawl out of the sea and lay her eggs right in front of you. A truly dreamlike experience that little can compare. Learning how to care, protect and support these giant prehistoric creatures is an understanding that you will never forget.
Meeting people was super exhilarating. Due to the nature of the place and the reasons why each person has chosen to come, you instantly have a connection with everyone there so it’s easy to go alone and have a little family the next day. I travelled here alone and left with close friends from all over the world of all ages and stages. Everyone shares such a passion and love for nature, conservation and the environment, its magical!
Knowledge about conservation and Biology. These.people.know.their.stuff. Not only is there an immense wealth of knowledge held by the local guides but everyone arranging the walks, hatchery, station and grounds is either a biologist or studying to be one or something similar. I learnt so much about not only conservation here in Costa Rica but all over the world. My knowledge of biology, ecosystems and ecology grew 10-fold and I left feeling like I had just been to the most thrilling school ever.
Right smack in the middle of Americas, Costa Rica is the perfect location to not only volunteer but use as a travel base before and after volunteering. Neighbouring countries such as Nicaragua to the north or Panama to the southern border are equally incredible travel destinations. Travelling through Costa Rica was like taking a deep breath of fresh air and relaxing a little bit as out of all of the Central American countries I would say this is the safest. It has an awesome, established hostel environment, great and easy bus system, an established international airport offering affordable flights, good roads and great professional tourism.
7. Local Culture / Practise Spanish
I would recommend practising some basic Spanish before coming to learn as much as you can from the local guides! Duolingo is perfect for this. Its super easy to pick up basic words and is a fun easy app to use. You can also book a Spanish course in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican people are warm, funny and friendly! The local guides who help with guiding for night walks rule that beach! They are turtle whisperers at heart and the ocean is in their soul. If you can get to know them, throw around a few jokes and listen to their honeypot of turtle knowledge you will come away with a beyond valuable experience. Food is fantastic, Costa Rican culture and crafts are colourful, beautiful and exciting. Pura Vida!
8. Baby Turtles
And what comes with mama turtles is baby turtles. Releasing newly hatched turtles into a glowing pink and red sunset has to be one of life’s greatest experiences. So much life moving out into the sea, and you have helped to save each and every one of them. Waiting all hunched over a nest for the first sand to cave in as a rare species of hawksbill emerges for their first real breath is one of those unforgettable moments.
9. Read, Relax, Recover
Yup, you will be busy and you will be tired at times but you will also have some great down time, so bring an awesome book or just relax in a hammock and watch the lizards scuttle around. Get in touch with yourself and take in the sea breeze! Being here is a great time to unwind, connect to nature and be away from any life stresses or the business of being! Being in touch with nature so closely is a unique moment to make relaxing an easier process.
10. Natural Wonderland
It’s hard to count how many animals I saw in Costa Rica. Lizards of all types were abundant, trails of ants to step over and monkeys moving about in the trees overhead. Thousands and thousands of unique species of plants, flowers in abundance for the butterflies and trees towering over like skyscrapers. If you are a super nature enthusiast I would recommend bringing a bird, bug or plant field guide as it’s fun to try identify your favourites.
I would go back to Costa Rica to volunteer in a heartbeat and to visit again all the baby turtles who come back to their place of nesting to lay their own eggs. When you help one species it creates a network of life that filters into more and more environments so get volunteering and who knows what your change will bring.
By Abi Phillips