Park and Reserve Assistant Volunteer

ASVO - Marino Ballena Park, Costa Rica
Quick Facts: Placement ID: IND-137 Location: Marino Ballena Park, Costa Rica Sector: Wildlife and the Environment Category: Conservation Min Duration: 1 week Lodging: Host Family / Lodge Language: Basic Placement Fee: 50 USD
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Volunteer Job Description

Costa Rica is a country that has in its small territory, about 5% of the planet's biodiversity, with the advantage of this natural treasure comes protection by the National System of Conservation Areas, covering 25% of the national geography.

The Costa Rican progressive environmental policies and eco-tourism in the National Park System have been taken as a model for development in other countries. Costa Rica has strong natural resources and conservation policies, in support of the protected areas. However, they sadly lack sufficient staff because the government can not afford to keep each place actively operating and supplied with adequate personnel.

National park volunteer assistants are needed to help protect one of the most important marine environments in the area and its fantastic coral reefs. This park is home to an incredible marine ecosystem and without preservation efforts it could be destroyed. Ecotourism is of prime importance to this park.

Volunteers at this placement may be asked to undertake tasks related to: the education of visitors and the local community, beach clean up, as well as administrative duties and other jobs such as trail maintenance etc.

Volunteers at this placement do not need any knowledge in environmental studies or experience in regards to conservation issues. However, they must enjoy working outdoors, be willing to help nature and have the passion to accomplish their tasks.

Volunteer Tasks Required

Maintenance/Reconstruction of Trails

Trails are made: to provide easy access for the rangers, to keep visitors in areas where they can walk without risk and to prevent visitors from entering into primary or secondary forest areas that would interrupt the natural habitat of the wildlife. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that these trails be constantly maintained and one of the responsibilities of a national park volunteer assistant would be to assist in this endeavor.

Control Walks

In order to prevent campers from destroying the protected areas in the park, rangers need to do regular control walks. Also, these control walks help to prevent hunters and poachers from entering the area, as they are aware of the fines, if caught. National park volunteer assistants accompany rangers on these control walks. .

Public Service

Most rangers have not had the opportunity to learn a second language and 75% of the visitors to the park do not speak Spanish. The predominate language of visitors to the park is English. Therefore, national park volunteer assistants will help the rangers attend to the public's various needs such as: providing tourist information about the rules and regulations of the park, direction to the trails, data about the inhabitants in the park, as well as the various types of trees etc.

Beach Clean up

The ranger station is located in front of the beach and there is a camp site where visitors can stay overnight. National park volunteer assistants will help with the beach clean up of organic and non organic trash.

Host Organization Details


ASVO (Association of Volunteers for Service in Protected Areas)is a non-profit and non-governmental organization that is dedicated to maintaining and preserving national parks, communities and beaches throughout Costa Rica. ASVO's mission is to promote the importance of preserving the environment by operating a number of grass-root conservation projects and conducting a variety of educational workshops throughout the country. Over the years environmental issues such as deforestation, species extinction, forest fires, and climate change have been addressed by the members of ASVO as they have worked to expand their programs to different regions in the country.

The organization was founded on January 27, 1989 in the response to the growing realization that although Costa Rica is renowned for their natural resources and biodiversity, there was very little awareness around environmental protection by many people who lived in Costa Rica. Originally, ASVO focused on the preservation of national parks but as the program grew they expanded to include projects such as sea turtle conservation, community education and habitat identification.

For over 20 years, ASVO has been striving to call the people throughout Costa Rica to work together to stop the devastating environmental problems. In an attempt to address some of these issues, the members of ASVO have partnered with different Costa Rican schools, government agencies, community groups, local and international volunteer organizations and other environmental agencies. Through these partnerships the members of ASVO hope to raise awareness and encourage people to get involved to help solve these pressing issues.

The issues that ASVO are trying to address are very important for a number of reasons. In Costa Rica the government has allocated more than 25% of the countries land as National Parks or areas where ecosystems should be protected. The challenge is that the Costa Rican Government is unable to fund all the jobs, resources and supplies required to ensure that each area is constantly maintained, monitored and that required data that is needed to be collected from each park is conducted and kept up to date. Therefore organizations like ASVO play an important part in helping to achieve environmental objectives set out by the Costa Rican Government.

Although ASVO initiatives comprise of a number of different goals the three dominant ones include deforestation, illegal hunting or poaching of endangered species and promoting educational seminars to a wide range of people. Each of the above are important to address.

During the 1990's Costa Rica had one of the worst deforestation rates in Latin America. According to reports issued by "State of the World's Forests" at the beginning of the century they had approximately 99 percent of rain forest coverage that diminished quickly to 88 percent and by the 1940's the rain forest coverage was down to 35 percent. Now with the help of government initiatives and organizations like ASVO the current rain forest coverage is at about 50 percent.

The reason that forests where being cut down at such alarming rates were for two primary reasons: a) increased demand for cattle b) lush wood that could be exported to other countries who were wanting that commodity and it provide increased revenue for the country to improve things like infrastructure. There was a high demand from the United States for beef exported from Costa Rica which provided incentives for people to increase agricultural output and start cattle farms. Many historians believe that the increase demand for exported cattle was the the number one cause of the rapid decline in the cutting down of massive areas of rain forests.

Although deforestation has stopped dramatically, the existing forests are still under threat by illegal logging in protected zones, agricultural development in protected zones, and the need for increased environmental awareness projects to stop people from continuing to impact protected land areas.

The increase of deforestation has put a huge amount of pressure on existing ecosystems in Costa Rica. As trees were cut down the natural habitats for so many species became inhabitable. This causes growing concern and challenges because of Costa Rica's vast variety of wildlife that is found throughout the country. As a result the number of flora and fauna that are on the list of possibility of becoming distinct continually grows.

In recent reports from the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment and Energy have stated that more than 500,000 species live within the country. This represents 4 % of the total number of species estimated worldwide. As a result, Costa Rica is listed in the top 20 countries with the highest biodiversity in the world. Therefore, organizations like ASVO have an important role to help preserve the natural wonders of Costa Rica.

ASVO has been very successful at setting up grass-root initiatives that are designed to help increase patrolling of park grounds to ensure the park lands are kept safe; that endangered species like the leather-back turtle have a safe place to lay their eggs and a hatchery to monitor them when they are young plus creating educational seminars to various demographics. However, perhaps one of their greatest achievements is providing educational seminars to people whose livelihoods depend on illegal poaching or cutting down trees on protected land, by explaining the impacts this type of activity has on the ecosystems of Costa Rica. In many cases they have not only provided education but demonstrated alternative ways to make money so that they would not have to depend on poaching endangered animals as a way to make a sustainable income.

Does this organization have any religious affiliations?

ASVO does not have any religious affiliations and does not discriminate against individuals who do affiliate themselves with a particular religious sector.

When They Were Founded

This organization was started on January 27th 1989 by a group of concerned Costa Rica citizens which included several retired civil servants. The group believed that they needed to start actively promoting the importance of preserving the bio-diversity of their country to help ensure that the increase in pollution and population did not have drastic effect on the environment. Many of the original members remain on the board in advisory positions.

How Are They Funded

ASVO is currently funded by donations, government grants and private donations. They are always looking for new ways to generate money to improve ranger stations, equipment and data collection materials.

Donation Requests

Your time and enthusiasm are the most important things you can bring to this organization. Specific donations required will vary according to the project. Volunteers,(if interested), should inquire with the BaseCamp Program Coordinator in Costa Rica to receive a donation wish list that is appropriate to the specific project that they will be working at.

At head office, donations of laptops or desktop computers would be most appreciated, as well as any kind of office supplies.

Placement Location Information

Marino Ballena Park, Costa Rica

The Marino Ballena National Park is located in the south pacific coast at the footsteps of the community’s of Uvita – Bahia Ballena, in the province of Puntarenas, Osa, Costa Rica. The park pertains to the Area of Conservation for the Osa region and was officially declared as a Marine National Park in 1989. The park covers an extension of 110 land hectares and 5,375 sea hectares and is named after the humpback whales that migrate from mid July and October, and again in December through March from feeding and mating grounds in the north and south hemispheres to the warm tropical waters of Costa Rica. The objective of the park is to conserve the rich marine ecosystems that are found inside the park boundaries. The Marino Ballena National Park forms part of the 1% of Costa Rica’s protected marine territory; a country which has 11 times more marine territory than land, and contains at least 85 species that are endemic to its’ waters.

The Marino Ballena National Park is comprised of golden sandy beaches (playa uvita, playa arco, playa ballena, and playa pinuelas), rocky shorelines, cliffs, islands, mangrove ecosystems, rock and coral reefs.

The ranger station is composed of three little wooden buildings close to main road (Costanera Road). One building is the office for the administration, rangers and it has a little kitchen. The second building is a big bedroom for the ranger and the third building is for volunteers. The volunteers' room has two bunk beds and one bathroom.

There is a green area for visitor's camping.

Transfer From BaseCamp

Take a taxi to the Coca Cola bus station in San Jose. The bus to Uvita leaves at 6am and it goes directly to the park but it goes through Quepos area, where bus driver may ask to transfer but the fees is included on the original price.

Once in Uvita, ask the driver to drop you off at the entrance to the park.

Distance & Time

Distance from BaseCamp: 200 km
Travel Time from BaseCamp: 6:10

Weather in the Area

The weather in Costa Rica varies throughout the country. The country can be divided into seven climatic zones each with distinct plants and species. The variations in wildlife and scenery makes Costa Rica an ideal destination for people who enjoy nature.

The climate in Costa Rica is considered to be tropical because of the country's close proximity to the equator. With an annual average temperature around 25 to 35 degrees celsius Costa Rica is a fantastic place to go if you want to get away from the cold. The coldest months of the year in Costa Rica are November, December and January.

Costa Rica's weather is fairly constant and extreme variations in weather rarely occur. There is no winter or summer months in Costa Rica. Throughout the year there is always approximately 12 hours of light per day.

The park is hot, rainy and humid. The dry season lasts from the middle of December to the middle of April, with sporadic rains. The rainy season is from the middle of April to the middle of December.

City/Village Description

Marino Ballena National Park is a beautiful conservation reserve located in the province of Puntarenas on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. This stunning location is 270 acres (110 hectares) of land and is surrounded by beautiful white sandy beaches. The clear blue water, unique rock formations and diverse environment makes Marino Ballena National Park one of the most beautiful parks in the country.

The biodiversity in Costa Rica is known throughout the world and is a place where many unique animals and plants live. Over the past 20 years, the natural wonders of Costa Rica have drastically depleted due to the increase of deforestation and the increase demand on exported goods like coffee, electricity, and wood. As the natural resources of Costa Rica continue to deplete the Costa Rican government decided it was necessary to create large national parks all over the country to preserve the natural vegetation and resources.

Marino Ballena National Park was named after the Humpback Whale. The reason this name was chosen is because every year from December to April Humpback Whales migrate to this area to mate before heading north. The park was created to not only preserve the plants but to help ensure that the Humpback Whales would have a safe place to mate and would be protected from poachers. Other marine animals such as dolphins, green moray eels and iguanas are also found in this park.

One of the park attractions is the Tómbolo Punta Uvita; it is an extraordinary geological formation caused by the deposition of sand and earth (of biological origin), integrated with a chain of rocks that are mostly submerged. At low tide, from the air, it resembles the tail of a whale. A sight you should not miss.

Whale Island and Three Sisters, are part of the park's rock formations at depths from 6 to 20 meters, and home to several species such as lobsters and barracudas, among others. Also, this place is important for nesting sea birds and reptiles, such as penguins Pardos (S ula leucogaster), the Ibis Garza (Eudocimus albus), and the green iguana (Iguana iguana). Coral Reef Park has 18 species of coral, second in diversity in the country. Here you will find Núcura ( Porites lobata) in abundance, plus numerous other species like the Hunchback Parrotfish (Scarus Perricos), butterfly fish (Chaetodon humeralis), White-tailed Surgeon (Acanthurus xanthopterus ), the Tamboril (Diodon holocanthus), Lobsters, Starfish and Sea Fans. When diving you can see the Shark Fin Shark and the White Cat.

The park has several mangrove forests that line the rivers flowing to the sea, in estuaries you can see small fish and crabs plus enjoy the salt water. This ecosystem is a haven for breeding birds, fish and crustaceans like shrimp.

Playa Arco, is a small pristine white sand beach, protected by the only patch of primary forest coastal area, only accessible when the tide is low because it must pass a small cave.

Marino Ballena National Park demonstrates the biodiversity of the region. The different types of animals found at this park include the following: crabs, fish, lobsters, iguanas, howler monkeys, wild boar, and a number of different types of birds (among others).

Nearest Medical Clinic

Tomas Casa Casajus
1 km west from main entrance to town
Ciudad Cortes
TEL 1: 2788-8097
TEL 2: 2788-8160

Placement Address

50 Meters North From Bus Station
Marino Ballena Park
Costa Rica

Accommodation and Meals

All of our volunteers begin their stay in Costa Rica at our BaseCamp Center in San Jose. Given that this placement is more than a 1 hour 15 minute commute from BaseCamp, volunteers here will be living with a host family after your orientation. Living with a host family is an awesome experience for a person looking to really experience Costa Rica and its culture.

The following information outlines a brief description of life at BaseCamp and also what someone can expect living with a host family in Costa Rica.

If you think that living with a host family is not for you, then this placement might not be the best fit with what you are looking for. You should try completing our application. It's totally free and will allow our team in Costa Rica to come up with a list of exactly which placements they would reccommend for you based on your personal preferences, background, skills and interests.

BaseCamp Costa Rica

BaseCamp Costa Rica
BaseCamp Costa Rica Address

Ave 16 St. 39&41
Los Yoses Sur
San Jose, Costa Rica

BaseCamp Costa Rica Contact Details

Tel: 506-8763-9595
Tel: 506-4030-1891
Mobile: 506-8763-9595

Take a Tour of BaseCamp
Accommodation in Costa Rica

All volunteers on our program in Costa Rica start out at our BaseCamp Center. The center is located in the capital city San Jose, and is a fantastic place from which to start your adventure.

Once volunteers have finished their orientation, where they live depends largely on the location of their placement. If their placement is more than a 1 hour 15 minutecommute from BaseCamp, then the only accommodation option may be host families or volunteer lodges in the national parks. However, if the placement is within a 1 hour 15 minute commute, then volunteers can choose whether or not to stay with us at BaseCamp or live with a host family.

BaseCamp Costa Rica is located in the province of San Jose at Los Yoses area. This is a fantastic area closed to the University of Costa Rica, San Pedro Mall, banks, supermarkets, restaurants, embassies and stores. Walking distance to down town and only 30 minutes away from the Juan Santamaria Airport.

BaseCamp has four bedrooms and three wash-rooms. The beds are mainly bunk beds in dormitory style rooms. Pillows, sheets and blankets are provided. There is a large common area where movies, books and games are available to our guests and there is a patio with a nice set up. This is an ideal setting for reading, studying Spanish or just some quiet relaxation.

BaseCamp is where volunteers first come when they arrive in Costa Rica and where they live for at least the duration of their orientation and training. The meal plan at the centre is based on a 14 day rotating schedule of a variety of traditional dishes from around the country. This meal plan allows volunteers to gain comfort and familiarity with both Costa Rican food and meal etiquette before making the transition to living with a host family.

Orientation and language training sessions take place in the BaseCamp Center. Each day of orientation blends some workshops and lessons with a mixture of outings to explore and become familiar with transportation and knowledge regarding the city.

Living With a Host Family in Costa Rica

Living with a host family in Costa Rica is a fantastic way to gain a deep understanding of and appreciation for the people and customs of the country. Each home-stay will provide a bed and three meals per day for our volunteers. The majority of host families offer private rooms with only one or two volunteers living with the family.

In the case of a volunteer lodge or ranger station (which is often the only option for placements within a National Park), volunteers will be living in dormitory type accommodation and meals will be provided in a mess hall or dining area.

Living with a host family can greatly enhance your performance at your placement. For one, it will have a huge influence on the speed with which you gain familiarity with the local language. This, along with your deeper understanding of cultural practices and beliefs that you are likely to gain in this environment, can go a long way to improving or strengthening your relationships with your team mates at work. Furthermore, a significant percentage of our host families are closely affiliated with the organizations with which our volunteers work. As such, even the evening meal or hanging out around the house can become valuable time during which volunteers can share their ideas and continue their support of their host organization.

All of this being said, living with a host family is not for everyone. It is very important for volunteers to honor the house rules in their host family and to be punctual. Also, depending on how remote your placement location, host families can be very rustic. Our staff in country can give you a better idea of what exactly you can expect from a host family in any particular community. However, in general, if these things sound like they might pose a challenge for you, we strongly suggest that you look at a placement within commuting distance from BaseCamp Costa Rica.

How the Program Works

Our program structure and costing is completely flexible which lets our volunteers ensure that they only pay for exactly the degree of support that they want.

Option 1 - Free Services

Some volunteers prefer to coordinate their own accommodation, meals and other support while overseas.

Anyone is welcome to use our volunteer placement search tool to help in finding a placement that is well suited to their interests. Once someone finds a placement that they wish to work with, they are welcome to make all the rest of their arrangmeents on their own.

As well, our team of staff overseas are often able to offer a few helpful pointers for volunteers 'doing it on their own'. Just send us an email with your questions and we will put you in touch with our team abroad. We only ask that you keep your requests fairly general, as this type of advice is exactly how our team earn their living. :)

Option 2 - Placement Support - 250 USD

Other volunteers would like assistance in selecting and confirming their placement, but they plan to manage their own accommodation and other expenses on their own.

These volunteers have the option of choosing to only have our assistance with selecting and confirming their placement. This option also includes ongoing placement support while abroad, so a volunteer would be able to ask our team for help if things at their placement were not working out.

In providing Placement Support, our team works with each volunteer through email, telephone and either Skype or Google Hangouts, to ensure that each volunteer has a clear understanding of their placement options. Our in-country staff will put together a custom list of placement options for each volunteer that they believe are the most appropriate matches with the volunteer's background, skills and interests. Then each volunteer can work with our team both in Canada and abroad to go through each of the options and narrow-down their selection.

Option 3 - Full Program Support

For most volunteers who are volunteering for less than a year, they are looking for an option that includes their accommodation, meals, airport reception, country and program orientation and placement support. This is what our Program Fees are designed for.

We are proud of how over the years we have ensured that our program fees are amoungst the most reasonable of any program in the world while we continue to provide exceptional volunteer support both at home and abroad.

Our Program Fees and listings of what these do and do not include are listed below:

Program Fees

Program Fees - Costa Rica

  Registration Fee
  1 Week
  2 Weeks
  3 Weeks
  4 Weeks
  5 Weeks
  6 Weeks
  7 Weeks
  8 Weeks
  Additional Weeks

Costa Rica wildlife and conservation placements require an additional $7 USD per day fee to cover park fees and accommodation. All program fees are listed in US Dollars.

What is Included
  • Pre-Departure support
  • Placement consulation
  • Airport reception & transfer
  • 2 Day orientation
  • Accommodation (BaseCamp or host family)
  • Breakfast and dinner
  • Emergency & placement support

What is Not Included
    Before Departure
  • International flight
  • Travel medical insurance
  • Visa costs where required
  • Work permits where required
    While Overseas
  • Daily transportation to and from placement
  • Transport to airport on departure
  • Placement fees if requried

Placement Fee Alert

This placement has a placement fee!

In some cases, a placement will have to take on certain expenses in order to host a volunteer. For example, some medical internship placements take time away from paid medical staff to help with educational assistance. This has a cost that is compensated by a placement fee. In other cases, the organization may have to pay for additional equipment, energy consumption or other expense in order to put a volunteer to work.

In such cases, the organizaiton charges a fee. This fee is paid directly to the organization in cash on the ground.

One of the reasons that we keep this fee separate is so that volunteers who do not pay us for accommodation, meals etc (Program Fees), will see that they will still have to make this payment directly to the organizaiton upon their arrival.

The placement fee for this organization is: 50 USD

Program Dates


The following is a list of all months during which this placement is not available.

  • September
  • October
  • November

Our regularly scheduled program start dates are the first Friday of each month, every month of the year. We strongly recommend beginning your program on one of these dates as this will allow you to go through our orientation alongside other international volunteers.

If you would prefer, our application will also allow you to select a custom start date for your program. Keep in mind that there is an additional fee for a custom start date which ranges from 50 to 75 USD.

Feb 04, 2022 Mar 04, 2022 Apr 01, 2022
May 06, 2022 Jun 03, 2022 Jul 01, 2022
Aug 05, 2022 Sep 02, 2022 Oct 07, 2022
Nov 04, 2022 Dec 02, 2022 Jan 06, 2023
Feb 03, 2023 Mar 03, 2023 Apr 07, 2023
May 05, 2023 Jun 02, 2023 Jul 07, 2023
Aug 04, 2023 Sep 01, 2023 Oct 06, 2023
Nov 03, 2023 Dec 01, 2023 Jan 05, 2024


These dates are the day that volunteers should plan to arrive on the ground in country. We can accommodate arrivals in-country at any time day or night on these dates.

Give us a Call
Canada / USA 866-646-4693 (toll free)
UK 866-646-4693 (toll free)
Australia 866-646-4693 (toll free)
International 613-353-3000
Send us a Message