Park and Reserve Assistant Volunteer

ASVO - Piedras Blancas Park, Costa Rica
Quick Facts: Placement ID: IND-138 Location: Piedras Blancas Park, Costa Rica Sector: Wildlife and the Environment Category: Conservation Min Duration: 2 weeks 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 . There are 160 protected areas, of which 27 have been designated as national parks. Other areas are designated under different management categories such as wildlife refuges, biological reserves, national monuments, forest reserves, wetlands and protected areas. The Costa Rican progressive environmental policies and eco-tourism in the National Park System have been taken as a model of development in other countries.

National park volunteer assistant is needed to help develop and protect this tropical wet forest of Costa Rica. Although this park receives few visitors, the dense rain forest, beaches, and waterfalls need upkeep in order to retain their natural beauty.

Volunteers at this placement would help with the construction and/or maintenance of trails and buildings, accompany staff on controls walks and assist in the tourist division of the park.

At this placement, volunteers do not need to have experience in conservation but a good attitude and a keen interest to teach and learn about one of the most important protected areas in Costa Rica is necessary. Volunteers must be prepared to do physical labour and be able to work in the outdoor climatic weather in Costa Rica.

Volunteer Tasks Required

Maintenance & Construction of Trails

A national park volunteer assistant would be expected to assist staff in the maintenance and construction of trails. With regular influx all year around, trails need maintenance in order to keep them clear and clean for the visitors and rangers. These trails have been developed to keep visitors in areas where they can walk without any risk and will not come into the primary or secondary forest to interrupt the natural habitat of wildlife.

Control Walks

Rangers need the help of national park volunteer assistants on their daily control walks, as the more people on these walks the more intimidated potential poachers, (miners, hunters and loggers) feel. Most of the time, the walks are during the day.

Visitors Reception Area

Usually rangers have not had the opportunity to learn a second language and 75% of the visitors to the park are not Spanish speaking. English is the common language. A national park volunteer assistant may be asked to help the rangers in providing information to visitors to the park. This would include the rules and regulations of the park, the various trails and highlights they may see, as well as any other pertinent data.

Building & Other Minor Repairs

The ranger station is located in one of the most humid areas of the country where the deterioration of structures quickly occurs. A national park volunteer assistant may be asked to help with painting, fixing doors, tables, benches, chairs, as well as other minor repairs.

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

Piedras Blancas Park, Costa Rica

The Piedras Blancas National Park covers 30,000 acres of undisturbed humid tropical lowland primary rainforest and 5,000 acres of secondary forests, pasture land and rivers consisting primarily of hills of varied steepness, over one hundred stream valleys, a river plateau and coastal cliffs and beaches.

The station is not close to town so it is a very isolate placement. The building is next to Piedras Blancas river and the only way to get here is walking or riding a horse. The house does not have electricity 24 hours, they produce their electricity by solar panel. The two story wooden building has a small kitchen and a storage room on the first floor and bedrooms are located on the second floor.

The closest town is Piedras Blancas and Chacarita and they both offer basic services like little supermarkets and little restaurants. There is no banks or ATMs.

Transfer From BaseCamp

From the BaseCamp house, you will need to take a taxi to Golfito Bus Station in San Jose. the bus leaves at 5:30am and it takes five hours to get to Chacarita. You will need to ask the driver to drop you off at the Chacarita Gas Station.

Once there, the ranger will pick you up to go to the station. You will ride a horse for around 30 minutes to get into the station.

Distance & Time

Distance from BaseCamp: 288km
Travel Time from BaseCamp: 5:10

Weather in the Area

The seasons are not clearly defined, although most of the rain (100" to 150") falls during the rainy season (April to November). The average yearly temperature is around 80F (29º), oscillating between 70F and 90F. The air humidity remains at relatively high levels, permitting the growth of a large variety of ferns.

The Piedras Blancas National Park receives over 200 inches of rain annually; not surprisingly, its rainforest is thickly blanketed with all sizes, shapes and forms of plant and animal life.

City/Village Description

The entry for the Piedras Blancas National Park is through the small town of La Gamba, which lies along Costa Rica's southern Pacific coast near Golfito.

The Piedras Blancas National Park, formerly called Esquinas National Park or Corcovado Section II, was established in 1992 as an extension of the Corcovado National Park. The park borders the Golfito Forest Reserve in the East. In the West the park is connected with the Corcovado National Park by a forest corridor (Rincon) that unfortunately is highly threatened by illegal logging.

The Piedras Blancas National Park covers 30,000 acres of undisturbed humid tropical primary rainforest and 5,000 acres of secondary forests, pasture land and rivers consisting primarily of hills of varied steepness, over one hundred stream valleys, a river plateau, coastal cliffs and beaches. A study by Austrian biologists recently revealed that the diversification of tree species, counted in different areas of 10,000 sq.m each, exceeds the variety of trees found in the Corcovado National Park, making this area even more important to conserve.

Geologically the area consists mainly of a base of pillow basalts, 50 to 60 million years old, covered by different types of conglomerates dated an average of 1 to 2 million years old. The streams carry auriferous (containing gold) sands, fortunately with relatively low yields, thus gold mining has been only artisanal; in consequence it has not inflicted serious damage to either the streams or the surrounding forest. A common feature of the area is the abundance of ground water, sometimes found as shallow as 5 or 6 feet.

Different private scientific projects have chosen the remote area of the Piedras Blancas National Park for the reintroduction of the highly endangered scarlet macaw to establish a third self-sustaining population and the release of confiscated ocelots and margays formerly held as pets in private households.

Scientific research revealed that the flora at Piedras Blancas National Park is among the richest on the planet, encompassing several thousand different species of plants and hundreds of species of trees; some very rare and in danger of extinction. The trees are very similar to the Corcovado area and include: ceiba, nazareno, manú, fruta dorada, cristóbal, cedro macho, higuerón, mayo colorado, cerillo, maria, níspero, panamá, tostao, botarrama, camíbar, guabo, lechoso, guayabón, espavel, pochote, etc.

The fauna is composed of approximately 140 species of mammals, 350 species of birds, over 100 species of amphibians and reptiles and several thousands of species of insects. Five species of felines that live in Costa Rica: puma, ocelot, margay, jaguaroundi and jaguar as well as four species of monkeys: howler monkey, spider monkey, white-faced capuchin monkey and squirrel monkey. Further the common raccoon, coati, kinkajou, skunk, anteater, four-eyed opossum, collared and white-lippped peccary, paca, agouti, red-brocket deer, tayra and long-nosed armadillo, etc. More than 330 species of birds have also been identified in the different ecosystems of the area - including chestnut-mandibled toucans, fiery-billed aracari, several species of parrots, hummingbirds and trogons, crested guan, great curassow, king vulture, crested eagle, osprey, laughing falcon, black-cheeked ant-tanager, tiger-bittern, golden-hooded tanager, roseate spoonbill, boat-billed heron, northern jacana, spectacled owl, etc. Reptiles include the cayman, the American crocodile, fer-de-lance snake, bushmaster snake, several coral snakes, various species of poisonous frogs, glass frogs, several kinds of basilisks, ctenosaurus and iguanas are common.

The park neighbors the Golfito National Wildlife Refuge to the north, which itself protects a sizeable amount of evergreen forest. Within the Piedras Blancas National Park, rugged mountains and tropical forests are shaped by the Esquinas and Piedras Blancas rivers, which flow steadily before emptying into the Golfo Dulce. There are many waterfalls, as well as some seriously striking beaches. Just off the coast are many intact coral reefs, providing excellent places to snorkel and swim. Research in the park is ongoing, as there are still many unidentified plant and animal species, as well as findings that have indicated that there may have been several Costa Rican tribes living in the area during the pre-Hispanic period.

Nearest Medical Clinic

Hospital de Golfito
Barrio Alamedas
Piedras Blancas Park
TEL 1: 2775 7900
TEL 2: 2775 020

Placement Address

Golfo Dulce
Piedras Blancas 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

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.

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 Feb 02, 2024 Mar 01, 2024
Apr 05, 2024 May 03, 2024 Jun 07, 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
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