Park and Reserve Assistant Volunteer

ASVO - Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica
Quick Facts: Placement ID: IND-289 Location: Tortuguero National 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

For the first time in its existence, Tortuguero seems to have a future full of promise. In the past, people have endured economic cycles of timber, hunting, fishing and agriculture. Tortuguero National Park offers an alternative to that life, which was so unstable. In recent years efforts have been made to organize and educate the people for the increase in tourism and to protect the area's natural resources.

Volunteering has an important role in helping to monitor and maintain the natural resources in the park, as well as to help with environmental educational projects for the people.

Tortuguero National Park is the third most visited park in Costa Rica, despite the fact that it can only be reached by aeroplane or boat. The exceptionally high rainfall and rich environment, where the freshwater meets the sea makes the beaches, canals, lagoons and wetlands of Tortuguero, areas of exceptional biodiversity. Many tourists come during the turtle season and the rangers need help to be able to take care of the many demands at the park.

Over 25% of the land in Costa Rica has been designated as protected areas. The Costa Rican Government can not afford to provide enough staff and resources at the parks, as the demand and costs are too high.

National park volunteer assistants are greatly appreciated at Tortuguero because of the large number of visitors the park receives and therefore the need for extra assistance to help maintain the park, as well as to ensure that endangered sea turtles are monitored and provided a safe place to lay their eggs. In addition volunteers are important to ensure that there is adequate staff available to: guide, complete daily tasks and do patrols of the park to prevent illegal poaching and/or logging.

Volunteers play an important role in the protection of the biodiversity of this park and assisting the rangers to help make the park always accessible and clean.

National park volunteer assistants do not need specialized studies or work experience in conservation at Tourtuguero National Park but they should have a keen interest in conservation issues and the protection of the flora and fauna that are within. Volunteers must be able to do manual labour and work outdoors in the climatic weather of Costa Rica.

Volunteer Tasks Required

Maintenance & Construction

With the regular influx of visitors all year, trails need constant maintenance in order to keep them clear and clean. A national park volunteer assistant would be expected to help in this never ending task. These trails are made to keep visitors in areas where they can walk safely and not interrupt the natural habitat of wildlife.

Control Walks

The park protects the vital nestling grounds for green sea turtles (June-October), giant leatherback turtles (Mid February-July), and female hawksbill turtles (July-October).

The Caribbean Coast has traded in the illegal sale of turtle meat and eggs for many years and the egg extraction levels on some unprotected beaches of Costa Rica are still extremely high -- up to 100% in some of the unprotected areas, showing that there is still a demanding market in many countries for turtles, eggs and their by-products. Rangers may request the help of volunteers with the control patrols in this park.

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.

General Infrastructure Maintenance

The humidity causes quick deterioration of structures thus buildings need constant maintenance. A national park volunteer assistant may be asked to help with general maintenance activities in the park which may include basic repairs on buildings, painting and other minor repairs as deemed necessary.

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

Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Tortuguero National Park is located at one of the most remote areas in the Caribbean side of Costa Rica but also it is one of the most visited national parks. The only way to get to town is by boat through the canal or from Limon downtown by the coast. Volunteers will be shown how to get to the area.

The station is located at Robles-Kaufman town which is 400 meter before the entrance to the national park and walking distance to the beach. The town has only one little convenience store but there is a internet cafe in Tortuguero downtown.

The house has a capacity for six people only at a shared accommodation. There is a little kitchen where one ranger prepares the meals.

Transfer From BaseCamp

From the BaseCamp house, take a bus to San Jose and get off at the last bus stop. From there, turn to the right and walk four blocks until you find the Caribeños Bus Station. Buy the bus ticket to Cariari. The bus leaves at 9am and it takes 2 1/2 hours to get to Cariari.

In Cariari, take the bus to La Pavona/La Geest, the bus station is located 300 meters north from the San José station, ask for the old terminal.

Go to the last stop and take the public boat in the route La Geest – Tortuguero. Before you get in tell the captain that you are going to get off at Tortuguero National Park. There you will meet the field coordinator who will take you to the installations.

Distance & Time

Distance from BaseCamp: 254 km
Travel Time from BaseCamp: 7:15

Weather in the Area

Tortuguero is warm and humid. Daily temperatures average 26 degrees C (79 F) and annual average rainfall is over 5,000mm (200+ inches). Warm days are tempered by trade winds and cool nights.

The typical day will start with a clear morning with afternoon thunder showers. At night it most likely will rain.

City/Village Description

Tortuguero National Park, is located in the Humedal Caribe Noreste region on the Caribbean coast, about 84 km northwest of Limon. Praised for its natural beauty and rich biodiversity, Tortuguero National Park, is the third most visited conservation park in Costa Rica, despite the fact that one must take a plane or boat to get there.

Tortuguero National Park was created in 1972 and over the years as they developed the trails within the park, learned about the various wildlife that live in the protected park and developed amenities for visitors; it has become a major attraction for visitors to Costa Rica to come and explore. As a result the economy in the area has become more stable and more job opportunities have been created as facilities such as hotels and restaurants opened to cater to different tourists.

Visitors to the park are amazed at the incredible biological diversity, the seemingly endless beach and the coastal rain forest. The park boasts eleven different habitats, including rainforest, swamps, beaches, and lagoons. The park is comprised of over 46,900 acres, including 35km of protected beach from the mouth of the Tortuguero River south to Parisimina. The protected beach is a very important part of this park because sea turtles and other animals come to this beach to lay eggs or to live during certain times of the year. The park, and the Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge to the north, comprise the largest remaining adjoining tract of lowland wet tropical forest on Costa Rica's Atlantic Coast.

Tortuguero National Park, provides shelter to an array of wildlife including the endangered sea turtles such as the leatherback, loggerhead and green turtles. There are more than three hundred different type of birds, fifty-seven species of amphibians, over one hundred species of reptiles, and sixty mammal species which comprise thirteen of Costa Rica's sixteen endangered species including jaguars, ocelots, cougars, tapires, river otters, and manatees.

The wide-open canals make viewing easier than at many other parks - superb for spotting crocodiles, giant iguanas, basilisk lizards basking atop the branches, swallow-tailed hawks and vultures swooping over the treetops, and caimans luxuriating on the fallen raffia palm branches at the side of the river.

Today tourism is Tortuguero's main industry and is increasing. That has facilitated the construction of several hotels, and many of the families rent booths and offer meals to tourists. There are over 100 local guides who offer visitors tours of the area.

Nearest Medical Clinic

Hospital Tony Facio
Limón downtown
TEL 1: 506 758 1056
TEL 2: 506 758 7334

Placement Address

Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero National 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.

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