Park and Reserve Assistant Volunteer

Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve - Cabuya, Costa Rica
Quick Facts: Placement ID: IND-133 Location: Cabuya, 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. This natural treasure is protected by the National System of Conservation which covers 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. Costa Rica's progressive environmental policies and eco-tourism policies in their National Park System have been taken as a model for development in other countries.

According to the digital magazine, Eroski Consumer, Costa Rica ranks third as one of the most ecological countries in the world. This release is based on the results of the Environmental Performance Index 2010 from the Colombia and Yale Universities in the United States. Costa Rica, was ranked third for its natural wealth, which allows it to survive, in large part, off of eco-tourism. It has also avoided deforestation, which has devastated other Latin American countries and therefore, scored well in forestry, agriculture and fishing categories.

However, despite the fact that Costa Rica has strong natural resources and conservation policies supporting the protected areas; there is a strong lack of staff because the government can not afford to keep each place actively operating and adequately supplied with personnel.

This placement needs natural reserve conservation volunteers to help protect one of the last remaining areas of dry tropical forest in transition to wet tropical forest in Costa Rica. Development of a maintenance program for the park's trails is crucial. However, due to a lack of personnel, volunteers would also be required to help staff with: the patrols, education of visitors to the park and beach clean up, (very important as sea turtles lay their eggs in some areas of the beach).

Natural reserve conservation volunteers do not need any environmental studies or experience but they must be willing to walk long distances and do hard work. This placement is ideal for nature lovers.

Volunteer Tasks Required

Trail Maintenance

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 natural reserve conservation volunteer would be to participate in this endeavour.

Control Walks

This park was the first national park in the country. However, like most parks it still has the problem of people invading the forest to hunt and to cut down trees. Because it is known by all, that control walks are done by the rangers, this problem is kept at a minimum. Natural reserve conservation volunteers would be expected to accompany rangers on their control walks during the day.

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, natural reserve conservation volunteers would be expected to 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 very close to the beach and there is a camp-site where visitors can stay overnight. Natural reserve conservation volunteers would be expected to assist with beach clean up from organic and non organic trash. This beach clean up is also important to maintain a clear passage for sea turtles on their route to and from the sea.

Host Organization Details

Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve

The Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve encompasses 1,270 hectares of mixed forest, which is classified as moist tropical forest. About 150 species of trees have been identified. Evergreen species predominate, but deciduous dry forest species are found as well. Among the most common trees are Lance Wood, Bastard Cedar, Wild Plum, Gumbo-Limbo, Trumpet, Dogwood and Frangipani. The most abundant type of tree is the Spiny Cedar (Pochote) with specimens over 40 m high. Another impressive tree is the Silk Cotton Tree (Caoba) which can tower up to 60 m. The unique climate and geographic location of Cabo Blanco also hosts rare tree species like the Camibar which are not found elsewhere on the Nicoya Peninsula.

The majority of Cabo Blanco consists of "secondary forest" which means that the trees are around 60 years old or older. The remaining patch of primary forest accounts for 15% of the area and is located at the inaccessible highest point of the reserve.

The forest is home to a large variety of animals like White-Tailed Deer, Pacas, Armadillos, Anteaters, Howler, Capuchin Monkeys, Coyotes, Porcupines, Raccoons and Coatis. There are also wild cats like Ocelots, Jaguarundis and Margay cats but you are less likely to see them in the wild.

Around 150 species of birds have been recorded in Cabo Blanco. Apart from seabirds you can see Magpie Jays, Motmots, Long-Tailed Manakins, Cattle Egrets, Crested Caracaras, Elegant Trogons, White Bellied Chachalacas, Ringed Kingfishers and Sulphur-Winged Parakeets.

Cabo Blanco is an important seabird sanctuary, inhabited by large numbers of Brown Pelicans, Frigate Birds, Laughing Gulls, Common Terns, Ospreys and Costa Rica's largest community of Brown Boobies.

The abundance of bird life only matches the wildlife found under water. 1,788 hectares of ocean belonging to the protected area of Cabo Blanco hosting many fish and large quantities of lobsters, giant conches and oysters.

Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve's main OBJECTIVE is to preserve the important wildlife in their area of the country. It is a national park but under a different category since it was the first national park of the country.

To preserve Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve, constructions, hunting and any other human activity cannot be develop inside of the area. The rangers have the responsibility to police the area in order to make sure that people respect the protected area.

When They Were Founded

In the fifties the government of Costa Rica encouraged settlers to "develop" pieces of land on the isolated southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula. For clearing a piece of land, settlers were rewarded with ownership. Within a few years most of the dense woodland of the peninsula had been "cultivated".

In the early sixties the Swede, Nicolas Wessberg, (also known as Olaf or Olle), came to Costa Rica with his Danish wife Karen Mogensen. They bought a farm near Montezuma and Olaf Wessberg often went to Cabo Blanco to collect seeds for their orchard.

By this time only a small piece of primary forest was left on Cabo Blanco. Impressed by the abundant wildlife and the enormous size and diversity of trees there, Nicolas Wessberg decided to attempt to preserve this area. With the aid of conservation organizations abroad he bought 1,250 hectares of land and after persistent talks with the Costa Rican government the status of an Absolute Nature Reserve was given to Cabo Blanco in 1963.

The Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve was the initial step in the development of Costa Rica's extensive national park system which led to the country's successful ecotourism.

Who They Work With

They work with all the communities in the country

How Are They Funded

All conservation areas in Costa Rica receive funds from the government that has been generated from entrance fees but it only covers 25% of their needs. The rest of the funds come from donations from national and international private companies.

Donation Requests

They need and would appreciate the following items: rubber boots, flashlights, ponchos, tents, machetes, plastic bags and gloves.

Placement Location Information

Cabuya, Costa Rica

Cabuya is a very small town with around 1500 people. Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve is located at the end of the main road that comes from downtown Cobano, other Peninsular towns, Puntarenas and San Jose. It is a remote area.

The ranger office is located at the entrance of the park where visitors pay the entrance fee and get the map to walk around the trails. Behind the office, the ranger house is located. The house has a large dinning area for volunteers and rangers. There are two bathrooms, one kitchen, two offices, a storage room and three bedrooms.

At a short distance the house for volunteers can be found, which is a wooden building with capacity for 20 people divided in eight bedrooms and bunk beds. There are four bathrooms available for volunteers.

Back in town, volunteers can find only one convenience store (Pulperia) and one restaurant, there are two small bed and breakfasts. There is no internet cafes.

Transfer From BaseCamp

From the BaseCamp house, volunteers will need to go to San Jose by taxi to catch the bus that goes to Montezuma at 6am. The bus leaves from Street 12 between Ave 7 & 9.

You will not need to get a ticket in advance, you will pay directly to the bus driver. The bus ride will be in parts.

First part of the trip will be from San Jose to Puntarenas, it lasts 2.5 hours. Once in Puntarenas all passengers have to get off the bus to get to the ferry to continue to Paquera. The ferry ticket is not included on bus fees. You will buy the ticket in front of where the bus stop and the ferry leaves 15 minutes later. Before to get off the bus, you will not need to get your luggage back because after the ferry you will take the same bus again.

After the ferry trip, you will go back to the bus to continue to Cobano.

In Cobano, bus driver will ask the passengers who go to Montezuma to switch buses. At this point to need to get your luggage.

The bus ride from Cobano to Montezuma is only 15 minutes. Once in Montezuma, you will need to wait 15 minutes for the bus to continue to Cabuya.

This bus will take you to the last stop which is one 500 meter before the park.

Distance & Time

Distance from BaseCamp: 305
Travel Time from BaseCamp: 5:0

Weather in the Area

The average temperature in this area is 33 degrees Celsius, the average minimum is 23 degrees Celsius. The average precipitation is 3029mm, and the humidity is approximately 82%. The driest months of the year are March and April, while the wettest months are September and October. The area is one of the hottest areas of the country.

City/Village Description

The Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve is situated at the extreme southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. With its unique combination of climate and geographical location, it ranks among the most beautiful nature reserves in Costa Rica.

Cabo Blanco, holds a special place in the history of National Parks in Costa Rica. It was the first protected area of the country, established in 1963.

The reserve has 1250 hectares of land. It extends one kilometer from its shoreline protecting the surrounding water and marine life. Since the times of the Conquistadores it has been known as the "White Cape" because encrusted guano covers the rocks in dry season. This sea bird sanctuary, off limits for visitors, is inhabited by large numbers of brown pelicans, frigate birds, laughing gulls, common terns and Costa Rica's biggest community of brown boobies birds. Brown Boobies are spectacular divers, plunging into the ocean at high speed. They mainly eat small fish or squid which gather in groups near the surface and may catch leaping fish while skimming the surface. Although they are powerful and agile fliers, they are particularly clumsy in takeoffs and landings; they use strong winds and high perches to assist their takeoffs.

Cabo Blanco is a clear example that proves that forests can regenerate.

Nearest Medical Clinic

From Banco Nacional 100 north
TEL 1: 2642-0208

Placement Address

Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve
End Of The Road To Cabuya
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
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UK 866-646-4693 (toll free)
Australia 866-646-4693 (toll free)
International 613-353-3000
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