Sea Turtle Preservation Volunteer

Comite Pro-Futuro de Gandoca - Gandoca-Manzanillo, Costa Rica
Quick Facts: Placement ID: IND-601 Location: Gandoca-Manzanillo, Costa Rica Sector: Wildlife and the Environment Category: Animals and Wildlife Min Duration: 2 weeks Lodging: Host Family / Lodge Language: Basic Placement Fee: 50 USD
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Volunteer Job Description

Comite Pro Futuro de Gandoca protects the Leatherback Sea Turtle which is currently at a high risk of extinction. This project for a number of years was managed by a private, profit oriented organization that has now left the area.

The people in the town of Gandoca decided that the conservation of Leatherback Sea Turtles was very important in the sustainability and balance of ocean creatures, as well as a great source of income, through tourism, to their community. Therefore, they formed their own association.

In order to accomplish all the tasks in the turtle egg producing and hatching season, the project needs the assistance of volunteers. The sea turtle volunteers will help to preserve the Leatherback Sea Turtles by: helping to clean the beach, doing night patrols with staff, helping to take care of the hatchery and assisting in the release of newborns to the ocean. Volunteers are also needed to develop and implement seminars on the different aspects and approaches to the conservation of Leatherback Sea Turtles. These seminars would be conducted to the Gandoca community and visitors to the area.

There is no background requirement for this type of project The association is looking to host volunteers who are willing to give of their time and would enjoy the outdoor activities.

Volunteer Tasks Required

Night Patrols

Sea Turtle volunteers will walk areas of the beach to protect turtles/eggs from poachers and predators. Staff from the organization will accompany each sea turtle volunteer group. The reason why sea turtle volunteers are important to help with this job is because poachers try to gather the eggs or turtles during the night; so if there is a large patrol of people watching the shoreline the poachers will not approach the site as they know it is illegal to hunt sea turtles.

Night patrol duties, led by an experienced patrol leader, also includes searching for nesting females, and when found appropriate action is taken.

Eggs Reallocation

Sea turtle eggs are considered a delicacy and if not brought to the hatchery to be monitored they can easily be eaten by other animals or taken by poachers.

After the turtles lay their eggs on the beach, the sea turtle volunteers will take the eggs to the hatchery, where the volunteers on shift will help to build nests, (according to specifications) and transplant the eggs.

The number of eggs, nest location and turtle identification information, (tag number) is then recorded for further data analysis including their survival rate.

Hatchery Responsibilities

Sea turtle volunteers will assist in keeping the hatchery clean and protected from animals and poachers. When the eggs hatch the program coordinator is immediately notified.

The approximate incubation time for turtle eggs is 60 days, therefore midway through the season the duties of the hatchery attendants greatly increases.

Turtle Release

The newborn turtles need constant attention to ensure that they are continuously hydrated until they are released to the ocean.

Newborn turtles must be counted and released in the evening to an appropriate location along the high tide line and then watched until they reach the ocean and are safely swimming. Newborn turtles should never be released directly into the ocean..


During the night patrols it is important that sea turtle volunteers help the program coordinator with the adult turtles bio-metric measurements and keep a record of the turtles found.

It is also important to identify and account for turtle tracks on the beach.

Volunteers will document how many sea turtles are born and how many die so that the park's records remain current in monitoring the success rates.

Construction and Maintenance

Volunteers will help with general maintenance and repairs to hatcheries and help with the construction of new hatcheries when and if necessary. During the rainy season hatcheries need frequent maintenance.

Every sea turtle season a new hatchery is built in order to confirm that the hatchery is the right temperature for hatching eggs.

Beach Clean up

Sea turtle volunteers will help with beach clean up at least once a week to pick up the garbage and disposable items in the area. It is important to keep the beach free of debris so the turtles will not have any obstacles on their way to the right location to lay their eggs.

Host Organization Details

Comite Pro-Futuro de Gandoca

Comite Pro Futuro de Gandoca is a non profit association which was created to support the sea turtles that lay eggs on the beach and also to protect Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, which is a protected area in Costa Rica. The Comite Por Futuro de Gandoca helps with the organization of the night patrols and in the hatchery to protect the turtles and the hatchlings. They also provide environmental education to schools and the general community on the importance of sea turtle conservation.

The original project was founded for the protection of marine turtles and at the same time to help to improve the quality of life for the local community. When the project began, the community had depended on the illegal sale of turtle meat and turtle eggs for their livelihood. This happened out of necessity because that was the only way that families could make money and support themselves. The birth of the conservation idea implied taking from the community their only method of surviving, so the project had to guarantee that a monetary resource would constantly flow to the community that would adequately support them. The project promised to train the local people to work in the different areas and activities within the program thus generating constant employment.

The Gandoca Development Association was born, with the advice and support of ASVO.

When They Were Founded

They are active participators in the Gandoca Sea Turtle Project. Since the projects beginnings in 1984, poaching on their beach has dropped from near 100% to nearly zero. Volunteers stay at homes and cabinas in Gandoca, providing a viable source of income other than poaching, and offering an interchange of cultures that has enriched our community. When locals visualized they could live from another source and the government left them forgotten and apart, they decided to create the association pro help Gandoca, with the participation of Ibeth Sanarrucia and Gerardo Matute, they had a meeting with the whole community and this was how the Association was created.

How Are They Funded

When foreign companies left the Gandoca area, the community was concerned about the future of the sea turtles that come to the beach to lay their eggs. Gerardo Matute and Ibeth Sanarrucia decided to have a meeting with the community and at that time it was agreed to create," The Association Pro Help". This association funds the organization and they receive their funds from fees paid at the Wildlife Refuge as well as individual donations.

Donation Requests

They need night lamps, raincoats and rubber boots

Placement Location Information

Gandoca-Manzanillo, Costa Rica

Gandoca downtown is a tiny town with 150 people approximately at a remote area where life run very slow and most of the people who live on the area are relatives.

They decided to work together and protect the sea turtles, promote tourism and maintain the natural beauty of the community as much as possible at this rustic and remote location. All houses are wooden made with basic facilities like electricity, water, fans western toilets but with a lot of green areas around each house.

The area has not developed itself, and is still consider a virgin area where tourism is growing at a very slow level.

There is only one internet cafe thats opened a couple hours per day and there is no cell phone signal. There is only one small Pulperia (convenience stores), but it has very basic products. Fresh food and cool drink can be bought in the closest town.

Transfer From BaseCamp

Volunteers will need to take a taxi to San Jose to the San Carlos Bus Station (Street 12 Ave 7 & 9) where the bus to Sixaola departs. The bus leaves at 6 am and once in Sixaola, one member of the association will be waiting for the volunteer to continue to Gandoca by taxi. The taxi ride is for around 20 minutes and it has to be paid by the volunteer.

Distance & Time

Distance from BaseCamp: 226 Km
Travel Time from BaseCamp: 6:30

Weather in the Area

In this area, tropical-humid forest predominates, with an annual average precipitation between 4,500 to 6,000 mm, so it is considered one of the rainiest zones in the country.

The weather in this region ranges between 24 to 33 degrees Celsius, but it combines with humidity. Gandoca Manzanillo is on the Caribbean coast. This means it is hot with 100% humidity, it rains frequently and sometimes heavily.

There are mosquitoes and sand flies in the area, as well as Malaria and Dengue fever. The driest period is February through May.

There is no clearly defined rainy or dry season in the southern Caribbean, though the least rainy months tend to be September/October and February/March. Even during the drier months, afternoon or evening storms roll into the Gandoca-Manzanillo area.

City/Village Description

Gandoca is a small village very near the Panama border on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. There is no costal road leading all the way to Gandoca and the road stops at Manzanillo. Gandoca is accessed by car via the road leading from Sixaola, an inland town on the Panama border. Gandoca is definitely not a tourist town, and visitors there are quite rare. You are unlikely to include Gandoca on your travel itinerary, but we decided to include information on it as a curiosity.

Most of the people in Gandoca who work, work on commercial banana plantations.

Gandoca is a typical example of the fallout of banana operations. There's nothing happening in Gandoca. That is why few people go there.

Gandoca is really a beautiful place. Its most notable feature is the turtle conservation project that works there to protect the eggs of sea turtles. Huge sea turtles come to the beaches near Gandoca every year to lay their eggs in the sand. It is a truly awesome sight to behold, and many people are concerned with protecting these magnificent animals. Unfortunately, their eggs are considered a delicacy, so every year the turtle project works to move the eggs to safe sites and protect them from poachers. They welcome volunteers to help with this endeavour.

Gandoca is at the southern end of the Gandoca-Manzanillo wildlife reserve, and is situated next to some of the most beautiful, pristine wilderness areas in the region. The beaches are exquisite and the jungle is lovely. Eventually, a coastal road may be built all the way to Gandoca, opening it up to tourist traffic. This would greatly benefit the local people, as well as the tourists who would be given access to this beautiful spot. However, care must be taken to preserve the wilderness within the reserve, as it is home to some of the last remnants of the original Costa Rican wildlife and rainforest ecosystems.

This place is fairly isolated, however there is electricity but it goes out occasionally; as an isolated town there is no phone signal and no internet except for one house that has internet and they use it as an internet café.

In Gandoca there are no ATMs or supermarkets. If volunteers need an ATM, they would travel to Sixaola, around a 20 minute ride by car.

Nearest Medical Clinic

Clinica Daytonia
From the plaza in Daytonia 100 west
TEL 1: 2754 2085

Placement Address

Comite Pro-Futuro de Gandoca
From The Minae 100 Meters North
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.

  • January
  • February
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

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
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