Volunteering in Costa Rica: The Most Rewarding Way to Travel

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There are so many ways to experience Costa Rica’s unique beauty.

Some choose to immerse themselves deep into the country’s special culture, becoming involved with the community and creating new friendships with the locals, Ticos. Some choose to explore the more mysterious and magical depths of the jungle, with the hopes of encountering some of the incredible wildlife it homes -possibly a puma having his daily nap, a coati foraging for his lunch, a tapir heading for water, or a squirrel monkey playing in the trees overhead. Some simply desire a peaceful and relaxing stay in an area so exotic and tranquil, some time to themselves to revel in the stunning landscapes, warm oceans and one-of-a-kind sunsets.

Others wish to experience all of these things and more. To contribute positively to this amazing place, giving back to the Costa Rican community and wildlife. That is why some of us choose to volunteer here in Costa Rica!

Through a volunteer work like science research to aid conservation we can feel lucky and proud to call the jungle, even just for a short time, our home. Frontier is a volunteer-driven NGO organisation focussed on the necessity to conserve, explore and educate is one of them. I have had the pleasure of living in Costa Rica and working as part of the Frontier family for almost three months now, on the Big Cats, Turtles and Primates project, and I couldn’t think of a more rewarding way to travel.

Volunteering in Costa Rica:  Living in the Jungle

We reside in the rainforest at a place we call Camp Osita, just on the outskirts of Corcovado National Park where the flora and fauna of North and South America converge to create a haven of unique biodiversity. It is from here that we conduct our research surveys. Using a total of eighteen different trails, we hike around carrying out field research on six big cat species, four species of sea turtle, four species of primates, countless mammals and an abundance of fascinating amphibians, reptiles and – not to forget the little guys, insects and arachnids. We also have an excellent chance to observe some of the 400 species of birds that have been recorded in the area, including Costa Rica’s largest population of the magnificent Scarlet Macaw.

Here in Costa Rica our volunteers help us work towards two main goals. Our first aim is to assess the presence and abundance of species outside of Corcovado National Park. We hope to use our research to provide MINAE (Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía) with the evidence necessary to implement a corridor between Corcovado National Park and Piedras Blancas National Park. This corridor would allow movement and gene flow of the species present in both parks. Our second aim is to assess the turtle nesting activity and predation rates on Carate and Leona beaches. We use bamboo nest covers to prevent dogs from predating turtle eggs. This study is also done in conjunction with our tide measuring studies to observe how rising sea levels influence turtle nesting behaviour.

Volunteering in Costa Rica:  Work and adventure

Of course, volunteering in Costa Rica comes with many adventures outside of our research work. Living as part of the community means that there is always something going on and we often spend time at the local lodges. At weekends we are able to fiesta with the locals to celebrate each good week of work, kayak on the lagoon at sunrise, play beach volleyball at sunset, or grab a delicious dinner and a relaxing yoga practise at Finca Exótica. Having Finca as a little hideaway within the madness of the jungle is always a treat, a fantastic place to wind down and take a deep breath, reminding you to stop for a moment and appreciate the beauty of your surroundings again. The people there are friendly and knowledgeable, always happy to help you to have the best stay possible. Living conditions on our Frontier camp are fairly basic and so it’s the little things like being welcomed into these beautiful places which really help to make our home in the jungle so great, and a visit to Finca is always the perfect way to reward yourself after a busy week of volunteering!

* Ellie Price  Fields Communication Officer, Frontier.