Is Conservation volunteering in Costa Rica right for me?
This environmental sustainability project is ideal for thrill-seekers. Living in the forest, trekking through dense vegetation, and exploring sprawling cave networks is an adventure lover’s dream!
Animal conservation volunteering work in Costa Rica’s tropical dry forest is also perfect for you if you’re interested in environmental science, at home or abroad . You’ll gain practical skills studying plants and animals, which is great preparation for a career in botany or zoology. You’ll also be working closely with some of the top minds in conservation.
You don’t need any skills or qualifications to join. You just need to be physically fit and comfortable getting your hands dirty doing practical work. Our local staff will be there to support you 24/7.
The project runs all year round, so you can join whenever it suits your schedule. The minimum duration is one week, but we recommend staying longer to fully immerse yourself in life in the forest and have an even greater impact.
What will I do on this Conservation placement in Costa Rica?
You’ll spend your days assisting with conservation work in Barra Honda National Park. Here are some of the tasks you’ll do:
- Help with biodiversity studies to develop effective conservation strategies
- Run environmental education campaigns in surrounding schools and communities
- Combat climate change and restore natural habitats through reforestation work
- Do maintenance work to keep the park running
Your work will focus on four main areas:
A large portion of your time will be spent collecting data for biodiversity studies. You’ll work with experts to survey wildlife and record details about their behaviours and distributions. With this information, the park will be better equipped to develop effective conservation strategies.
Butterfly surveys are particularly important to learn more about climate change. By analyzing the altitude where different species are found, you’ll help create a clearer picture of how our planet is warming.
You’ll collect data during hikes through the dense forest, night walks, or conservation trips into the depths of the park’s cave network. Some of the species you’ll be surveying include:
- Scarlet macaws
You’ll also share your conservation knowledge with people in communities surrounding the park. This work ensures people continue to protect the reserve after you’ve finished your project. You’ll help communities appreciate the value of the forest and become dedicated to conserving it.
Through workshops, you’ll teach people strategies for eco-friendly living. This could include topics like how to start an organic farm or the importance of recycling.
Human expansion and forest fires, exacerbated by climate change, have caused the destruction of a large portion of Costa Rica’s forests. This has a devastating effect for a range of species. With much of their habitat destroyed, many animal populations have been drastically reduced.
You will help restore the habitat of many species. By working in the park’s tree nursery, you’ll care for young saplings until they are strong enough to be planted in the forest.
This reforestation work also helps combat climate change, by increasing the number of carbon dioxide-absorbing trees in the area.
Barra Honda relies heavily on volunteer support to continue their conservation work. As a volunteer, you’ll help with the running of the park. This could include tasks like clearing trails, maintaining fire breaks, or helping with general camp upkeep.
Although these seem like more menial tasks, they play an important role in the overall functioning of the park. For example, clearing trails means people will be less likely to walk through vegetation and disrupt the habitat of indigenous species.
For this project, we’ve partnered with government-run Barra Honda National Park. This partnership ensures the park has volunteers to support their important work. It also means our volunteers work alongside and learn from park staff, who are experienced professionals.
Where in Costa Rica will I work?
This project is based in Barra Honda National Park, a wildlife reserve in the northwest of Costa Rica. The park is located in the Nicoya peninsula, about a 25-minute drive from the town of Nicoya.
As a volunteer, you’ll live and work within the reserve. You’ll stay in shared volunteer accommodation in the heart of the forest. This is the perfect place to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of daily life and connect with nature.
During your free time, you can relax in a hammock, beneath the leaves of towering trees. Or challenge a fellow volunteer to a board game. With very little internet access, it’s the perfect opportunity to live in the moment, connect with fellow volunteers, and experience something completely different.
A typical day doing conservation work in Costa Rica
Your project work will run from about 8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. You’ll usually have a long lunch break from 12pm to 3.30pm. These hours might be different for some early morning tasks or late night bat surveys.
You’ll start your day with breakfast at 7.30am. Once you’ve eaten your fill in preparation for a busy day, you’ll begin your work.
In the morning, you’ll usually do activities that involve more manual labor. This is to take advantage of the cooler weather before midday. This includes tasks like clearing trails or working in the tree nursery.
You’ll have a long break, giving you a chance to have lunch and relax before starting up work again in the afternoon.
Afternoon tasks include things like running an awareness campaign at a local school or doing a monkey survey. On some evenings, you’ll have the chance to explore the forest in the dark. Armed with a flashlight and with our staff by your side, you’ll look for nocturnal animals or head down into an underground cave for a bat survey.
What are the aims and impact of Conservation volunteering in Costa Rica?
The main aim of this project is to support Barra Honda National Park, which relies heavily on volunteer assistance. In line with this aim, your biggest task is collecting data to help inform the park’s conservation policies.
Despite being a relatively small country, Costa Rica contains 5% of the world’s species biodiversity. This means that a wide range of species rely on the ecosystems here to survive.
Experts estimate that around 90% of the forest around the park has been destroyed. The animals that live here are threatened by deforestation and climate change.
To help address these issues, we’ve created a specialized management plan for this project. This plan outlines long-term goals that our volunteers strive towards. These goals are:
- Collect data on indigenous species to give insight into effective conservation strategies
- Plant trees to restore the tropical dry forest ecosystem
- Raise awareness of the vital role this ecosystem plays to reduce negative human impact
Join us in Costa Rica and help us work towards our sustainable goals.
We set out the aims and objectives of our projects in documents called Management Plans. We use them to properly plan the work you’ll do. They also help us measure and evaluate our achievements and impact each year.
Ultimately, our Management Plans help us make our projects better. This in turn means you get to be part of something that makes a real impact where it’s needed. Read more about our Management Plans.
Measuring our impact
Our projects work towards clear long-term goals, with specific annual objectives. Every volunteer and intern we send to these projects helps us work towards these goals, no matter how long they spend on our projects.
Every year we take a step back and look at how much progress we've made towards these goals. We put together a Global Impact Report, which documents our achievements. Find out more about the impact our global community of volunteers, interns and staff make, and read the latest report.
Leisure activities and free time
With more than 25% of its land protected in national parks, Costa Rica is a nature lover’s paradise. It has everything from volcanoes to tropical rainforests, and magnificent waterfalls to beautiful sandy beaches. This tiny country is also renowned for its biodiversity and boasts an array of wildlife.
The vibrant city of Heredia, where most of our projects are based, is situated in the heart of Costa Rica’s coffee-growing country. With its large student population and close proximity to the exciting capital city of San Jose, Heredia has an active cultural and social scene.
You can easily reach the impressive Poas and Irazu volcanoes on a day-trip from Heredia. Many other popular tourist destinations, such as Arenal volcano and Monteverde cloud forest, are only a few hours bus ride away.
You're never far from the coast in Costa Rica. Spoilt for choice by the number of idyllic beaches, you'll have plenty of opportunities for water-based activities like surfing, swimming, or scuba diving in your free time.
There will likely be other volunteers in Costa Rica with you. So you can choose to explore on your own or as a group.
Safety and staff support
Your safety and security is our prime concern. We have many procedures and systems to ensure you have the support you need to enjoy your trip with peace of mind. Our Projects Abroad staff are available 24 hours a day to help, and will be on-hand to make sure you settle in well at your accommodation and placement. If you encounter any problems, they will be available to help at any time.
Find out more about safety and backup.
Meet the team in Costa Rica
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