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Conservation Volunteering in Costa Rica

Project Overview
  • Placement location: Barra Honda National Park
  • Role: To help with the conservation of local wildlife, conduct maintenance work and run conservation education programs.
  • Requirements: None
  • Main Research Focus: Bats, birds, scarlet macaws, butterflies, and trees
  • Local Environment: Dry Tropical Forest
  • Accommodation: Volunteer dormitories within the park
  • Length of placement: From 1 week
  • Start dates: Flexible

The Projects Abroad Conservation & Environment project in Costa Rica in Barra Honda National Park is in need of volunteers with a passion for wildlife and protecting the environment. Volunteers will get the chance to work in an incredible environment and contribute to important ongoing work.

As a volunteer on this project, you will be researching local wildlife and doing vital maintenance work. You can help with the conservation of numerous species of bats, reptiles, birds, scarlet macaws, and mammals such as coatis and ocelots. This all takes place under the guidance and supervision of our experienced local staff.

No previous experience is needed to take part in this project. Volunteers are welcome on a gap year, a career break, for university research, or as part of a volunteer summer vacation.

Barra Honda National Park boasts 2,295 acres of tropical dry forest and is about 4 hours’ drive from Heredia and 20 minutes from the nearest town, Nicoya. One of the main attractions for visiting tourists is the fantastic network of underground caves and caverns.

Click here to learn 10 Key Facts about Conservation in Costa Rica

Conservation & Environment Volunteering in Costa Rica

Projects Abroad volunteer works with staff member on a reforestation project in Costa Rica

Volunteers on this project can take part in tasks such as:

  • Helping with wildlife research, including surveying and monitoring bats, birds, scarlet macaws, mammals, and butterflies. Current methods include using automatic sensor cameras for our mammal and mist nets to capture bats at night.
  • Blue Flag Project: supporting local schools working to obtain the ecological Blue Flag award by helping them to build biogardens and recycling centers and assisting in environmental education projects in schools and local communities
  • Constructing, maintaining, and extending trails within the park
  • Recording meteorological information
  • Mapping trails, rivers, and other important areas in the park
  • Maintenance of the park's nursery garden which provides native species of trees to be used in reforestation activities
  • Maintenance of fire breaks (dry season)
  • Building Costa Rica’s first national park biodigester to supply biogas.

Projects Abroad volunteers move trees to be planted as part of a reforestation project in Costa Rica

Volunteers on average work for around six hours a day. The day often starts early in the morning when wildlife is active, although volunteers are split into teams. This means that certain teams will be researching at night while others are on the morning shift. The middle of the day is normally devoted to rest and relaxation to avoid the midday heat.

During your time volunteering at Barra Honda you will also receive a series of lectures from the knowledgeable staff you will be working alongside. Topics will range from broader conservation issues to specific flora and fauna found in the park. Everyone on the conservation team in Costa Rica is a qualified biologist or natural resource manager and all are ‘Ticos’ (Costa Ricans).

The temperature at Barra Honda is warm year round, but there are wet and dry seasons. The wet season runs from about May to November, though the rains are becoming less predictable. Work is performed all year round on this project, but there are variations due to the ecology of the species we work with. There is always plenty for volunteers to do, no matter what time of year you arrive.

Volunteer Profile Volunteer Aphra E. shares her volunteer review from the Conservation project in Costa Rica
Aphra E.
The conservation work consisted of working closely with butterflies, maintaining the park’s various trails and tracks, projects involving the bat population, monitoring the various animals’ habitats and working with the local community towards a shared goal, a better future. Read more...

The Goals of Conservation & Environment in Costa Rica

Volunteers survey natural lands in Costa Rica on the Conservation project

The main aim of this project is to help ensure that the beautiful and diverse natural resources of Costa Rica are not destroyed. Currently over 25% of Costa Rica is devoted to the conservation of plants and wildlife - more than any other country in the world. Ecotourism has become important too, bringing in over one billion US dollars per year. However, as tourism becomes a major industry, the risk of environmental damage increases.

Projects Abroad volunteers have an important role to play in Costa Rica's National Parks. These protected areas are under-funded and can only employ a few full time staff. Your presence as a volunteer gives them the extra hands needed to work on larger and more significant projects. The work of volunteers also allows for work on new research initiatives, such as identifying new species of butterflies and bats or helping with reforestation. The team of volunteers and staff at Barra Honda also give support and assistance to other national parks from time to time.

Another key issue is environmental education work with local schools and communities that border the national park. The aim here is to raise awareness of the projects taking place within the park and conservation issues in general. This way volunteers are able to contribute to the wider community by helping local people to understand the importance of conservation in their area. Projects Abroad is currently on track to receiving our national Blue Flag award from the Costa Rica government for our environmental education program.

You can read more detailed information about the aims of the project in our Costa Rica Conservation Management Plan.

Food and Accommodation for Conservation Volunteers

Parque Nacional Barra Honda, a Projects Abroad Conservation partner

Environmental volunteer work in Costa Rica

Volunteers live within the park in camp along with our staff accommodation, offices, and kitchen. There are four dormitory style rooms that sleep up to 6 volunteers. The rooms are basic, and have a bathroom attached with a cold water shower, toilet, and sink. There are also fans to help keep you cool during the day and night and shelves to put your things on. The camp has a main dining and gathering area with tables where everyone eats together. There is also a TV and DVD player in this area.

The park also has a fully equipped kitchen next to the dining room. The Projects Abroad cook is very friendly and is always happy to make special meals for people who have any specific food requirements. She is also always on board to help anyone improve their Spanish or their dancing.

Just outside the park's protection limits (about 5 minutes’ walk), although still on the park's land, there is a large soccer field that is free to use. There is also a small bar with a swimming pool that volunteers can use for a small fee. The park also possesses a breath-taking look-out point which offers impressive views of the valleys of the Tempisque River and some of the islands in the Gulf of Nicoya. Many of Costa Rica’s beautiful Pacific beaches are in easy reach of the nearby town of Nicoya.

For more details on this project, see our Additional Project Info and Monthly Updates sections.

This project is available for less than a month if you don't have time to join us for a month or more. This project has been selected by our local colleagues as being suitable for shorter durations for both the host community and the volunteer. Although you will gain valuable cultural insight and work intensely within the local community please be aware that you may not be able to make the same impact as someone participating for a longer period.

If you are a high school student and first-time traveler you may want to consider our High School Special programs in Costa Rica.

Additional Project Info Monthly Updates Management Plan, Data & Reports

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