Janine in Costa Rica – Volunteering in the Turtle Protection and National Park Project
“It was great to meet a lot of new people and exchange ideas about different cultures and interests.”
Our participant Janine planned her stay abroad in Costa Rica with one month of volunteering followed by one month of free travel time. As a volunteer she supported the Turtle Protection Project in Montezuma and the National Park in Tortuguero and was able to meet great people and make beautiful excursions in the surroundings.
MY PREPARATION AND FIRST DAYS
I booked my trip about 2 months before my departure and also prepared for the upcoming adventure during this time. The preparation package from WanderWorld Travel helped me a lot, so I didn’t forget anything important.
I spent the first 2 days together with 3 other volunteers in the capital. Through the introductory event we learned a lot about the country, the city and also the culture. We went to the market together with Lisa and tried unknown fruits. We also got our SIM card and set it up together. I then went to the project by bus together with the other volunteers. On site, we were shown the facility and the daily routine was explained. We girls slept in a common room and shared a bathroom. There was a terrace where we ate and some hammocks where you could relax after work.
A NORMAL DAY IN THE PROJECT
Since we were in the Turtle Project during the off season of the turtle season in Montezuma, we didn’t get to see too many turtles. Our main task was to change the sand where the turtle eggs were buried. The fenced part with the eggs is called “Hatchery”. We did this mostly in the morning when there was still shade on site.
We also saw many other animals like iguanas, monkeys and lots of geckos. We could also eat mangos fresh from the tree. There was also a cat and a dog (Luna). The dog always accompanied us to the Hatchery and we played a lot with her. When we weren’t changing the sand in the Hatchery, we were cleaning the volunteer house or doing maintenance work. Occasionally we went to the school in the village and cleaned up the leaves that accumulated there.
We supported the project with our work and thus contributed to the continuation of the important work of the project and the protection of the turtles.
In the national park project in Tortuguero we have worked a lot in the garden, tidying it up and putting in new plants. There is also a greenhouse, there the vegetables and fruits have to be watered every day. Otherwise, we were at the entrance of one of the two sectors of the national park and controlled the tickets of the visitors and pointed out rules of behavior to them. There we could explore the canals on our own by kayak, walk through the village of Tortuguero or the national park and go to the beach.
MY FREE TIME
After work we went to the beach (e.g. Playa Grande) or played cards. On a free day we made a trip to Isla de Tortuga, there you could snorkel and later we had lunch on the island. I really liked the trip to Isla Tortuga because the nature was so beautiful, we saw a lot of great animals and had a great time together. We also went to the waterfalls in Montezuma several times, you can see 3 different waterfalls there and jump into the water from the top. I liked Montezuma a lot, the endless beaches are so impressive. And in the evening on the beach you could see an insane number of stars and sometimes even the Milky Way!
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE CULTURE
The people in Central America are very friendly and helpful. I never felt threatened or not safe. It was great to meet many new people and exchange ideas about different cultures and interests. I was also very impressed that people there can really eat gallo pinto, which is rice with beans, for every meal.
MY TIP FOR FUTURE TRAVELERS
I would recommend just surprising yourself and letting it come to you. You should definitely be open to everything and enjoy talking to new people. You should be prepared to live very close to nature, so there are a lot of animals around you all the time, even some that you might not necessarily want to be around. The circumstances in Central America are much simpler than in Europe, but you get used to it quickly and realize that you can get along just fine.
Time runs slower there than in Europe, everything is more relaxed and not taken quite as seriously. Bus times are also sometimes more of a rough guide as to when the bus will arrive.
You really have to adjust to the fact that you can’t plan everything in advance, but sometimes it’s nice to just go for it and let it come to you. After a while I got totally used to it and traveled around much more relaxed. You can always count on getting help when you ask locals for directions or bus times. Here it is very advantageous to speak a little Spanish, because not all people know English.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE JOURNEY
Through the trip you learn so much, especially when you are traveling alone for the first time. In general, you learn an insane amount about the other culture and life there, the different food, lots of fresh fruit, etc. I think I’ve become a little more confident now to travel alone and also that you don’t always need the perfect plan to experience great things.
After being in Costa Rica, I really want to see more countries in Central America. I heard a lot of good things about Guatemala and Mexico and I definitely want to go there.