Tortugas de Pacuare turtle conservation project, funded by Costa Rican people 100% Local program
Member of the Association non-profit asvpa (Association of volunteers for environmental protection)
Our main mission is to protect sea turtles. With the support of the local community and the international volunteers, coming from all over the world, we work to help conserve the environment. By working with sea turtles, with communal and environmental education programs, we will be able to educate people on the importance of caring about such a valuable environmental resource: sea turtles.
The protection of turtles and the biodiversity safeguard of the region is our main goal. In order to achieve it, we need the help of volunteers, your help! Volunteers should have a willingness to help in a task that requires a close attention. For this reason, we create an atmosphere where the volunteer feels like at home, we are one big family. Volunteers should have the desire of leaving a mark in a humble village, with a strong will to move forward.
Why taking part in a sea turtle conservation project in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica enjoys a privilege situation thanks to several elements. It is one of the safest countries in Latino-America. Costa Rican people (called Ticos) are open-minded and very kind. The small size of the country will allow you to travel extensively across it within a few days. You can do before or after volunteering with us. In addition to breathtaking natural spots, Costa Rica enjoys different climates, depending on the region, warm on the coast and cooler near the mountains. (However, the weather never is cold).
Tourism enabled the country to develop, maintaining a balance: thanks to the tourists, the Ticos can stay afloat working decently.
San José, the capital, is the most cosmopolitan city where you can visit museums or natural parks which are close by bus. The rest of the country, the nature reigns. You will be able to find small villages near spectacular natural spots.
Thanks to its diversity of climates and landscapes, including volcanoes, and to one of the most important biodiversity, five of the seven species of sea turtles come to its coasts to lay their eggs. Sea turtles are coming throughout the year, but there are several seasons.
On the Caribbean coast, the leatherback sea turtle, the most impressive one, is the biggest one with 1,70 meter in length for the females. It crawls in the sand in order to lay its eggs, which lasts two hours, and then get back to the sea.
Seeing a leatherback sea turtle is an experience so special, you will be surprised by its size; imagine, you are walking on the beach at night and cross with those giant sea turtles, it is a really nice experience. There are no words to describe it, everybody should be able to live that experience, but everybody does not have that opportunity. You will never forget the feeling of being so close to that prehistoric creature, living in the depths of the sea and reaching the beaches once every two years.
Egg hatching is so incredible! You will see the baby turtles – as little as perfect – emerging from the sand and walk to the sea. This marks the beginning of a long and dangerous journey to reach adulthood.
Working with a turtle conservation project allows you to dedicate your time to the preservation of a place and will allow you to live an experience unique, impossible to live in another place and others circumstances, you have to live that experience with us.
During your stay, the peace of the place will overwhelm you: you will not hear even a car, the beach stretches for more than 14 km, under millions of stars; you will share the house with a bunch of animals: hummingbirds, monkeys, frogs etc., isolated from the rest of world for while, during which you will be able to meet other backpackers, local people and yourself.
Five years ago, Tortugas de Pacuare was born on the north island of the Pacuare river. The project rent a house there during one year and a half. Then, it moved in the Quelonios del Caribe house (researcher center in charge of the scientific authorisations), where it remains another year and a half. During those three years, the volunteers crossed the river paddling every night to patrol on the South Island beach, since no projects nor governmental institution did it. Without the volunteers, 90% of the nests where poached. Protecting the beach is a hard work sometimes, because it always needs to be protected, even if the climatic conditions are really bad, without the patrols, the turtles had barely any chance. Sometimes, those climatic conditions prevented the volunteers from going on a patrol, the flow of the river was to strong to cross it with a little boat. That is why, when Luis had the opportunity to buy a little wood house on the South Island, he immediately bought it. He organized a crowdfunding campaign to collect money. He collected a quarter of the amount needed, which was enough to pay the first part of the house. Step by step, he kept paying the house thanks to the volunteers’ contributions for the hosting service and the food. Thanks to that moving, the project has been more efficient in protecting the beach. It has been one of the most important success so far: the volunteers feel more comfortable in the new house and the turtles feel safer on the protected beach.
Where is the project located?
Barra de Pacuare is situated on the Caribbean coast, between Parismina and Limón, a community cut off by the river mouth of the Pacuare river, which gave its name to the area. Therefore, Barra de Pacuare is an island, went along by the Caribbean Sea and a diversion of the Tortuguero canal. That is why the island is only reachable by boat.
The project is located 40 km south of Tortuguero, in a small town called Barra de Pacuare, in the middle of the Caribbean. This makes us one of the most strategic destinations for leatherback turtles, green turtles, and hawksbill turtles, which are the most threatened species and are in serious danger of extinction.
Pacuare is a small community, relatively isolated from the civilization. Thus, you will only have to share the beach with the other volunteers and the few people who are living on the island.
On the island, there are a coast guard station, a small school and a grocery shop which serves as a bar.
You will find vegetation from the beach and from the tropical forest. In addition to the turtles which come to lay their eggs, we will be able to see several animals during your stay here. Some of them are hard to find, like ant-eaters because they are nocturnal and arboreal animals. Others are easier to watch, like the bluejeans – a little red frog – or the wild monkeys which are already used to the human presence, you will be able to see them everyday.
What does a volunteer need to bring to Pacuare? (packing)
In the following list, you will find objects that you should take with you in order to make your stay in Pacuare more comfortable. This list is also helpful for travelling around Costa Rica.
During some hours a day, the wifi is available. However, if you want to assure you an internet access whenever you want, it is better if you by a Costa Rican phone card. Kolbi is the more effective operator on the island, you can recharge it on the island or in the street. The wifi efficiency depends on the climatic conditions and the number of devices connected.
There are no banks on the island, you need cash (colones).
Bring some chips and biscuits if you want to nibble between the meals. There is a grocery shop on the island, but the choice is limited and it is a bit more expensive.
Put your stuff in plastic bag within your backpack in order to avoid humidity when it is raining a lot.
Black Crocs with socks (comfortable and appropriate for night patrols.
A soap-dish if you use bars of soap (for hygienic reasons).
Toothbrush with cap.
Mosquito bed net.
Mosquito repellent (Off or Relec) in the form of spray, bracelet and patch.
A lot of underwear (to be able to change whenever you are sweating).
A coat and pants, especially if you come during the rainy season; because, it can be colder.
First Aid Kit (plasters, compresses, bandages, disinfectant, saline solution, antidiarrheal, protection against mosquito bites and haematoma).
If you are staying more than three months in Costa Rica and if you are going to travel across the country, you can take “As-Bendazol” before leaving. It is an antiparasitic available without prescription.
Keep in mind that the authorities will ask you around 30$ when you leave the country. Also, you cannot stay more than 90 days in he country without a visa. If you want to stay longer, you will have to leave the country during at least 72 hours.
Dark clothes for night patrols (light)
Headlamp with red light (you can put a translucent red paper on it)
- Tips for packing
Put your stuff in plastic bags, it is useful to organize them and if it rains, they will not get wet. Moreover, we will be able to put more stuff in your luggage if you use plastic bags.
The things you want to protect from the humidity, put them in plastic bags with zipper, then remove the air with a straw.
Some products are more expensive in Costa Rica than in your country. For example, the batteries and hygiene products tends to be more expensive in Costa Rica.
Take cash with you in an emergency, for example if your card gets stolen or if it is not working here. The cheapest way to get money is to withdraw it from an ATM (be careful, sometimes the banks charge a lot of money). Also, you need to make sure, before coming, that your card will be working here (do not hesitate to give your itinerary to your bank officer in order to avoid any suspicion of fraud. The currency change from the airport is the more expensive way to get money.
Keep your flasks in airtight bags so that your clothes will not get wet if your flasks spill. Put those bags in between your clothes to cushion them.
Do not bring fresh food with you, it will be taken by the customs service. Only the food which is wrapped and cooked could be accepted in the territory.
They do not sell hand rolling tobacco in Costa Rica.
Make a photocopy of your passport and laminate it. Take it with you in stead of your passport when you go for a walk or go shopping.
Take a picture of your passport and upload it to a private website so that someone in your country has access to it.
It is easier if you put the stuff you need the most in the top of your backpack. Besides, it is better for your back to put the heavy stuff in the top of your bag.
If you need an adaptor, the sell them in hardware stores in San José. They are really cheap.
Working with Turtles involves:
Conducting night patrols with local guides during which we collect turtle eggs and relocate them to a turtle hatchery where they will be safe from poachers.
We also volunteer our time to do community service work, and to help maintain community facilities as well as the project. Day work is usually related to beach and house cleanup and upkeep. Night work is related to patrolling and watching the hatchery (or relocation area). The project also has a chicken house and a kitchen garden.
The project has some books and games to entertain oneself and chill out. The volunteers can also take part in some classes.
- One-day trip to the mountain
- Game / quiz night
- Latin music class
- Spanish class
- Hanging out by Las Machas
- Baking cookies
- Survival class
- Caimans Tour
- Cooking class
- Campfire and marshmallows
The volunteers can also go to the Tortuguero national park or Puerto Viejo during the weekend. They just need to warn the staff one week before in order to make sure that the project counts with a sufficient number of volunteers to take care of the breeding pond and the beach.
The house is built only with woods from the beach and is located on it. Each year, we improve the house thanks to the financial support of the volunteers. At the beginning, the water was manually extracted. Nowadays, the house has a tank to collect rain water, which is used to supply the sanitary facilities. The project has also a machine which works with gas and enables to extract the water from the well. One of the objectives of the project is to replace that machine by a wind powered system. Since 2015, solar panels have been installed on the roof on the house. Thanks to the solar energy we store during six hours, we have enough energy to light up the project during the whole night. This makes the life within the project more comfortable, without losing the love of nature and simple things. The project aims to be as sustainable and self-sufficient as possible. That is why we try different systems to grow food.
The project plays an important role on the community of the island. Changing locals’ way of thinking to have them protect the biodiversity of their island is a long and hard work. However, the existence of a source of income through the participation of the volunteers in the local economy. For example, purchase of handmade crafts and food from travelling salesmen. Thus, the local do not need to seek how to make a living with environmentally unfriendly means.
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