Unearthing New Experiences

Tortuguero Rainforest Conservation Teen Volunteering In Costa Rica

Live with other teens on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast while learning about rainforest conservation.

Durations: 2 weeks
Critical science

Critical science

You'll contribute to vital conservation research targeted at protecting the earth's most valuable ecosystems.
Ethical engagement

Ethical engagement

Using the UN's SDGs as a framework, we've made a commitment to positive, constructive and sustainable impact.
Beautiful adventures

Beautiful adventures

You'll spend your days exploring some of the world's most breathtaking, exhilarating and remote wildernesses.

Program information

Learn what it takes to become an international conservationist while exploring the rainforests that line the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Learn how researchers are working to protect jaguars and other important species.

Book by 31 August 2022
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Overview
Itinerary
Dates & Prices
Life On Base
Covid-19 Response
publications
What's It like?
Arrivals
Your Impact
Our Ethics
Flights
Testimonials
Program ethics
Qualifications
Training
Free time
Cultural Immersion
Parent Info
Support & Safety
What's Included
Live Updates

Program overview

Join other teens, aged between 15 and 17, in the middle of Costa Rica’s famous Tortuguero National park, to learn about conservation and learn about how to protect important wildlife species and the natural environment. GVI has successfully been operating ethical and responsible programs for under 18s since 2012. Since then, it has treated health and safety as a number one priority and takes extra measures for its under 18 programs. As such, it is also a British Standards 8848 compliant provider.

Spend your time with other teens from around the world and explore Tortuguero National Park while learning about the local ecosystem and the species that can be found there. Find out how researchers, conservation organisations, and national governments use data collection, input, and analysis to preserve the natural environment.

Learn how to identify unique species that can only be found in Costa Rica, go on jungle hikes and canoes down the many forest canals, spotting animals. You might also be enlisted in a beach clean and bird surveys.

GVI has been in operation for over 20 years and we have been working in Costa Rica for over a decade. Our long-term involvement, capacity-building, and commitment to our projects, ensures that our long-term sustainable projects help to achieve our partners’ objectives. These local partnerships along with stakeholder discussions drive the service elements of our trips to ensure they are fully focused on the most prevalent issues and produce the results required locally. Each projects’ objectives are also aligned to one or more United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Throughout this project, teens will be trained, guided, and supported by world-class leaders in the field who have been chosen for their mix of relevant experience and ability to mentor and inspire young people. Greater supervision applies to our teen programs, than our other volunteer programs.

Training and field experience will allow teens to develop skills beneficial to their college applications and future employability. Some of these might include intercultural competency, teamwork, and leadership, by interacting and working with teens from around the world.

The climate is hot and humid, interspersed with refreshing downpours, and participants should be aware that work days can be tiring. It is important to be flexible and adaptable to the changing nature of life in Costa Rica.

Due to the fact you will work in a national park, you will need special scientific permit to approve you for conducting research. Further permits are required for jaguar research. The permit for conducting jaguar research takes about 2 to 3 months to process.

Although all teen participants are greeted by GVI staff at their arrival destination, flight chaperoning services are also available upon request. Chaperones provide on-flight accompaniment, and in-airport assistance. To book this service please contact one of our enrollment managers.

Highlights

  • Learn what a career in conservation is really like.
  • Make friends with other teens from around the world.
  • Observe Costa Rican wildlife species in their natural habitats, including monkeys, neo-tropical birds, and amphibians in the caponies above rainforest canals.
  • Successfully complete this program and get a professional reference from your program manager. You’ll also have the option of earning a certificate endorsed by the University of Richmond if you choose to complete our included online leadership course, which is valued at £295.
  • Visit an incredibly jaguar-dense area and one of the only locations in the world where jaguars are known to prey on adult sea turtles.
  • Explore the rainforest by canoe and walk the pristine Caribbean beaches.
  • Undertake bird surveys to monitor population numbers and different species.
  • Contribute to jaguar research by setting up and checking camera traps in the rainforest.

Program details

Program type
Under 18
Group
program
Location
GVI Latin America, Costa Rica, Jalova
Focus
Marine Conservation
Wildlife Conservation

Itinerary

The following itinerary is an example of the activities and project work that participants might get involved in on this program. More specific details of the program are finalised several months before each start date. The itinerary shown below has been followed by our staff and group volunteers in the past.

Sunday

Day 1

Welcome to tropical Costa Rica. After breakfast at Casa Colon, you’ll depart for our base on the Caribbean coast in Limón province. Complete health and safety training, go on a base tour and meet your fellow volunteers. The day ends with dinner and a conservation lecture.

Monday

Day 2

After receiving training on incidental species and turtles, you’ll learn about camera trap training and installation, used for spotting elusive species like jaguars. In the evening go on a forest survey or a night walk to monitor turtles.

Tuesday

Day 3

Wake up early for a morning birding session. Have lunch in Tortuguero and spend the afternoon shopping in the village. Get to know your fellow volunteers with a team building activity before heading out for a night walk to survey turtles.

Wednesday

Day 4

After a morning beach cleanup along the Caribbean coast, take part in a plastic presentation. In the afternoon you’ll be trained in setting up butterfly traps. After dinner and an evening forest walk you’ll learn about moth surveys.

Thursday

Day 5

Help researchers collect jaguar traps and sort data, and assist with moth surveys and trapping. Head out at night for a forest walk or to spot mother sea turtles making their nests on the beach.

Friday

Day 6

After reflecting on the week, pack and get ready for a cultural weekend away, where you’ll visit some of the astonishing and beautiful natural sites in Costa Rica. After dinner, spend some time settling into your hotel.

Saturday

Day 7

Go on a historic market tour, take part in a cooking class and enjoy lunch with your new friends. Spend the rest of the day exploring the town, buying souvenirs and enjoying some relaxation time.

Sunday

Day 8

Immerse yourself in the culture of Costa Rica during a visit to a local village. After going on a short hike, you’ll also have the chance to learn a cultural dance and take part in a language lesson.

Monday

Day 9

Spend an adventure-packed day in beautiful Tortuguero National Park. Trek through the forest and go on a waterfall hike, spotting tropical wildlife along the way.

Tuesday

Day 10

Get ready for another adventurous day in the national park. Today you can look forward to a range of beach activities, including boat rides and snorkelling in the Caribbean waters.

Wednesday

Day 11

One last day taking in the beauty of the park. Hike along the river trails or go white-water rafting down the Pacuare River. A true adrenaline rush with the river having rapids up to class IV.

Thursday

Day 12

Pick up a Costa Rican coffee and spend the day exploring the cultural sites of the capital city, San Jose. Visit a museum, admire the architecture, and admire the birdlife while enjoying a picnic in one of the city’s many parks.

Friday

Day 13

Take a walking tour of San Jose. Visit local markets, sample exotic fruits and take in the laid-back lifestyle, known in Costa Rica as “Pura Vida”. Spend your last night enjoying a leaving dinner with your new friends.

Saturday

Day 14

Departure day. Say a tearful “adiós” to the beaches, jungles and wildlife of Costa Rica. Reflect on the friends you’ve made and how much you learnt about conservation.

Dates and prices

Select a start date:

Exclusive offer. Book before the end of the month and receive up to 0 off this program.
COVID-19 flexibility. If COVID-19 prevents you from travelling, change your location and dates free of charge.
Payment plans. Flexible payment plans allow you to pay in instalments.

What happens next?

Once you apply, a personal Enrollment Manager will be assigned to walk you through the rest of the process.

Life On Base

Unplug and get in touch with nature in Tortuguero National Park. Situated in the heart of the jungle on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, 20 minutes away from the nearest small town, Jalova base is a photographer’s dream. During field work, you’ll walk the protected beaches looking for signs of turtles and jaguars, travel by canoe through foliage-draped canals spotting aquatic bird species, and, if you’re lucky, catch sight of a manatee in the water below. While trekking through the jungle, you’re likely to see howler monkeys and toucans. Sloths and tamanduas (a type of anteater) also live in the jungle, but due to their elusive nature you’re unlikely to spot them during your stay. Morning patrols feature spectacular sunrises over the Caribbean sea, and nightwalks reveal a star-filled sky. In their free time, GVI staff and team members from all around the world relax at the base. For those with a passion for wildlife and conservation, Jalova is the ideal location.

Accommodation

Our base is located in a coconut plantation surrounded by rainforest, with a beach right on your doorstep. It’s incredibly remote as no one else has access to the area. All the ...

Transportation

For project work, you’ll only need your feet, although boats are available for canal bird surveys. To participate in the turtle project, you’ll need a good pair of rubber boots,...

Communication

Our research base is in a remote area, which means that phone signal is limited. The Wi-Fi on base is strictly reserved for research purposes by staff. This is your chance to un...

Meals

Many of our ingredients are brought in from a little store in Siquirres. Breakfast consists of fruits, porridge, and pancakes on Saturdays. Lunches and dinners feature a variety...

Climate

Costa Rica is a tropical country, with a climate ranging from warm and rainy to hot and humid. Being a rainforest, the weather is highly variable and it can rain at any time of ...

Fitness

The program is physically demanding. Every day during turtle season, a survey party goes out for 9.5 kilometres (on sand) in the heat, exposed to the elements. Three times a mon...

COVID-19 Safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.

Learn more

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Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic - including destination ratings, flight bookings and tests.

Covid-19 Response

Health and Hygiene

For over 20 years, GVI has prioritised the health and safety of our staff, participants, partners and local community members. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, GVI has created the GVI health and hygiene team to put in place new standards of cleanliness, norms and behaviours that meet or exceed international recommendations to ensure the ongoing safety of GVI’s participants, staff and communities around the world. Internationally recommended practices, such as advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the governments Australia, UK and US, continue to be monitored and the standards are likely to change if and when international advice changes.

The work GVI is contributing to across the globe remains important and the following measures allow our participants to continue to join GVI’s programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. The following changes to our existing protocols have been made by the GVI health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities.

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic - including destination ratings, flight bookings and tests.

Read up on our COVID-19 protocols

Publications

The best decisions in international development and conservation cannot be made without accurate and up-to-date data or informed research.

Our many field teams around the world collaborate with local and international partners to analyse data and draw conclusions. In addition, many of our participants have used research they have collected on their various GVI projects to complete their Masters, Doctorate, or postdoctoral studies.

We also run a fellowship program which connects postdoctoral researchers at globally-respected universities with our many sustainable development programs around the world to support their research and ensure continuous improvement of our best practices on base.

Cap Ternay Newsletter, Last Quarter 2019

Newsletter

2019

Reef Conservation UK 13th Annual Meeting, Zoological Society of London

Author(s)

Patsy Theresine1, Christophe Mason-Parker2, April Burt3, Pierre-Andre Adam4, Anna Koester2, Jennifer Appoo5, Nicholas Graham6, Shaun Wilson7, Rodney Quatre1, Isabelle Ravinia1, Dainise Quatre1, Mariliana Leotta2, Joanna Blumel4, Elke Talma8, Arjan de Groene5, Aurelie Duhec4, Richard Jeanne4, Jan Robinson9, Phillip Haupt3, Savi Leblond10, Josep Nogues11, Ariadna Fernandez11, Christopher Narty11, Jude Bijoux12

‘The Current Status of Coral Reefs along the North West Coast of Mahe, Seychelles Following the 1998 Mass Bleaching Event’

Newsletter

2019

Reef Conservation UK 13th Annual Meeting, Zoological Society of London

Author(s)

Patsy Theresine1

What's It like?

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Get a first-hand perspective

Meet us

Arrivals

When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.

As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.

COVID-19 safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.

Learn more

Your Impact

All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to be an active global citizen after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

Tortuguero National Park is a key area for many interlinked conservation efforts. It’s a popular nesting area for vulnerable and endangered sea turtles. It’s a natural stronghold for jaguars, and one of the few places in the world where these cats are known to prey on sea turtles. The park is home to several species which have been identified as important for the health of the local ecosystem and global diversity by the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment, Energy, and Telecommunications (ICE).

Rainforest Biodiversity Surveys
We assist ICE with conducting a Biological Assessment Survey of the four major habitat types around our area of Tortuguero Park. We note a wide range of species on our surveys, including the rain frog, red-eyed treefrog, three species of toucan, spider monkey, mantled howler monkey, white-lipped peccary, eyelash palm pit viper and Baird’s tapir (due to its elusive nature, this species is rarely encountered). Staff and participants walk several marked paths in the forest, noting sightings, tracks, and vocalisations. Only species identified with 100% certainty can be recorded. The data is sent to ICE, who use a standardised methodology to monitor the condition of each trail over time. This helps them to understand the health of the local environment and whether their current conservation efforts are working.

Sea Turtle Research
We also assist the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) with sea turtle research and protection by patrolling the southern end of a 29 kilometre-long stretch of Tortuguero National Park – using internationally recognised protocols – during turtle nesting and hatching season (from around March to December each year).

Tortuguero has played a key part in the conservation of sea turtles worldwide. Archie Carr, the pioneering American conservationist, began his studies of green turtles in Tortuguero in 1954. Since 1958, the STC has continued to study green turtles (which are currently endangered), and other turtle species, like the critically endangered hawksbill and the vulnerable leatherbacks who frequent this area.

From April to October, a team walks the beach each night looking for nesting sea turtles. Depending on the time of year, you might not see a single turtle, or you might see multiple turtles in one night. When a turtle is encountered, different kinds of research activities might be carried out, depending on what stage of the nesting process she is in – emerging from the sea, selecting a nest site, digging a body pit, digging her egg chamber to lay her eggs, covering her egg chamber, disguising her nest, or returning back to sea. This might include checking for distinctive markings to see if she’s been to the beach before and making a note for future researchers if she returns, tagging her flippers, measuring her carapace, counting her eggs, marking her nest, or checking for abnormalities in the mother turtle or eggs.

From April to November, a team patrols the beach during the day to look for previously-marked nests to determine whether any of them have hatched, been eroded by the sea, been attacked by predators (like raccoons, white-nosed coatis or ghost crabs), or been poached by humans. This information is used to investigate whether any areas of the beach are more susceptible to nest loss. Depending on the season, we also take note of mother turtle tracks from the previous night.

Between June and December, hatched nests are excavated to determine hatchling success and survival rates, reason for losses in egg development, and determine the actual status of the nests, including whether or not they were partially or fully poached.

Throughout the year, our teams carry out beach cleanups, ensuring there’s a good nesting place for mother turtles, and an uninterrupted passage for hatchlings to make their way to the sea.

Jaguar Population and Turtle Predation Research
The jaguar is the only member of the Panthera or “big cat” genus found in the Western Hemisphere. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has given the jaguar the status of being “near threatened”.

Tortuguero is a haven for jaguars – having possibly one of the highest highest population densities in the world, due to the ample supply of turtles. This makes it an excellent location for studying jaguar behaviour. It also means there is a great responsibility on park authorities and the Costa Rican government to ensure that threats as a result of human activity – like poaching, and habitat and food source degradation – do not threaten jaguar numbers in Tortuguero. Tortuguero is also one of the only places in the world where jaguars are known to feed on adult sea turtles.

We assist SINAC with identifying the availability of prey species in the area, noting any changes in jaguar feeding behaviour, and determining whether the predation of marine turtles by jaguars is having an impact on the marine turtle populations. This assists SINAC to develop well-rounded and consistent conservation policies within the national parks. To improve and expand our research, we collaborate with Coastal Jaguar Conservation.

Direct observations of jaguars can be very difficult to achieve because of their elusive nature. Several projects of elusive species worldwide have turned to remote observation techniques in order to estimate population sizes. Camera trapping projects have been used to estimate tiger density within national parks in India. Projects in Costa Rica such as the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network, and the Jaguar Project in Corcovado National Park have had success with camera trapping of jaguars. Since 2006 we have assisted the jaguar camera trap program by collecting data for them. It is constantly evolving as new, more effective methodologies are developed.

Once a week, from February to November, starting in the early morning, our team walks a 29 kilometre-long stretch of the beach. They note jaguar tracks and check on permanent camera traps set up to identify new or known jaguars in the area. Permanent cameras are set up in areas of known jaguar activity in the vegetation lining the beach. We also collect jaguar scat or faeces for use in jaguar feeding behaviour and genetic studies.

During turtle nesting season, from March to October, we monitor the number of sea turtles preyed upon by jaguars. When a predated turtle is found, we note the species of turtle, assign an identification number, and check for tags. We also record the time and location, biometric data, and a description of the style of predation. Kill cams are set up on predated turtles to witness jaguar behavior as they return to the kill. In addition, data is collected on weather and beach conditions at specific areas.

Aquatic Bird Research
We monitor 30 aquatic bird species identified by SINAC as important indicators of the overall ecological health of the National Park. These include exotic species like the neotropic cormorant, the rufescent tiger-heron, the cattle egret, the green ibis, and the amazon kingfisher. Early morning surveys are conducted by canoe along five of Tortuguero’s canals and last approximately three hours. Species are identified and specifics such as their sex and breeding behaviour are noted.

The aim of this project is to help researchers and governmental authorities understand when and where resident species migrate to. It’s generally believed that seasonal migration takes place within Costa Rica. We are the only organization to study the waterways at the southern end of the National Park. Each volunteer has a great impact on the preservation of the wetlands, a recognized RAMSAR site. The project also helps SINAC with developing an accurate management plan for Tortuguero National Park. In addition, we collect information on all incidental species seen on the canals. Sightings of megafauna like endangered manatees are extremely important to SINAC as they provide evidence towards justifying the boundaries of the National Park and whether to extend them.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, so all our staff and volunteers know which UN SDGs they are making a substantial contribution to  help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Prior to your arrival on base, you’ll be introduced to the history of the UN SDG. Then, once on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also get insight into how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as an active global citizen after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

The specific United Nations SDGs we work on in Tortuguero park are Goal 15: Life On Land and Goal 14: Life Below Water.

Our partners

Project objectives

 

GVI Jalova’s Long-term Objectives:

1. Increase scientific knowledge of Tortuguero National Park.

2. Increase awareness of GVI Jalova projects and the ecological value of the Tortuguero National Park.

3. Build local capacity to support long-term conservation of biodiversity and sustainable community development in Costa Rica.

4. Minimise our environmental impact on Tortuguero National Park and raise awareness of environmental issues amongst volunteers and visitors.

Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.

 

We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.

Our 10 ethical commitments

01

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.

02

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.

03

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.

04

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.

05

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.

06

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that every participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.

07

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.

08

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.

09

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.

10

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.

Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.

However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.

Flights

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Testimonials

Grace Rowlands

14 Jan, 2020

In July 2018 I went to Costa Rica with GVI on their under 18s wildlife conservation program- being involved with GVI makes you feel apart of a family who all have the same interest...

Niamh Blundell

06 Mar, 2019

My name is Niamh Blundell, I am from Oxford in England and I am starting my A-Levels this September. This summer (2018) I took part in the Under 18’s Wildlife awareness programme i...

Hannah Barlow

11 Oct, 2018

GVI VOLUNTEERING EXPERIENCE -- COSTA RICA During the summer of 2018, I was fortunate enough to travel alone to Costa Rica to participate in a two-week wildlife and marine conser...

Program ethics

NO ORPHANAGE PROGRAMS

We don’t support or allow participants to work in institutional residential care facilities, also known as orphanages. We partner with ReThink Orphanages and Freedom United.

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CHILD AND VULNERABLE ADULT PROTECTION POLICY

Our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy requires all our staff and participants to complete a criminal background check and to learn why you shouldn’t reveal a child’s identifying factors in photographs. We support the ChildSafe Movement.

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NO MEDICAL VOLUNTEERING

We don’t offer any programs where our participants engage in medical treatment. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country. Our participants only assist with public health programs.

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NO DISABILITY SUPPORT PROGRAMS

We don’t offer any programs where our participants work directly with people with disabilities. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country.

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ALIGNED TO LOCAL OBJECTIVES

Each one of our initiatives is aligned to objectives set by a local organisation or professional. Our staff and participants work to support these local actors in achieving their specific goals.

LOCAL EMPLOYEES REMAIN EMPLOYED

Our participants don’t replace the staff employed by local organisations. Rather, they support currently employed staff with achieving their objectives. Our goal is always to increase local capacity to address local problems.

LOCAL EMPLOYEES REMAIN FOCUSED

Participants require training and support to ensure that they carry out tasks correctly. Our staff provide this training and support so that local staff can focus on what is truly important to their organisation at the time.

NO ENTERTAINMENT-BASED ACTIVITIES

We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos

NO ORPHANED ANIMAL SANCTUARIES

We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases

GUIDELINES FOR TOUCHING OR MOVEMENT RESTRICTION

When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

ANIMAL WELFARE GUIDELINES

We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.

LOCAL COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT

We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.

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NO VETERINARY PROGRAMS

We don’t offer any veterinary programs or animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. We don’t allow participants to do any work they would not be able to do in their home country.

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Qualifications

GVI Online Leading Teams for Impact course (optional)

Leadership is a critical skill set for anyone looking to make an impact or drive sustainable development. Develop your own leadership style and learn how to set achievable objectives, give effective feedback and manage conflict successfully. After successfully completing the course, which you have the option of doing prior to your in-country program, you’ll receive a certificate from the University of Richmond.

This online course, valued at £295, is included in all volunteering programs. Full course details can be found here.

ASDAN Universities Award

The Award Scheme and Development Accreditation Network (ASDAN) Universities Award is an internationally-recognized certification which can be requested for any participant who has completed a GVI teen program. The award can be added to personal statements to boost college or university applications. The course involves introducing students to exploring skills like global awareness through volunteer travel and career paths through work activities.

Duke of Edinburgh Award

Young British nationals looking to earn their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and improve their employability can use GVI’s teen programs to complete several of the required components like volunteering, physical fitness, skills-development, completing an expedition, and learning how to thrive in a residential context. The Duke of Edinburgh Award can be used to enhance your personal statement on your UCAS application.

Training

A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.

For all GVI participants

Orientation: Your Health, Safety and Wellbeing

Learn about COVID-19 pre-departure guidelines, base expectations, personal and area hygiene practices and what we are doing to keep you safe.

Orientation: Travelling Responsibly and Ethically

Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.

Orientation: UN Sustainable Development Goals

Introduction to the history and evolution of sustainable development, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and how these related to your project work.

Orientation: Further Opportunities for Impact

Learn about our country locations and further opportunities available to you during or after your program.

For all participants at Jalova

Community: Women’s Empowerment

Learn about gender equality, skills development and examples of income generating activities.

Community: Human Empowerment

Learn about our empowerment principles.

Conservation: Survey Techniques and Logistics

An introduction to different survey techniques and best practice guidelines for surveys; introduction to different types of data and how to record information via a datasheet.

Conservation: Biodiversity & Target Species Identification

Learn about biodiversity and how biodiversity is measured, and classifying different species and how to identify species that indicate the health of the habitat.

Marine Conservation: Pollution and Plastics

Learn about issues with plastic and measures that can be taken to help reduce plastic consumption.

Jaguar Monitoring Training

Learn about jaguar biology and behaviour, how to identify a specific specimen, how to identify tracks, and how to set up a camera on a trail or on a predated turtle.

Turtle Monitoring Training

Learn about turtle biology, how to measure a turtle, perform a health check, how to distinguish between old and new turtle tracks on the beach and how to excavate a nest.

Canal Bird Identification Training

Learn how to identify the 30 target species important to MINAE and Tortuguero park, and how to input data from these surveys.

Biodiversity Survey Training

Learn how to identify 40 jungle species that indicate the health of the habitat, how to record and enter data, and the protocol of forest surveys.

Free time

Joining a GVI program not only allows you to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems – but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer over weekends.

Field staff are a great source of advice and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. You can choose to travel before or after your experience with GVI (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships you’ve established on the program. Please note that the below options are not included in the program fee, and would be up to you to arrange at your own expense.

Weekend Trips

Puerto Viejo

Just south of Cahuita National Park is one of the most popular beach destinations on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. This town is known for Punta Uva beach, where you’ll find...

Cahuita National Park

Head south along the Caribbean coast and you’ll find Cahuita – you can snorkel among the protected coral reef off its coast, spotting uncommon marine species.

...

White water rafting

Organise an adrenaline-inducing journey over the rapids of the Pacuare River. The beautiful Turrialba region is known for its variety of outdoor activities. Being a valley that ...

Tortuguero hill hike

Trek to the top of the ancient dormant volcano that is Tortuguero Hill. You’ll be rewarded with a magnificent view – stretching from the jungle to the shores of the Caribbean se...

Zipline rainforest canopy tour

Experience the wonders of the rainforest from a different perspective. Book a treetop canopy tour of Tortuguero National Park.

...

Tortuguero village

An hour’s motorboat ride away from our base in Tortuguero National Park. The town of Tortuguero offers an insight into the laidback “Pura Vida” lifestyle of Costa Rica. Practice...

Local Adventures

Photography and videography

There are endless opportunities around the base for wildlife photography. Staff and other participants often bring camera equipment with them – and spend their free time in the ...

Learning/studies

There’s a small library with lots of textbooks and flashcards for species study, identification practice, education materials about conservation threats, and wildlife biology.

Physical activities

Frisbee, volleyball, yoga, and pretty much any exercise can be done on the beach. There’s also a ping-pong table on base.

...

Stargazing

An advantage of our remote location is the lack of air pollution. This means that on a clear night, you can look up and enjoy a sky filled with stars. On some nights, you can ev...

Games night

Card games are a part of the culture on base. Whether you’re already a master or have never played before, be sure to join a game night – or even host your own.

...

Book collection

We’ve added many good books to our on-base library over the years. Pick one that looks interesting, find a spot overlooking the ocean, and lose yourself in the pages.

...

Movie nights

Join staff and other participants for movie nights. We set up the projector and make some popcorn. Do you like your popcorn sweet or salty?

...

Swing chair with ocean views

A minute’s walk from base is a swinging chair overlooking the ocean where you can relax with the view or curl up with a good book. You could also bring your own hammock and unwi...

Birding or frogging

Our base is home to a variety of bird and frog species. Fellow participants are likely to be just as passionate about conservation and the natural world as you are, so get a gro...

Secluded Caribbean beach

We’re based on a secluded beach (it’s a two-second walk to the black-sanded beach), which means that you might be able to hear the waves as you fall asleep at night and wake up ...

Further Travels

Water sports

Surfing, windsurfing and kayaking are just some of the many water sports you can enjoy on either of Costa Rica’s two coasts.

...

Coffee and chocolate farms

Learn more about how the raw products of these everyday treats are produced at one of Costa Rica’s many coffee and chocolate farms.

...

Talamanca mountains

Explore the natural wonders of the Talamanca mountain range, including the UNESCO protected La Amistad International Park. Hiring a guide is necessary as the Talamancas aren’t e...

Other national parks

Travel to a few of Costa Rica’s many other National Parks, like Manuel Antonio Park, Corcovado National Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (where you can visit the hummingbir...

Cultural Immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches global awareness, adaptability and critical thinking – skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and will also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many different activities that you can get involved in during your free time, or before and after your program.

On our community programs, the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore topics like local cuisine and religion, or how sustainable development challenges are affecting local contexts.

Tortuguero National Park

The name “Tortuguero” can be translated as “land of the turtle”. The park is most well-known for its green turtle population, with leatherbacks and hawksbills frequenting ...

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a wildlife lover’s paradise, featuring one the highest biodiversities in the world, approximately 4% of the total species on the planet. There are literally hundre...

Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

Download parent pack

Support & Safety

We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.

COVID-19 safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.

Learn more

Safety

Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.

Support

Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic - including destination ratings, flight bookings and tests.

Health and safety case studies

How GVI upholds health and safety

It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays ju...

GVI's commitment to safety and security

As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the heal...

How GVI remains prepared for natural disasters

The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes ...

How GVI manages participants expectations

Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations a...

What’s included?

What's Included
General
Volunteer
Intern
24-hour emergency desk
24-hour in-country support
Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
All project equipment
Food (except on long-term internship placements
Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)
Pre-program training
Volunteer
Intern
Group introductory call
Welcome presentation
Endorsed GVI Specialisation Course
Endorsed Leadership Course
Project work
Volunteer
Intern
Sustainable project work
Leadership responsibilities
Data collection and research
Real projects with partners
Remote support
Volunteer
Intern
Program training
Remote Internship Supervisor
Remote Academic Internship Supervisor
Remote Career Internship Supervisor
Post-program
Volunteer
Intern
Preferential recruitment on GVI positions
Job portal access
Endorsed Careers Course
Career coaching sessions
Certificates and achievements
Volunteer
Intern
PDF reference - upon request
Linkedin reference and skills endorsement
What's Excluded
General
Volunteer
Intern
Additional drinks and gratuities
Extra local excursions
Flights
International and domestic airport taxes
Medical and travel insurance
Personal items and toiletries
Police or background check
Visa costs

Live Updates

GVI Jalova is partnered with national and international conservation organizations doing research in Tortuguero National Park, on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. Our research is designed under the direction of the Costa Rica Ministry of Environment (MINAE), to address their conservation research priorities. Using volunteers trained on site by GVI staff, our research focuses on multiple areas of study, including: avifauna of the park's canals and beach; jaguar behavior; rainforest biodiversity and key species; and sea turtle monitoring -- Tortuguero is an important nesting site for green turtles as well as leatherbacks and hawksbill species. Data collected by GVI volunteers and staff is reported to MINAE for their use in decision-making for park management. GVI works hand-in-hand with the Costa Rican big cat organization CJC in their research on the behavior of jaguars in Tortuguero National Park. GVI also partners with the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) to increase the area of beach studied under their sea turtle monitoring program. STC is the world's longest-running sea turtle research program
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