Unearthing New Experiences

Rainforest and Wildlife Conservation Teen Volunteering In Costa Rica

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

Durations: 2 weeks
Type: Under 18
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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.

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Overview
Dates & Prices
Itinerary
What's Included
Life On Base
Free time
Cultural Immersion
Reviews
Speak to alumni
Arrivals
Flights
Your Impact
Our Ethics
Program ethics
Qualifications & Training
Parent Info
Support & Safety
Covid-19 Response
Live Updates

Program overview

Join other teens, aged between 15 and 17, in the middle of Costa Rica’s famous Cahuita 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 Cahuita 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.

All teen participants are greeted by GVI staff at their arrival destination and supported throughout their GVI program. 

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

3

Wake up early for a morning birding session. Have lunch in Cahuita 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

9

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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
Weekly group check ins
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

Life On Base

Unplug and get in touch with nature in Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve. Situated in the heart of the jungle, our base is the ideal location for those with a passion for wildlife conservation and adventure. During field work, you’ll hike the forest looking for signs of predator species like jaguars, pumas and ocelots; tropical birds like toucans; and a wide variety of primates, lizards and amphibians. You might even encounter more elusive animals like sloths and tamanduas. Morning patrols feature spectacular sunrises over the indigenous forest, and night walks reveal a star-filled sky. We also assist with turtle hatching sites on local beaches.

Accommodation

Our base is located in the heart of the reserve, with the jungle right on our doorstep. You are sharing the jungle with abundant wildlife, who often pass through the property, a...

Transportation

All airport transports and transport into town will be organised by GVI. To arrange transport for weekend trips or to spend your free time, speak to your program manager. For pr...

Communication

While reception can be unpredictable due to our location in the reserve, participants can travel into town where there is WiFi. There’s also the option of buying a SIM card on a...

Meals

Meals will be prepared by local chefs with ingredients sourced from the sustainable farms on the reserve.

...

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. Most days are spent out in the jungle on surveys, hiking across difficult, mountainous terrain that is exposed to the heat and elements. You...

COVID-19 Safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.

Learn more

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

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

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

San Jose

Spend the weekend in Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose. You could visit one of the city’s many museums or parks, join a guided food and walking tour of the city, or spen...

Puerto Viejo

Just south of the GVI base, 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 kilomet...

Tortuguero National Park

Head north up the coast to Tortuguero National Park, one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful national parks. The name “Tortuguero” can be transl...

White water rafting

Organise an adrenaline-inducing journey over the rapids of the Pacuare River. The beautiful Turrialba regi...

Local Adventures

Snorkelling

Cahuita National Park is home to the biggest and best-preserved coral reef in Costa Rica. Part of the park’s protected area extends into the ocean – offering up incredible marin...

Sloth Sanctuary

Book a tour of the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica

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 and identification practice, as well as educational materials about conservation threats and wild...

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?

...

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...

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.

Cahuita Town

The Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve (KIR) is home to the Bribri tribe, one of several indigenous groups that live in Costa Rica. Participants have the opportunity to work closely wit...

Testimonials

Anna Shulga

26 Aug, 2022

An amazing course that taught me all I need to know about leadership.

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 ...

Speak to alumni

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

Flights

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

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

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.

Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve is a key area for many interlinked conservation efforts as it is home to several species including:

  • Jaguars, pumas and ocelots. 
  • Peregrine falcons and plumbeous kites – Kekoldi is the second most concentrated area for migratory raptors in the world.
  • Thousands of tropical bird, reptile and amphibian species.
  • Rare species like sloths, tamanduas and tapirs.

 

RAINFOREST BIODIVERSITY SURVEYS

We assist the Kekoldi Reserve science team with biological assessment surveys of the three major habitat and forest types in the reserve. 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 (although these are very elusive, so no promises!) Staff and participants walk marked paths in the forest, noting sightings, tracks and vocalisations. Only species identified with 100% certainty can be recorded. The data is shared with KIR, who uses 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 assist Turtle Rescue Cahuita (TRC) with sea turtle research and protection by patrolling the beach, and assisting in hatchery opportunities – using internationally recognised protocols – during turtle nesting and hatching season (from March to December each year). 

To participate in the turtle project, you’ll need a good pair of rubber boots, thick socks, and dark-coloured, long-sleeved, lightweight clothing. 

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 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. You might also determine whether any eggs 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. 

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

 

WILD CAT POPULATION AND PREDATION RESEARCH

Kekoldi is home to several endangered or vulnerable wild jungle cat species, including jaguar, ocelot, margay, puma, jaguarundi and oncilla. 

Our research assists reserve authorities and conservation teams to determine the population sizes of each cat species, map out the territoriality of individual cats within each of those species, and identify the availability of prey species in the area and the subsequent effect on feeding behaviour. Direct observations of these elusive animals can be difficult, but the use of remote observation techniques like camera trapping has proven very successful in surveying and tracking wild cats across large areas of forest. 

 

BIRD RESEARCH

Kekoldi has the second largest concentration of migratory raptors in the world, with 3.5 million raptors counted from a single point. It is also the biggest known migration spot for peregrine falcons and plumbeous kites. 

We assist Kekoldi Hawkwatch, who study and monitor raptors and raptor predation in the reserve. The study of the health of predators in an ecosystem provides invaluable data about the health of the entire system, environmental changes and pressure, and can help guide overall conservation strategies. The Hawkwatch watch-site is located in the heart of the reserve, and provides a 360º view of surrounding forest – which is part of the Talamanca-Caribbean Biological Corridor that connects La Amistad National Park to the Caribbean coast. This zone is extremely biodiverse, including at least 59 mammals, 43 amphibians and over 400 bird species.

Our partners

Project objectives

 

GVI Kekoldi’s long-term objectives:

1. Increase scientific knowledge of Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve .

2. Increase awareness of the ecological value of the Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve.

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

4. Minimise our environmental impact on Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve and raise awareness of environmental issues amongst participants 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.

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.

Learn more
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.

Learn more
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.

Learn more
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.

Learn more
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.

Learn more
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.

Learn more

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 Kekoldi

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.

Certificates & 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.

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.

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.

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Safety

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Support

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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...

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

Live Updates

Working closely with KIR and members of the community, your hands-on research efforts will contribute to the long-term sustainable conservation of the essential biodiversity of this stunning habitat. This includes hiking the jungle trails, conducting biodiversity surveys, checking camera traps for footage of wild cats, helping monitor sea turtle nests, and exploring the rainforest-filled mountains noting important bird species.
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