Conservation Internship in Costa Rica

Help lead the efforts to preserve the biodiversity of the rainforest.

Gain valuable experience and collect critical data for the Costa Rican government. Your efforts will help authorities make important conservation decisions and ensure the survival of the biodiversity of this unique area of the rainforest.

Program Overview

The internship program is split into two phases. During the first three months, you will take on normal volunteer duties and responsibilities and in the final three months you will be placed with a local partner organization, based on the recommendation of the field staff.

During the volunteer phase of this internship you may be involved in the monitoring and conservation of sea turtles (from March to October), research of marine turtle predation by jaguars, mammal and prey species abundance studies, resident and migratory bird research and data collection, as well as Biological Assessment Surveys (BAS) which aim to identify all species of amphibia, aves, mammalia and reptilia in the region we are based.

Data collected for all projects in Jalova goes directly to the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment (MINAET) and provides the basis for developing an accurate management plan for Tortuguero National Park. More specifically, all turtle and jaguar data is recorded and passed on to local partners the Sea Turtle Conservancy and Panthera respectively. STC is involved in the area since 1959 and Panthera is one of the worlds leading wild cat authorities.

During the volunteer phase you will be required to demonstrate particular leadership and time management skills. You will be responsible for completing certain tasks on base and always showing a particular interest and enthusiasm for project life and objectives. Upon successful completion of the volunteer phase, you will be awarded a placement. The placement is not guaranteed and is at the discretion of the field staff.

This expedition requires a full time commitment. Depending on your length of stay, you can expect to have a few free weekends to explore the surrounding areas.

Where you'll stay

During your project dates your accommodation and food are included in the project cost. The research station is located in Jalova which is within the Tortuguero National Park. Facilities will be more basic than what you might expect, so prepare to "rough it" and travel with an open mind and a willingness to adapt to local conditions.

Accommodation are shared, mixed gender dorms with shared bathroom facilities. There is running water available for washing and cooking, with suitable water for drinking and brushing teeth. Flush toilet facilities are available.

You'll share the responsibility for base duties, including cooking, cleaning, and other chores. Food is very basic and mostly vegetarian, with meat rarely available. Breakfast could be porridge or occasionally pancakes. Typical lunches and evening meals may include lentils, chickpeas, pasta, beans, or rice, with vegetables. Fresh fruit is provided each afternoon.

Activities & Training

Things to do

Volunteers are welcome to organize side trips for their free time or before/after their project experience. All associated costs and travel expenses are not included in the project fee and need to be factored into the volunteer's own budget. Given the isolated location, down time will generally be spent on base; the rain forest is not really a place to go wandering! However, there are still some possibilities in the immediate area; visit Tortuguero Village, browse its small souvenir shops, visit the delicious bakery and watch the world go lazily by. For longer term volunteers, weekend breaks can be spent exploring parts of the Caribbean region; hiking, snorkelling, fishing, or canopy and zip-line tours and whitewater rafting are some of the activities near by.

Orientation and Training

Staff in the field will provide training on the skills required, but you may benefit from learning more about local history, culture and customs before you travel.

The internship’s first phase concentrates on training alongside other volunteers. The second phase of the internship is the work placement. Successful interns could be asked to stay on as field staff members helping to run our conservation research programmes, or be placed with one of our local conservation partners in other regions of Costa Rica, assisting in local conservation efforts and/or scientific research. 

By the end of the internship program participants will have the skills to monitor a wide range of mini-ecosystems in a very diverse location. Developing and applying a holistic approach to conservation, you will receive a range of certifications alongside valuable field based experience.

Placements are not guaranteed and are at the discretion of our field staff.

Meals may not be included in the second phase of the internship depending on your placement.

Good to know


The information below will be required by ALL Jalova bookings (in order to obtain a scientific permit):

  • Name, birthdate, passport number, passport country, exact dates of stay

  • Legible scanned copy of passport

  • BRIEF (1 page max) CV or resume, translated into Spanish (ideally by a professional translator, a university professor, bilingual native Spanish speaker, etc)

  • Passport-sized photo -- High quality digital head shots (4.5cm by 3.5cm


All volunteers are encouraged to learn more about local history, culture, and customs before travelling. We encourage applicants to learn some Spanish either before arriving or once in Costa Rica. Montaña Linda in Orosi Village offer week-long one-on-one courses.

The following reading materials may also be of use ahead of time and while on base:

  • The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide (Paperback) by Richard Garrigues

  • Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica by C.L. Henderson

  • The Amphibians & Reptiles of Costa Rica by J.M. Savage.

Application Requirements

You need not have any specific skills; just an enthusiasm and passion for contributing to the project and the local partner objectives. You need to be physically fit and healthy as you will be hiking long distances daily. As a result of the basic living conditions, you need to be flexible and able to work well in teams and with people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds.

You will need to be fluent in English. Spanish is beneficial but not essential.

Health and safety

A change of environment, climate, food and lifestyle often results in minor, and occasionally more serious, illness. Please inform staff if you feel unwell at any time. The nearest emergency medical facilities are located in Tortuguero, approximately 1 hour from base via motorboat. In the event of an emergency we can access hospitals via river/road, light aircraft or helicopter. We have emergency procedures for foreseeable events. The staff is first aid trained and you will receive a safety briefing on arrival. The base camp is equipped with a comprehensive first aid kit.

Please note that we cannot provide specific medical advice. Please consult your primary care provider (doctor, GP, etc.) or visit a travel clinic for further information. Please be forthcoming about any health issues before you join the project. Failure to do so may have serious consequences for you, the staff and other participants, including your removal from the program.

It is also recommended that you take a credit card with you to ensure you can get immediate treatment in the event of a medical emergency (and you can seek reimbursement from your insurance afterwards).

While it is safe on base, you need to be aware and use common sense while in town or away from camp. We recommend you not carry large sums of money or valuables at these times.

Additional Information

Field staff advise that you enter the country using a 90 day tourist visa. Requirements are dependent on your citizenship, for most nationalities this does not need to be arranged in advance. Check with the immigration authorities of the countries you intend to visit. Also, please ensure that you comply with your airline's requirements regarding visa and entry requirements for Costa Rica.

For 6 month interns and volunteers staying longer than 90 days, you will need to do a border run to renew your tourist visa. This will be at your own expense, however we will assist you with this process. Most interns and volunteers use this as an opportunity to see more of Central America. Please note, you might be asked to provide proof of departure within 90 days of arrival. In order to comply with this requirement, you may wish to purchase a flex-ticket which you can change once in country.