Sea Turtle Camp Costa Rica
2023 Registration Now Open
*Please note that the 2023 Costa Rica Program will be an ALL-GIRLS trip!
Sea turtles abound in Costa Rica! With 6 of the world’s 7 species found here, the beaches and waters are full of turtle observing opportunities, and we will take full advantage of this. As a small, intimate-sized group, we travel to the Caribbean Coast during one of the most active green sea turtle nesting aggregations in the world, we will assist a long-term research project with nightly beach patrols. Leatherbacks frequently ply these waters, and their nests will be hatching out around this time as well. This exclusive adventure will immerse like-minded teens in the local language, culture, and ecology with our team of trained professionals. We will start the trip off with a visit to La Calandria where we will learn about Costa Rica’s rich culture and natural environment through activities such as hiking the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, learning about the history, tradition, and present-day production of Costa Rican coffee and chocolate, touring the countryside on horseback, and visiting a bat jungle! While here we will also participate in a zip-line tour through the cloud canopy of Monteverde. After departing Monteverde, we will be ferried to our small island community at the wildlife refuge, Laguna Urpiano, where they will be living the simple life and staying “off-the-grid” in this solar-powered community! It is here campers will receive turtle patrol training and then will spend the next week looking for tracks, nests, laying mothers, and hatchlings. We will work alongside other volunteers to patrol the beach for sea turtle nests, man a sea turtle hatchery, and participate in the care and study of recuperating adult turtles in the turtle rescue and rehabilitation program. Here, everything is done in shift work and we will be assigned shifts times each day. Shifts run 24 hours a day and campers can be assigned a shift at any time. After departing Laguna Urpiano, we will go rafting along the Pacuare River. Along the way, we will explore a rainforest ecosystem up close with naturalist-led hikes through the rainforest to visit some beautiful waterfalls.
Costa Rica is one of the safest and easiest international travel destinations in the world. It is a sustainable country, with no standing military, that focuses on creating greater equality of wealth among citizens and protecting their natural resources. Over a quarter of the country is set aside for conservation! With a modern international airport in San Jose and well-maintained highways, Costa Rica is very welcoming to tourists. Due to its friendly culture and “rich coastal” natural resources, Costa Rica is rated one of the hottest eco-travel destinations in the world! This program is designed for rising 10th-12th grade girls that are passionate about sea turtle conservation and looking for a tropical adventure abroad. Join us on our next trip as we:
- Receive sea turtle patrol training
- Perform sunrise and nocturnal nest walks
- Collect data on nesting females
- Raft down the Pacuare River
- Hike with a naturalist through the rainforest
- Zip-line through the cloud canopy
- Earn thirty hours of community service credit
**Please note that all activities are subject to change without notice**
Camp tuition includes all lodging, meals, 24-hour same-gender adult supervision (6:1 camper to staff ratio), shuttle to and from San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), equipment, daily transportation, t-shirt, activity fees, community service certificate and your team photo. Arrival should be scheduled between 12-3 pm on the first day and departures between 3-6 pm on the last day. Due to the nature of the program, departing flights MUST be after 3 PM on the final day of camp.
2023 Costa Rica Camp Dates:
As of April 1, 2022 the Republic of Costa Rica has lifted all travel rules related to COVID-19.
Costa Rica supports both rich marine ecosystems and diverse rainforest habitats, and we will have the opportunity to explore each environment while gaining a better understanding of its inhabitants. We provide teenagers with the opportunity to learn more about marine biology through hands-on, feet-wet experiential education. Campers get the extraordinary opportunity to work with live sea turtles as well as participate in some amazing daily activities designed to teach them through experience instead of out of a textbook. During this 14-day adventure we will:
- Volunteer with a sea turtle conservation organization
- Participate in a sunrise or nocturnal sea turtle nest spotting walks
- Conduct nighttime sea turtle nest/hatchling watch
- Help collect data on nesting female turtles
- Learn proper beach patrol procedures
- Work in shifts at a hatchery and turtle rehabilitation center
- Participate in a whitewater rafting adventure tour along the Pacuare River
- Canopy zip lining through the cloud canopy rainforest
- Take guided nature hikes through the rainforest
* * Schedule is subject to change. Please keep in mind that we try out best to adhere to this schedule but we cannot control mother nature, in the event of adverse weather, we have rainy-day activities in place. We cannot control canceled vendors. We will try out best to incorporate what was missed in later days, but it does not always fit into our schedule **
We will be staying at a mixture of eco-lodges and research stations as we travel through Costa Rica. Students of the same gender will be housed together, with each participant having his or her own bed with linens provided. A Sea Turtle Camp staff member will stay on site, providing 24-hour same-gender supervision. In Monteverde, we will stay in bunkhouses at the La Calandria or Pension Santa Elene hotel. While doing turtle research on the Caribbean coast, we will be housed at Laguna Urpiano. This facility is situated on an isolated beach in the jungle that can be reached by boat. The facility operates using solar power and has very simple, living, restroom, and shower facilities. While rafting along the Pacuare River we will stay at an eco-lodge right next to the river, giving us the opportunity to see other rafters face the rapids we have recently descended.
Do I get to see real live sea turtles?
YES!!! We work very closely with the native sea turtles of the eastern coast of Costa Rica. Mother sea turtles nest on the same beaches we will be staying on. It is very possible to see a nesting sea turtle during a night patrol and it is also very likely to see a sea turtle nest hatch!!
What kind of community service will I be doing?
At Sea Turtle Camp service is the most rewarding part of our program, and we like to think of it as service learning. Everything we do at the Laguna Urpiano, from working directly with live nesting mother sea turtles to collecting data on juvenile sea turtles, examining hatched turtle nests, completing night patrols for nesting turtles, overnight hatchery watches, invasive plant species removal and beach cleanups sounds more like enjoyment than service, but it is all service that will benefit the turtle species!
Should I bring a friend?
While most participants come alone, you are welcome to come with a friend. Please indicate if you would like to room with someone specific.
How old are the campers I will be rooming with?
Roommates are grouped together by age in order to enhance the overall level of comfort. There are 5 campers and 1 counselor in each bunk room.
I am a finicky eater. Can you cater to special diets?
Yes, we can. We know how important it is to eat healthy meals when you are outside and at the beach all day long. We’ll ask you in a questionnaire what types of food, snacks, and drinks you prefer.
What do I need to bring?
A complete packing list will be included with your informational registration packet.
Can I call home during camp?
We have all campers check in with their parents upon arrival, but we have limited parental contact for the duration of the camp. Sea Turtle Camp is a growing experience, and we find that young people do best and gain confidence through independence. Campers are NOT allowed to carry cell phones at any time during camp. Any cell phones brought to camp will be collected upon arrival and returned upon departure. Parents will be updated through emails and the many pictures we’ll be posting on Facebook throughout the trip! We will provide an after-hours number to reach the office in the event of an emergency.
What sort of payment do you accept?
We accept checks, money orders, or VISA/MC/AMEX credit cards. All credit card payments are processed online using a secure server. There is a $50 service charge for all returned checks. With the exception of the trip deposit, a 3% credit card surcharge will be assessed for all payments made by credit card. Please review our cancellation policy. Deposits are not refundable after we have received teacher references and your camper is accepted into a program.
What airport is best to fly into for your program, and do you provide a shuttle service?
You will fly into Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), where our staff will meet you to start your Costa Rican adventure.
What if I can't get in by the set check-in time?
Please contact our Program Coordinator to discuss arrivals and departures outside of our preferred times. In order to avoid missing any planned activities, participants driving in should try to arrive between 12:30 – 2 pm on the first day and depart around 12:30- 1:30 pm on the last day of camp.
What if my luggage doesn't make it?
Occasionally the airlines will misplace luggage or your suitcases will miss connecting flights. We recommend keeping essentials, such as medications, toiletries, bathing suits, and extra change of clothes, in their carry-on luggage just in case. We also recommend purchasing trip insurance when you select your flight.
What is your cancellation policy?
Sea Turtle Camp is an extremely high quality, tight margined program, with limited space. Therefore, once your student has been accepted into the program, exceptions to this policy cannot be made for any reason, including weather or personal emergencies. Please review the terms of our cancellation policy. In order to enroll in camp you must agree to these terms. Our full cancellation policy can be found here.
Do you have insurance?
We carry a comprehensive insurance package, including general liability. Once again, travel insurance is recommended.
How much spending money should I bring?
We recommend campers bring $50 to $75 per week of camp. This is for snacks, souvenirs, or gifts you wish to purchase while at camp.
Does my child need to know how to swim to be able to attend this program?
Yes. Due to the nature of this program, all campers must be able to swim and have a basic level of comfort in the water.
“Our 15-year-old daughter joined the girls-only Costa Rica trip. She had trepidation about two weeks in the wilderness with 11 girls she did not know and NO CELL PHONE… but it was a life-changing experience. The girls learned so much, saw so much, and bonded so hard I would not be surprised if some of them are friends for life. It was truly an exceptional experience.”
“My daughter had the most amazing experience. This was 100% hands on. Completely professional. Amazing! Caring, compassionate staff helped her when she felt home sick one night. Great food, clean accommodations with an amazing view. She made friends and loved every second. She is planning her trip next year to Costa Rica already!“
“What can I say – my son swam in waterfalls, hiked the rainforest, saw hatchlings almost every day of the trip, watched a green sea turtle lay her eggs, made friends for life, and did I mention he survived without his cell phone for two whole weeks and said he would go back in a heartbeat! Thank you Sea Turtle Camp – I didn’t think that was possible!“