Rainforest Exploration and Biodiversity in Costa Rica

Conduct biodiversity research in rainforests along the vibrant and diverse Caribbean coast.

Durations:  2 - 12 weeks

Program information

On this program, participants will hike through the rainforests of Tortuguero National Park conducting biodiversity surveys. Data from these surveys assists park management and the Costa Rican government with making decisions about the effective sustainable management of the area.

undefined 31 May 2022

Included in your program

Make the most of our unique programs with these exclusively curated local adventure and wellness experiences.

Learn to pick and husk a coconut

Visit the world's oldest sea turtle research group

Meditate on the beach at sunrise

Take a jungle nightwalk and frog watch

Canoe along jungle river canals at dawn

Stargaze and learn the northern constellations

Hike an extinct volcano, Cerro Tortuguero

Visit a sustainable chocolate farm

Connect with our alumni
Want to connect with some of our past participants about their adventures? Get in touch with hundreds of friendly ambassadors all over the world who would be more than happy to answer any questions.
Testimonial bg

Jake Modica

06 Mar, 2019
The Jalova base camp is located in one of the Earth’s biodiversity hotspots. I could step out of my dorm to be greeted by any number of fascinating species, and always present is the camp’s resident cockerels – the colourful and charismatic Aztec kings (Montezuma orapendula) – which never fail to wake us all up at the unfortunate hour of 6am. In fact, if you were feeling lazy you would not need to leave the dorm, because you share it with a few house geckos, a stowaway bat, and the resident rafter iguana we affectionately called Trevor. I was at Jalova for a month in April, 2017, and everything I did gave me a feeling of pride and accomplishment; simply put, my time there was life changing. Foremost is accommodation, which for me was a pleasant shared dorm, with kitchen and shower facilities, all of which located on the coast of the beautiful and secluded Tortuguero National Park: don’t expect a five-star hotel, we’re here to take part in jungle, beach, and canal research as a Jalova volunteers, and not to be shown around as tourists by guides. As for ‘events and entertainment’, it would be hard to put a price on the amount of time spent canoeing and hiking the jungle, or the education that was provided by the experienced and engaging staff members. And the food? It was awesome. Everybody there cooks with an emphasis on making exceptional meals for everyone. I literally couldn’t list all of the incredible animals I saw in my month here, so I’ll give you a couple of highlights: I first saw a great curassow in a zoo and thought they were a flightless bird – our legendary boat driver Jorge spotted one for us perched in a tree, and it quickly flew to another. The forest came alive for ten minutes when our survey was interrupted by a herd of at least 25 white lipped peccary – the canopy was wild with bird calls and monkey howls until something big (perhaps a tapiir or a jaguar) scared them away. On a quiet and serene canal survey, three neotropical river otters popped up and studied us not more than five meters away from the canoe – for five seconds, before they submerged again like little furry submarines, we were in the presence of animals so shy and rare that a lot of the staff hadn’t even seen them. During a night walk (a survey where you hike the beach without torches looking for nesting turtles) we spotted a leatherback disguising a nest – we were even able to measure her before she returned to the sea. I will conclude with something a holiday cannot provide: the valuable Conservation experience and education you can gain here. I’ve been told that employers love to see voluntary work on a CV, but my month at Jalova gave more than just a nice paragraph for my CV: it gave me the frame of mind that I can actually achieve whatever I set my mind to. This new frame of mind is of course something personal to me, and everyone will have a different experience, but based on my experience I would advise anybody thinking of volunteering to go for it and join the adventure.

Munib Khanyari

15 Aug, 2018
Early in January 2013, I sat in a plane destined to Costa Rica with a confused yet excited mind. I had put everything in my life on hold and chosen to follow my heart... all the way to the jungles of Costa Rica. Little did i know, when i checked into my flight on 6th of January 2013, that my life was gonna change once and for all!! The next three months of my life were probably the greatest time i've ever had. I use the word 'time' because those three months went by in a flash yet felt like an eternity. It's crazy, i guess when your enjoying each and every second of what your doing, time just doesn't know how to function. Each second is a lifetime, and a lifetime gets condensed into a second! My Costa Rican adventure exposed me to things that i hadn't dreamed of, learning purely from nature, out there in the wild, doing things for real on the ground that matter! Each day is new is something we've all heard, but my time in Costa Rica gave this true meaning! The amount i learnt from nature, from my fellow volunteer and above all from the wonderful staff working there was just amazing! The things we saw, the experiences we had act as inspiration and motivation to be even today whenever i have difficulties to face. ITs crazy and yet so true, i'd be sitting down and working really hard for an upcoming exam in college and things won't go my way; all i need i thought of that insane time i had in Costa Rica and i just get this belief that everything will fall into place and it does! All i can honestly is that, three months i spent in Costa Rica seem so so so few! I just wanna go back and relive every moment and more because each day i learnt so so many new things, about myself, about life, about wildlife about being happy, its amazing! Three cheers for GVI for this amazing project, which not only has a great foundation and amazing people working for it, it also dares to dream big!

Jessica Guenther

15 Aug, 2018
In 2014 I went to Costa Rica. This trip was a new beginning for me and I discovered my passion for conservation. Jalova-the place I was going to live for the next month. Running water and one hour of electricity a day was the only resources we had. However that allowed me to deepen relationships with people from all over the world and make some life-long friends. My first week there was mostly training for species identification, first aid/CPR, and getting to know people. Every day you would work on one or two different projects. There were the bird surveys which could be early morning (the sun was up around 4 AM) or in the afternoons after lunch. You would have a crew of seven in a canoe and explore the areas around camp. Another project was jaguar surveys which involved setting up scent stations and trail cameras. Finally the other main project was sea turtles. You would go out at night to the beach and walk around in the dark looking for nesting turtles. If we found one we would mark the nest, take measurements of the turtle, and count the eggs. There were other projects including incidentals surveys which involved us hiking through the rain forest and looking for whatever we could find. We saw many snakes, lizards, birds, and monkeys! Also the mornings involved two people going out and checking mark turtle nests to make sure they are okay and see if any hatched. Once a week a group would go out and hike a jag walk-which was walking along the beach for 15 miles looking for signs of jaguars. We found many footprints and often would smell or see a dead turtle which the jaguars killed. We would use that as ways to track and document the jaguars. Once a week, a volunteer and leader had to work in the kitchen all day making three meals. Our diet was rice, beans, some bread, pasta, and veggies. My favorite thing to eat was plantains which we would eat them sweet or fry them. For a treat we would have team meetings after lunch every day and have fruit including mangos, guanabanas, bananas, and pineapple. I know I cannot explain all that I did but it was a fantastic experience and I loved every moment of it. We worked every day, but also had some free time. Jaguar walks included walking to Tortuguero and spend some time in town using internet and buying snacks. During free time, I usually would set up a hammock under the shade on the beach and listen to music, waves, and wind. It was heaven. Sometimes I would read and take a nap. Otherwise people would sit in the kitchen and play cards or just have good conversations. I made some really great friends from all over the world. On another note, the work people at Jalova were doing was conservation and research that is benefiting a lot of species. Sometimes walking along the beach we would see boats out on the water poaching these beautiful creatures. And we could not do anything about it. It was heartbreaking. However by marking nests and monitoring them we were doing something about it and just the idea that we were increasing chances for these endangered species was worth it. I know these creatures’ people always hear about and may actually study, but until you see it in person, this living breathing thing-is so worth it. Conservation is so important and I cannot express that enough.

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