Live on a remote research station while partaking in our conservation focused service learning course. Learn about rainforest ecosystems while assisting with turtle, jaguar, bird, and forest conservation projects. Complete educational assignments which complement the on the ground experience.
Immerse yourself in a Costa Rican conservation project and gain real world experience. This inter-disciplinary course, accredited by universities and colleges around the world, introduces students to international service-learning and sustainable development, both in content and practice, in Jalova, Costa Rica.
Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of 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 active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
GVI’s base in Jalova is a research station in the Tortuguero National Park. The park is border by the Caribbean sea where you will find a beach that’s home to one of the largest nesting colonies of Green Turtles in the world. The other three sides of the park are home to protected rainforests. All transportation into the park is via canoe or motor boat along the canal and river systems. Students will spend their time surrounded by amazing scenery and wildlife in the canals, tropical rainforest, and Caribbean beaches.
Experience life in an authentic Costa Rican community living, eating and working with the local research teams all while enjoying life in the Costa Rican jungle.
As a group, you have the opportunity of contributing to on-going conservation projects. The exact work will greatly depend on the needs of our partners at the time. This is a great opportunity for students to work as a team in achieving an overall goal that will have long-lasting effects for the environment, community members and local partners.
|A rest and relaxation activity/excursion|
|24/7 backup and support|
|A dedicated trip co-ordinator|
|Access to local medical facilities|
|Comprehensive health and safety procedures (Emergency Action Plans and Risk Assessments)|
|First aid equipment|
|Group leader and teacher|
|Highly experienced and well qualified GVI field staff|
|In-country transport is arranged|
|Up-to-date safety and country information|
|Pre-departure withdrawal insurance|
|Travel insurance - unless otherwise stipulated|
|Medical insurance - unless otherwise stipulated (medical aid details will need to be provided)|
|Flights - unless otherwise stipulated|
|Additional spending money - maximum of $200 allowed|
‘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.’
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.
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.
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
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...
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...
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 ...
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...
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08 Jun, 2018
My name is Megan Cable and I work at Ohio State alongside Brittany Savko. I was the staff lead for our May trip with GVI Costa Rica. I wanted to write to you to let you know we ...
08 Jun, 2018
08 Jun, 2018
I thoroughly recommend GVI to anyone; whether you are an educator looking to take a group away, or an individual looking for a career break. I took a group of my students to Sou ...
25 Jul, 2017
I want to work as a marine biologist, so this program was a unique (and fun) way to experience several different methods of marine conservation, like sea turtle husbandry, biodi ...
25 Jul, 2017
My experience these past two months has been rewarding, educational, and transformative. I’ve had the opportunity to conduct service and have an impact on the surrounding commun ...
25 Jul, 2017
I have known that I want to be a veterinarian since I was three years old. As such, I began surrounding myself with animals and science at a very young age. In high school and e ...
17 Mar, 2017
The opportunity to come to South Africa and work with GVI has been life changing. As nurses in the United States, we are often times not exposed to many different cultures. Comi ...
16 Mar, 2017
This opportunity has been life changing. I wasn’t expecting much before getting to South Arica, but upon arrival and for the past two weeks all of my memories and experiences ha ...
16 Mar, 2017
Coming to South Africa to work with GVI was a once in a lifetime experience. I feel as if I gained so much knowledge and was able to be immersed in a captivating culture. I hope ...
16 Mar, 2017
My experience in South Africa has been life changing. I really enjoyed how GVI also incorporated learning about the African culture as well as volunteering. My absolute favorite ...
16 Mar, 2017
I thought this experience was unforgettable! The amount of things that we saw and people with interacted with was unreal! I learned and improved my nursing skills by teaching th ...
09 Nov, 2016
This trip has been a life-changing experience. I started the trip unsure of how I would adapt to Indian culture, I have found myself loving learning about more. Their customs, m ...
09 Nov, 2016
I’ve learned more than I ever imagined I would. I didn’t know that some of my best teachers in life would come from such unexpected places. I had started the trip unsure of how ...
09 Nov, 2016
I couldn’t think of a better way to learn about this amazing country and the experience was more than I could have asked for. This trip was so well organized and jam –packed wit ...
09 Nov, 2016
Through the scholarship program that AFS gave, I was able to go to a place that not only gave me a great travelling experience, but a great chance to make friends and serve othe ...
09 Nov, 2016
Throughout this trip I grew as a person while helping others and challenging myself. This trip has been enlightening getting to know how the new environment around me works and ...
09 Nov, 2016
When we first reached Nepal I was actually surprised because it looked exactly like Uganda where I used to live because of how there were many mini shops and they’re tightly pac ...
09 Nov, 2016
Coming to Nepal was a new thing for me. I’ve always wanted to help people around the world and this was the best and greatest opportunity for me to come here, try new things and ...
10 Sep, 2014
GVI have looked after us from the very beginning, but most importantly for me they ensured that our trip was an exact fit to what we were looking for. I thoroughly recommend GVI ...
08 Jul, 2014
The GVI team has done wonders for this lovely community! The students who participated have been thrilled at the amazing results from their efforts! We would love to come back a ...
02 Feb, 2014
Having spent 10 years planning and leading school adventures for young people I have experienced first-hand the benefits and valuable life skills that group travel brings. I hav ...
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.
Cahuita 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 the different landscapes within the park is a haven for different bird species. 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).
We assist ICE with conducting a Biological Assessment Survey of the four major habitat types around our area of the 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 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 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.
We also assist the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) 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 around March to December each year).
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.
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, the reason for losses in egg development, and 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.
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”.
We assist SINAC with identifying the availability of prey species in the area, noting any changes in jaguar feeding behaviour, and determining whether jaguars prey on sea turtles in this area, as they are known to do in other areas. The predation of marine turtles by jaguars has an impact on marine turtle populations and this information assists SINAC to develop well-rounded and consistent conservation policies within the national parks.
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 in Tortuguero, by collecting data for them, and we are going to implement the same techniques in Cahuita National Park, which borders the jaguar corridor. It is constantly evolving as new, more effective methodologies are developed.
We monitor 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. Species are identified and specifics such as their sex and breeding behaviour are noted.
This project aims 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 organisation to study birds in the National Park. Each volunteer has a great impact on the preservation of the wetlands, a recognised RAMSAR site. The project also helps SINAC with developing an accurate management plan for Cahuita 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.
GVI Cahuita’s long-term objectives:
1. Increase scientific knowledge of Cahuita National Park.
2. Increase awareness of GVI’s Cahuita projects and the ecological value of the Cahuita 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 Cahuita National Park and raise awareness of environmental issues amongst volunteers and visitors.
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.
We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.
We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.
We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.
We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.
For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.
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.
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.
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.
We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.
We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.