Wake up surrounded by the sounds of exotic birds and wildlife in the heart of a verdant Costa Rica rainforest. For the next three months your office will be set in the gorgeous Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve. Experience the untouched beauty of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and its unique biodiversity while gaining valuable field-based experience to jumpstart your career.
Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, and thus one of the prime locations globally to complete an international conservation internship. On this program, interns will have the chance to participate in research conducted by GVI in partnership with highly reputable conservation organisations like the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET), Panthera, Coastal Jaguar Conservation, and the Sea Turtle Conservancy. The research projects range from biodiversity surveys of the surrounding habitat, tracking and camera trapping to collect data on jaguars, and walking beaches during turtle nesting season to record data on mother turtles and hatchling success. Interns will also have the opportunity to input data into the relevant databases and learn more about how this data is analysed.
Due to the fact you will work in a national park, you will need a special scientific permit to approve you for conducting research. Further permits are required for turtle and jaguar research. The permit for turtle research takes about one month to process, while the permit for conducting jaguar research takes about 2 to 3 months to process.
Work alongside expert researchers and conservationists, collecting population and behavioural data across various ecosystems and species including wild cats, reptiles, tropical birds and raptors.
Have the privilege to live and work in one of Costa Rica’s protected indigenous reserves, where you’ll be surrounded by abundant wildlife species in their natural habitat, including sea turtles, jungle cats, monkeys, tropical birds, raptors and reptiles.
Get broad exposure to a variety of conservation fieldwork projects and training opportunities to grow your skills.
Support a team of scientists and academics with ongoing, cutting-edge research that gets published and makes an impact.
Work on a real project for a conservation partner to address critical environmental issues in the area.
Participate in practical training sessions to develop your leadership skills and receive guidance from experienced mentors.
Gain international experience, receive four recognised qualifications and get a LinkedIn reference to boost your CV.
Travel off the beaten track to live and work on a research station in the wild. Get exclusive access to protected species and unique ecosystems.
This internship is specifically useful for someone who has or is actively studying the below subject areas at school, university or college, or has an interest in these subject areas.
Some of the example typical activities you could participate in on this program.
Learn how to identify species, collect data and monitor individual animals. You will also receive health and safety training, and training on the ethics of conversation work.
Contribute to wild cat research by setting up and checking camera traps in the rainforest. Monitor feeding behaviour, population growth and predation patterns.
Conduct additional forest biodiversity surveys focused on key plant, insect, bird, mammal and reptile species.
During turtle season (March to August), you’ll assist with turtle surveys – including both day and night beach patrols – to check nests, look for new tracks and monitor female turtles. This could include sightings of leatherback, green and hawksbills turtles.
Undertake bird point counts to assess which bird species are found within the reserve. During migration season, you’ll assist ongoing research on various raptor species, as Kekoldi is home to one of the largest raptor migrations in the world.
Learn how to plan and set team goals, create supportive team environments, and reflect on your own leadership style.
Take on additional responsibilities such as entering data, writing reports and summaries, updating species lists and creating fieldwork checklists.
Work on an individual project that aligns with your personal research interests.
Meet weekly in a small group with other interns and an experienced mentor to receive project guidance and feedback on your leadership style.
Some of the partners we work with on base.
|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)|
|Group introductory call|
|Endorsed GVI Specialisation Course|
|Endorsed Leadership Course|
|Sustainable project work|
|Data collection and research|
|Real projects with partners|
|Weekly group check ins|
|Remote Academic Internship Supervisor|
|Remote Career Internship Supervisor|
|Preferential recruitment on GVI positions|
|Job portal access|
|Endorsed Careers Course|
|Career coaching sessions|
Certificates and achievements
|PDF reference - upon request|
|Linkedin reference and skills endorsement|
|Additional drinks and gratuities|
|Extra local excursions|
|International and domestic airport taxes|
|Medical and travel insurance|
|Personal items and toiletries|
|Police or background check|
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 jungle cat species, migratory raptors, tropical birds, 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.
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...
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...
Internet connection is limited on base, and usually only available at night. Participants can travel into towns where there is WiFi. There’s also the option of buying a SIM card...
Meals will be prepared by local chefs....
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 ...
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...
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
We want you to make the most of the chance to live in – and contribute towards – the most diverse and unique wildernesses and communities on earth. Introducing GVI Experiences – immersive adventure, cultural and wellness activities exclusive to GVI that have been specially designed in collaboration with our local partners to support and stimulate sustainable economic development.
Enhance your impact. Expand your adventure. Explore your world.
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.
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...
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...
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...
Head north up the coast to Tortuguero National Park, one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful national parks. The name “Tortuguero” can be transl...
Organise an adrenaline-inducing journey over the rapids of the Pacuare River. The beautiful Turrialba regi...
Book a tour of the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica
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 ...
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...
Frisbee, volleyball, yoga and pretty much any exercise can be done on the beach. There’s also a ping-pong table on base....
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...
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....
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....
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?...
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...
Surfing, windsurfing and kayaking are just some of the many water sports you can enjoy on either of Costa Rica’s two coasts....
Learn more about how the raw products of these everyday treats are produced at one of Costa Rica’s many coffee and chocolate farms....
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...
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...
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.
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...
11 Nov, 2022
28 Oct, 2022
09 Oct, 2021
15 Aug, 2018
15 Aug, 2018
15 Aug, 2018
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.
‘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.
GVI is a proud member of the Gap Year Association.
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.
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.
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
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:
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.
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 August 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 March to August 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.
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.
Kekoldi is home to several endangered or vulnerable wild jungle cat species – including 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.
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.
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.
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.