Jaguar Conservation in Costa Rica

Conduct jaguar research in the tropical jungles of Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park.

Durations:  2 - 12 weeks

Program information

Assist in the protection of the elusive jaguar in one of the only areas where jaguars are known to prey on adult sea turtles, the rainforests that line Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Gain valuable conservation skills and field experience while setting up and monitoring jaguar camera traps along a 16 mile stretch of beach.

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undefined 31 May 2022
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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.
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Kira Van Reusen

11 Aug, 2021
I found GVI when I was researching how I could volunteer with wildlife abroad. I quickly signed up to go to Jalova in Costa Rica for wildlife conservation. In Jalova we learn about biodiversity and how to do the little things that help with world conservation. The first week in Jalova is training week where all of the volunteers and interns are taught the most important species and how to spot them. This knowledge was so important for the work that we did. I participated in forest surveys and beach surveys daily to collect info about the animals in Tortuguero National Park. All of the info goes to park management and the Costa Rican government. It was amazing to live in a communal setting and to know that I was helping to conserve such important animals and plants. On top of the amazing education, the staff members are so friendly and I could tell that they love what they do. The passion that they have inspired me to look into more conservation stuff.

Caroline Fitzgerald

11 Oct, 2018
Volunteering with GVI has really changed my life. It was the best experience I’ve ever had, and in the short time I was there, I learnt so much. I decided to go to Costa Rica as I study Geography and am hugely interesting in conservation and wildlife. Being immersed in an isolated location in the jungle with new people, doing incredible work for important research, really appealed to me! I grew up and spent most of my life in the Middle East so I never miss out on the opportunity to travel. Arriving in San Jose by myself after a long trip from Ireland was a little bit nerve wracking but I met by such happy, friendly GVI staffs that I felt instantly at ease. The other volunteers and interns I met as we travelled to base were so interesting and I knew we’d all be great friends. The trip to base was so memorable. Going through the cloud forest was amazing and I spent the entire journey looking out the window in awe. The chicken bus was also enjoyable, despite standing up in the crowded aisle, sweating in the heat completed squashed should have been a nightmare but I loved experiencing something new and looking out the window at the banana plantations, stopping every few metres at a banana crossing! I loved living on base. It was amazing to get away from the real world, spent hours talking to such inspiring people every day and working with incredible wildlife I thought I’d only ever see on National Geographic. I woke up before the sun rose every day and loved listening to the birds and wildlife wake up. I’d be one of the last to go to bed at night, making sure I didn’t waste a minute to soak up the whole experience. My favourite part of the trip was working with the turtles. They are such beautiful creatures and being so close to them was amazing. My favourite moment was the first time I did a night walk and got to count the turtle’s eggs. The rest of the team were along the beach marking the nest so I was alone with the turtle in the complete dark and it was pouring rain. I was covered in sand and mosquitos and sand flies were biting my entire back but I’ll never forget how great that moment was! I also loved doing jag walks, where we would walk to the local town in Torteguero, 15 miles away, following jag tracks and working on predated turtles. The little town itself was beautiful and I loved talking to the local shop keepers and walking the streets before enjoying a big burger and some Internet! Probably the least enjoyable part of the trip was the huge amount of mosquito bites I received. However, after a few days I got used to them and didn’t let them ruin my trip! I also completed the Leadership Programme whilst in Costa Rica and thoroughly enjoyed this. I learnt a lot about presenting and being a leader. For my project I organised a treasure hunt around base, and everyone had so much fun doing it one afternoon, which was really rewarding. Although the work itself was so fulfilling, I was surprised at how inspiring the other volunteers, interns and staff were. Everyone was from a difference place and I loved hearing their advice and experiences about the field I hope to venture into after college. The staffs were so helpful and so passionate about the world they do, a huge asset to GVI! I loved the training week and each staff member was so enthusiastic about the work and helped us learn in an enjoyable way. The trip went much too quickly, but I did my best to make the most of each day, signing up for everything and doing as much as I could! My camera broke half way through the trip, which I was devastated about, but after a while I much preferred watching the beautiful toucans fly across the sky and keeping the image as a memory whilst everyone else was messing around with their cameras and missing the moment. I could talk about the trip forever but in a nutshell, the things I saw, the people I met and the work I did, as well as the beautiful country of Costa Rica itself, have been the best experiences of my life and I am so glad I chose GVI. I hope to go on another GVI programme in the future, as I believe the work they do and the people involved are one of a kind!

James Mckie

11 Oct, 2018
I cannot even begin to imagine a place that's any more untouched by humans with as much abundance of wildlife as the Tortugero national park. I wished to join this expedition for a long time mostly because of my love of sea turtle conservation, and boy is this place unique! Not only do they have four types of sea turtle arrive this beach this is literally where sea turtle conservation all began in the 1950's! I will never forget the first time I called out to our project leader after seeing turtle tracks which were peppered with Jaguar prints. After finding the freshly predated turtle we recorded our data and set up a camera trap to find out the results the following day. It just so happens the Jaguar returned 10 minutes after we left and was clearly watching us waiting to leave! Amazing data recording followed with he first Leatherback turtle survey of the season. To see a 1.5 meter turtle drag its way up the beach after such a journey is like being transported back to prehistoric times. Base life was basic as expected but comfortable and regularly had groups of spider monkeys coming through camp. In short if you like wildlife this is the place to go and make a difference, you will not (cannot) be disappointed.

Rosie Newman Hopkins

15 Aug, 2018
I was on my gap year when I decided to volunteer for GVI, a lot of my friends were going travelling together, but I knew I’d rather do something productive. I saved all my money together for half the year and was in Jalova, Costa Rica by mid February. Choosing Costa Rica was a quick decision for me as I have always wanted to travel around Central America and the tropical conditions are exciting to someone from a cold climate like England. I also found the country very intriguing due to its sheer diversity of wildlife species some of which I learned to identify whilst there.   My first week involved a few training days including canal birds, forest wildlife and emergency first  response training. However the staff still found the time for me to participate in lots of surveys for which I was very grateful for. It was a great way to put my new found skills to the test! The other volunteers were very welcoming as well as the staff. We all got along very well and the volunteers and I went away together on my second weekend to Monteverde. Even when we were away from base, we were practicing spotting animals, trying to see more of the wildlife available to us in different parts of Costa Rica. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Costa Rica, I definitely did not want to leave. The staff were encouraging, even when I was nervous about doing one of the longest surveys, they got me through it and I was so proud of myself for completing it. My experiences in Jalova have reaffirmed my life choices for university and beyond. I have made a whole new set of friends which I plan on keeping in touch with and potentially visiting over the years. The skills I've learnt during my time in Costa Rica I will use and treasure throughout my life, this will definitely not be the last time I volunteer for GVI!

Madison McLatchie

15 Aug, 2018
Living at GVI Jalova base for a month and a half was an incredible experience. Every day we would get up early and go out on the first survey of the day, seeing so many different species and experiencing things that couldn’t happen anywhere else. The surveys and training that I received definitely made my CV/resume more appealing to future employers by adding a unique workplace and experience in an international environment. It shows that I am committed to improving myself and going far and wide to participate in new activities and undergo research. The program impacted me in more ways than just learning the different species living in the jungle and oceans around base. My experiences taught me about world issues like climate change, and how human disposal of rubbish into waterways, oceans and forests can cause distress to the environment and the species that inhabit it. Living in the thick of it pushed me to now work on completing my university degree in conservation and aim to work in a place like Jalova once graduated to help wildlife research and conservation. The support from GVI staff both off and on base during my volunteering time was excellent. The phone calls and emails prior to my departure to Costa Rica helped give myself and family confidence that I was going to a safe and reliable place. Staff members on base were supportive, fun and easy to talk to. Everyone was very inclusive and I had no trouble being around the same people for many weeks. All in all, this was an experience that I will never regret! I would repeat this program again and change nothing. I would recommend this program to absolutely anyone who is interested in learning more about conservation and the ecosystem, and animal lovers everywhere. Thankyou GVI for such an awesome experience.

Kim Packard

25 Nov, 2013
It’s every big cat lovers dream to be able to capture a glimpse of the elusive jaguar, and being here gets you so close to realizing that dream. The excitement of setting up jag cams, being able to ID these cats and witness new behaviours is truly addictive. Knowing these amazing cats are thriving here gives hope for future conservation.

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