Volunteering in Costa Rica National Parks can be a life-changing experience. Costa Rica National Parks are home to more different species of plants and animals than any other set of nature preserves in the world.
Every year, scientists, ecologists, graduate students, and undergraduates from around the globe come here to do groundbreaking research and learn how rain forests and other microclimates function. You can help them out, make lifelong connections, learn about nature, and have an unforgettable Costa Rica experience all at the same time by volunteering.
A number of organizations set up volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica National Parks. Depending on your specific interest, the amount of time and money you have, and your abilities, you can design your own adventure to a certain degree, with their help, and learn more than you could in any library.
Asociacion de Voluntariospara el Servicio en las Areas Protegidas (www.asvocr.org) is the go-to organization if you want to spend some serious time volunteering in Costa Rica National Parks. You must commit to at least 30 days minimum, and you must be able to converse in basic Spanish. Simple housing is provided at a ranger station, and $14 per day covers all your meals, which are mostly Tico fare, but filling and good.
Although you must pay your own airfare to get to your volunteer ASVO assignment, this is still a great way to immerse yourself in Costa Rica National Parks for very little money, and make an ecological difference in the bargain.
Earthwatch Institute (www.earthwatch.org) organizes volunteers to help with fieldwork in a wide variety of settings in Costa Rica National Parks and nature preserves, assisting scientists in collecting data. Volunteer opportunities tend to be shorter in duration, and change regularly. You could end up studying the mating habits of leatherback sea turtles or collecting data on the dry forest ecology of the Guanacaste region, depending on need. A two-week volunteer experience runs about $2,200 USD and includes lodging and meals, but not airfare.
The Organization for Tropical Studies (www.ots.ac.cr) represents a number of American and Costa Rican Universities to promote research, education, and proper use of tropical resources. Volunteers stay and work at La Selva Biological Station near Braulio Craillo National Park, or the Wilson Botanical Gardens near San Vito.
Programs run by the OTS vary in duration and intensity, from semester-long undergraduate courses for credit, to graduate level research opportunities, to recently added tourist volunteer excursions that last three to ten days.
Tourist volunteer opportunities in the tropical Costa Rica National Parks are usually run by experienced operators such Costa Rica Expeditions and Elderhostel, and the costs vary widely. Entrance requirements and competition for some of these OTS volunteer opportunities can be fierce, especially for the academic work. Make sure you check out your dream volunteer stint carefully before applying.
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