Imagine fulfilling a childhood dream while making a positive impact on the world.
That’s exactly what happened to me when I volunteered as a sea turtle conservation volunteer in Costa Rica.
In today’s post, I’ll share with you the awe-inspiring moments, experiences, and valuable lessons I gained while fulfilling my childhood dream.
See — it all started back in the '90s when my Pre-Kindergarten teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Most kids responded with, “Firefighter, Doctor, Astronaut, or Batman”.
Not me. “I’m not Batman”.
I instead confidently replied, “I want to become a turtle.”
Little did I know that 25 years later, I would come close to fulfilling my “dream job”.
It all started with a simple Google search.
While searching for meaningful mission trips I stumbled across a website called “Volunteer World.”
The website was easy to navigate and full of volunteer opportunities.
A couple of hours later — my sea turtle conservation volunteer application was approved. It was official!
The Five-year-old me would be proud.
Two weeks later, I found myself at Juan Santamaría International Airport in Costa Rica, ready to start my turtle-saving adventure.
The moment I looked out the window, I was captivated by the breathtaking beauty surrounding me.
The sun’s warmth was just right — neither too hot nor too cold.
My first night in Costa Rica was spent in a local volunteer home in San Jose, a couple of hours away from my final destination, Playa MataPalo.
The next morning — I enjoyed a local Costa Rican dish called “Gallo Pinto”. As you can see in the picture above — it consists of rice and beans, usually served with scrambled or fried eggs, and ripe plantains (banana-like fruits).
And yes, it was fantastic.
The next day, I woke up with excitement and made my way to the local bus stop.
After a three-hour bus ride, I finally arrived at “The Turtle House.”
There, I joined forces with fellow volunteers from all around the world.
Our tasks ranged from engaging in beach walks to caring for the hatchery, where we passionately protected and monitored turtle eggs.
This is where I learned so much about what happens after a turtle hatches.
First, when a turtle hatches, it uses a special egg-tooth to break through its eggshell.
Hatchlings may remain in the nest for some time, or they might be stimulated to emerge by the sounds or vibrations of nearby hatchlings.
Turtles often hatch in large groups called “clutches” to enhance their chances of survival.
Once a hatchling emerges from the nest, it instinctively heads toward the surface.
Turtles use their flippers and proper body movements to wriggle through the sand until they reach the top. This process can take several hours.
As volunteers, we were instructed to let the turtles go through this process as it was important for them to build their strength up to survive in the ocean.
Upon reaching the surface, hatchlings instinctively orient themselves towards the brightest light, which is usually the reflection of the moon or the ocean.
After emerging from the nest, the hatchlings begin their perilous journey towards the ocean.
They use their flippers to scuttle across the sandy beach, often covering considerable distances before reaching the water.
We called this the “mad dash,” as the turtles are susceptible to predators and various hazards such as debris, artificial lighting, or human interference.
When the hatchlings finally reach the water’s edge, they dive into the waves.
The surf helps carry them into the ocean, where they are safe from most land predators. Their flippers and strong swimming abilities aid in this transition.
Once in the water, the hatchlings begin to disperse, traveling great distances away from their hatching site.
They enter a stage called the “pelagic stage” and spend a significant portion of their early life in the open ocean, where they face new challenges and predators.
During this phase, turtles grow, develop their internal organs, and acquire adaptations that enable them to survive in various marine environments.
Depending on the species, turtles can spend several years or even decades growing to maturity in the ocean.
When they reach sexual maturation, they instinctively return to the beach of their birth to reproduce.
This incredible navigational ability, known as “imprinting,” helps them find their way back to the same location where they hatched.
Learning and observing this process firsthand was inspiring, to say the least.
Mother nature at her finest.
Just for perspective, one nest can contain anywhere from 50 to 200 eggs.
In the picture above, each label represents one nest that successfully made it to the ocean.
If you volunteer — you will make a lasting impact. They need your help.
Okay, here’s the crazy thing. One week was roughly $200 — $300. This covered food, shelter, and Wi-Fi.
In Costa Rica.
Oh did I forget to mention, that we spent 5–6 hours a day actively volunteering but any time outside of that was yours to enjoy?
You can use this time to get creative — like making a fishing pole out of bamboo.
You can also find random waterfalls like this all over the place.
Coffee addict? Imagine four-wheeling for two hours through the jungle followed by a world-famous coffee tour where you make it.
Maybe something more chill — like hanging with the monkeys?
In closing, my adventures as a sea turtle conservation volunteer in Costa Rica were nothing short of extraordinary.
This opportunity allowed me to fulfill my childhood dream while making a real difference in the world.
If you’re searching for an adventure that combines passion, conservation, and personal growth, consider it!