This information is taken from the website of the Endangered Wildlife Trust here:


The Endangered Wildlife Trust is a British re
gistered charity established in 1989 specifically to purchase 800 hectares of tropical rainforest on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. This became the Pacuare Nature Reserve

The reserve is rich in wildlife but its special mission has been to protect the critically endangered Leatherback Turtles which nest along its 6 kms. of beach.

More recently, Leatherback Turtle projects were started near Bocas in neighbouring Panama where the need for protection is even greater.

We have active volunteer programmes for all sites. Turtle Volunteeers can easily combine all beaches in one conservation experience.

Costa Rica Edit

The Pacuare Nature Reserve was established by the Endangered Wildlife Trust in 1989 and protects 800 hectares of lowland tropical rainforest and six kms. of deserted beach on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. It is located about 25 kms. north of Limón and lies between the sea and the Tortuguero canal.

The special mission of the reserve has been to protect the Leatherback Turtles, which nest along its beach - one of the most important nesting sites in Central America for this critically endangered species.

March to June is the nesting season for these giant turtles and from June to September Green turtles also nest here, though in lesser numbers.

The Reserve is rich in wildlife, and is home to about 20 species of mammal and many reptiles. Monkeys are plentiful and Howler monkeys regularly provide a dawn chorus.

With beach, forest and freshwater habitats, the reserve has a wide variety of birdsand we have listed 210 species. One of the lagoons within the forest is the only known nesting site in Costa Rica of the rare and beautiful Agami heron.

A new feature is the establishment of an area of native fruit trees and vegetables, which will be of interest to visitors as well as a useful source of food. This has been developed from an original orchard, overgrown for many years but which now has 42 species, mostly edible, such as avocado, banana, yuca, oranges, lemons, papaya, breadfruit etc. and others such as noni and cacao trees. Not many visitors from Europe or the US will have seen a chocolate tree!

There is a main trail, which runs through the forest behind the beach the whole length of the reserve and there are other shorter trails leading to areas of special interest.

Visitors to the Reserve are free to walk the trails or take a boat-ride along the Tortuguero canal where caimans, freshwater turtles and many wading birds can be seen. They are also encouraged to participate fully in the turtle programme and to patrol along the beach at night with our biologist, research assistants and beach guards. Nobody ever forgets the sight of their first giant leatherback.

Research ProjectsEdit

Visiting biologists often conduct research projects at Pacuare and we welcome applications from qualified researchers who wish to take advantage of the wide variety of wildlife in the reserve. Please contact us if you wish to apply.

From mid-March to the end of September we run our Turtle Programme, which attracts volunteers and school groups from around the world.

Under the supervision of our marine biologist, the beach is patrolled every night by small groups of volunteers, a guide and our beach guards. Each turtle we meet is tagged (if not already tagged), measured and examined for any special features or signs of injury.

If the turtle has already laid, we try to disguise the nest from poachers. If she has still to lay, we may collect the eggs in a bag while she lays and then place them in an artificial nest which we dig nearby and which can be more easily camouflaged from poachers. We also do this when the turtle has chosen to lay too near the sea as seawater will kill the eggs by making the shell non-porous.

Leatherbacks nest about seven times during the nesting season at intervals of about 10 days. They lay about 80 fertile eggs in each nest.

Tagging is an important part of the beach work. The tags are placed in both right and left rear flipper, each one bearing a number and a return address in case the tag is found. In this way we can tell when a turtle is returning to our beach or if it has been tagged on another beach.

At the end of the season we, and other turtle projects, send all the tag numbers and information to a centre in the US where it is stored and used for learning more about the turtles' nesting and migratory habits.

When the nests hatch about two months after laying, we monitor the hatching success and dig out the nests for any stragglers.

All our visitors can participate in the beach work, helping to measure a turtle or read a tag or count the eggs as they fall.

The patrolling of the beach takes place in groups throughout the night, with each group always accompanied by a guide or biologist. A typical patrol may take from three to five hours, depending on the number of turtles coming to nest. The beach guards patrol the beach all night.


As well as accommodation for student groups and volunteers, we have a comfortable lodge overlooking the beach for visitors who would like more comfort and privacy.

It has three double-bedrooms, sitting room, kitchen and two toilets. A broad balcony around three sides of the house has tables, chairs and hammocks. It can be rented as a whole or room-by-room. Meals can be taken in the lodge or in the communal dining room.

The minimum length of stay at the Lodge is two nights.

Getting thereEdit

Access to the Reserve from San José is via Matina, a village two hours along the San José-Limón highway. Then a 30-minute drive through banana plantations leads to La Trocha, a landing stage on the Tortuguero canal, where a boat from the Reserve will collect visitors for the 20-minute trip to the Reserve.

There are buses from San José to Matina from where local taxis take one to La Trocha.

Alternatively, visitors can drive to La Trocha where their vehicle can be safely left for the duration of their stay.


Visitors to the Lodge: Please contact Carlos Fernandez for all enquiries regarding prices and availability. Prices to include meals and accommodation, collection from, and return to, La Trocha, trips along the canal, guided night-patrol on the beach, access to all parts of the Reserve.

Minimum stay two nights.

Volunteers: Again, please contact Carlos Fernandez for all enquiries regarding prices and availability. Prices to include food and accommodation, collection from, and return to, La Trocha, night-patrols on the beach, access to all parts of the Reserve.

Minimum stay one week.

Employment opportunities - Costa RicaEdit

FIELD COORDINATORS AND RESEARCH ASSISTANTS needed for the 2010 turtle season at Pacuare Reserve in Costa Rica and Bocas del Toro in Panama

The Endangered Wildlife Trust is inviting applications for Field Coordinators and Research Assistants (RAs) to join the conservation projects in Costa Rica and Panama for the 2010 nesting season of the critically endangered Leatherback turtle.

Applications are now closed but interested parties should check the website for the applications for the 2011 season.

Turtle conservation in Panama at Soropta and Playa LargaEdit

In Panama the Endangered Wildlife Trust has two projects, one at SOROPTA and the other at PLAYA LARGA, for the protection and conservation of the giant leatherback turtles, a critically endangered species.

These projects were started in 2002 at a time when many leatherback turtles were being slaughtered on Panama's beaches, where it was customary to eat the meat of the leatherback, as well as its eggs. By contrast, in next-door Costa Rica, there is heavy poaching of leatherback turtle eggs but the meat is not sought after. We therefore had a situation where the Pacuare Reserve and other Costa Rican turtle projects were protecting leatherback turtle eggs but the turtles that laid them were quite likely to lay their next clutch of eggs in Panama (they lay 7-9 times at intervals of 10 days), where they could well be killed. The worst of the killing beaches was a stretch of about 6 kms of Soropta beach, 15 kms from the Costa Rican border, where about 35 turtles were killed annually. With a colony of only a few hundred females, that was the path to extinction.

Although both projects are an easy boat-ride from Bocas del Toro (known simply as 'Bocas'), the popular resort on the island of Colon, they protect beaches which are isolated and unspoilt.

The SOROPTA project started in 2002 with the purchase of some land behind the beach and the building of accommodation for a biologist, a few local guards and up to 15 volunteers. During the leatherback season, March to June, the beach is patrolled every night, turtles are tagged and some nests relocated to a protected hatchery.

Environmental education is an important part of the programme and our biologists visit local schools to talk about conservation and the need to protect the turtles. We employ eight local men as beach guards and assistants at Soropta and it is rewarding to see how interested they have become in turtle conservation. We also work with local groups on neighbouring San-San and Sixaola beaches to provide incentive and some organization for protection of their beach.

PLAYA LARGA', the other beach project we have taken on, is very different. While Soropta is on the mainland, Playa Larga is a golden sand beach on the island of Bastimentos. Because it lies within a National Park, we do not own any land or buildings there but base the project around a beach hut, which we renovate annually.

Playa Larga has fewer Leatherbacks than Soropta but it attracts a significant number of Hawksbill turtles. These are normally targeted by poachers for their beautiful shell (wrongly known as tortoise shell) but the isolation of Playa Larga ensures there is almost no poaching.

A biologist and up to six volunteers run the project, doing the same work as at Soropta but without the threat of such heavy poaching.

Playa Larga appeals to those looking for the "Robinson Crusoe" life. It is an idyllic beach with hardly ever a tourist. Food is delivered once a week and the volunteers cook for themselves (Soropta employs a cook).

We greatly value volunteers, not only for their practical and financial contribution towards keeping these projects going, but also for spreading the word about the need for turtle conservation.

Although both Soropta and Playa Larga are now mainly Leatherback turtle beaches, the Bocas archipelago used to be one of the most important nesting grounds of the Hawksbill turtle in the western hemisphere. The beaches around Bocas now see very reduced numbers due to the heavy harvesting of both eggs and shell but 100 kms to the south, where there are only isolated beaches and no tourism, there are still Hawksbill turtles in appreciable numbers.

Our biologists work on a Hawksbill turtle research project in that area when our leatherback turtle season finishes at the end of June.

Volunteering in PanamaEdit

We welcome volunteers.

The two Panama projects offer an exciting opportunity to be involved in the vital work of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, helping to protect turtles which are listed as critically endangered species.

For us, the longer volunteers stay on a project the better, as they can become skilled and invaluable members of the team on the beach. A week at Soropta is the practical minimum and similarly at Playa Larga but swapping between the beaches can be done on an informal basis. Some people are better suited to one than the other.

The Volunteer program runs during the Leatherback turtle laying and hatching season, from March to late June.

During the leatherback season (March to late June), 6 kms of beach are patrolled every night for egg-laying turtles. Small teams of volunteers monitor the turtles and help to tag and measure them. Depending on the nest location, eggs may be relocated to a hatchery for a safe future release.

As at Pacuare (see Costa Rica project), volunteers take full part in all the beach work and can expect to be on the beach most nights for at least three hours to patrol in small groups. No previous knowledge or experience is needed to become a really useful volunteer.

To find out more about volunteering on this project with Global Vision International who can assist with discounted kit, flights and insurance please visit our partner Rainforest Concern's website.

Soropta accommodationEdit

We have simple but comfortable accommodation for a resident biologist, five guards and up to 12 volunteers in the original converted house and a small, purpose-built house of three bedrooms with a screened deck area.

Volunteers will share a bedroom with one, and sometimes two, others. All rooms are screened against mosquitos, sheets and pillowcases are provided, and a resident cook prepares three meals a day for the whole team. There is a newly-built bathroom block with showers and flush toilets.

Playa Larga accommodationEdit

The accommodation on Bastimentos is very basic, consisting of little more than a wooden hut. Cooking is done on a gas stove and rainwater is collected for drinking.

A biologist and up to six turtle volunteers run the project, doing the same work as at Soropta but without the threat of heavy poaching. Playa Larga appeals to those looking for the "Robinson Crusoe" life. It is an idyllic beach with hardly ever a tourist. There are no flushing loos and showers, you wash yourself and clothes in the nearby lagoon, and you cook for yourselves. Food is delivered once a week from Bocas.

How to get thereEdit

Bocas is easily reached, either by air from Panama City or overland by bus from San José in Costa Rica from where a morning bus enables one to reach Bocas the same day in the afternoon. From the Costa Rican border it is a short distance and a few dollars in a shared taxi to Almirante where the fast water-taxis run an hourly service across the water to Bocas. The trip costs $3 and takes 20 minutes.

Our local representative in Bocas will arrange transport to Soropta or Playa Larga. The cost of this is not included but volunteers can often hitch a ride in a boat taking stores or, in the case of Soropta, take a scheduled water-taxi for three or four dollars.

Soropta beach is on one side of a narrow spit of land. On the other side is a canal originally dug to transport bananas to the nearby port of Almirante. Nowadays it is very little used but recently a water-taxi service has been started from Bocas to the town of Changuinola on the mainland, and the route takes the boats along the canal and 'past our door', which is very convenient for volunteers joining or leaving, as well as for shopping in Changuinola.

Both projects are an easy boat-ride from Bocas del Toro (known simply as 'Bocas'), the popular resort on the island of Colon, but they protect beaches, which are isolated and unspoilt.


Please contact us for details of current prices.

Employment opportunities - PanamaEdit

RESEARCH ASSISTANTS are needed for the 2010 turtle season at the Pacuare Reserve in Costa Rica and Bocas del Toro in Panama.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust is inviting applications for Research Assistants (RAs) to join the conservation projects in Costa Rica and Panama for the 2010 nesting season of the critically endangered Leatherback turtle.

Click here for more information.

Contact usEdit

Whether you are interested as a possible volunteer, as a visitor to the Pacuare Lodge (Costa Rica) or on behalf of a prospective group, you may obtain further information or reserve your place by contacting Carlos Fernandez - email: tel: +506 224 8568

Alternatively, you can call our partners Rainforest Concern's UK office on 020 7229 2093 (+44 2072292093 from outside of the UK) for further details, or visit their website.