Intern Testimonials

Jeroen van de Kerkhof:

HAS University of Applied Sciences

For my study (Applied Biology) I was able to do an internship abroad for 20 weeks. I heard great reviews about Reserva Playa Tortuga from previous interns who had been there so I decided to do it. I got to do a research on the activity and distribution of the Northern tree boa. I researched if environmental (Temperature, Humidity, etc) and morphological (length, weight, etc) factors affected the activity of this species. Next to that I tagged the snakes with both scale clipping and PIT tags. This way it was possible to identify the snakes so could observe their movement and see how much they have grown. It was interesting to see that males would move between different females to mate while females would sit on the same spot and mate with different males.

jerome2Next to my own research there was the possibility to help with other projects such as crocodile monitoring, turtle patrols, bird watching, caiman observations and a shark project. Next to that you could help in the community by doing beach cleanups and helping prepare for the turtle festival. On free days you can spend time on the beach playing volleyball or going to some of the nearby towns were you can rent surf boards, visit waterfalls or do some kayaking. And there is a ping pong table which is great!

I really enjoyed my time at Reserva Playa Tortuga because it is a really educational and fun working environment and the staff is very helpful and friendly. Besides that, people from all over the world come to do voluntary work which is great because they can help with your research. Speaking a little Spanish could help you get around cause in most places in Costa Rica they don’t speak English.



Koen Arens:

HAS University of Applied Sciences

For my education, Applied Biology, I spent five months at Reserva Playa Tortuga doing my internship about determining whether or not the habitat characteristics of two rivers in the area are suitable for the Neotropical River otter. For me this included four weeks of setting up a research plan/proposal. After that I spent twelve weeks in the field, conducting direct and indirect observations of the Neotropical River otter, like feces, tracks, sightings and camera-traps. I also recorded biotic- and abiotic factors of both rivers, such as river depth, width, vegetation coverage, dissolved oxygen levels, current, information about the riverbank and surrounding area and a lot more! After the fieldwork period I spent about four weeks of writing my final report, which included the conclusions of my study and also further recommendations for possible follow-up studies.

Captured on camera!

Captured on camera!

I have really enjoyed myself during my time at Reserva Playa Tortuga. RPT provides a nice working atmosphere with nice colleagues and other volunteers. The director/biologist of RPT, Oscar Brenes, helped me a lot during my internship and I could always ask him for feedback. The volunteers are participating in all of the work conducted at RPT, this also includes the research from interns. When I would go and do my fieldwork I usually had 2 volunteers with me who helped/assist me recording a lot of my data. Which really came in handy, because for some factors I needed more hands.

Besides my internship I had enough possibilities to contribute in other projects carried out by RPT. Some projects were more appealing to me than others, so I mostly helped with the ones I thought were more interesting. I also had enough time to explore the surrounding areas and the rest of Costa Rica, because I only worked doing the week, this meant that I could spend the weekends doing adventure trips, like a Canopy tour, learn how to surf, visiting the waterfalls in the area, exploring surrounding villages and small cities, visiting a reptile zoo, a snorkeling trip to Canõ island, played volleyball every Sunday on the closest beach with people from the community, went to a skimboard contest and made it to the semi-finals and I even went to Panama for my Visa-run!

stukje website 5

If you are looking for an interesting internship abroad, RPT provides a wide range of possible subjects on which you can further develop your biology experience!

Rochelle van Scheijndel:

HAS University of Applied Sciences


From the moment I started looking for an internship I had a few countries I wanted to go to: Costa Rica was one of them. I looked on a lot of different websites but the thing that attracted me to the website of RPT was the research with crocodilians they offered. Working with dangerous animals really attracted me. And this was a once in a lifetime experience so it needed to be really good.


During my internship I did research together with Oscar Brenes on the crocodiles and caimans in the area. In my research I looked if there was a habitat preference in both species. For the habitat I looked at the coverage of plants, plant species, water temperature, water depth and salinity and looked if there was a preference in a certain species, sex of length.


I spent five months at RPT in total. In the first four weeks I started writing a research proposal. After that I started with doing twelve weeks of field work: Going on caiman nights once a week. The beginning was very exciting, I did not know what to expect. But in time I got used to the work. Next to that I also helped with other projects or just came along to enjoy the nature and all it had to offer. After the twelve weeks the writing started again: I needed to make a research report. During my time at RPT I was not alone, two other students from my education were also doing an internship. So in the weekends when we were off we had time to explore the area. We did a lot of different things like: going to a waterfall, snorkeling, learn how to surf, take a diving course, zip lining, play volleyball on Sundays and many more. On the half of our internship we also needed to go on a Visa run because we only had a 90 days Visa. For our Visa run we went to Bajo Boquete in Panama for five days. It was like a small holiday in already a really big holiday.


  • What advice would you give someone who wants to intern at RPT? 

Take enough bug spray and sun cream haha. You’re going to need it. Next to that it can’t hurt to speak a bit of Spanish. If you want to go somewhere almost no one speaks English.

Néomi Geurts:

HAS University of Applied Sciences


My internship was part of my education Applied Biology at the University of Applied Science in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands. My internship run from 22 February 2016 until 8 July 2016 (21 weeks). The first four weeks I spent writing my research proposal. I did a research in the mammals that live at Reserva Playa Tortuga. Oscar Brenes did a research like this in 2013. I compared the results of his research with the results of my research. We recorded the species, abundance and the activity-patterns of the medium-sized mammals living at RPT. These aspects were recorded by use of camera-traps and by active surveys. The camera-traps were active 24 hours a day for 12 weeks. The active surveys were done three times a week, one time in the morning, once in the afternoon and once in the night. During these walks every medium-sized mammal was recorded. After the data collection I had 4 weeks of writing my final research rapport. No major differences were found between the research of 2013 and my research. This means that the mammals at Reserva Playa Tortuga are relatively stable. It is important to make sure that the reserve stays connected to forested corridors. This is important because gene exchange between different groups of mammals keeps the mammals healthy. It is also important to do this research again after a couple of years to make sure that the mammals stay stable.

I really enjoyed my time at Reserva Playa Tortuga, all the employees are very helpful and friendly. It is also nice that you can help with the other projects of the reserve. In your time off you can easily take the bus to some places that are close, like Uvita or Dominical. The beach is also really close, so if you’re done for the day you can walk along the beach. I didn’t speak any Spanish before I started my internship. It wasn’t really a problem in my internship, but I can highly recommend to try and learn some Spanish before you go to Costa Rica. In the most places they don’t speak English, so speaking a little bit of Spanish can be really helpful. To get to Ojochal I took the Tracopa bus from San Jose, it was really easy and it is a lot cheaper than all the shuttles or taxis. You only have to ask the bus driver to stop in Ojochal and then they know where to stop.


Barry van der Veeken

HAS University of Applied Sciences

I am an Applied Biology student at HAS University in the Netherlands. As part of my education I got the privilege to do an internship abroad. I chose for Costa Rica and RPT because of the biodiversity, beautiful location and good reviews of other students.

During my time at RPT I am working on my own research and helping with other researches. The variety of this work and working in a passionated team is really stimulating and helps to gain knowledge and grow as a person.

Barry setting up camera traps

Setting up the camera traps.

My own research is about mammals, in special the family Procyonidae. The aim of this study is to find out which type of environment (different areas within the property) each mammal species of Procyonidae prefers the most. This study includes working with camera traps and mammal walks. These mammal walks take place during the day and during the night. On these walks you look for (signs of) mammals. The camera traps are placed in different areas within the property of RPT. These areas are dense forest, open forest, open area, water area, and an old banana plantation.

Barry & Caimans

First crocodile/caiman night.

Some of the other researches I am helping with is a study on snakes, a crocodile monitoring program, turtle program, etc. RPT provides a good work environment, the team consists of experienced staff, interns, and volunteers. Every time you go out for your study at least one person of the staff joins you and some of the volunteers join. When you are doing your own research they really give you the opportunity to lead the research which is a good experience. Of course will they always provide help or feedback regularly.

When you are off there are lots of interesting places to visit, this is no problem with a bus stop almost in front of the station. Sunday is your day off, this day everybody goes to the beach to play some beach volleyball. Great fun and a good way to bond with each other.

Joris van de Ven

HAS University of Applied Sciences

I am an Applied Biology student at the HAS University in the Netherlands. For our internship, we get the opportunity to do this abroad. So I was looking for an internship in Costa Rica, one of the most beautiful countries in the world because of their great biodiversity and untouched nature.

Joris van de Ven

Measuring the snake’s length

Via school I came in contact with Oscar Brenes, biologist and director of Reserva Playa Tortuga. He offered me a research with snakes, investigating the (density and distribution of) snakes in the area around RPT. Besides, I take morphological measurements to see if there are major differences in morphology between species. For this, I have to catch the snakes and bring them back to the station.

The catching of snakes is not really hard, while the finding of snakes is the exact opposite of easy. To do this, I made squares in the area to investigate at daytime. At night, I am going over trails in the forests to look for the snakes. Besides, I place PVC tubes as a trap in already excisting holes where snakes can go in to sleep, whereafter I can take the PVC tube with the snake. After catching, I bring them back to Reserva Playa Tortuga to do all measurements such as length, body girth and mass.
Joris van de Ven snakeBesides snakes, I am helping with other researches such as a mammal monitoring, sea turtles monitoring and a crocodile and caiman monitoring program. All of this work is done with the best team consisting of staff, volonteers, locals and interns. RPT provides a great work environment with good facilities.

In your free time, there is a lot to do such as visiting National Parks, going to town like Dominical or Uvita, or just go for a cooling swim in the sea or river nearby the station. On fridays and sundays, a volleyball day is organised at the beach, a great place to learn people from all over the area!

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