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Dominica Sea Turtle Studies 

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This summer was AMAZING!
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This Trip Has Transformed My Life!
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Some of the best moments went from jamming out in our rooms of Drake ...
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I thought this trip was amazing from the start. My favorite part was ...
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My son said this was one of the most amazing experience of his life and ...
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The two weeks in Tortuguero were fun, educational and created memories ...
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I always recommend Broadreach and will continue to do so. Thanks for ...
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Chloe had a great time, and we feel that the experience expanded her ...
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This trip has made multiple dreams come true for me. My favorite memory ...
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The first time I did a body check on a turtle, I picked up her front ...
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This trip was definitely one of the most unique and amazing experiences ...
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My daughter loved the Sea Turtles Studies trip. She bonded with the kids ...
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Video: Hear how studying sea turtles impacted Sydney's life
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Video: Hear what Jason learned about turtles and leadership
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Catching eggs was a memorable experience for me. I learned how endangered ...
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alumni journals
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Costa Rica Sea Turtle Studies

Leah Fine

This trip has taught me so much. I have learned how to be comfortable around new people and new situations. I now understand that although it may seem you have nothing in common with a person—not ...

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This trip has taught me so much. I have learned how to be comfortable around new people and new situations. I now understand that although it may seem you have nothing in common with a person—not even a language—you are still in the same boat. I’ve learned that laughter and ice cream are universal.

The most important thing I’ve learned, though, is that there is more to travel than tourism. Going to another country shouldn’t be about sipping drinks in the hot tub. It’s an opportunity to make a real impact on the environments and communities around you.

This lesson began for me on the way to the tiny village of Tortuguero. Traveling down the quiet, murky river on a boat that felt as though it would tip over at any moment, I realized that we weren’t just on a vacation. And I was right. Upon arriving in Tortuguero, we became part of a research team and a warm community.

Every night, we’d walk out onto the black sand beach to look for sea turtles. No lights were allowed, and the smallest log or even the high tide line became obstacles to overcome. We were tired and bugbitten, but the moment our group saw the dark streaks of turtle tracks, none of that mattered. Watching a turtle laying its eggs—hearing each breath, seeing each tear—was a reward like none I’d gained from any other travel experience. I was leaving more than footprints on that beach. I was helping save a species.

Every moment at the research station was rewarding. Sitting in the blessedly air conditioned library watching the World Cup with the research assistants and writing papers on ecotourism, my group came together as a part of a team. One day, we started a game of soccer in the field outside the dorm. The women who cooked our meals joined in, and some of the research assistants watched and laughed. Dodging trees and iguanas and trying to keep the ball out of the canals, we enjoyed the time spent with new friends.

Some of the best experiences I had were in the village of Tortuguero. By the end of our week there, we recognized many of the people in the town. We frequented the bakery and ice cream shop, and even knew the names of several of the town’s dogs.

One day, we headed to the local elementary school to help teach the kids English. The experience was overwhelming at first—I speak no Spanish, and communicating was almost impossible. But by recess, we had bonded with these kids even without words. One of the girls took my hand and led me to a tiny grocery store, where she bought a few popsicles and then held one out to me. “Really?” I asked. “Si!” she replied. The gift was small—the popsicle cost just under five cents—but the impact it had on me was huge.

After recess, I sat in a third grade classroom with my tripmate Christine and two of the students, Martha and Pamela. Together, we drew pictures. Pointing to a fish, I asked, “En Español?” “Pescal,” Martha answered. “In English,” I said, “Es fish.” “Fish,” she repeated, in a timid, accented voice.

I didn’t just teach the kids at the school. They taught me. And I learned more than Spanish—I learned the impact two lives can have on each other once you reach out and make that connection.

On our last night in Tortuguero, we went out to the nicest restaurant in town. That was some of the best pizza I have ever eaten. When we got back to the research station, the research assistants were already out on their night shifts. Most of my tripmates went to sleep. My friend Hadley and I went to the dining hall to eat our last bowl of midnight cereal. Then she went back to our room, too.

I was the only one awake. I sat on the balcony outside our dorm room, reading a book and taking it all in. The air was heavy and humid and the night was beautiful. I stayed on the balcony until I heard the first shift coming back from the beach, laughing and talking about the turtles they had seen in a jumble of English and Spanish.

I was sad to leave this place that had taught me so much. We were going on to Drake Bay for another amazing week of snorkeling and exploring. Tortuguero was buggy and hot and we could not swim. It was far from perfect, but it was my paradise.

I may have left Tortuguero, but it has not left me. When I think back on the children in the school, the research assistants, the turtles’ tears, I know I will never travel again without reaching out. I have learned the power I have to make a change in the world and have the greatest experience of my life at the same time.

- Leah Fine, Brookline, MA
Costa Rica Sea Turtle Studies

Garth Gray

A year ago Costa Rica to me was just another distant country on the Caribbean coast known for its rain forests and excellent surfing. Thanks to my participation with an Academic Treks program ...

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A year ago Costa Rica to me was just another distant country on the Caribbean coast known for its rain forests and excellent surfing. Thanks to my participation with an Academic Treks program by Broadreach, I got to experience life in the country first hand and much more.

Our focused group of high school students consisted of four boys and seven girls, coming from homes as far away as Alaska, Maine, New York, and Florida. Our primary mission was to work alongside researchers with the Caribbean Conservation Corporation to collect data from, monitor, and study the endangered green sea turtles along the coast near Tortuguero. Our daytime studies came alive at night when we explored the beaches after midnight in search of turtles laying their eggs. Soon studying outdoors became an adventure as we stumbled (literally) across four-hundred-pound nesting turtles, venomous snakes, and even the red glow of a pair of jaguar eyes just a few feet into the vegetation.

Our staff and team of researchers were awesome. Through them we gained an appreciation of the importance of conservation and knowledge that the research we were helping with really was important. I learned that the sea turtles only contribute to the ecosystem and are not harmful in any way. New laws protecting sea turtles from poachers and valuable research focused on prolonging their existence help not only the turtle population but the local tourist economy as well.

Free time relaxing with my new friends was also a lot of fun as we compared home towns, interests, and college plans. We shared times we won’t easily forget, like touching bottle nosed dolphins from the bow of our boat and scuba diving in the clear Caribbean waters. We also performed community service work with local students by cleaning up beaches to make turtle nesting possible. I enjoyed practicing my Spanish vocabulary while getting to know some of the locals my age. Working alongside our new friends took on greater meaning as we gained their respect as givers rather than takers and I feel proud knowing that we left favorable impressions of Americans abroad.

Towards the end of our adventure we traveled through the rain forests to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. There we relaxed on the black volcanic beaches with just enough time to scuba dive, soak in the local culture and reflect on the last few weeks we had shared. Our fragmented group of strangers was now united with a common desire to not only stay in touch with each other but to also stay in touch with nature.

All of these experiences have given me a greater appreciation of our fragile ecosystem, distant countries, and close friendships. I realize better now, that every individual can make a positive impact on others and the world around us. Knowing now that the turtles I see along the North Carolina coast may likely be on a journey back to Costa Rica gives me a closer connection to them and a concern for their safety. I am grateful for this recent experience, and look forward to many more in the future.

-Garth Gray of Greenville, North Carolina
Costa Rica Sea Turtle Studies

Erica Towle

I have always taken the initiative to further my knowledge of marine biology because it is not only the field I want to pursue but also a passion of mine. The summer after my junior year was ...

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I have always taken the initiative to further my knowledge of marine biology because it is not only the field I want to pursue but also a passion of mine. The summer after my junior year was an experience I will never forget because I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do a summer enrichment program through an organization called Broadreach. I had the opportunity to combine many of my favorite hobbies into one trip: marine biology, SCUBA diving, traveling, and cultural exchange. Not only was that summer an academic achievement, it was also an experience that has changed the way I look at the world and at myself as a person.

I was drawn to the Broadreach program Sea Turtle Studies because it offered me the opportunity to be an intern at the most popular nesting beach for green turtles in the world and to work at the Caribbean Conservation Corporation in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. During the day I would take classes in sea turtle biology from world-renowned sea turtle biologist Sebastian Troeng. In the afternoon I would soak up Costa Rican culture and SCUBA dive, and by night I would go out on the beach to work with sea turtles. I knew it would be the perfect summer internship.

On July 12th, 2005 I left my house for a month for what I hoped would be the best summer of my life. As I walked to my airport gate all alone, I could feel my heart racing in anticipation; full of paradoxical feelings of worry and excitement at the same time because I was thrusting myself into a new country with new people I had never met before. After a five hour flight, a four hour bus ride, and a two hour boat ride, I arrived in the village of Tortuguero. I was struck most by the lushness of the rainforest and the abundance of toucans and monkeys as my group of twelve students and two advisors drifted down the river to our dorms at the CCC. In the weeks that followed we learned sea turtle biology inside and out, took a midterm and final exam, wrote three data synthesis papers from hypotheses we came up with, and recorded our findings.

To study the nocturnal turtles we had to become nocturnal. Our shifts were from eight P.M. to midnight, midnight to four A.M., and six A.M. to ten A.M. Collapsing in my bunk at four thirty after a shift was well worth it to have shared the beach with only nesting turtles for twelve miles. Typically my job would be to tag the turtles to identify them, measure their shell, (carapace,) length, and check them for any diseases. One of my most memorable shifts was a night where the moon was so bright I could see my shadow on the sand. I was working with a turtle when she began to lay her eggs. My job was to lay flat in the sand and hold my hand beneath her egg chamber to count the number of eggs laid. The moment was peaceful and mystical, and at that moment I felt that I was connected to the turtle and to the sea.

Besides the academic success of my internship, I learned so much about myself as a person and how I see the world. Whenever my group had free time we would go into the town of Tortuguero. One afternoon we spent a day with the local high school to do a beach clean-up community service project. No one was really sure what to expect, especially me who didn’t speak any Spanish. The first few minutes were sufficiently awkward; each group of teens was equally uncertain and shy. Gradually the ice was broken and together we picked up trash and communicated with each other without saying any words. After we had finished cleaning, a pick-up game of soccer started and everyone joined in regardless of ability. I wondered how we could be so different, yet so alike. That night some locals taught my group how to salsa dance. I followed by example as I watched their bodies sway to the beat. I was genuinely moved by the fact that even though few words were spoken, I could relate to Costa Rican teens with something as simple as salsa music, a smile, a gesture, eye contact, or a high-five.

That summer my whole outlook on life changed. I confirmed that I want to become a marine biologist because I enjoyed the hands-on sea turtle work so much. I learned to see the world with both eyes and to appreciate the beauty of nature and the connections that humans can have with nature. I discovered that communication isn’t limited to spoken words. I created friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime. Lastly and most importantly I started to become aware of my place on the earth, the way I want to live my life, and the kind of adult I want to become.

- Erica Towle

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