Discover Corps Reviews: Kristin McGarey on Costa Rica Sea Turtles

Kristin McGarey and her family recently returned from the Sea Turtle Initiative in Costa Rica, where volunteers are introduced to the beautiful and endangered leatherback sea turtles. This Discover Corps trip offered the McGarey family a unique opportunity to spend time together while working to help a very special cause.

Participants in the Sea Turtle Initiative travel to the Caribbean coast (from January to July) or the Nicoya Peninsula in the Pacific Ocean (from July to December) to meet with environmentalists and learn about the turtles and the stunning habitats they call home. 

Costa Rica Sea Turtles currently face many threats, including boat traffic, climate change, and trash in the ocean and on the beach. Since 1980, the leatherback turtle population in Costa Rica has dropped a shocking 90%. 

Discover Corps volunteers help to offset these threats by cleaning up the beach and releasing baby turtles back into the ocean. This is a hands-on Sea Turtle conservation experience that’s perfect for anyone who is passionate about helping an endangered species. 

Allow us to introduce Kristin, who shares the unforgettable memories she enjoyed with her family in Costa Rica…

The McGarey family in Costa Rica
The McGarey family in Costa Rica

Frank and I have two children who are both in college. Our oldest, Andrew, is finishing up this May and our daughter, Alison, is in her third year at Georgia Tech.

We wanted to take one more family trip before Andrew graduates and starts working full-time. Everyone wanted to go somewhere warm, but no one wanted to just sit on the beach at an all-inclusive resort.

I happened upon a link to the Discover Corps site while looking at adventure travel sites.

The Sea Turtle Initiative in Costa Rica provided the best of both worlds. We would get to spend time with the turtles, have “chill” time at the beach, and experience some of the thrills that Costa Rica is known for, like zip lining, rafting, and hiking.


zip lining in Costa Rica

Our bonding time in Costa Rica was even better than most vacations. We didn’t have to spend every moment together. Some meals we ate together, while some meals the kids ate separately. The internet connection was spotty, so people actually had conversations.

We all got really involved with the adventure of the turtles, and we had a lot of laughs and many great memories.

The trip lived up to our expectations and more. We got to release baby turtles and experience the entire process; the laying of the eggs, the moms crawling up the beach, digging their nest, covering and camouflaging their eggs, and returning to the sea.

It was amazing to be so close to the mother turtles laying their eggs and doing all that she could to protect them in hopes that they hatch. The most interesting thing we learned is how few of the hatchlings actually make it to adulthood. This just made me want to help even more.



We loved the zip line, tubing and hiking. The beach was great. As a mom, I loved seeing my family have fun together and with their new friends. We also loved the mangrove tour, fishing, and seeing the day-to-day lives of the local families that rely on fishing for their livelihood.

My 21-year-old daughter’s favorite part was a pick-up soccer game against some of the locals at the beach one afternoon. Not everyone spoke the same language, and the locals were very kind in not “crushing” our kids.

The volunteer group was great. We were all from different parts of the country. My daughter commented on how “smart” our new friends were. [There was] an MD, an attorney, two PhD college professors, and a chiropractor, just to name a few. We all shared pictures from the trip and connected over Facebook and email once we were home.

This was the best trip I’ve ever been on. Everything was taken care of, and all we had to do was have fun. Our guides were knowledgeable and able to handle whatever came up. We learned so much about Costa Rica and the Sea Turtles in the process.

We’re already looking to return to Costa Rica and experience even more! –interview conducted by Britany Robinson




BIO: Britany Robinson is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her works appears in BBC Travel, Mashable, Green Global Travel and more. Her blog, Travel Write Away, shares advice and musings on travel writing. When she’s not planning her next big trip, she’s scoping out Portland craft beers and local hikes. 

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