I traveled to Costa Rica to volunteer with AIM research in September - October 2012. AIM is a great organisation to volunteer with consisting of ocean science research and community outreach.
For the Ocean Science division you are trained in a series of diving scientific skills workshops comprising of hands on practical training and theory lectures. The diving instructor was great, making sure that everyone on the course recieved all the training they required and spent extra time with any volunteers who needed extra attention on particular skills. I felt very comfortable to ask questions and for extra help on certain skills. By the end of the training I could see marked improvments on my diving skills and as soon as they where put into practice I started to use the skills I had learned without even realising I was doing it. The lectures included in the workshops where also very informative and easy to follow, a good way to wrap up the days dive.
The work of monitoring and maintaing the artificial reef was very rewarding. To swim across the sandy bottom of the sea floor which is devoid of life then come across the artificial reef teeming with sea life is a great experiance. It is exciting to be a part of the project at such an early stage seeing the positive impact that the reef has already had to the local ecosysytem and the potential that the reef will have for the future.
The community outreah section was also very rewarding. During the time I spent at AIM we visited a local school to develop a vegtable garden for the children to get the kids outdoors and get their hands dirty, teaching them about the natural environment. We also participated in constructing a bottle boat and recycling bins to promote recycling in the area, which were then displayed at a local community beach and street clean up. The clean up was very rewarding to see a diverse group from the local community get together on a saturday morining and to see the differance the clean up made around the town.
Playa Del Coco is a great little beach side town to volunteer in. There is a real community feel to the place. It's the type of place after a week you can be walking down the street and saying 'Hola' to everyone, see a familiar face and stop for a chat and spend a lazy afternoon on the beach. The family that runs the volunteer accomodation are very friendly and welcoming, giving you the feeling your staying in a home more than a hostel.
AIM is a great place to volunteer, all the directors do a fantastic job of their departments which really makes you feel like a part of the community. I would recomend volunteering with AIM to anyone who is looking for a diving conservation and community outreached based project.