The Happiest Turtle on Earth!

by Narelle Webber on Wednesday, 30 January 2013

This guy is just happy to be here. Photo by Savannah Benefield from International Student Volunteers. Copyright (c) International Student Volunteers

A picture can tell 1000 words, and bring a million smiles!  This happy reptile caused quite a stir on ISV’s Facebook recently after it was entered in the International Student Volunteers Photo Contest by San Diego State University student Savannah Benefield.

I asked Savannah a few questions about this happy chappy! Begin your adventure with International Student Volunteers by visiting and learn about the overseas volunteer and adventure opportunities ISV offers!

What were you doing with ISV when you found this guy?

I was on the Nancite Loras Project, we were working with three different types of sea turtles; Pacific Black, Olive Ridley (also known as the Green Sea turtle), and Leatherbacks. We were monitoring how many sea turtles of each species came to the beach to lay eggs at night, how many eggs they laid, and to take measurements of the sea turtle.

Did all the turtles you were working with look this excited?

The turtle in the photo is actually not a sea turtle; it’s a river turtle which is not a type we were not working with. One of the locals found it in a giant puddle when we were filling in mud puddles to better able trucks to travel the roads. This was the one and only river turtle we found, it is much smaller than a baby sea turtle and has the brighter orange colors. Sea turtles are deep navy blue / almost black depending on the species.

Savannah flying through through Costa Rican jungle canopies. Photo copyright (c) by International Student Volunteers.

What was your highlight of the trip with International Student Volunteers?

The highlight of my ISV trip was being able to watch a full nest of turtles, which was about 85 Olive Ridley’s, crawl to the sea after hatching.

What did you learn from your experience, especially about sea turtles?

I learned a great deal about the overall threat level sea turtles are in as a species. We would spend mornings retrieving trash that had washed up on shore from public beaches hundreds of miles away that the sea turtles could try to eat, and saw nests that had been dug up and eaten by predators ranging from Jaguars to hermit crabs.

Why did you travel on the ISV program?

I chose ISV because I wanted not only to travel and feel safe but to also make a difference and not just lounge on a beach every day and get a tan. While I did enjoy all the activities the adventure tour offered, I felt I was actually able to make a small difference in the world by also volunteering.

ISV volunteers in Costa Rica experience a 3 day rafting adventure and stay in a jungle cabin powered by a waterfall. Photo property of Copyright (c) International Student Volunteers

Why did you choose to travel to Costa Rica?

I have always had a great interest in the Spanish culture so when I learned I could experience that, have the opportunity to work with sea turtles in Costa Rica, plus participate in all the amazing activities on the adventure tour – like white water rafting and zip lining – my decision was made.

What piece of advice would you have for future globe trotters?

Pack light, save your money in advance, and go with an open mind. Don’t have too many expectations, because too high expectations can ruin a trip. If you go with little to no expectations then absolutely everything will amaze you.


ISV is a USA based non-profit organization. Over 30,000 students have contributed more than 2 million hours of volunteer service in South Africa, Thailand, Australia, Costa Rica, The Dominican Republic and more. ISV offers a unique combination of volunteer and adventure travel for college aged students, high school students and non-students. Over 250 universities have granted academic credit to students who have traveled with ISV.  Learn more about International Student Volunteers at today!



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