Costa Rica Sea Turtle Adventure
July 21, 2019
All of the Costa Rica Global Works students arrived at various times on Sunday to the Houston Airport where we met our group mates. The week-long sea turtle expedition (us!), and the 15-day Pura Vida groups both waited together for our group flight. We enjoyed getting to know each other at the airport through games and conversation.
Eventually, the time came to board our flight and head to Costa Rica! We had a smooth take-off around 6pm for our flight to San Jose. When we arrived, we were excited to be there and meet the rest of our group, Alexia and Ricardo, who traveled from their home in Mexico.
First, we picked up our luggage and then passed through customs. Although we were tired, we were eager to drive to Heliconias Nature Lodge, where we stayed for the first two nights. After a two hours bus ride from the airport, we finally arrived at Heliconias around 12:30am. We are really excited to continue our adventure here. Pura vida!
By Jane P.
July 22, 2019
Today we all got to experience a small but authentic piece of Costa Rican culture. We drove out to a cheese farm — of all places — out in the rainforest nearby Heliconias. I never would have expected there to be a professional, well-structured cheese farm in the middle of Costa Rica, but I guess this whole country is full of amazing surprises. The trip there was short and comfy, and we all had full stomachs from a great breakfast of gallo pinto (rice and beans) and eggs, so we were ready to go.
When we arrived at the farm, I noticed that it was a lot more humid than at our hotel, and I was not a huge fan of that. However, our guide and owner of the farm, Crisley (who is also the Global Works Costa Rica Country Director), was kind, welcoming, and super informative. He walked us through the whole cheese-making process, from buying the milk to pasteurizing it, to boiling it in saltwater, we learned it all! After learning everything, we went to an air conditioned office (hallelujah) and our trip leader Chalo taught us all about Costa Rica with help from our other trip leader, Alicia. We learned about the geography, its fauna, a little history, and a few facts about its economy.
After that, we joined back with Crisley and we rolled our own cheese balls. Me and my sister (Alexia) thought the cheese tasted and looked really similar to queso Oaxaca, an amazing cheese from back home. We ate a great lunch and then Crisley took the whole group through a tour of his farm, showing us how they are totally self-sustainable, running us through all the fruit they grow and the animals they raise. We saw bananas, avocados, and star fruit trees among many others, as well as pigs, chickens and ducks. We came back to the hotel, enjoyed some free time, and then we were given a great salsa dance class by Randall, a guide from the other group. All in all, we had a pretty amazing day, and are feeling relaxed to prepare us for all the things to come.
July 23, 2019
Our first day of rafting was super fun! We woke up really early at 5:30am, so that we could leave at 6:30. The trip to the Pacuaré River took about four hours, but with enough snacks and conversation, we managed to be comfortable.
We arrived at the Exploradores Outdoors base camp and restaurant of the rafting company where we stored our bags and ate breakfast. Then, we got on a super bumpy ride for a good 20 minutes, but luckily, we survived! When we arrived at the put-in spot at the river we learned all of the rafting commands. Then we split into two rafts and we were off!
The rafting itself was super fun. As we kept advancing, we all started getting better at paddling and the rafts we’re moving faster. We were rafting mostly level 1,2 and 3 (5 is the highest, 6 are waterfalls), and it was really exciting. At times, big waves would splash against the raft and everyone would get splashed. It was really refreshing! We rafted for about two hours before we got to the camp, so we were all pretty beat by the time we arrived.
The camp was extremely beautiful and serene. Each little bungalow had its own space and it really felt like you were immersed in the jungle. After a quick shower, we ate a delicious lunch. We relaxed for a few hours and played a few card games together. In those hours we were able to see a few toucans, and a gorgeous golden beetle. My brother and I even saw a poison dart frog! It was so nice to have time to just sit and listen to the sounds of the jungle.
We fell asleep to the sounds of cicadas and it was overall super peaceful. I seriously didn’t want to leave the bungalows!
July 24, 2019
Aka “A River Rafting Turtle Time Day”
Today I woke up to some peaceful nature sounds and this crazy jungle view from my window that was mesmerizing. Everyone got ready for the day and then crack, sizzle, pop breakfast was ready! We had it all — pancakes, fresh fruit, even eggs! We did the dishes and then thanked the cooks, then made our way back to our rooms to prep for rafting.
After packing up my things I strolled down to the commons to apply sunscreen when I was called over to the bathrooms to see some big animal. I walked over gently and then looked to see a HUGE SPIDER! Ahhh I don’t like spiders, so I left immediately and washed the scary image from my mind. We put on life jackets and then it was off to the rafts!
Splish, splash, woosh and we were on the rafts cracking jokes with our guides. While holding on for dear life, we sang some Spanish songs in between the rapids and looked at giant waterfalls that kept me mesmerized at every twist and turn.
Before I knew it, we stopped for lunch and got to swim to shore in between these huuuuuge jungles on both sides of us. Once we swam to shore everyone’s eyes locked on a water fall that looked as if it was never-ending and was surrounded by butterflies— quite surreal. Without a second thought we jumped in and screamed for joy! It then turned into a mini photo shoot which was quite adorable. It really sunk in that I was actually in Costa Rica, the most amazing place I’ve ever seen.
Chalo called us over when lunch was ready and we sat on some rocks and ate quickly. We then hopped back on the rafts. We had a couple small rapids at the end but mostly just enjoyed the view. A couple local kids who were swimming in the river hopped on the rafts and helped paddle the rest of the time. When we got really close to the end I sat in the middle like a princess (haha). After the rafting came to an end, we made our way back to the home base and showered to hit the road.
And we were off again! We were back on rumbling Costa Rican roadways. On the way Chalo bought us all ice cream because he is PAPA! The drive didn’t feel eternal because we had some wacky conversations with the help of Bryce’s fun facts. After driving we took a hop skip jump into a boat that brought us to our home in Parismina for the next three days.
Me and the fam were adorably greeted by two dogs that love rubs and attention, which I was TOTALLY willing to give. We all got settled in our cabins and changed and then saw the scariest most terrible sight ever… A SPIDER in the shower curtain! I’m not talking about a baby spider. I mean the biggest spider I have ever seen I nearly shed a tear. We waited for Chalo and Alicia to come get it and then suffered the permanent curse of paranoia the rest of the night.
I showered without blinking an eye after that and then made my way to our tasty dinner of mac and cheese (not beans and rice!) with really good fruit juice. After dinner we strapped on the turtle beach night patrol gear and then went walking to the sea turtle nursery.
Once at the sea turtle nursery we saw the cutest little teeny tiny baby sea turtle and my heart just exploded! After we all held the cutie we walked along the beach and looked up at the stars — they were crazy. I’ve never seen the Milky Way or a shooting star before and my mind was blown. We all walked back to the office and then suffered through trying to get the sticky sand off of us and went to bed.
In conclusion, Costa Rica is a crazy magical butterfly-filled fairytopia that I love, and I’m surrounded by so many fun, awesome, quirky people right now that I love even more.
July 25, 2019
Today we awoke to the beautiful shine of the sun. That was the first sign that today was going to be a great day. We had 30 minutes to get ready for the day ahead. Once we were done pampering ourselves to make us the most beautiful we could be, we headed to breakfast. At breakfast, we had eggs, toast, fruit, and coffee. Then we were guided around the town for a tour by Tiffany, a guide and volunteer at ASTOP. She showed us the restaurants, hospital, and the small town airport.
After the tour, we went to the beach to practice making nests, filling out night patrol forms, and measuring the sea turtles. It was a great introduction into the community service we would be participating in. When we were done we were able to play in the ocean and lay around in the sand. Sadly, when we were heading back to the hotel it started to rain very hard which meant we could not go hiking later after lunch. So, instead of hiking, we stayed inside and participated in a service activity where we painted turtles on wood with partners of our choice, while listening to music. These plaques will be utilized by ASTOP to mark the turtle nests in the hatchery.
After painting, we met with local community members from ASTOP (Asociación Salvamos Tortugas Parismina). We learned a lot about their conservation programs and how they work to try and increase the population of the endangered sea turtles. After that, we had free time where we got to know each other even better and played card games. When dinner was ready we ate our food quickly so we could get ready for the turtle night patrol. The walk along the beach long and we sadly saw no turtles laying eggs, however, the stars were amazing and the ocean sounds were soothing. We were all excited for what the next day would bring.
By Grace G.
July 26, 2019
Today we started off a bit earlier so that we could keep down our breakfast. Our need for this was our two hour boat tour of the Tortuguero Canals. On this tour we saw many flora and fauna of Costa Rica. Birds included toucans, tiger herons, and king fishers. Other animals we saw included poison dart frogs, tortoises, caiman crocodiles, a green iguana, and more. After our tour with Mako (our ASTOP guide), we headed back to the hotel for a little bit of rest and lunch (yay).
After lunch, we headed to the ASTOP office to painted more plaques that ASTOP uses to label the turtle nests at the hatchery. While doing this, we had the opportunity to eat and drink fresh coconut. While at the office we waited out a passing storm. When we were waiting for the rain to pass, we met some other volunteers from ASTOP who were from all around the world.
After the rain passed, our group went to an artisan craft fair. There were locals from Parismina who were selling different items that they had made. There were items such as bracelets, necklaces, earrings, keychain, and some other items. ASTOP also had a table of merchandise. I learned that common materials used for pendants and charms were coconut shells, which makes sense considering that there are coconuts everywhere. One vendor, Mako, used cow bone and cow horn in addition to coconut shell. Other vendors used bamboo and other types of seashells.
After the fair, we went to the beach for some “swimming.” We couldn’t go very far because the currents are extremely strong. After spending time on the beach, we headed back to the hotel to clean up and shower.
Once we showered, some of us went to the local convenience store (pulpería) to buy candy and ice cream (healthy, I know). When we got back to the hotel we all got ready for our final dinner in Parismina. For our final farewell dinner we had a wide array of food, dessert and delicious pineapple juice. Sitting with members of the community was eye-opening in a way. I got to learn about them as people, what they like about working for ASTOP, and ghost stories they know. When dinner was finished we presented the ASTOP members with a card and a thank you message for accepting us into the community and teaching us about their ways of life and about the turtles. Our last day in Parismina was relaxing and extremely memorable.