Costa Rica Wildlife Research & Sea Turtle Conservation, Session 1
June 24, 2022
We spent the day traveling. The group met up in Houston, Texas before boarding the flight to Costa Rica. After checking our bags and passing customs, we landed in San Jose. We hopped onto a bus and headed for the hotel. We had a group dinner at the hotel and went over expectations for our trip. We said our last goodbyes over the phone and handed our devices to the group leaders. Lastly, we settled ourselves in our rooms and went to bed.
By Emma S.
June 25, 2022
The day began with a delicious traditional Gallo Pinto breakfast at the Brillasol hotel. We got to experience a beautiful bus ride up to our main destination for the day, the active Poás volcano in Poás Volcano national park. After a short hike, we got to take in the majestic view of the volcano’s crater lake. After this, we took a break to eat lunch at the Freddo Fresas restaurant. We had a laid back afternoon after making the community contract, playing games and swimming at the pool, before eating pizza for dinner. We finished off the night by playing games as a group before going to bed so we can get up bright and early for the next day’s activities.
By Seneca B.
June 26, 2022
Today started with a great breakfast at the hotel. We then rode the bus about an hour and a half away, where we ended up at a coffee farm. We were shown around the farm by our kind host, Rodolfo. We tried many different fruits, and chewed on some interesting tasting plants. During the tour, we ended up at a small area where we tasted sugar cane in its three different forms (and had some tasty lime). We also had an interesting experience where a few of us ate termite type bugs straight off the tree. After our adventure around the farm, we took out a soccer ball and played a muddy game of soccer (futbol). Covered in mud, we got a great lunch on the farm and headed over to where the coffee is made. We smelled roasted coffee beans, and even got to make bags of it to bring home. We then got to drink some fresh coffee and headed back to the bus after thanking our hosts. When we got back to the hotel, we had some down time and then a great dinner. The night ended with an exciting game of trivia and some competitive pool.
June 27, 2022
Today was most likely the most relaxed day of the trip so far. We got up at 7:30 for breakfast to only leave the hotel that we have stayed at since we arrived, at 9. We drove 2 hours and 30 minutes down a windy road that lead us to our lunch spot. The place that we ate lunch was a type of lunch place that you just serve yourself the food you want. We purchased some treats for the next 2 hours of the bus ride remaining. When we stopped the bus, we saw a river and some boats. We took our bags from the bus to the boat. We went on a 10 minute boat ride to the town that we will be staying at for the next five nights. We explored town and got some delicious local smoothies from a local store. Our tour guide showed us the rest of the island and places where children go to school and other places like that. We got back to our hotel for a yummy dinner of pasta with salad and bread. We had a meeting and played two games before settling down for bed.
June 28, 2022
Today we had rice, beans, eggs, and bread for breakfast at 8am. After breakfast we got ready for the day and then relaxed as a group and explored the new hotel we are staying at. At 10am we had a dance class with a local woman named Maya. The dance class was hot but really fun. After the dance class we had lunch and then we were able to go into the town and explore a little bit. We went to the same smoothie place that we tried yesterday and we got smoothies and french fries. We then went back to the hotel and listened to a presentation by one of the leaders of the sea turtle project we will be doing for the next few nights. The leader, Maco, taught us about the different species of sea turtles and what we can do to help their survival.
Later that evening we went to the beach and Carlos (a guide for the sea turtle protection project) taught us how to measure a sea turtle, where to log the information, and how to find the sea turtle eggs. We dug holes as practice and then Carlos got 4 baby turtles out of the hatchery and we watched them move down the beach and into the ocean. After that, we had dinner at the hotel and then got ready for our night watch. We walked up and down the Northside beach from 8pm until just before 11pm. Then we got back to the hotel, had a quick meeting, and went to sleep.
June 29, 2022
Day 6 got off to a great start with the addition of pancakes to the breakfast options. The group was subsequently split up into two groups. One group cooked first at a woman’s house called Yolanda, while the other group did arts and crafts with Teresa. At Yolanda’s house the group was taught how to make Empanadas filled with beans and cheese. The process starts with mixing corn flour and chicken consummate (or salt for vegetarians and vegans), in order to create dough. Once the dough was made the group then made a thin pancake shape. Once the pancake was made it was filled, folded, and flattened in order to make the empanada. Once finished it was dropped in to steaming hot oil and fried until golden and delicious.
Meanwhile, the arts and crafts group were making all types of bracelets, often with a sea turtle on top. Between cracking jokes with Teresa and making the bracelets the group had lots of fun despite the blistering heat. After the morning activities it was time for a traditional Costa Rican lunch. There was delicious chicken on the bone as well as rice and beans with a subtle twist of coconut in them giving it a great flavor. After lunch most of the group went to the frequently chosen smoothie place that has been a group favorite during the trip. After roaming around town it was time to do the activities that each group had not done in the morning. After another great round of activities some of the group went to play volleyball at a local field. While playing volleyball ,some of the locals joined the game creating a fun atmosphere despite the language barrier. After 40 minutes or so, Steph showed up with a soccer ball prompting everyone in the area to start playing. Halfway through the group met another group of volunteers from the US, leading to more soccer players. While it was all in good fun our group was destroyed by a team consisting of the locals and the other volunteers, although, in fairness, our group was severely outnumbered by the opposition.
When the group got back it was dinner time, which featured fried talapia, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. After dinner the group found out the unfortunate news that our visit to Parismina would be cut short due to an oncoming tropical storm. The group vowed to make the best of their last night patrol. And even though the patrol was fun, no turtles were seen. The group walked through the pouring rain to get back to the hotel before calling it a night.
June 30, 2022
Day 7 started with a bit of a twist, because we had to leave Parismina. We started the day packing our bags and getting ready to leave. We then ate breakfast and traveled by foot to the local craft fair. They then showed us their crafts. Most of us bought something for ourselves and our loved ones. Most of the group went to the local smoothie shop and ate smoothies. After the smoothies, we went back to the hotel for lunch, where we were surprised by Maya and Greivin. They gave us our certificates for helping the A.S.T.O.P. foundation. We then said our goodbyes to the locals and headed off on our bus ride back to San Jose. We hit a lot of traffic and, after 2 hours, we stopped to have a potty break and get some snacks. After that, the rigorous drive we had left turned even longer. At 8 pm, we arrived at the hotel and ate pizza for dinner. Overall, I would say that it was an eventful day in Costa Rica!
July 1, 2022
Day 8 began with a breakfast at the shared hostel, consisting of gallo pinto and a variety of fruit, as well as orange juice and coffee. Many of us played ping pong in the morning while we waited to pack up and start our trip to Uvita, near the Pacific ocean. We began a 5 hour bus ride to our destination, and were able to see the coast along the way. As we traveled, more and more tourist stops emerged from the trees. Before lunch, we stopped at one of these shops. Many of us bought a variety of gifts for family and friends, such as wood carvings, hats, and jewelry. We continued our ride through the jungle, and eventually stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant at about 2:30. Orders varied from fillet minion, to ceviche, to nachos. After our break we continued the drive, and arrived at Hotel El Tecal. Although we appreciated the change of scenery in Parismina, the group was excited for air conditioning and the pool. For the next few hours until dinner, we were able to relax, often swimming and reading, watching Wonder Woman or playing cards. At 7 we talked about our experiences with climate change and our general knowledge towards it, like the effects, changes, conservation efforts, etc. At 7:30, we had a dinner of hamburgers (bean burgers for vegetarians) and fries as the storm began, and continued throughout the night.
July 2, 2022
Day 9 started with a delicious breakfast of pancakes, gallo pinto, and a variety of refreshing fruits. We then all set out on a short walk to the beach for a 2 hour surfing lesson. After learning the basics of how to surf on the sand, we got our boards and went into the ocean at the Marino Ballena national park. After getting some much needed water instruction and many wipeouts from everyone, we all managed to get the hang of surfing and had a great time out there. Two hours of surfing later, and a much needed snack break of oranges and tiny bananas in the middle, we went back to the hotel and enjoyed some time in the pool. After a little while in the pool, we got out and ate a freshly made lunch at our hotel, and then went back to our rooms for a little bit of down time. After our relaxing break, we set out for the beach again to play some soccer, volleyball, and to enjoy the incredible scenery of the Marino Ballena. After returning to the hotel, we had some movie time (watched stranger things), then ate a delicious dinner of pasta, salad, and garlic bread. To end the day, we finished the movie long episode of stranger things we had been watching before dinner, then called it a night to get some much needed rest after such a fun and eventful day.
July 3, 2022
Day 10 started with some delicious eggs, pancakes with some rice n beans, personal favorite. Following up breakfast was a short 5 min ride to the extraordinary Marino Ballena National Park for a whale watching tour. After a semi-long boat ride, we then got to witness whales spurting out water through their blowhole. However, we got small luck and saw a few turtles, couple more than in our turtle rescue camp. Our guide gave us a little tour of the national park, as well as bird species including the boobie bird. After our phenomenal whale watching we got lunch, at about 12:30 ish. After a solid hour of debloating, we walked to the beach and surfed for about dos hours. We came back and relaxed a hot minute in the pool, leading up with a HOT shower. Our small little group then went to the local supa market, for a bunch of snacks. After a few hours of chilling we dress up really nice for Mexican dinner. Jeg savner jer sku lidt meget.
July 4, 2022
We woke up early, had breakfast and said our goodbyes to Uvita. We began our long car ride to our next destination. We stoped at Costa Rica’s most famous national park, Manuel Antonio, on the way. We followed a tour guide through the beautiful park and saw many animals. We saw monkeys, sloths, many types of birds, frogs, and more. We then saw the beautiful beach that surrounded the national park. The water was crystal blue and surrounded by mountains. After we finished up our tour at the park, we embarked on the rest of our journey. We stopped at El Jardin for lunch and souvenir shopping. Once we arrived to the Cloud Forest we settled into our beautiful bungalows over looking the mountains. We then made out way to dinner at the hotel. We had chicken, rice, fries, and salad. It was delicious. After dinner we swam in the hotel pool and then went to bed.
By Ella Merritt
July 5, 2022
On day 12, we awoke and began our day with a traditional breakfast of gallo pinto alongside some fresh fruit at the Heliconias nature lodge. Shortly after breakfast, a quick bus ride took us to the Crisley dairy farm to learn about their story as sustainable farmers, the cheese-making process, as well as taste two types of cheese. We got to taste the farm’s new addition of peanuts on their farm as well. After making fresh mozzarella, a plentiful lunch of mashed yucca, salad, rice, chicken, and starfruit alongside some games led us to a tour of the farms property. We met cows, friendly dogs and cats, pigs, chickens, and a dart frog, and viewed growing peanuts and rice. We returned to the hotel and rejuvenated ourselves with some downtime which was mainly spent in conversation and some strolls on the walking paths. Later in the evening, we practiced our cumbia, salsa, and bachata skills with a dance instructor, Gabriela. Our day wrapped up with a fulfilling meal of fish, french fries, rice, salad, and cool fruit juice. At last, we all headed to bed for some much needed sleep after a long, but exciting, day.
July 6, 2022
The group woke up to pancakes and fruit for breakfast, then packed our belongings and set off to ziplining via bus. After roughly two hours at the ziplines and amazing views of the surrounding nature, we visited the gift shop briefly, but continued on our way. We stopped for lunch in La Fortuna, San Carlos at a restaurant and were given some free roaming time in the city. We split off into groups and visited general stores and the town square. We reunited to find that part of the group had gone to get haircuts and were looking fresh.
We were split into two small auto vehicles to get to our next destination. Though the ride was bumpy, it was very worth it to have the patience because we were delivered to a lodge set in the high altitude cloud forest. We all set up camp in the rooms equipped with bunk beds and great for making forts. Our balconies had magnificent views of the forest. We played some games in the common area after fried fish, rice, and beans for din din. We fell asleep to the sound of rain just outside our windows.
By Georgia B.
July 7, 2022
On day 14, the group woke up at 7 for breakfast where we ate waffles, eggs, and fruit. We got ready for a small hike into the cloud forest. In the forest, we dug up rocks and soil from a small stream which would be later placed over mud to create a new path. During the process we had 2 groups, one group that dug and put materials in a bag, and another that carried them farther to make the road.
Afterwards, we had lunch which consisted of pasta, rice and a salad. Next the group prepared to go back into the forest where we did the same work for about two hours. Right after, we went on a longer hike back to the hotel which took about an hour and a half. We showered, cleaned our clothes, and played games while we waited for dinner. For dinner we had pasta with veggies on the side. After, he had our nightly meeting where we discussed the next days plans and played a game of Mafia. Bed time was nine and just like last night, we fell asleep to the sound of rain.
July 8, 2022
On day 15 we woke up and had breakfast at 7. We then started work back in the forest in a new puddle. We had a lot of fun filling it with sand and rocks from the river. We then went back and got ready for a delicious lunch at the ranger station. We ate some jello cake for dessert. We rested for a while before going back into the forest for a hike to a beautiful waterfall where we saw turkey birds, snakes, and other kinds of birds. We then went back and said our goodbyes to the amazing park rangers that we worked with. Then some of us took naps and others talked as we waited for dinner. Dinner consisted of chicken with rice and beans and potatoes. We then hung out for a while and played hangman until 8 when we had our group meeting. We talked about tomorrows itinerary and played mafia. Bedtime was at 9 again so goodnight.
July 9, 2022
Day 16 began with cheese empanadas and grilled cheese at the Pocosol ranger’s station in the Children’s Eternal Cloudforest. We packed all of our bags and began the bumpy journey out of the forest and back to the quaint town of La Fortuna. Dining at Nanku for a second time to try more delicious food and listening to hip hop led us to more exploration of the town. After a couple hours, warm bakery goods, and resting in the town’s park, we headed back to Heliconias nature lodge.
Up until dinner, people passed the time by swimming in the pool, napping, or in conversation with others. Dinner was held at the Heliconias lodge and consisted of chicken pasta and toast. For our nightly meeting, the small gym provided us shelter from the downpour. We all tried out the various machines and equipment before heading to bed.
July 10, 2022
Today we woke up for a 7am breakfast of rice, beans, cheese, toast, fruit, and sausage. After our breakfast we all got ready for the day ahead. We left our hotel, Heliconias Nature Lodge, at 8am and drove towards the town of La Fortuna. We arrived at an animal and nature center called Proyecto Asis which protects different species of birds, monkeys, and other animals. Our tour guide, Johnny, educated us on the different birds including the tucan, macaws, parrots, and many more. We got to see the white faced monkeys, spider monkeys, coatis, snapping turtles and caymans. After seeing all of the different animals, we made the animals their breakfast which consists of different fruits and vegetables. Once we fed the animals, we took a quick snack and coffee break by the cayman and snapping turtle habitat. We had coffee, lemonade, and pineapple empanadas as our snack.
After spending our morning at the animal center, we relaxed at the hotel for a couple of hours until lunch. At 12:30pm we enjoyed a lunch of fried fish, rice, beans, salad, tortilla chips, sausage, and cheese. After lunch everyone read, talked, journaled, or napped until 2:30pm. We got our bathing suits on and packed our change of clothes and then headed to the hot springs at the Baldi hotel. We tried hot and cold springs, saunas, and enjoyed tropical smoothies.
At 6pm we changed for dinner and then gorged on the “all you can eat” buffet at the Baldi hotel. Most of us went back for seconds and thirds and then we tried all of the delicious desserts. After dinner we split into two vans for the ride back to Heliconias Nature Lodge. The bus I was on sang songs together for most of the ride. Once we were back everyone relaxed in their rooms or used the hotel’s gym. Today was a great day!
July 11, 2022
Today we started our morning with breakfast at 7:30. We promptly boarded the tour bus at 8:00. After a two hour and thirty minute bus ride, we arrived at Caño Negro. We took a two hour boat tour of the canal and its wildlife. We saw several different species of birds, including tucans, herons, and king fishers. We also saw fruit bats, caimans, howler monkeys, iguanas, and sloths. Aside from the fascinating wildlife we observed, we also enjoyed the breath-taking scenery of Caño Negro. After the boat tour we hopped back on the bus for lunch. At 1:30 we stopped for lunch. We enjoyed several different plates of fried plantains, fried yucca, chicken, beef, fish, and veggie sandwiches. After lunch we hopped back on the bus for another long bus ride. We arrived back at the Heliconias hotel at 6:30. We went back to our rooms for a brief break and then headed to the hotel restaurant for dinner at 7:00. After dinner we had a meeting about tomorrow’s itinerary. Afterwards we were sent back to our rooms to pack for rafting tomorrow and get ready for bed.
July 14, 2022
Today was our last day in Costa Rica. We started off the day with a delicious breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, plantains, fruit, and mango juice. After breakfast we cleared out our tents, packed our bags, and got ready into our rafting gear. We left the campsite at 9:15am and cruised down Pacuare River on our rafts. We went down multiple rapids that ranged from Class 1 to Class 4. We stopped for swim breaks and just floated down the river. Half way through our three hour rafting journey we stopped for a snack break of fresh pineapple. We arrived at the end of our rafting trip at around 1pm and we all showered and changed. Then we sat down for a delicious lunch of tortillas with rice, chicken, beans, lettuce, tomato, and veggies. After lunch, we got on the bus and drove 3 hours to San Jose. On the bus, we slept, talked, played cards, and other games. Once we arrived in San Jose we put our things down in the B&B and then relaxed for a couple of hours. At 6pm we had our final group meeting where we reflected on our trip and shared memories. We talked about our connections and what we learned on the trip regarding climate change and wildlife. Then we enjoyed our last meal together and had pizza, iced tea, coke, and Fanta. After dinner we were given our phones back and we were able to catch up with friends and family as well as write down each other’s numbers so we can stay in contact. Then we enjoyed our final moments together by playing mafia, ping pong, and just talking. At 11:50pm I said goodbye to the group, because I am not taking the group flight with them. It was a sad final goodbye but I am so grateful for the memories I made, the people I met, and the things that I have learned. Good bye Costa Rica!