The first day of the summer holidays saw 12 girls from UV and LVI leave for an exciting 12-day adventure to Costa Rica. The itinerary chosen endeavoured to capture many of the various experiences that this Central American country had to offer: from fascinating biodiversity, beautiful scenery and adrenaline-fuelled activities.
The trip started off on the Caribbean side at Tortuguero, where the girls saw turtles coming ashore at night to lay their eggs and then returning to the ocean. They stayed overnight in a wonderfully atmospheric lodge which was nestled in the rainforest which meant being woken up by the extraordinary sounds of howler monkeys. An early morning boat safari resulted in seeing in addition to monkeys, all sorts of birds, a caiman and most amazingly, an ocelot; seeing the ocelot sent our guide of 12 years’ experience into a state of euphoria, having NEVER seen one before!
After Tortuguero, the schedule then moved towards the cultural experiences of Costa Rica. The girls spent a day in the Sarapiqui area to learn how the ancient Aztecs and Mayans invented chocolate from raw cacao; they all made chocolate flavoured with vanilla or chilli or cinnamon (or maybe all three!). A day was also spent with the indigenous Indian community of Palenque Tonjibe to learn about their customs for burying their dead, their crafts, how they use cocoa in farming and the medicinal plants used by their ancestors. A traditional Maleku lunch was followed by a dance presentation with native Maleku language and ceremonial dress.
There were numerous opportunities for treks through the rainforests and national parks and the species list of things seen grew and grew; pythons, vipers, tarantulas, sloths (two and three-toed), red and green macaws and toucans were just some of the animals the girls saw. The conservation focus culminated in a night on the beach working as part of the Montezuma turtle project. The girls had to patrol the beach through the night, checking for female turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs as well as keeping the egg nests in the hatcheries free of predatory crabs.
The adrenaline-pumping activities began with some hanging bridges….essentially walking over gorges, rainforest drops on 'open' aerial bridges that tend to wobble when you walk on them. Don’t look down! The next hair-raising opportunity was the Monteverde Sky Trek, aka zip-lining above the rainforest canopy. Some of the zip-lines were 750 m long and so the sensation of “flying” was sustained for a little while. The old saying of 'what goes up, must come down' was no more true than the return to earth from the canopy tour; the ascent to the starting platform was a ten-minute ride on a ski lift but the descent at the end was a vertical bungee jump off the platform!
Relaxation after all this excitement came in the form of an afternoon at the Baldi Hot Springs, which has a variety of pools at different temperatures, situated amidst green, verdant forests. Sadly the cloud base was low and so the Arenal volcano was not visible.
Without a doubt, Costa Rica lived up to all our expectations and thankfully many photographs were taken and shared to ensure that the memory of it will stay with us for many years to come.