Volunteer Review: Barbara C., Tropical Dry Forest Conservation & Community in Costa Rica
I decided to volunteer in Costa Rica because of how much the country stood out for me when I was researching destinations, with its incredible wildlife, rain-forest conservation, the weather and the culture. Costa Rican culture is completely different to England’s culture and it was so wonderful to experience this. It was amazing to meet so many different people both from Costa Rica and volunteers from other countries. Everyone made me feel welcome and the local people really appreciated our help.
Arriving in Costa Rica
Before I arrived at the Conservation project, I stayed in the city of San Jose where I went to a host family’s BBQ. There was plenty of food, music, dancing and socializing. One thing that I really wanted to learn was how to dance the 'Costa Rican way', as I found their style to be very impressive!
It was a 4 hour drive to the Conservation project and on the way we stopped at a restaurant to have lunch. The restaurant had a band playing outside which kept everyone entertained, and we had a traditional Costa Rican lunch: rice and beans, with a choice of meat/fish, plantain, vegetables and salad. I loved every bit of it and nothing was left on my plate when I was finished!
The Conservation Project
The Conservation project is based in the Barra Honda National Park. When I arrived, the view was incredible. I could see a hill that was 450m high and surrounded by thousands of trees and plants. I stayed in a room with 3 bunk beds, and even though the accommodation was not at the level of a 5 star hotel, it was just another part of Costa Rican life which I soon fell in love with. A bar and swimming pool was just a 5 minute walk from my room, and I always had a fun time there with all the new friends I had made.
On the project, my volunteer work consisted of planting trees and traveling along the river to collect rubbish. One of the highlights of my two-week trip was going on a boat ride along the river where I was able to see a crocodile. You also take part in other kinds of activities in the national park and I helped to clear trails, observed bat (at night) and bird surgery and collected bat seeds. It's such a pleasant feeling knowing that you are helping to conserve the national park and wildlife.
Wildlife in Costa Rica
The wildlife is something that I especially love about Costa Rica. There are iguana lizards that stay in one spot all day and won’t move, there are howler monkeys that sound like wolves and you have white faced capuchin monkeys that will come up right next to you. Not to mention all the amazing birds, bats, snakes and most importantly all the insects! At first, I have to admit I was a bit anxious of all the creepy crawlies that there were, however I soon relaxed and began handling many insects that I had never seen in my life before then.
Traveling and Sightseeing
One thing I particularly enjoyed was going into the caves, where I could see amazing sculptures and cravings of coral reefs and many other different pieces of nature. The cave we visited was called Terciopelo. There is one moment when you are deep in the cave and you're asked to turn off all torches. You see nothing, it’s completely black and you hear nothing too.
It’s an unbelievable feeling. There was also one day on the weekend where we went to an adventure park and I participated in activities such as horse riding, swimming in a cold spring by the waterfall and zip lining. We also visited a volcano where we relaxed in a hot spring and you also had the choice of going into a mud bath.
The hot springs were extraordinary and it was a time where I could just lay back and relax. Finally, on the way back we stopped at Burger King. It was the first time I had had chicken and chips throughout my whole stay and it was a nice treat.
Overall, my time in Costa Rica was a once in a lifetime experience and I would love to return. Everyone was so friendly and I had an incredibly fun and educational time. I would definitely recommend this to everyone.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.