Volunteer Review: Ellie E., Tropical Dry Forest Conservation & Community in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is such a beautiful country filled with luscious green trees lining every road, mountains in every background and dark orange sunsets every night at around 6pm.
I spent my first week in Liberia, a town around four hours away from the capital city of San Jose. The journey there was an experience on its own, as our luggage was thrown on top of the van and locked in place by some sort of string.
We arrived in Liberia when the sun was shining, but despite the beautiful weather Liberia is a town that's quite run down. Every building has bars on the windows and people keep their doors locked, however even with this I felt like it was such an interesting experience.
Week one in Costa Rica
We spent the first week working in a Care center, playing with the children all aged between 1 and 6 years old, helping with their lunch and then painting and doing work on the building itself. The Care center is paid for by the government and around 30 children go there between 8am and 4pm.
Each morning we were greeted by the children who ran to the gates shouting 'Hola' and grabbing our hand, insisting that we played with them. We often played the same game with them for hours upon end and somehow the children just didn't run out of energy!
The best thing was to see how happy the children were. It was hard to imagine some of their lives outside of the center and the stories we were told about them were very hard to listen to. For some of the children, their lunchtime meal would be one of their only meals of the day and this explained why they all ask for seconds!
The food itself was all freshly made and all vegetarian. After trying the plantain soup I can vouch for how delicious it was. The garden they played in also had a mango tree so there were plenty of fresh mangos to be eaten! I loved meeting all the children and being able to get to know them, but after one day I was exhausted so it shows what an amazing job the women that work there full time do - I don't think I could manage it!
My host family
Living with a host family was a great way to be immersed in the Costa Rican way of life. One night they took us to a 'Fiesta' and we spent the night salsa dancing and listening to Spanish music, then on another night we went to the university and helped teach English and we also had three hours of dance lessons! The dancing was so much fun but after three hours I've decided that Latin American dancing isn't really for me!
Week two in Costa Rica
On the Friday we made our way to Barra Honda rainforest, which was the complete opposite to where I spent my first week. It took around one hour to get to the nearest town. The rainforest is such a beautiful place and we were greeted by an iguana when we first arrived. It's such a quiet place that the only noise heard was the howling of the monkeys high in the trees.
The showers were ice cold and often shared with a frog, scorpion or tarantula but after walking four hours up a mountain they were welcomed with open arms. Whilst in the rainforest we did a monkey project where we walked in the forest and found a pack of monkeys and had to observe their behavior and how it changed. We also planted trees, collected rubbish and recycled it and also did maintenance work of the buildings themselves.
Varnishing a building while in a storm with the sun setting in the background was an amazing experience, as was being woken up at 3am by my friend telling me she has a scorpion attached to her hand! One night we went on a two hour night walk and our guide decided to take the more unknown route, which involved him using his machete and cutting down the way as we went. Standing on top of a mountain in the pitch black with the sounds of coyotes in the background is unforgettable!
At the weekend we went for an adventure day where we got to go horse riding through the most beautiful forest, rafting alone with only a helmet for protection, zip lining high in the sky with the most stunning view and ending the day with a mud bath in hot springs!
The day we woke up and were given banana pancakes with fresh watermelon for breakfast was the most perfect day, as the only other food eaten for two weeks was rice and beans served with mince, chicken or potatoes.
Costa Rica is such a beautiful country and I absolutely loved my two weeks there. The people I met were amazing and I feel so privileged to have been able to experience what I have and seen the real side to Costa Rica. Pura vida!
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.