Field report

PURE NATURE - ISABELLE AT THE WILDLIFE SANCTUARY IN COSTA RICA

The people I have met here live a completely different life to us in Europe. Everything is much more relaxed and calm. As the motto in Costa Rica says: Pura Vida! In Latin America, it is more important to be happy than to strive for prestige or possessions.

November 2021
Isabelle with camera in hand

Isabelle was fascinated by the tropical nature and animals of Costa Rica from day one. Her big heart for animals led her to volunteer at the Wildlife Sanctuary Project in Puntarenas, Costa Rica for a month. In this report, she tells us how she experienced her first days in Costa Rica and what a normal day in the project looked like. Find out what she learned on the trip and what experiences she took home with her in her heart.

ISABELLE'S PROGRAM:

My preparation time

After graduating from high school, I started to think about it, but I always knew that I would spend a year abroad. It was important to me to get support from an organization at the beginning and to have experienced people on site to help me. That's why I looked for projects and WanderWorld Travel had the best offers and variety for Latin America. I took my time choosing a project. With the help of the guides from WanderWorld Travel and good project descriptions, I decided on the Wildlife Sanctuary in Costa Rica.

WanderWorld Travel helped me a lot with my preparation and I started packing about 2 months beforehand. I also got in touch with other participants in the project, we spoke on the phone and exchanged ideas. All the information from WanderWorld Travel was helpful. To feel well prepared, I read reports from other participants and took Spanish lessons.

The last few weeks before my departure were particularly exciting for me. There was also a farewell party to say goodbye to my friends at home.

The first days

After arriving, we stayed in San José for two days for the introductory event in a very nice hostel. We went on a short city tour and met new friends through WanderWorld Travel, who I even met again later in Costa Rica. Then we all went to another project. When we arrived at the project, we went on our first excursion straight away. After a great day, however, we were all very exhausted. Of course it was tough at first, we all had jet lag and the temperature in the project was very hot as it was the beginning of the dry season. Sleep was scarce for the first few days. Unfortunately, I got sick due to the change in climate. However, the project supported me well, sent me to the doctor and I was able to rest.

On the other hand, the first few days in the project were incredibly beautiful. The Wildlife Sanctuary is home to many beautiful animals. I was overwhelmed by the tropical birds. Everything was colorful and full of life. I had the honor of seeing tapirs, macaws, sloths and many other animals up close. Of course, care was also taken to ensure that the animals didn't get too used to humans, so you are only allowed to have as much contact with the animals as necessary.

A day at the Wildlife Sanctuary Project

The day was strictly timed. The alarm clocks at the volunteer house went off early in the morning and the first people got up at 5:20 am. You only do the bare minimum: get dressed quickly and apply insect repellent. At 6 a.m., everyone gathered at the feeding area to prepare the food. Despite the temperature of 33°, it was necessary to wear long clothes to protect ourselves from the mosquitoes and undergrowth. But everyone was sweating, which became quite normal at some point. From 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. we prepared and distributed the animals' food. We cut and distributed fresh vegetables and fruit in the feeding bowls, which we cleaned beforehand. Then the food was taken to the animals in their enclosures. Each volunteer was assigned an area and this was changed every week. We got to move around the sanctuary a lot and saw incredible animals every day. Afterwards there was breakfast for everyone.

After lunch, it was time for the hard part of the work. We had various tasks to complete. For example, we dug a compost hole or laid out a path with stones. We also cleaned the enclosures. We also built and painted new enclosures and incubators for the animals. If you were there a little longer, you could also volunteer to give tours for the tourists.

Lunch was always traditional Costa Rican: rice and beans. To get some variety from time to time, the volunteers made trips to a burger restaurant. After the lunch break, we were fed again until around 3pm. Then we had some free time. In the afternoon, we rested and relaxed.

My free time in Costa Rica

We always went on excursions on our days off. I went on tours with another participant. For example, we ziplined through the jungle or relaxed on beautiful beaches. We visited national parks and even went surfing once. We also went snorkeling in the Pacific.

Every week, the project had a day when we did something special. Once we went to the nearest river and made a campfire there. In the evening, we often went to the nearest town and had a party there.

You don't have that many days off in the project, as you help out 6 days a week. However, you enjoy your free time all the more. It is definitely worth planning some free travel time after the project so that you can discover even more of the country.

My most beautiful moments

My favorite part was being so close to the beautiful animals. When feeding the large macaws, the majestic parrots fly very close to you and you can admire their full color splendor. Once I was cleaning the ground and suddenly a large Scarlet Macaw sat down right next to me on the tree trunk. It was breathtaking to get so close to a parrot.

Nature in general was the most fascinating thing for me. In the project, but also on my days off, I was able to see so much tropical nature. The whole ecosystem in Costa Rica is very different from that in Germany. The national parks in Costa Rica are also beautiful and the beaches look like paradise.

Why I love Latin America

I love the atmosphere in Costa Rica. The people I've met here live a completely different life to us in Europe. Everything is much more relaxed and calm. As the motto in Costa Rica says: Pura Vida! Everyone lives their life here and enjoys it as it is. That's why I always found the people to be positive and friendly. Nothing is as strict and stressful as in Germany. Everything will work out and you can just ask your way through. A lot of the pressure that I felt at home has disappeared there. In Latin America, it's more important to be happy than to strive for prestige or possessions.

Security on site

I felt very safe at all times in the project. You are never alone and the site is guarded and fenced in. Even when we left the site, there was usually a worker with us and we were always in a group.

In Latin America, you only have to follow certain rules so that you can move around freely. I traveled for a total of 6 months after the project and because I was always careful and paid attention, nothing happened to me and I felt safe.

Dealing with women is generally a bit different than in Germany. It's more common there to be whistled at by men on the street, but over time I got used to it and simply ignored the comments. Nothing else happened.

How the trip changed me

The trip showed me how much there is in the world that I haven't seen yet. Traveling will be a part of my life from now on and I am already planning where else I will go. It's wonderful to make new discoveries and explore new places. I've become much more independent and have learned to plan my own daily life and be open to new things. My view of things has changed and I'm taking a lot of experiences home with me.

My tips for future participants

I am very happy to have done this project because I was able to help the animals. We have made them nicer enclosures or provided toys with food. This makes the animals' lives more beautiful, as they deserve.

I spent a total of 6 months traveling in Latin America, as I planned some free time after the project and I would really recommend traveling to Latin America to anyone! It is an extraordinary experience to see the culture and nature. We are not used to seeing a hummingbird flying by here or a sloth relaxing in a tree there. When it comes to food, I also discovered many new dishes that I will miss in Europe. Avocados, plantains and coconuts were part of everyday life. My stay in Latin America was like living in paradise for me: surrounded by beautiful nature and getting to know exciting new cultures.

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