One country and four projects – Vera explores Costa Rica
“Seize every opportunity you get in your life, because sometimes it only happens once.”
Vera traveled with WanderWorld Travel to Costa Rica for half a year and participated in four projects there. A true experience, which she would like to share with you in this report. You can look forward to exciting insights.
MY FIRST DAYS
In September, the time had finally come. Full of curiosity, I flew alone to another continent for the first time. I hardly slept because the anticipation was very great and a lot was going through my head. What would await me there?
Together with the other volunteers, we met at the exit of the airport in San José, Costa Rica. There we were picked up directly by a big shuttle and driven to our hostel. Since everything was organized by WanderWorld Travel and a very relaxed atmosphere prevailed, I was able to feel at ease right away.
Before the volunteers went to their first project in Costa Rica, there was an introduction day with our contact person Lisa. Here we all had the opportunity to get to know each other and familiarize ourselves with the country and the area. In order to be fit for this one and to get used to the rhythm, I went to bed early on the evening of arrival. The next day we strolled with her through the well-kept parks of San Jose and visited a well-known market. We rounded off the day in a typical Costa Rican restaurant with live Latin music and were handed our SIM cards for mobile data. Thus, our adventures in the different projects could start!
Your daily routine in the turtle project
After the two days in San Jose, we left early in the morning for the first project together with other volunteers from WanderWorld. It was a relaxed bus ride, since we didn’t have to change buses and got to see some of the landscape right away. I was thrilled because everything looked so lush and green. After about five hours of driving, we reached the small town of Sámara on the Pacific coast. From here we took a cab to get to our somewhat remote project. Once there, we were already able to master our first adventure. Together we had to wade through a river with waist-high water to reach our camp on the beach. Our backpacks were brought over safely and dry by canoe.
My tasks in the turtle project were very varied. We often went on patrol at night to collect the turtles’ eggs and bring them to a safe area where they are protected from birds and humans. Seeing the turtles lay their eggs was a unique experience. We also had the responsibility of escorting the little baby turtles into the sea after they hatched, maintaining paths to the camp, and clearing the beach of washed up trash. This always took place in the mornings. So we had the possibility to spend our free time in the afternoon at the sea. In the evenings, we cooked together on site and were able to experience Costa Rican cuisine with all our senses.
Your daily routine in the rainforest project
For my second project, we went to a nature reserve in the middle of the rainforest of Chirripó National Park. At an altitude of around 1,500 meters, we lived there together with other volunteers in a shared accommodation. It is a very idyllic place to live and work, surrounded by waterfalls and waking up every morning to birdsong.
I especially remember the game nights and movie nights we had together with all the participants in our common room. In addition, we had a traditional weekly “potluck” where everyone prepared a snack and we ate and chatted together. It was very sociable and also varied, since at the time of my stay not only Germans but also Americans, Ticos (as the inhabitants of Costa Rica are called) and Dutchmen were sitting at the table.
We worked from Monday to Friday for about 4 to 5 hours per day. Thereby we could take over different fields of activity. For example, we were given the opportunity to participate in various tours and guided tours in the nature reserve to learn about the flora and fauna in the rainforest. Our other tasks included bird watching, documenting the behavior of the species and photographing them for further documentation. We also built trails and helped create space for the reforestation of young trees.
Your daily routine at the Wildlife Rescue Center
For my penultimate project, I went to Cabuya to the Wildlife Rescue Center. The work there was very enriching, as I loved looking after the animals and taking care of them. In the wildlife rescue project, animals, some of which have suffered serious blows of fate, find a temporary home. Through our support, capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, macaws, squirrels and skunks have been rehabilitated so that they can later be released back into the wild. Although I was only a tiny part, preparing food for them, feeding the animals and also cleaning the cages, I was able to make a difference.
We received a new work schedule every week, which tells us whether we are assigned to the early or late shift. This allows you to plan your free time quite well and decide what you want to do on that particular half day. This was quite good, because I was able to use my time intensively to do something in Cabuya or Montezuma together with my new friends. We participants were housed together in a large house in different rooms and had both a yoga deck and a pool. For this reason, I was able to enjoy not only the volunteer activities, but also the free time that came with them.
Your daily routine at the cocoa farm in Upala
My last month I worked on the cacao farm in the north of Costa Rica. The place was called Bijagua and was near Upala. I really enjoyed this project because of the varied tasks. It was the perfect place to get a taste of Costa Rican farm life and learn a lot of new things. I was allowed to take care of the animals (goats, sheep and dogs) as well as small seedlings, plants and trees. Here I learned a lot about the different growth stages of crops. We planted yucca – a well-known edible root of Costa Rica and banana trees. Pineapples were grown in large quantities, but unfortunately were not ripe enough to harvest during the time we were there. Instead, we were allowed to help out, press sugar cane juice and taste it. That was also a unique experience.
In addition, I was able to participate in a “Clase de Chocolate” with the other participants – that is; make my own chocolate and get a lot of insight into Costa Rican farm life. After the project, I knew how it works step by step until you hold a finished bar of chocolate in your hand and what it means to grow your own fruits and vegetables, harvest them and process them yourself into regional dishes in a variety of meals. The home-cooked food was incredibly delicious.
By spending half a year in a foreign and new culture on a continent I have never been to before, I have learned a lot of new things. I have enjoyed every moment very much and every little stumbling block has made me more confident and self-assured. In short, it made me the person I am today. This half year was indescribably beautiful, simply an unforgettable time. I am so glad that I chose Costa Rica as my country. I was able to experience firsthand what Pura Vida means and the lifestyle that goes along with it. I was able to make new friends and have collected moments for eternity that no one can take away from me.
My most beautiful moment
Among my most beautiful experiences are definitely those with my newly acquired girlfriends and my parents who visited me on site. I will also never forget the visits to the various waterfalls, the sunsets by the sea and the numerous nature reserves and national parks with varied flora and fauna. I am incredibly happy and grateful that I was able to experience this time and beam like a sunshine when I think back to it. A time in my life that I will carry in my heart forever.