Wildlife Rescue in Costa Rica: Tabea’s exciting time at the wildlife sanctuary
“For anyone thinking about doing something like this: DO IT! It is a unique time that you experience there. An experience you definitely should have had, where you learn so many new things about yourself, about another country and another culture.”
For Tabea, it was two months in the Wildlife Rescue Project in Cabuya, Costa Rica. She quickly settled in at the wildlife rescue center, made new friends and soon considered the other volunteers at the project as a little family. Together, the work in the project was even more fun!
I always planned to go on a bigger trip after I graduated from high school. Since I didn’t want to go to Asia or Australia like most people, I looked for organizations that were traveling in Latin America. I was really looking forward to this trip and experience, to experience something completely different. You worry about what this trip will be like and if it will be what you thought it would be. WanderWorld organized a lot of things for you: they picked out the flights, made a list with general information you need, what you absolutely have to do in advance or even gave you a lot of information about the project. Also, through the seminar just 2 months before departure, you got a certain security and the anticipation has increased more and more.
MY FIRST DAYS
On the day of my departure it still felt very surreal, the day you have been looking forward to for several months has now arrived. Once I arrived in Costa Rica, I started to realize that my trip was really beginning. Since I had already met other volunteers at the airport in Frankfurt, it was easy to make new contacts. We went to a restaurant together in the evening and talked about the upcoming trip. It was super interesting to learn what kind of projects the others are doing and how different everyone’s trips are. Then the first morning we had our introductory meeting where Lisa showed us San José and told us a lot about the city. We had a traditional dinner with everyone and had a very nice first day. After the introductory days we finally drove to the project and on the way we could already see some of the country. Once we arrived at the project, we were warmly welcomed, the other volunteers were super open and friendly and welcomed us right away. After a few days in the project and the work introduction, I only realized that I will now be 2 months in this place. I was very overwhelmed in the beginning, because suddenly so many new things affect you. New people, a different language, then the work that you have never done in this way before and a completely new culture, but also to suddenly be so far away from home, I did not know yet. There were thoughts about whether it was the right decision to embark on such a journey alone. But after a week I really arrived, settled in with the other volunteers and got used to the new daily routine. It took some time to get involved in such an adventure, but I am even happier to have overcome it and to have had this experience.
A NORMAL DAY IN THE PROJECT
There were early or late shifts, we always received a new weekly schedule at the end of the week. If we had to work in the morning, the day started at 6 am and went until 1:30 pm, the late shift always started at 3 pm and ended with dinner at 7:30 pm.
Our tasks at the beginning were to cut the food, cook or even prepare the food on trays so that it could then be given to the animals to feed. The longer you stay in the project, the more responsibility you get. After the introduction to the first tasks, we were shown to clean and tidy up the animals’ enclosures. Some volunteers were also trained on specific animals that were sick or injured and thus needed more attention. It was incredibly beautiful to see how one’s work could help the animals. One of the most beautiful moments was to see that the animals were getting better from week to week and were making progress. During the work there was always a great atmosphere among each other, everyone was always in a good mood, which made the work even more enjoyable. You could also always talk to one of the employees if something was on your mind or there were any problems. Through the work I learned a lot of new things about wildlife and the life of these animals in such a country. I was able to see animals that you can’t easily see in Germany, which is an incredible feeling.
MY FREE TIME
I made friends there right away and got along great with another WanderWorld participant who traveled together with me. Since you had a day off during the week, which was always with other volunteers, you could do things together. Most of the time we went to the neighboring town (Montezuma). There you could go to super nice beaches, walk to the waterfalls, rent quats or go to happy hour and bars in the evenings. My highlight was a trip to Tortuga Island, via a tour we went by boat to the island. Arrived at the island it rained, but at the same time it was also an incredibly beautiful sunset and we all went swimming in the sea together. On the way back we snorkeled in the sea in the dark. Likewise, we were once on a traditional Costa Rican carnival, this is like with a fair here rich in Spanish music and traditional food.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE CULTURE
Before I flew to Costa Rica, you heard a lot about the motto “Pura Vida”. I could not really imagine what it means to live according to this motto. But you could tell from the beginning that the local people just live super relaxed, don’t stress and just enjoy their lives. It’s nice to see how people appreciate and enjoy their lives, which I think we in Germany should do a lot more to show off to the outside world. At the carnival, you also noticed how happy people were, everyone was dancing and singing and it was an exuberant mood.
MY MOST BEAUTIFUL MOMENT
I had many unique moments. The trip to the carnival, where almost everyone from the volunteers came along, was a lot of fun. We went on the roller coaster together, danced and drank together and just laughed super hard. I am grateful to have experienced such a traditional festival with all the people. But also my last day was incredibly beautiful, I got a tattoo together with a friend that I could meet there, which will always remind me of this time and our friendship. In the evening we made a campfire with stick bread and sat together with all the volunteers and some of the staff. These were the people who became a family to me during the last weeks.
We had a house where all the volunteers slept. There were 4-5 bed rooms, I was in a room with 5 beds and slept there with 4 other girls. It was a nice time to share a room with several people, because we often lay together on a bed and talked in the evening before going to bed. Of course it was a bit chaotic, because the rooms are not very big, but you get used to it. We shared two showers and two toilets with all the volunteers, but that wasn’t so bad because we rarely got in each other’s way due to the different working hours.
We once had a plague of ants that spread throughout the house, at that moment it was of course not so nice, but in retrospect very funny and just part of the jungle experience. The toilets and showers, as well as our rooms were cleaned almost every day, which is why you could feel very comfortable.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE JOURNEY
Definitely, this trip has brought me further and was a great experience. Because I started out alone, I quickly got the feeling of loneliness and although you meet new people in the project, I lacked a real reference person. However, I also learned how nice it is to be completely alone sometimes. I’m a very extroverted person, but in another country, with a new language, it’s something else again and you have to get over yourself to approach new people in another language and I became much more confident in speaking. I learned that you should appreciate life much more, because when you compare the lifestyles there, with those here in Germany, you realize how grateful you should be for your life here. When you are there, you appreciate your home in Germany much more. On such a trip, you have time to reflect more on your life and become aware of what you might want to change in Germany.
WHY LATIN AMERICA?
I found it fascinating to have lived in the middle of the jungle and thus also to be exposed to a completely new climate. For anyone who is thinking about doing something like this: DO IT! It is a unique time that you experience there. It’s an experience you should definitely have, where you learn so many new things about yourself, about another country and another culture. Be open to a new experience and go for the adventure. One tip: don’t worry so much beforehand about what it might be like, otherwise you will only be disappointed, because it will definitely be different from what you imagined, but definitely one of the best times of your life!
WHAT I WAS ABLE TO GIVE TO THE PROJECT
It is super nice that so many people from all over the world have come together and bring a piece of their culture. Through the work of the volunteers, the Rescue Center is able to help many animals. Because it takes a whole team to clean the enclosures, prepare the food etc. and without our work many wild animals could not be helped anymore. Likewise, many did not know stick bread, which for me, for example, was a big part of my childhood and it was very nice to give the local people this part of my personal culture.