Costa Rica is more than just a summer vacation destination; it is a true adventure. We arrive in San José and travel to our cabins at the side of the river, nestled amongst banana plantations. We take time and get to know one another, the country, and its ticos as we settle in.
Our first hands-on experience of an international service project takes us to the land between the Caribbean Sea and the Tortuguero Waterway. By boat, we travel the canal through an abundantly green landscape to the Pacuare Nature Reserve to help save the Caribbean's wildlife. A working reserve, their special mission is to protect the critically endangered Leatherback turtles, which nest in large numbers along its 6 km beach. Considered one of the most important nesting sites in Central America, we spend the next two days assisting under the supervision of a marine biologist. Our days are spent on the beach patrolling and monitoring the nesting Leatherback turtle, recording nest locations, dimensions, and other useful data. At night, we patrol with flashlights and each turtle we meet is tagged, measured, and examined for any special features or signs of injury. If the turtle has already laid its eggs, we work to disguise the nest from poachers. If she has more eggs to lay, we may collect what is there and place them in an artificial nest that we dig nearby until she is finished so they are easily camouflaged from poachers.
We head back to our lodge on the beach for our second service project. Each morning we join together with the local community of Esmerelda and its children to restore its school structures to their original condition. We experience life with the families. These three days spent with the ticos allow us to see that, despite our geographic and cultural differences, we have a lot more in common than we may have expected. In our free time we encourage the local children to get fit and have fun as we play active games and activities that promote fitness, health, and wellbeing, including dodgeball, hide and seek, futból and dancing.
When our work is done, we head off to the exciting whitewater rapids of the Río Pacuare for a rafting adventure. We relax in waterfalls, bask on flawless beaches, and experience some of the best Class III and Class IV rapids available in the Americas. We spend a day on ziplines, traveling through the roof of the rainforest and hike alongside a creek to swim under crystal clear waterfalls. We visit a tropical butterfly garden where over one thousand butterflies are flying, feeding, mating, and laying eggs. We end our journey with a traditional feast in San José, celebrating our support of Costa Rica’s monumental conservation efforts to protect this amazing land.