Case Studies

  • Group:Aiglon College
    Costa Rica 2018
  • Age:17-18 years old
  • Group Size:16
  • Project:Conservation
  • Destination:Costa Rica

Group Picture


Arrival

The flights from Geneva to San Jose via Zurich combined with the eight hour time difference left us feeling very tired on arrival, but we were all also very excited! The next day we embarked on the four-hour journey to Barra Honda National Park. The rain and humidity were present throughout the whole journey; it really did feel like we were driving to a rainforest!

Walking through the rainforest

First day at the National Park

After a delicious breakfast, we walked 4km through the tropical forest to a cave and viewpoint. In the caves, we put on our helmets and ropes and then descended vertically 20 meters down the ladders. Rain coming down, the steps being covered in mud and a slightly concave ladder made for an exciting descent. The cave inside was just amazing. Structures of stalactites, stalagmites, columns, ponds were very impressive. There were several chambers with narrow entries. Rocks covered by mud and bat faeces, no lights, just head torches. After 30 minutes, we went back up to the surface. Again walking through the jungle (everything we were carrying or wearing was wet), water was even inside my Wellington boots. At the camp, we had lunch and a presentation about bats.

Cave tour

Exploring the biodiversity of the rainforest

Today, we had less rain, it was only raining for half of the day. We first went to the jungle to catch some butterflies for identification this was not easy and there were some rain showers. The biggest goal was to catch a big, blue one. It seemed to play with us, it appeared several times and we were always so close to catching it, but it escaped all the time. Eventually, we managed to catch and identify about 10 different butterflies. We also saw tarantulas, lizards and monkeys as well as admiring the view from the viewpoint. After lunch, we worked in the vegetable garden, carrying stones for raw construction with wheelbarrows which was quite challenging work when humidity is nearly 100%. We also dug some rain channels around the garden and connected irrigation pipes. After this we went on a night walk in the forest to find frogs, we found two frogs from different species. Another exciting day came to its end.

Butterfly catching

Gardening & Animal Spotting

Today it was sunny during nearly the whole day (WOW!). After breakfast, we worked to finish the vegetable garden finished connecting the irrigation pipes and set up some construction to maintain a transparent roof. Before lunch, we spotted a stunning iguana laying on the grass near the camp. After lunch, we had the monkey project which involved walking through the jungle and trying to spot monkeys with binoculars. We managed to see a lot of animals including lizards, spiders, birds, butterflies, caterpillars, bats, centipedes, but just one monkey. After dinner, we had the night walk, it was really amazing and worth going even if we didn't see a lot of animals.

Gardening

The Beautiful Waterfalls!

After breakfast, we got to visit a beautiful waterfall. Accessing the waterfall involved a two and half hour hike into the jungle, up and down hills in mud and thick vegetation, cutting the path with machetes. The walk wasn't very challenging but the temperature and humidity definitely didn't make it any easier. During the walk, we saw monkeys, butterflies, bats, ants’ armies (impressive) and other bugs, birds, lizards, geckos, iguanas, frogs and coatis (like a racoon). The walk involved crossing and walking through rivers. The Wellington boots borrowed from the geography department were crucial (even if mine had a hole in somewhere). The waterfall was really amazing with impressive structures of pools and shelves created by water highly saturated with minerals. We managed to swim in the bigger pools and shower in falls, the water was nice and warm. After a while enjoying the amazing waterfall, we started the long walk back. Back at the camp, a football match with a local team was scheduled. The team was much better than we thought. We played two games on the muddy, hot and humid football pitch without any football equipment. The final score was 2 – 1 to us! The game was quite exhausting. Afterwards, the team went to the other, more local, waterfall to refresh a bit.

WaterfallWaterfall 2

Alto Verde National Park

Today, after breakfast, we left for Alto Verde National Park. We first had an introduction at the information centre located in an eco-agricultural farm. We then walked in the forest with a guide that explained some details about the vegetation. The jungle was actually very different from the one in Barra Honda, it was much less dense and had more bamboo. We then went to visit a coffee plantation that belongs to the eco-agricultural farm. Then was the viewpoint stop where we could see the whole semi-island and Barra Honda. After that we walked to a waterfall for a swim, it was very different from the one from the previous day but as astonishing. We finally took the bus back to Barra Honda where the dinner was waiting for us. It was a barbecue as this was the last night at the National Park. Tomorrow, we are leaving for a beach. The stay in the jungle was an incredible experience and something that I will never forget.

Group walking

Leaving the jungle

This morning we left our home in the jungle of Barra Honda National Park. It was quite an emotional moment for some of us. The bus headed to the Pacific Ocean coast. Next in the schedule was snorkelling! We got on the boat and then navigated about 20 minutes to the snorkelling site. I managed to see two rays and some interesting fish. After that, we moved to another snorkelling site in the middle of a bay, next to some emerging rocks. The current was strong, but there were some great fish as well. In the evening, we headed to a hotel near Monte Verde National Park in the mountains.

GardeningSnorkelling trip

On Reflection

Today, after a very early breakfast, we left the very nice hotel for Monte Verde National Park, where we would go zip lining and jungle trekking. Once we got there we worked our way through the increasingly exciting zip lines all the way up to the Tarzan line which is 850 meters long at 50 meters high. It was really exciting and amazing, with lots of adrenaline. The lunch was in a nice restaurant in the park with a terrace suspended in the jungle, so we could observe the monkeys whilst eating pizza! Next, we went to the forest with a guide for a 2 hours walk. The vegetation in the Cloud Forest was very different from the one in Barra Honda or Alto Verde. It is much more mature and resistant to lower temperatures. Unfortunately, to the disappointment of the whole group, we couldn’t see any sloths as they are very hard to spot, however, we did see birds (nightingales, hummingbirds, woodpeckers) and some insects like centipedes, butterflies, monkeys and coatis. We crossed an amazing bridge that was suspended 40 meters above the ground! We finished the visit in a hummingbird garden. The day ended with a dinner in the Tree House.

Overall the trip was extraordinary; I want to say a huge thank you to Mrs Hamilton and Daniel from Projects Abroad for giving the group such an amazing experience!

Jan Wiacek – Groups Volunteer

Zip lining


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