Anna Koutas - Tropical Dry Forest Conservation in Costa Rica
The Conservation High School Special programme appealed to me, because I'm aiming to studying geography at university; I am also a huge lover of nature and the outdoors! Even though I was a bit weary of travelling alone to the other side of the world, I'm so pleased I took the jump. I made so many friends and the experience was invaluable! I'm from England and was 18 when I did the project.
My first impression of Costa Rica
As soon as I left the airport in San Jose and found the Projects Abroad guide, I was shocked by the humidity even though it was only 10am. Driving from the airport, it was extremely hard to ignore the staggering beauty. The landscape was much lusher and greener than I expected. On my first night in San Jose the staff organised a BBQ at a host family with all the other volunteers. This was a great way to get rid of the homesickness I felt as I could get to know all the other volunteers and be around like minded people. After spending hours playing cards and eating amazing food, the monsoon rains started.
The next day the Conservation volunteers took the four hour road trip from San Jose to the Barra Honda National Park, which was the prettiest journey I've ever been on!
I stayed in a dormitory on site and was in a room with three other girls. The room itself was basic, as you'd expect it to be as it was in the middle of a national park! I shared a bathroom with my roommates, and the room had a fan rather than air conditioning.
The food was Costa Rican and rice and beans were on the menu for all breakfasts, lunches and dinners with a meat or a vegetable side for the vegetarians like me. After getting over the fact that we had to eat rice for breakfast, the food grew on me so much when I got home I even had rice and bean cravings! The staff was some of the most friendly and welcoming people I had ever met and they really helped me to fit into the Barra Honda family.
The Conservation project
At Barra Honda you have to get up for 7 o'clock to have breakfast by 7:30am, as work started at 8:30am. Each day we were allocated a morning and afternoon activity. Some activities were physical like the dreaded path clearing, but some were more about the environment like seed collection or the caterpillar survey. The range of small projects was incredible and I discovered that I actually really enjoyed the physical activities as I could see how worthwhile the work I was doing was.
At the park you work with both the staff and the volunteers, so you get to know everyone so well. My favourite project was actually the last project of my time there. The caterpillar project was amazing because we got to take the hike through the forest for the last time and we would search each area for these tiny caterpillars. Whilst it was frustratingly hard to find them, it was an amazing way to spend time with each other before we left and had many laughs at the lack of caterpillars being found.
I can't rate the experiment enough! You learn so much about yourself doing these placements, but also about the environment and different cultures. Costa Rica is an incredible country with amazing people! I really want to go back to Costa Rica in the future in order to explore all the other beautiful sites I didn’t get to see during my short placement. I couldn’t recommend the placement enough and would urge you to consider it if you’re a nature lover and up for new experiences!
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Programme Advisors.