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Visit to Bambu Indigenous Centre and Talamanca Indigenous Cultural Festival
Time goes so fast and it´s already one month since me and Jakub started our marketing internship with Tropical Adventures. We have already had an amazing opportunity to go to the Manuel Antonio National Park, where there is a great future possibility for Tropical Adventures to open a new projects for our volunteers. But more about this trip you can read in our other post from David here.
Another great possibility occurred for exploring more beauty of Costa Rica and we went to stay few nights in Bambu village, where our Bambu indigenous project takes place. Commonly labeled on traditional maps as “Bratsi”, Bambu can be reached about 30 minutes from the main indigenous community of Bribri. During the way to get there we were passing alongside Suretka river and on the opposite side of the riverbank we could have seen Panama. We stayed in Bambu Cultural Centre that was built by using traditional indigenous methods and hosts people from around the world. Just by staying in the Centre it supports up to 20 local families through the income it produces through receiving overnight guests.
Next day we took a look around and visited elementary school of Bambu, where our volunteers have opportunity to participate and also retirement home, where we were warmly welcomed by one of the nuns that takes care of the elderly people living there and volunteers are there welcome as well. For more information about typical day in Bambu you can read more here.
Talamanca Indigenous Cultural Festival
As the headline indicates, we didn´t come to Bambu just to enjoy beauty of indigenous centre and hospitality of local people, but the main reason was to experience a Talamanca Indigenous Cultural Festival, that took place during the weekend August 6-7 in nearby village called Amubri. This was a first year of this festival among the indigenous communities of Talamanca and local political officials. The event was held in honor of common unity organized by our friend Danilo, a Bribri political activist employed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Early in the morning we had to get to the shore of Súarez river. The only way how to cross the river is by motor canoe, since the government doesn´t have enough financial resources for building a bridge over the river. On the other side a bus was already waiting and we continued our adventure towards the festival. After a while we arrived to the place of the event. My colleagues Jakub and David could lend a hand and utilize their height for hanging the big table over the stage, as you can see on the picture :).
Festival started by several speeches of local prominent personalities that were followed by playing and singing the national Costa Rican anthem in Bribri language. As next a performance of local children showing the traditional dance of local culture was followed.
These showcases of indigenous culture attempted to show local political leaders the value of the community’s presence as well as encourage the leaders to help facilitate the administrative process of obtaining the “cédula de identidad” for the many undocumented indigenous community. The “cédula de identidad” is the necessary identifiable ID card which is required in obtaining any services as well as accessing and transactions in Costa Rica. The process for obtaining the cédula is highly complex for native people who often lack the necessary resources to navigate administrative procedures.
Bambu is located about a one-hour bus ride away from the popular tourist beach town of Puerto Viejo, where we had also opportunity to spend some time. It is home to beautiful beaches, such as Playa Chiquita, Playa Negra, and Punta Uva and it is a place with the most amazing surfing opportunities. And of course, this place will love fans of reggae since cadenced rhythm of this music are present everywhere. That is caused by substantial Jamaican population that lives here. We had a chance to try Carribean sea and also experience Puero Viejo´s local delicious food and town´s nightlife. But there are plenty of things what to do in Puerto Viejo such us many water sports as above mentioned surfing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, horseback tours around the area, mountain biking or for those who prefer some nature there is a possibility to visit for example National Park Cahuita.
(By Marketa Sobotkova – Marketing Intern)
Testimonial Karin Miller
Bambu was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I stayed with a family, which really added to the experience. During the days, I volunteered at the retirement center and the school. The people at the retirement center were really appreciative of the volunteers, and it was great spending time with them and getting to know each individually. The school was fun too, and the children were very excited for their English lesson!
After volunteering, it was great to return home to my family and eat lunch with them. After lunch, I either participated in a tour or spent time with my family. I did the Panama Waterfall Tour on my first day in Bambu, and it was a great introduction to the week. Ito and I took a boat ride out to the waterfall and spent a couple hours swimming there. It was beautiful!
I was sad to leave my family at the end of the week, and I would love to return one day. I only spent a week in Bambu, but the people were so friendly and open, that by the end, I felt as if I belonged there. Likewise, I was very happy to volunteer through Tropical Adventures because they really took care of me. Susan practically organized the whole trip- all I had to do was book my flight! Tropical Adventures booked my transportation, housing, and meals; they made it easy for an outsider to get an inside look at Costa Rica.
Volunteering for students?!
Just yesterday we came across an amazing article about high school students and volunteering.
Actually it’s an article and a debate about the question: ‘’ Should high school students be required to volunteer in community service projects?’’
Well do they? There are all kinds of projects available, whether you’ll teach children English, or teach kids how to swim or surf, you could also just play with them. This doesn’t only benefit the children but a student that wants to become a teacher will have a great opportunity to apply their course line into practice. This way they will gain experiences and by the end of their education they will have already done something to enrich themselves. Of course the work students do in the communities is connected with what they are learning in school.
We have had several interns in the past that gained experience in their field of study.
There are many things they help with at the center located in Bambu, including teaching English to the families who work there, children and adults from town, translating for the tours, helping to build marketing material, planting flowers and trees, general maintenance, and the planning & fulfilment of cultural activities. Also the Spanish language skills of the students will highly increase during their stay in Costa Rica. Students who want a teaching degree will have an opportunity to apply their course line.
At our Wildlife Rescue Center we provide quality Spanish language classes (optional) at our on-site language school
Well so far the poll is 58 % Yes and 42 % says No. How will this turn out?
WHAT MAKES US DIFFERENT ?
Nowadays, something is happening to the world. People start to worry about the place we live and feel more and more concerned about ecological issues. It is a good point, but we have to be careful about the way to do it, and be very vigilant about who to trust in.
When you want to travel and to discover a new country, the safe reflex is to get informed about who you are going to travel with and especially if you have chosen to volunteer. Nevertheless, do not think that all ecotourism companies and organizations will provide you the same service quality, it is not true. Some of these are just using it as a business, won’t care about the kind of activities and you will be doing nothing really useful either for the community or for yourself.
At Tropical Adventures, our purpose is your personal fulfillment, the community development and the environmental aspects.
What we can do for you:
First, only come if you really want to do so and if you are highly motivated. We are not offering a sweet and nice hotel with swimming pool and drinks all day long. No, what we can do for you, is provide you with a sense of self accomplishment, a new definition of yourself and something that you probably never felt before. You will meet people from our communities, our friends, and not just business partners. Our host families will do their best to make you feel comfortable and will teach you all they can about the Costa Rican culture and lifestyle.
We have been providing these projects and tours for years now and you can be sure that every single day will be busy. We have all kind of activities for you, no matter how old you are, if you are in groups or by yourself, or if you came as a family. What we offer you are not simply vacations but life experiences.
What we can do for the community:
As I already said, we are not talking about collaborators, but very close friends. Our action, through your help, can help more and more people each year. First, because we are a non-profit organization, the benefits made from programs are going to the communities we are working with. We buy them materials like paint or tools and gifts, this money is also helpful to pay teachers and school supplies. Secondly, the meeting between local people and foreigners is really beneficial for both parts. You, as volunteers, will teach them English and they will teach you a lot of things about their culture. And last, but not least, the point of our commitment is to fully respect the environment, nature and the culture. We want you to learn how life is here and why we love it.
Tropical Adventures is not about being a regular company, making profits, selling you a service and taking your money. Tropical Adventures is a community, a way of thinking morally and more than this, we are a family, growing every time a volunteer joins us. We would love for you to be our next family member.
Alto Katsi by our intern Rebecca Uncles
Visiting Alto Katsi
Rebecca Uncles, intern for Tropical Adventures
It’s Christmas time already?
As crazy as it sounds, we’re already preparing for our Tropical Adventures’ Christmas Projects. This is happening for two reasons: For starters, we have a big demand on people interested in participating in the big Christmas parties that we provide for our communities, and second, because it’s time-consuming organizing these events. We really need to start now to have everything in order by December.
Although it is a lot of work for a small foundation such as Tropical Adventures, last year we created four big beautiful events. The first one was our La Flor Christmas Party. For those of you who have been in La Flor, you know what a beautiful town this is. The fresh air, the spectacular view of the charming Orosi Valley, the endless vegetables gardens, the humbleness and sweetness of the people, the innocent vibe of this place is just indescribable. All of our volunteers have left this project with tears in their eyes.
What we did last year here was amazing. The place where we hosted the party was beautiful and big enough for all the guests. The day couldn’t have been more perfect; they sun was brighter than ever and the endless mountains were witnesses to this fun party. We hired a big inflatable bouncy slide to entertain 185 people (kids, host families, teachers, volunteers and friends.) We also had ice cream, hot dogs, drinks, pop corn, lots of games, gifts, music, nutritional evaluations for the kids and their parents, and at the end, a big piñata (Frosty, the snowman) full of candies. It really was a glorious day.
See pictures here: http://www.tropicaladventures.com/gallery.php?g2_itemId=2389.
Two days later we were in the Puerto Viejo Area. This is where Tropical Adventures started. Our very first project was here (teaching English in the Hone Creek and the Puerto Viejo elementary schools.) This is where we have been for three years already; our heart is in this area. Beautiful host families have supported us with loving care for our volunteers. Puerto Viejo has been our dream as a foundation and it has been the place where we’ve seen the biggest change as an organization.
For this party, we asked one of our dear
friends if we could use his hotel to host the party, Kaya’s Place. The place
was perfect. We decorated the entire place with balloons, lots of games for the
kids, great snacks, drinks, excellent support from the hotel staff. It was a
party on the Caribbean Coast. The ocean was in front of us and the tropical
breeze was refreshing. We didn’t have a
piñata for this party, but we had live music and an excellent fire show.
All of our Puerto Viejo friends were present that day. Good times.
See pictures here: http://www.tropicaladventures.com/gallery.php?g2_itemId=2773
Our third Christmas party was on the Bribri Indigenous Reservation in the town of Bambu. It was a sunny December morning in Costa Rica. We arrived there around 10 in the morning full of gifts, food, great enthusiasm and party decorations. When we arrived, Sister Blanca was finishing the daily morning exercises with the residents in the activity room. We were trying not to disturb the residents with our presence when we got there (we wanted to be respectful of their space), but Sister Blanca encouraged us to play music and start the party immediately, so we did. The residents were extremely playful that day. We all started to join in and play with them. We danced, played with bubbles, balloons and typical Costarican games. We provided a lot of food (fruit cocktails, drinks, lunch, ice cream, pastries, coffee, tea and shakes). We gave away gifts at the end, thanks to all the donations we received through the year from all of our supporters. It was a fun, satisfying and beautiful day. This party was different; it was more about sharing with the residents and just “being there,” if you know what we mean.
See pictures here: http://www.tropicaladventures.com/gallery.php?g2_itemId=2391
Our last party was hosted in the big Cultural Center of Bambu, also on the Bribri Indigenous Reservation. It was a rainy day and we seriously didn’t know if we were going to make it all the way to Bambu. The small rivers on the way there were transformed into big rivers. Two of our cars were damaged that day trying to cross the rivers, but we made it in one piece! When we got there, everyone in the community was waiting for us. So, they all helped us out with the decorations.
In total, we had seventeen folks volunteer with us for this party. It was quite the scene! If you can imagine, we had the majestic cultural center surrounded by the rain forest and lots of kids everywhere waiting for the action. For this party, we invited all 75 of the students from the Bratsi School, host families, teachers, retirement home staff, neighbors and friends in general. All of our guests had a great time; it really was one of those unique experiences in life. Just getting there was a lot of work, but it was so worthwhile. The most fun games ever, great surprises for the winners, ice cream, candies, hot dogs, drinks, cakes, great gifts for all the kids donated by the Schneider family, toothbrushes for everyone, great food packages for the host families donated by the company Magui, and the big finale, the Piñata, which was devoured by the kids. It was the best time ever.
Just a few days after this party, the Segehuis family visited Costa Rica from Canada to volunteer with us. They brought more than a hundred backpacks, with all the necessary supplies for the school year for each one of the kids on the Indigenous Reservation.
This year we’re going to be adding a Christmas party in Guanacaste (Camaronal, Hojancha, Monte Alto, Barra Honda and the Monkey Park Animal Refuge.) This has been our first year working in the Guanacaste Province, and it has been a tremendous start for us in this area.
Last year when we did these types of events for the first time, we were kind rolling with the punches and going with the flow. We were receiving endless calls from individuals and families who kept asking for our plans for the holidays as an organization, so we came up with the Christmas Parties and the Summer Camp in Puerto Viejo. We received a lot of support from friends and volunteers with lots of donations and gifts. Past volunteers such as Phyllis and her husband came for the second time to volunteer with us. Almost all of our past volunteers sent Christmas presents for their host families, and we already have people in Puerto Viejo asking us for the Summer Camp in December.
This year, it is our decision to continue with this legacy of beautiful work. We’re planning on hosting five big Christmas parties. This is how we want to spend our holidays, bringing joy where is needed and doing something great for these communities. They deserve it. If you are a past volunteer, and you’re reading this, you know what we’re talking about.
There are no words to describe how wonderful it is to celebrate with these fantastic and loving people. If you feel you are called to share your time with us and others this holiday season, know we’d love to have you join us!
Happy Holidays in advanced to all of you!
Tropical Adventures Family.
Self Discovery Through Exploration
"Come and Experience it Yourself."
My Testimonial Markus Berres
When I was back home looking for something different to do with my upcoming holidays, I knew it would probably involving volunteering at some point. Then I surfed the Internet a lot. Somehow, I can’t remember how I found out about Tropical Adventures, but when I found them – I knew right away that was the program I had been looking for.
It looked like a good mix of travel to places with some tours and adventure and, it had the volunteering component I was looking for. Because all my arrangements had to be kind of last minute, I was a little worried it wouldn’t work out. But after a couple emails and telephone calls, everything seemed to fall into place. Roberto from the office in Costa Rica answered all my questions promptly and clearly.
When I arrived in Costa Rica, I was met by their driver, Manuel, and was immediately taken very good care of. After spending a night in a hostel near the airport in Alajuela, I was escorted once again the next day by Manuel to the bus station to go to the town of Puerto Viejo. Everything was already taken care of, and Manuel helped me find an ATM and take care of any needs I had.
My Spanish is very limited, so I was a little worried what would happen but again, all for nothing. Just when I exited the bus, my coordinator, Mauro, was there to take me to my wonderful host family. The first week I kind of stayed in my own little paradise, teaching English to kids in the Cocles Elementary School, which I went to with the bicycle I rented for the week. First I thought, "Bicycles here? That’s crazy in this heat!" Yes, I sweat like never before, and the road conditions are everything else but bicycle-friendly, but soon I learned to love my bike and the freedom it afforded me.
The kids in the school where fantastic. Since I'm not good with Spanish, and English is not my first language, and I never been a teacher, again I was worried. But not only did the kids learn English from me, I learned lots and lots of Spanish from them. They even recognized me when I passed by the school 8 weeks later – that was a wonderful feeling – and for me it showed that my work meant something to them as well. That’s the experience I was looking for when I planned to volunteer.
I spent the next 2 weeks in Bambu, a little community on the Bribri Indigenous Reservation. There I worked with the kids from the Bratsi School and in the retirement home. It was completely heartwarming just to see how much both the young and the old people enjoyed our company. They got really attached to us in those 2 weeks while we were there.
This time we didn't stay with a host family, but instead we stayed at the Community Center with Danilo (our local host). The place is amazing. It’s really just like a tree house. The whole community there was wonderful, the traditional food, the way of living. Everyone got so attached to the place, I just couldn't believe it. But after the 2 weeks were over, all of us had tears in our eyes when we were leaving.
The tours we did together here are something I will never forget. The 2-day trip over to Panama, just mind-blowing… I thought I’m kind of fit to walk for a couple of hours. We have some pretty strenuous mountains back at home. Here the first part was easy. Hiking for 2 hours on a good path, sometimes in the shade from the trees, sometimes in the hot sun. And let me tell you, it gets hot. I had plenty of water, at least I thought so, for the first four hours. Then the path began more and more to disappear into the jungle, and walking got harder and harder, especially because most of the locals coming through here come on horses. So the path was super muddy from the horses’ tracks and the rain (it was the rainy season, but so far I had not seen too much of it, luckily).
At one point I had to sit down, and Isaac started feeding me with crackers, our guide told me our destination wasn't more than a 15-minutes walk from here. Then for me...luck! A man and his daughter on a horse came by. The girl, maybe 12 years young, must have noticed my condition and offered me her horse for the rest of the way. Usually I would have declined, but not this time. I was happy not to walk the rest of the way (which was 25 minutes on a horse.) The little girl walked the whole way, like it was nothing, practically flying from rock to rock. Later we found out what we just did in more than 4 hours, she does every day to get to school...in less than half an hour!!!How crazy is that? Now I know I have to do more sports, or working out. But all the hard work was absolutely worth what was waiting for us. The pristine, tropical and nearly undiscovered waterfall close to the very small cabin we stayed for the night -- that’s what you never find on your normal “all inclusive holiday.”
The next week I spent at the Camaronal Sea Turtle Project. It was completely far away from civilization, as you might imagine. When we arrived there my first thought was: "Oh my god....noooo!" Now in retrospect, I think I would absolutely want to stay at that place for 1 or even 2 months. Domenica, Julian and German -- the project staff from MINAE (Ministry of the Environment) are the most welcoming people one person could possibly imagine. My Spanish improved a lot in the first couple of weeks, but here I really had to practice it, and it was easy to speak to them after opening myself up to the idea. And it was not only the little small-talk that tourists usually have with the locals; we could speak about anything. But especially everything about the project interested me – and the knowledge they have about all of the projects and the animals and the surrounding area is just astonishing.
My next week of volunteering took me to the Monte Alto Natural Reserve, another great project managed by MINAE, and in serious need of volunteer help. Here we helped build paths, plant trees and flowers, as well as helped in the kitchen. One thing I did here one day that I did not expect to do was helping to fix toilets. No, no. Not the nasty kind. The kind where I could show off all my plumbing skills. (No...I don’t really have any. Back in my real life I’m a chef in a hotel!) And yes, by the way, the toilets work again.
My sixth week in Costa Rica was spent in another national park, Barra Honda. That would be the week where I definitely got my wish for physical labor fulfilled. Besides taking wonderful tours and walks in the area, the number one project for the park was to make it nice and to prepare everything for the big celebration in August (National Parks Day). That meant we had to dig a lot. Since they were expecting lots of rain -- and rainwater in masses destroys the street and especially the sides of the street -- we had to place 70 centimeter cement pipes on the side of the road near the main building to keep the water from eroding the street.
In that week, I must have sweat out my own weight a couple of times. This all sounds probably like too much work. But it wasn't at all. The work hours were usually only in the morning from 9 to 12, and the rest of the day we were free to do whatever we wanted. For example, the town of Nicoya is only a 400 colones bus ride away (less than 50 cents), and it provides all that I wanted and needed. And then there was enough time to spend at the pool from the nearby Barra Honda Hotel and to enjoy a good book.
Monkey Park was originally going to be my last project. It is an animal rescue center. It's a nice place to see animals that live here in Costa Rica which would usually be hard to see in the wild. The stay in the park was nice. They provided a very good home, and the food there is delicious. I got "gordo" (fat)!
Like at all the projects, nearly at all times a project coordinator or Isaac (one of the directors) himself was present, or came on a regular basis, if for nothing else than just to see that we we’re all okay and to bring us some snacks. The women (the number of them seemed to change on a daily basis) who were responsible for the project at Monkey Park really work hard to make the place what it is. And having been part of that is a nice memory.
One of my jobs was to transfer the caterpillars out of the Butterfly Garden every morning so that they could not feed on all the plants faster than the plants could grow in there. So for that purpose there is an assigned place called, “the feeding house.” And then I had to check if there were some larvae hatched and then bring them back as "butterflies" to the "Mariposarium." This is one place where someone like me goes literally photo crazy!
The next 2 weeks I went to travel on my own to Panama. I needed to be in Panama City at a certain time. And that’s where the team of Tropical Adventures really helped more than I could have expected. They helped me with my hotel, and even delivered my bus tickets to me. The many small things they did for me made my trip easy and enjoyable and were just examples of how dedicated these people are to the work they do. It also made me feel really appreciated. I felt like I was in the best hands possible here, so I decided to come back for six days after my Panama-trip to do some more volunteering.
So now as I write this, these last six days here in the La Flor Project are nearly over. I’m super happy about my decision to teach English in a tiny agricultural community. I feel completely welcome and like I'm doing something worthwhile. After a few days here, I get recognized on the street from everyone; I’m not at all a stranger.
I can’t possibly fit all my experiences and feelings in these few words, but to everyone who enjoys traveling, some adventure and meeting endless amounts of friendly people, I say, "come and experience it for yourself!"
In the end, it was all the small things that made my trip with Tropical Adventures so priceless. (Geesh, I hope not to sound too much like the MasterCard commercial!)
Bambu & Puerto Viejo Testimonial. Becca & Kate
We’ll be honest, the first day traveling to a foreign country where we barely speak the language is stressful to say the least; however, our weeks to follow in Costa Rica were definitely worth the few hours of confusion. We began our adventure in Bambu, a remote indigenous reservation where the natural beauty of Costa Rica can truly be savored. We were immediately welcomed into this small community by locals and fellow volunteers alike, and immersed ourselves in the rich culture.
We volunteered week days at the community retirement home and elementary school. Though very different, both volunteering opportunities were fulfilling and eye-opening. During this week, though there were no restaurants or shops, we were able to fill our spare time with neighborhood fiestas, swimming with the kids at the local swimming hole, and unforgettable tours. One day we were actually able to take a small boat over to Panama, where we swam in an astonishing waterfall right in the middle of the rainforest; these sights were truly remarkable.
Although we didn’t stay with a host family, we felt we got the best of both worlds living in the Cultural Center; we were able to eat our meals with the family that lives there and gain the experience of living with a family, while maintaining the freedom of staying in a hostel (Note: granola bars, snack bars, etc. are a VERY good idea to bring....that way you won’t have to spend all your money on food/snacks when you’re hungry, since you eat your meals whenever the host family cooks, which is on their own schedule). Also, Danilo (the head of the center) is one of the most energetic and fun people you will ever meet. After our week in Bambu, we wished we had more time.
We then traveled by bus to Puerto Viejo, almost the polar opposite of Bambu. Puerto Viejo is a much more tourist-y, mini-city area, and we instantly fell in love with its beautiful beaches. While staying there, we also volunteered as English teachers at the local elementary school, but it was an entirely different experience. Overall, we really felt a bond with the students and got very rewarding responses…we truly sensed an eagerness to learn. The kids particularly enjoyed games, especially where they can compete on teams. They also really loved stickers, or any little prizes you may offer, for the end of class.
Aside from teaching, we were able to discover the nature aspects of the area through activities such as kayaking, snorkeling and zip-lining. While we were apprehensive about a few of these adventurous ideas, we felt very safe overall and wished we had time to fit in more tours. We also made time to explore souvenir shops and local restaurants in Puerto Viejo.
What you give when you volunteer in Costa Rica is an incredible contribution, but what you learn and the experience they give you is far more rewarding than any gift possible to give. This trip may have been initially outside our comfort zone, but the memories and sights we are able to walk away are truly unforgettable.
Rebbeca Miller & Katherine Licciardello
Rhode Island, USA
To see a video of Rebecca and Kate teaching English at the Rio Negro Elementary School click here:
Summer Camp Testimonial by Ryan Kilberg, Canada
The two weeks I spent in Bambu rivaled the best two weeks I have experienced in my life. I understand very little Spanish and speak even less but in spite of that, all of the people in the community were very kind and friendly to me. Nothing had to be said; they just welcomed me into their families and homes.
at the school and a few hours in the retirement home doing crafts and painting pictures with some of the residents there. It was all smiles and laughs as we spent time with the wonderful people there.
In the evening we held English classes for one hour for people of all ages and varying levels of competency of the English language. In the school the children really warmed up to us and were eager to learn English. They were a really fun bunch of kids.
The evening English classes were the most fun of all. We taught the same material that we had introduced at the school during the day and then we would play games afterward. We played tag and hide-and-go-seek with all of the young children there. One night we made Smores for them. All of the kids that came to our evening classes wanted to be best friends with every one of us.
The lodging was like a gigantic tree fort with tents set up to protect us from the bugs. It was a great set up and worked very well. The meals were fantastic. Sometimes I felt like they were cooking something special for us. It was a great chance to enjoy some of the traditional Costa Rican cuisine. I was really sad to leave Bambu. When we were traveling away from Bambu I had already begun to plan my next visit. But at the end of the day I had such a fantastic time and I will have that with me forever. While we were there we went on some fun tours to waterfalls in Panama and on a river fishing tour as well.
Before going to Guanacaste we went on a 3 hour white water rafting tour through class 3-4+ rapids and had a tour of the Arenal Volcano. Both of those tours were so much fun. There are not very many people here in Guanacaste to keep the turtle conservation project going so they really need volunteers. I was happy to help out in doing the daily chores during the day and to patrol the beach at night.
From the beginning of my adventure everything was planned out and worked out exceptionally well. I never once worried about where I was going, who was going to meet me at the airport or where I would be staying. I really look forward to returning to this wonderful country and the wonderful people in the near future.
Ryan Kilberg, Canada.
Click on the pics to enlarge
Summer Camp Testimonial by Charlotte Bernsohn. Chicago, US.
Sitting here on my last day in Costa Rica it’s incredible to think back to the beginning of my trip. After two plane rides and a five-hour bus ride, I found myself in the pitch dark being greeted by four strangers, climbing in an Xterra and taking a half an hour drive down a bumpy, potholed road. Exhausted and nervous I spent the ride thinking about all the reasons why this trip could go terribly wrong. There I was, a seventeen-year-old girl stuffed in a car with four men whose names I had already forgotten, heading towards an indigenous reservation where I would be spending the next two weeks. As I soon found out, my worrying was for nothing. My time spent in Bambu was some of the best I’ve ever had.
The four strange men turned out to be Isaac, one of the cofounders of Tropical Adventures, Mauro our project coordinator, Ryan a 23 year old from Canada, and Markus a 35 year old from Switzerland, all of whom were great and extremely easy to be around. Together, we spent the next two weeks teaching English, working at a retirement home, and being immersed in the beautiful culture of the Bribri people.
We would start out our mornings working at the retirement home, where the residents were sweet, hilarious, and ecstatic to have our company. After spending time with the residents painting, talking and just enjoying each other’s company, we headed over to the elementary school where we were teaching English.
We would spend an hour or more working with the fifth and sixth graders helping them to broaden their understanding of English through writing, reading, talking, and arts & crafts. As with any class, in any country, there were a few students who seemed completely uninterested in what we had to offer, but the majority of the students loved the opportunity to learn.
Our afternoons were spent eating the delicious food Fulbia had prepared, sleeping in hammocks, and playing with the kids from the family. In the evening, the entire community was invited over to learn English. By the end of the two weeks we had a regular group of about ten that would come every night to learn. These lessons went great because they were small and very personal. Also, everyone who was there chose to be there and so they were very receptive and willing to learn.
Along with our work, we spent a great deal of time enjoying the incredible tours Bambu had to offer. The most memorable was a six-hour hike into the mountains where we played in a nearby waterfall, learned about the life of farmers in Costa Rica, and slept in an open air room, staring at a sky filled with stars.
When we weren’t enjoying the incredible scenery, we would spend time with Danilo, the man who built the community center where we slept, as well as with his entire family, who I found to be some of the warmest, most loving people I have ever met. Even with the language barrier (I knew only a handful of Spanish words when I arrived in Costa Rica) we all bonded instantly. Taking long walks with Danilo at night, playing with Fulbia’s son Lucas, and laughing as we struggled to speak each other’s languages, the family made me feel as if I was just another member of their family who had stopped into town for a visit.
As hard as leaving Bambu was, I was excited to explore other parts of Costa Rica. When our two weeks were up I said a very tearful goodbye and headed into Puerto Viejo for a night of relaxation and enjoying the nightlife. We then traveled to La Fortuna, where I spent two more nights relaxing and enjoying the Arenal Volcano. From Bambu we had traveled across the country, through the central valley and then headed over to the Pacific coast for our next project.
On the Pacific coast I spent one week working at the Camaronal sea turtle conservation project. Helping to build paths, tearing down the decrepit nursery, and walking the 3 km of beach in search of garbage, I was able to get a bit of physical labor in. Julian, Domenica, and German, the three rangers who work at the beach, were incredible hosts. Again, I enjoyed struggling to speak Spanish with them and loved the lessons they gave us about turtles as we did our daily beach patrol.
We spent 2 hours everyday during the morning, from 4 a.m. until 6 a.m., or in the evening, walking along the beach in search of turtles that had come up on shore to lay their eggs. On our last night we had the honor of witnessing the entire process of egg laying; it was completely awe inspiring and certainly an event I will never forget. Camaronal was extremely isolated and was exactly what I needed to learn how to relax. Once again, when our time was up I was sad to leave Camaronal and the incredible people who work there.
For my last few nights in Costa Rica, I have been sleeping in the Monte Alto nature reserve, in a cabin placed literally in the middle of the rainforest. The park is gorgeous and the people who work there are extremely dedicated to their jobs. Monte Alto gave me a chance to truly enjoy nature, waking up to howler monkeys in the morning and falling asleep to the tapping of rain against our tin roof, and to once again get some physical labor in, digging up paths and moving stones to line the path we had created.
Overall, my trip has been life changing. The places I have visited and the people I have met along the way will stay with me forever. I’m going home with a greater knowledge of Spanish, incredible pictures, an obsession with travel, the ability to relax and enjoy my own company, and a complete admiration for Costa Rica and the amazing people who live here.