We will always be grateful to Costa Rica for providing a safe haven during these turbulent times and for the beautiful memories we will take with us. We will remember it as a paradise of biodiversity although after four months here, we have also seen the effects of corruption, crime, unemployment and inequality…but we’ll try to remember the good stuff:
ASTOP Charity, Parismina
We had one of our most magical experiences of all time with this NGO located on the Caribbean coast in Parismina, which is known for the two metre long 700kg leatherback turtles which nest on its shores during May. Our jobs were to patrol 12km of the beach from midnight until 4am in search of leatherbacks…and we were super lucky to find one!
We waited 90 minutes for her to dig a deep hole with her flippers, lay more than 100 eggs and then cover the hole and her tracks to keep predators at bay. The experience was deeply moving and we gave her lots of encouragement, whispering “one last push” for the last fifty or so eggs. Finally, we accompanied her back to sea where she will remain for two years before returning to nest. We felt blessed to have with us two wonderful filmmakers, funded by National Geographic, as we would not otherwise have come away with such footage since photography is normally forbidden to avoid disturbing the turtles.
Leatherback turtles have been on earth for 100 million years but they could become extinct in the next ten years because of many dangers: natural predators, poaching, bi-catch, plastic bags which can be mistaken for jelly fish (the main diet for leatherbacks) and climate change: the temperature at which eggs develop determines the sex of the babies, and a warmer climate has started to produce too many females and very few males.
Parismina is really remote and accessible only by boat from the nearest road 20km away. The 10 minute boat ride from Cano Blanco to Parismina is idyllic. Someone normally delivers fruit and veg to the village but as that person was unwell while we were there, we had to forego healthy food during our stay. Thankfully, there was a restaurant serving nice rice and beans three times a day!
Cloudbridge Charity, San Geraldo del Rivas
Cloudbridge is a real paradise! It is a nature reserve full of wildlife and forest. We volunteered for an NGO which has reforested the reserve over the last 20 years and now focuses on research and education. We went on surveys to count monkeys and frogs, climbed really steep mountainous terrain, filled our lungs with the pure air and soaked ourselves in pools under glimmering waterfalls.
Our less strenuous tasks included restoring and painting a bench…
…and reviewing tens of thousands of camera trap images which revealed (among thousands of trees swaying in the wind and triggering a photo) a jaguar, puma, coyote and lots of tapirs. None of the photos however compared with the camera trap video taken at our next destination in Tortuguero…
Most of the volunteers were ever so young. We had this idea that they have started to get younger and younger but no, it’s just us getting older and older. We met one young lad who we thought must be younger than our own boys: it turned out his own parents are just 40 and we are the age of his grandparents. That wasn’t our best day.
The weather here was really reliable…bright and sunny mornings, violently rainy afternoons and quiet incredibly dark evenings…so dark in fact that the charity expects to soon have the first Dark Sky certification in the whole of Central America.
In between our adventures which tested our stamina through tough treks, cold showers, poor plumbing, etc, we sought home comforts through some luxury petsits.
And in the expat community of Santa Ana, we cared for a cavoodle who thought she was a cat, and a real cat – a giant Russian White – who looked like Putin but is probably a lot cuddlier. We lived in the lap of luxury and even had the President of Costa Rica as our neighbour, although we didn’t get invited around for tea. We swam every morning in an Olympic size pool and enjoyed the comfort until we felt sufficiently pampered to begin our next adventure.
We couldn’t leave Costa Rica without doing a bit of tourism. First stop, Tortuguero, famed for its green turtles (which nest in July), national park and canals
We are flying on 30 May to the USA (Maryland) where we also hope to have our vaccinations. We plan to return to the UK in September…hopefully by then, the quarantine rules will have been lifted.