Tag Archives: Costa Rica

June 17: Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve

Stephanie ’16

Today is Wednesday and our Costa Rica service group has relocated to the Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve. This means that today was a travel day with a total of three hours on our coaster bus. During this ride, we took breaks to experience two interesting attractions that reminded us, once again, that the point of this trip is to immure ourselves in the culture and environmental awareness that Costa Rica has to offer us.

Our first stop of the day was to Las Termales del Bosque, a rustic hot springs establishment found in the middle of a tropical wet forest, to enjoy two hours of relaxation in the hot springs. The spot is four miles away from the birthplace of our guide Mario, as well as of his father and grandfather.  Mario told us that his great grandfather, Fructus Cordoba, had come to the region to work in a cattle ranch and settled his family in the region.

The pools were located deep in the forest down a fairly steep ravine. It took us ten minutes to walk and reach the springs that sat adjacent a picturesque river. The springs were organized to have guests relax as they gradually go through the pools with the temperature of the water increasing as they go. Pools started at 34, then 36, then 38, going all the way up to 48 degrees Celsius (that’s 118.5 degrees Fahrenheit!).   Most of us could not stay in the last one very long.  The best part about the pools was the fact that we were isolated from the hustle and bustle of city life. Our day consisted of never-ending rainfall and it was a unique experience to be in the forest and with its inhabitants as they are in the middle of a rainstorm.

After a delicious lunch at Las Termales del Bosque, we drove to the Jardin Zoologico called “La Marina.” There the group had an opportunity to learn more about wildlife in Costa Rica and the obstacles they face because of societal advancement and the mistreatment of animals. La Marina is a privately owned nonprofit that works to rescue endangered species and mistreated animals. The Center is world famous for being the only place to have been so successful at breeding Tapirs in captivity, producing over twenty babies thus far.

Each animal has a unique story. For instance, one of their lions was rescued from a travelling circus that no longer wanted her. “La Marina” sheltered the abandoned animal and provided her with a comfortable life until she died peacefully of old age. This is the goal of La Marina–to provide helpless animals with a peaceful existence, and although they were contained, they are safe from predators and illegal hunting (no form of hunting is allowed in Costa Rica).   Other animals come to them as confiscated illegal pets (no wild animals are allowed as pets in this country).  We saw several cats including a jaguar, a puma, an angry ocelot, and a couple of arboreal margays.

We continued driving down the Caribbean lowlands until we reached a town called Chilamate on the banks of the Sarapiqui River, not too far from Puerto Viejo.  Once we finally reached the Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve, and learned that it has 500 acres of pristine primary lowland rainforest, we met with the Sarapiqui Conservation and Learning Center director Francine to learn about the organization’s mission.

The SCLS’s charter is to help local children and adults improve their knowledge of the ecological wonders of the region and through free English classes. Adult usually attend classes in the evenings from Mondays to Thursdays, which accommodates well with their work schedules. Children, whose age ranges more around elementary school level, attend these classes on Saturdays. Other programs they provide for the community include access to computers. A unique rule the Center has is that children must read at least thirty minutes before getting on a computer. This is beneficial to the children because it allow for the children to focus and develop their reading skills.

Because they only have six computers and a high demand for use, people are usually limited to thirty minutes of Internet use. Even with limited resources SCLC has been able to help the entire community by enhancing their education.  The SCLC is an exceptional center that aims to help locals through language and environmental education. We are planning to help them by painting local schools and by planting trees for the next three days.   They are also organizing our homestays.

Overall, although today was a travelling day, the group and I did have an impactful day. By getting the chance to see rescued animals and meeting the director of a nonprofit built to educate their communities, it is clear that the people of Costa Rica do strive for a sustainable environment and caring community by helping one another in any way shape or form.

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Costa Rica June 23: Photos

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by | June 23, 2013 · 3:58 pm

Costa Rica June 23: Our Last Day at Selva Verde

Today was our last day in Selva Verde and it was packed with activities.

My day began early at my home stay when I awoke before anyone in the house. The house was very quiet, but outside the daily activities were well under way. All the animals made their signature noises and rain fell lightly on our tin roof. Once my mother woke up, she began cooking a full breakfast, which consisted of gallo pinto, eggs, and plantains. Before leaving, I gave them the gifts I brought for them and thanked them for letting me stay with them. I know it was hard to communicate with me, but they were so welcoming and caring, so my visit was successful.

Once all of us who had home stays were safely on the bus we took off for the Sarapiqi River for a boat ride down the river.  The Sarapiqui is used as a waterway for people to reach the Caribbean coast.  There were lots of boats at the doc in Puerto Viejo, some commercial, and some for tourists like us.  Our captain, Jose, led us upstream and along the way we saw turtles, many birds, a caiman, and a sloth. The ride was so relaxing and an amazing opportunity to see a bunch of animals and get great pictures of them.

After the boat ride we rode to a Dole-owned banana plantation. Carlos, our guide of our visit of the plantation, told us in detail how the produce their bananas, including planting, harvesting, and packaging. Then we got to see the workers harvesting the bananas and then packaging them. Carlos was a great speaker and he did an amazing job presenting to us, saying that in the banana business everything comes in groups of three.   His energetic personality and booming voice helped in getting us to understand the banana business.

Then, after stopping to have lunch at a pizzeria  (YUM), we all made our way back to the San Isidro school to finish our service. However, before we got to work, we all learned how to make Wire scorpion crafts using colored wire. Some men and boys of the town helped us how to make them, it was really hard. It was a difficult task and many of us struggled throughout the process, but the finals products were all truly pieces of art. The activity was a cool way to have the people that we had been helping give us something we could take back home with us to remember the people, the town, and the school.

After the fun activity we all got back to work and continued our service through planting, sanding desks, and cleaning. When the work was through almost all of us joined in for a soccer game that would last over an hour long. For me, this was the highlight of my day because soccer is the best sport ever. It is such a universal sport anyone can play. It was so great to see everyone join in and play a game that we all understood despite the language barrier. Soccer, or fútbol, is a sport that brings people together.


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Costa Rica June 23: Photos

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by | June 23, 2013 · 3:55 pm

Costa Rica June 23: Second to Last Day

I woke up this morning to the sound of roosters and the smell of food cooking on the stove. My host family was up bright and early at 5:00 am. After a meal of rice and beans, I went out to the front porch. My Tico dad was up since three a.m. moving cattle around from his “potrero” (pasture) to the front yard.

When I went out to see what was going on, I saw him milking a cow. After noticing me, he called me over and asked me if I wanted to milk the cow. I hesitantly said yes. He laughed as I tried and failed. When he figured out that I was hopeless, he told me to run into the house and get a glass. Knowing where that was, I slowly strolled into the house and got a glass. When I brought it back to the cow, he filled the glass with warm, unpasteurized, thick, milk. He handed it to me and told me it was a custom in his family so I drank it expecting not to like it, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.

This was symbolic of my entire home-stay experience.  I was nervous and hesitant at first, but it turned out to be an amazing experience. I’m very happy that I had the chance to do this and I feel like I got a true Costa Rican experience.


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Costa Rica June 22: Photos

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by | June 22, 2013 · 3:53 pm

Costa Rica June 22: Selva Verde Day 2

Today, we woke up to a torrential rain storm outside of our room in Selva Verde Lodge the day we were to beginning of our three-day service project in a rural school close to La Virgen.  After breakfast, we headed to the San Isidro Escuela, formally called the Centro Educativo San Isidro.

This was larger school than the previous one.  It had several classrooms, including a kindergarten.  We were tasked with refurbishing the school’s fourth classroom, which needed work so the school could add an English classroom. In addition, we worked on multiple projects, including planting a live perimeter fence with native vines and repairing, preparing a new soccer field, and sanding desks. After unloading a truck of building supplies, we got to work on cleaning the room and painting the walls with a sealer.

In between work, we played soccer with the school children, which was a lot of fun. The game of Monkey in the Middle became quite intense before lunch, and gave us a nice break between the manual labor.  I enjoyed the work, which was not physically exhausting but very rewarding to continuously work with one school.

After lunch, we finished up our day’s work and prepared for our homestays.  Immediately, Julio and Marina, my homestay parents, were very welcoming and generous despite the language barrier. They lived in a small house with a freshly cut lawn with their two sons.  We sat around exchanging comments and questions. The conversations involved some hand gestures and Spanglish, but we learned a lot about each other and the Costa Rican, or Tico, culture.  I played soccer video games with their children, explored the ranch, and tried sugar cane from their farm, which was very delicious.

We also visited Peter’s Tico house that sat on top of a hill—the food was some of my favorite on the trip.  We went to sleep early and rose at sunrise, and at breakfast we exchanged gifts.  They really enjoyed the fruit preserves, and Julio gave me a really nice candlestick holder he made himself.

Julio and Marina were so generous and caring to me, as Marina explained that she really cared for me because she knew there was a mother worrying about me back home. Although I was initially was worried about the night, it was very rewarding and would do it again in a heartbeat.

– Taylor

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Costa Rica June 21: Photos

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by | June 21, 2013 · 3:51 pm

Costa Rica June 21: Selva Verde

Nothing demonstrates terror like the face, or more accurately the noise they make, of ten 17-year-old students discovering giant green spiders the size of baseballs, legs and all, swinging webs above their heads. This frightening experience occurred at the Refugio de Animales la Marina where we stopped on the way to Selva Verde. The refuge takes in hurt or illegally owned animals and is the only place in the world to have successfully breed tapirs in captivity. We spent quite a bit of time here, being fascinated by the big cats, taking pictures with the crocodiles and chilling with the monkeys.  We saw beautiful specimens of the five Costa Rican felines: margays, ocelots, jaguarondis, pumas, and jaguars.

Earlier we visited the natural hot springs on the way out of Arenal. The hot springs were secluded: tucked away beside a river in a little valley in the jungle.  And it was IN the jungle. Everywhere we glanced we were surrounded by the raw beauty of nature—great climbing trees with vines snaking about, bright flowers popping out from under dripping leaves, and the sounds of birds chirping colorfully, the creak of frogs, the chatter of insects, and the rush of the river bounding over rocks.

The contrast to the cities of America and even the touristy Arenal was stark. Here, it was quiet, peaceful, and carefree. And being in such an environment certainly rubbed off on us, and we all thoroughly enjoyed our time in the hot springs. Overall, Pacho’s dramatic  antics and warnings about pit vipers and leeches had us all jumping, but it was great to relax in the warm waters and think about absolutely nothing—a couple of the guys swear they grew a few inches because their muscles were so relaxed, however I remain skeptical.

The solitude of the rainforest was highlighted once more when we reached rural Selva Verde. Actually rural: Selva Verde Lodge is literally in the middle of the Rainforest.  It is owned by the Holbrook’s, our travel agency, and 400 acres bordering the Sarapiqui River was designed as an ecolodge for the guests to feel as though they are immersed in the rainforest. Well, they have certainly succeeded. Just from walking from building to building we saw many poison dart frogs of brilliant colors and a few too many spiders for most people’s likings (the same giant ones from before).

As soon as we arrived, we met Jasmine, the assistant coordinator of the Sapapiqui Conservation & Learning Center, with whom we will be working for the next several days. She introduced the work we will do at the school including building fences, plastering walls, and pouring concrete. We also learned about the highly anticipated homestays. Molly, Sabrina, Grant, Peter, and Taylor will be home staying tomorrow, and the rest of us on Friday night.


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Costa Rica June 20: Photos

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by | June 20, 2013 · 3:48 pm