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A turtler hatchling on a beach

Turtles, Sunshine and Beauty - It's Blooming Costa Rica!

By Vicky Lessen

Last updated: 12th September 2014

I’ve landed back to the UK and already I am missing the heat, the people and the vibrant colour of beautiful Costa Rica.  Greens, pinks, yellows, reds…. It is a rainbow land with golden beaches (beautiful sandy beaches in replacement for those golden coins? I’ll take it!).

The climate – bring sun cream!!!

I went in the green season (May-November), which is still a great time to go… it was still HOT – remember your suncream! (on a side note… why isn’t there such a thing as suncream for your scalp?? A burnt hair parting is no fun, no fun AT ALL – a hat perhaps… oh hindsight). Oh and just chuck an umbrella in your bag for the evenings and you are set!

I was there to check out the language school which also operates volunteer programmes around the country, from wildlife projects to orphanages (in fact there are ~ 30 to choose from and you can choose before you go or when you arrive at the school too!)

Turtle , turtles and turtles!

Turtle hatchlings on a sandy beach

First stop was the turtle conversation in Camaronal, approx. 5 hours from San Jose. It’s super cheap to get to by bus (4000 colones ~ £5 – that’s cheaper my ten minute train journey) from the city centre and the staff at the language school are incredibly helpful. For us it was quite a mission (the car we went in decided to break down – uh oh) so we arrived late Sunday evening, after setting off early that morning. We were however kindly greeted by the coordinator at the project, Nelson who speaks next to no English (hence Espanola is pretty essential there!).

A tasty dish of vegetarian pasta (my fav) to fill our tummy’s and off on our night patrol to see if we can catch some turtles laying their eggs. At first this was pretty tricky, with no light allowed* on the beach we were walking blind, with the lapping of waves one side and noisy mangrove insects the other – soon however our eyes adapted with the help of the moon and starlight (remember to look up – it’s incredible!).

*( Remember white light is not allowed on night patrols, it can startle the turtles – coordinators only carry a red light to view the turtles.)

Turtle hatchling on a sandy beach

Volunteers patrol the beaches not only to try and spot the turtles laying and to take note for research purposes, but also to ward off unwanted beach visitors like raccoons and even locals who will happily steal the turtles eggs to eat (it’s not on my bucket list I must say).

After a while we managed to spot a female laying her eggs! Turtles are HUGE – a lot larger than I had anticipated. She stomped her flippers down to really smooth the spot where her eggs are kept which helps protect her offspring from predators – she wasn’t delicate I’ll tell you that.

We slept well that night in our air conditioned room, then it was up before sunrise to count the number of survived nests and release some hatched baby turtles from the hatchery – a firm favorite moment of the entire trip!

Spanish anyone?

After spending the day Monday travelling back and chilling in a local bar with a few cocktails (and why not eh?), Tuesday was spent at the language school itself. Students arrive and have the option to purchase breakfast at a very cheap price (beats a spoons fry up too) and sip on the free tea, coffee or water provided until lessons start.

I heard a variety of accents and noticed an array of ages coming through the door. At the school there is an awesome chill out zone – a mini garden equipped with a sun lounger (I may have hogged – I love those rays) and banana tree (now you know you are somewhere tropical).

We sat in on a basic lesson… the teacher was so enthusiastic and with a class no larger than 6 everyone is encouraged to join in – there is no hiding at the back.

“Mi nombre es Vicky y yo trabajo es con Gap 360. Tengo 23 anos y vivir en Tunbridge Wells cerca de Londres”

The language school encourages interaction which is why the mornings are taking up with classes; the afternoons are full of activities like salsa, yoga and conversational classes to encourage the use of Spanish in everyday life.

Volunteering in the city

Leda, the volunteer coordinator at the school took us to some incredible inspirational social projects in the city itself, some just a short walk from the school.

There are options to work in care homes, orphanages, day care centers and “soup kitchens” for under privileged children. The children at these facilities are all so welcoming as you enter their homes – big friendly smiles and one girl in particular was keen to show me around (not that I actually understood her – again Spanish is fairly useful).

Shaking out stuff… terribly

The afternoon was spent shaking our hips (extremely out of time) to salsa! Perhaps I’m not quite the Latin dancer I thought :/.

If you want to dig you teeth into the Costa Rican way of life, learn Spanish, volunteer or just explore this incredible country (and I of course advise you do!) give us a call: 01892 527392.

Hasta luego! Ciao.

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