Costa Rica is home to many beautiful national parks, but Corcovado on the Osa Peninsula is one of the country’s most pristine. Barely disturbed by human presence, Cocorvado is home to many endangered animals, including jaguars, ocelots, and tapirs.
Here we work on a wildlife monitoring project led by local researchers who are committed to protecting jaguars and their rainforest home. We meet with a former hunter who shows us the tracking skills he now uses to find rare animals for conservation purposes instead of for food. During our time here we learn how to monitor and estimate jaguar populations and we help biologists set up and check motion cameras for footage of these iconic felines. The data we collect will help scientists create better conservation and management practices that benefit the unique animals that call this jungle home.
San Jose and Poás Volcano
Our Costa Rican wildlife adventure begins in the capital city of San Jose with an engaging orientation to Costa Rican culture. Here we adjust to “Tico time” and taste our first local fare, before venturing off on a day trip to the active Poás Volcano, one of the country’s hottest spots (literally).
Monteverde Cloud Forest
The higher elevations and cooler temperatures of the northern mountains create Costa Rica’s famed cloud forests, home to thousands of animals and plants found nowhere else in the world. We visit the Monteverde Institute to learn about local conservation projects in the area, before taking to the skies to get a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest canopy through a series of suspension bridges and ziplines. We make sure to keep our eyes peeled for Howler monkeys, toucans, blue morpho butterflies, and resplendent quetzals as we soar over the misty forests below.
Work with a local non-profit organization to help protect endangered sea turtles. By day we learn about sea turtle ecology, help monitor the turtle nursery, and enjoy plentiful beach time with our group. At night we patrol the nesting beach to collect monitoring data on sea turtles and protect recently-laid eggs; the turtles only nest at night so we work on their schedule. Though the numbers of sea turtles are dwindling, we may be lucky enough to see turtles nesting along the beach or help newborn hatchlings safely reach the ocean.
Manuel Antonio National Park
The Pacific coast hosts many vibrant surf towns, including Quepos and Manuel Antonio, and Manuel Antonio National Park, where the jungle meets the sea. This park is one of the country’s best places to see capuchin and squirrel monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and parrots, and the calm waters around the park are full of colorful coral reefs rich with marine life.
Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park
Our spotlight project takes us south to the Osa Peninsula, where we find the country’s most breathtaking scenery and most abundant wildlife. We settle into our new home at a biological research station and meet the local staff of researchers and local guides. Over the next week our days are packed with exciting activities: jaguar and bat research, humpback whale watching tours, jungle night hikes, snorkeling among manta rays and sea turtles at Cano Island, and hikes to refreshing hidden waterfalls! We even have an opportunity to try our hand at creating traditional Costa Rican dishes in a tropical cooking class.
San Jose Closing Celebration
After three weeks of working, playing, learning and laughing, we conclude our program in San Jose with a final celebratory meal. We reflect on our time together and all that we have experienced as we depart this beautiful country, ready to share our experiences with family and friends back home.