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Katherine Harris - Tropical Dry Forest Conservation in Costa Rica

Kids doing traditional dances in Costa Rica

As I am studying Geography at university, I have always been interested in conservation and the environment. This meant that being given the chance to volunteer on the Conservation project sounded amazing to me.

My Conservation Project

I spent two weeks at Barra Honda National Park, which was beautiful. The view from the top of the national park is something that I will never forget.

Every day I was given the opportunity to do something different, from surveying bats to digging holes for a water recycling system in the local school, to spending the day at another national park, Playa Grande, cleaning the beach and learning about the work they do there to protect leatherback turtles.

The work was hard, and labor intensive, often including a hike uphill just to get to the place where I would be working. But it was very interesting, as the national park is home to many different species that I got to see on a daily basis. It was also incredibly rewarding and you could see how it was going to make a difference.

Free time in Bara Honda

However, it wasn’t all hard work, and there was plenty of time to relax and go swimming in the local pool, or enjoy a game of soccer which involved the staff as well as all of the volunteers. In the evenings I was able to go to the local bar and dance, try the national beer, Imperial, or simply read a book or play cards with the other volunteers - I don’t think I have ever played cards as much as I did in those two weeks!

The dormitory at Bara Honda

The accommodation was fairly basic with up to eight volunteers sharing a room, but each room had its own shower – which was great after spending the day working in the heat. We slept in bunk beds, underneath mosquito nets, and the room had the luxury of a fan, making it much cooler than outside.

The food was delicious and meal times were always something that I looked forward to. Meal time was a chance to relax and chat to the staff and other volunteers, whilst enjoying every combination of rice and beans that you can imagine.

At the weekends, I was free to explore other parts of Costa Rica. One weekend was spent at the beach, learning to surf and enjoying the sun. Another weekend, I went on a day trip to a volcano with the other volunteers and we were able to see hot springs and boiling mud, before spending the afternoon relaxing by swimming under a waterfall.

The experience

At first, I was apprehensive and unsure as to what I should expect when I arrived, but I found that I settled in very quickly and thoroughly enjoyed my time at the national park. The staff were all incredibly friendly and welcoming.

The view from Bara Honda National Park

One of my personal highlights was being taught how to salsa, which is a lot harder than it looks! Another of my favorite moments was visiting a school to celebrate the 190th anniversary of the annexation of the Guanacaste province. The children all dressed up in traditional costumes and performed dances. Celebrating this festival with the staff and children was a fantastic experience.

It gave me the chance to meet new people, and as many of the other volunteers were from different countries, I now have friends from all over the world, most of whom I have stayed in contact with. I found the project fascinating as I learned about conservation and the environment in Barra Honda, whist at the same time; I could see how the work that I undertook would contribute to the future of the national park.

Overall, I had an amazing time and just wish that I could have stayed there for longer, if I ever have the opportunity to go back, I would jump at the chance.

Read more about Conservation in Costa Rica.

Katherine Harris

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