Having been to Kenya, Tanzania & Borneo with Camps previously, I was VERY excited to travel to another continent with Camps to Costa Rica! Our Camps in Africa and Asia have been up and running for many years, and this was my first opportunity to visit a country that is a new location for Camps that had just completed it’s first summer season (plus I really wanted to see turtles in the wild!). I was interested to learn about the impact Camps is having and will have in this country and how we are making a difference.
Why did we decide to work in Costa Rica and how are we helping the local communities?
The first and main question I had when heading to Costa Rica was why did we decide to build camps here? Costa Rica isn’t widely known as a country in need of help. If you look at the stats, it’s highly rated for education, health care and conservation. So I questioned what impact would we have on the local communities by being here?
On arrival, I very quickly learnt that whilst the statistics show that Costa Rica is rated highly as a whole, there are areas within the country that get very little help from the government. This was obvious as we headed to our first camp of the week, Camp Terraba. This camp is located within an indigenous tribe called Teribe. The Teribe tribe predominantly live off the land, growing their own food and using medicinal plants for health care. Whilst at this camp, I learned that they were the only community in their area that didn’t have toilets and a kitchen by their football pitch, meaning they were unable to host football matches. Over the course of the 2018 summer, our volunteers completed a new toilet block and kitchen here, meaning they can now host football matches and bring some much-needed additional revenue into the area.
Future projects in Camp Terraba include widening of the bridge on the only road in and out of this area, meaning larger vehicles will be able to travel into the community. There are also plans to build a waste and recycling point, as waste is only collected once every few weeks from this community, amongst many other projects in the pipeline.
How are we contributing to conservation in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is known as being advanced regarding conservation. Over 25% of the country is zoned as national parks or reserves. I was excited to see how Camps are involved in conservation here.
We headed to the flagship camp in Costa Rica; Camp Cano Negro, where this side of our efforts in Costa Rica was apparent. Camp Cano Negro is located in the heart of the protected Caño Negro Forest Reserve and is close to the wetlands that is teeming with a wide range of birds and wildlife. Whilst here, we went on a boat tour, where we saw caiman, iguanas and loads of different birds (most of the names of which I’ve already forgotten!).
The projects in Camp Cano Negro are focused around supporting the local community and the environment. One of the ways Camps aim to achieve both targets is by assisting the community to develop eco-tourism, bringing additional income to the area which in turn will help to aid the conservation of the forest reserve.
Another interesting project here, that students were involved in during the 2018 summer season, is building beehives to be distributed to the local community. The bee population is integral to maintaining eco balance as they are the worlds largest pollinators. Once distributed to the local community, the locals can maintain their own bee colonies, helping the bee population and also bringing additional income to the families as they’ll be able to harvest and sell the honey produced.
Does the wildlife in Costa Rica live up to its reputation?
I LOVE wildlife! In particular, it’s well known around Camps HQ that I’m obsessed with turtles! So when I found out I was going to Costa Rica, I got giddy at the thought I could complete the number one thing on my bucket list and see a turtle in the wild, never mind the possibility of seeing monkeys, toucans, iguanas etc etc. However, I wasn’t convinced Costa Rica would live up to its reputation and the pessimist in me thought it would all be talk and all the cool animals would hide away not to be seen.
I was wrong! Over the course of the week, we saw crocodiles, caiman, loads of different birds including toucans and bright red parrots, monkeys, loads of iguanas just chilling by the road side in the sun, and I completed the top spot of my bucket list and saw a wild turtle!! To top it all off, we ended my week with a snorkelling session in the Pacific Ocean, where we saw loads of different and brightly coloured tropical fish. The only animal to evade us for the week was the sloth, they were probably too busy sleeping.. IT WAS INCREDIBLE!
In summary, all doubts I had about how cool Costa Rica would be were firmly squashed in the week I spent there. If you’re lucky enough to be one of the students or independent volunteers heading out there in the future, trust me you’re in for a treat!
Costa Rica is awesome!