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Costa Rica Adventure

Wildlife Conservation + National Parks

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Costa Rica's hidden gems

An off-grid adventure to explore and contribute

Introducing our new, off grid adventure around Costa Rica, reaching places, people and wildlife that are way of the backpacking route.

Chris has pulled in personal favours to make this happen and by doing this we are literally rescuing Natawu Wildlife sanctuary from the brink of defeat, so it really exciting and hugely positive.

So, backpacks at the ready, you are off to embrace the Pura Vida of Costa Rica.

This is what we have planned…

Venture out to Costa Rica to experience a unique mix of wildlife conservation and exploring the National Parks.


Program Itinerary

Welcome to our Costa Rican road trip of exploration and contribution across 3 locations of contrasting environments.

The following is a sample itinerary.

Day 1

San Jose Arrival

Welcome to Costa Rica

Day 1
You will all be picked up at San Jose Airport and taken to the Rosa of America hotel to decompress after your flight. There is a little pool here, cute little bungalows and surround sound jungle noise so you will instantly feel the tropical vibe of this stunning country.

Accommodation

Rosa of America. 20 mins from the airport, cute bungalows, surrounding a little pool.

Food

Supper included.

Day 2 - 6

Manuel Antonio National Park Explore National Park + Reforestation

Explore the iconic National Park

You’ll be up early (because of the jet lag and noisy birds), so after breakfast and a quick swim you’ll start the journey to reach the vast and iconic Antonio National Park, where you will spend 5 nights living in a private finca on the outskirts of the park.

However, on the way, Chris has planned a little detour so he can take you all on a crocodile safari. Here you will hop on speedboats to cruise the meandering rivers cutting through jungle to see some massive crocs. Apparently, you won’t believe the size of these guys.

In the afternoon you will arrive at the finca which is set amongst a combination of pasture and rainforest. The new owners are keen to reclaim the land for new growth rainforest so he will be putting you all to work, to tend to his new perma-culture projects. Think tropical gardening. He is also growing a new plant which is used as a plastic alternative, so get ready for lots of environmental conversations.

This is what we have lined up:

Day one: Induction and hike around the finca with local guides.

Day two: Day exploring Manuel Antonio National Park. Trek included but there is the chance to zip wire as an optional extra. (Budget about $60 - decide when you get there.)
Day three: Beach clean-up and perma culture day.
Day four: Waterfall hike – brace yourself to see one of the largest waterfalls in Costa Rica.

Accommodation

The finca comes with a pool, football pitch, badminton and volleyball – so lots to do and you’ll sleep to the noise of capuchin and howler monkeys. Take your ear plugs.

Single sex dorms, with bunk beds, western style WC and showers with hot and cold water.

Food

All meals included apart from on the 2 x hiking days when you will grab something on the journey.

Day 7 - 17

Natuwa Wildlife Santuary Wildlife Conservation

Saving the Animals

This is one of those very special places which has been on the brink of collapse through lockdown as they rely heavily on volunteer income to feed the animals and employ staff. They are delighted to have you all to stay, they had invested in their volunteer accommodation just before the pandemic hit so they can’t believe their luck to get Chris’s phone call. Animals saved from being put down – literally, an amazing stroke of fate to help this project.

I visited this place last year and it is incredible – the wildlife is spectacular and the work you will do invaluable. Expect to see more tropical birds, panthers, jaguars, sloths, than you can shake a stick at, you name it ...it’s here.

Here we plan for you all to be split up into smaller groups to tackle the:

  • Daily feeding of the wildlife
  • Daily cleaning out the cages
  • Basic renovations
  • Lots to do.

The plan is that you will have 4 days working, one day off at the beach. 4 days working.

Accommodation

You will be living in their volunteer accommodation which consists of a long house style bungalow, with a communal hang out area.It is rustic, remote but very special.It is a non- smoking, no alcohol policy on site.In the evenings it will be possible to pop up to the local village for a change of scene.

Food

All meals included apart from lunch on the beach day.

Day 18 - 28

Samara Beach + Turtle Sanctuary Conservation and Relax

Beach Time and Turtles

So, you've explored the jungle, helped the wildlife now it’s time to hit the beach and find the turtles. Samara is one of those cool, hip local hangouts with a great surfing vibe.

What we have planned here is to stay beach side for the last 10 days but within this time you will nip off for 3 nights to live and work in the Bueno Vista Turtle Sanctuary. They can only take 12 at a time so you will split into two teams and head out back to back.

Whilst you’re at the beach – you will have some down time, 2 x surf lessons and a spot of yoga thrown in for good measure.

AVSO is one of Costa Rica’s main wildlife conservation NGO’s. Their Bueno Vista base is focused on turtle conservation who need our help to protect the eggs and hatchlings of Olive Ridley, Black Turtle, Hawksbill and Leatherback species, who visit this ‘semi-intensive’ nesting beach at night to nest.

The principle objective is to protect adult female turtles and their nests, from human predators and wildlife, natural events such as beach erosion and flooding due to high amounts of rainfall in nesting season. This is achieved by the construction of a ‘hatchery’.

Here you will work between 4 and 6 hours per day with occasional night shifts.

Typical jobs will include; maintenance of infrastructure and surroundings, beach cleaning, night patrols to look for nesting female turtles (in season), transport of food and water, collection of data and releasing baby turtles into the ocean.

We are also trying to protect them from the effects of plastic in the ocean, so the beach clean ups are vital.

At the end of this phase you will be transported back to San Jose for your flight home or to Santa Teresa is you are completing our Spanish and Surfing program.

Accommodation

Samara beach – hip little beach side hostel.
Bueno Vista – you’ll live in a very rustic bungalow – one large mixed dorm, with basic showers and WC. Rustic but functional!

Food

Samara – Breakfast and lunch included.Supper will be extra in one of the beach side cafes.
Bueno Vista – 3 meals a day provided.

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Covid Protocol Responsible and safe travel

Social Bubble
The Leap team and staff in the camp will create a social bubble. Handwash and cough and sneeze protocol as stipulated by WHO will be respected.

When outside the accommodation in each location, everyone will have to respect the social distancing rules and wear masks when they are in shops, cafes and supermarkets.

Airport Transfers
The whole team will be picked up in our sanitized air-conditioned minivans, with support vehicles for luggage. The drivers will all be part of the volunteer bubble.

Symptoms - Sick Bay
Anyone showing any mild symptoms will be housed in separate accommodation in each location. If we feel the symptoms are Covid related Chris will get the patient and team tested and protect everyone accordingly.

If someone tests positive, we will follow the government regulations, but this will involve isolating the whole group for 8 days to make sure no one else gets sick. In this case we will make sure everyone is kept busy with projects in the phase, before moving to the next phase.

Program Details & Costs

This is a new program which is to be lead by our experienced Costa Rican team. We have several departures throughout the year, please get in touch on info@theleap.co.uk for more information.

Options and costs

Programs start on:

Whats included?

National Park

Live in one of the most iconic National Parks in the world.

Social Life

Team of 24 volunteers, who come from all over the world, so it's busy and fun.

Wildlife

Help save the wildlife center.

Environments

Three different environments to explore.

Free time

You will have free time interwoven into your 4 week.

Backpacker favourites:

  • Downtime in one the local yoga retreat.
  • Surfing in Samara.
  • Kayaking & Snorkelling.
  • Zip wiring through the National Park.

Jungle Surf Camp - it's so much more.

This program is run by the dynamic Chris Patterson who has been our Costa Rican partner for over 10 years.

Chris has run travel and Spanish courses since the 1990’s and has become increasingly passionate about the crisis of plastic waste in our waters and the damage it is doing. Seeing dolphins and turtles time and time again, washed up on the shoreline wrapped up in discarded fishing nets was enough to break him into action.

So, Chris now welcomes volunteers into his home, lovingly named the Jungle Surf Camp, who will set about learning Spanish with the aim to get out into the community to bang the drum about plastic. Backed by the Oceans of Plastic campaign and documentaries he wants our leapers to teach, explain and steer changing attitudes.

In addition to teh above Chris has planned this adventure for us, in response to the demand of gap year students who want to travel responsibly.

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our Leapers have been getting up to...

Painting signs, recycling and turtles Lucy Dickens

So the first week of our stay in Costa Rica at Jakera is done. In my opinion I feel it has gone slowly but for others it’s gone quite fast. Our first day was just travelling from the airport to Jakera. It was a LONG journey, mini bus then a ferry and then a mini bus again. But the next day was great it was a free day but most of us all went out to watch the sunset and for dinner. The sunset here is so beautiful!

A lot of us have tried various restaurants and some have been amazing and some not so much. But while we’re here why not try something new and not order a burger?

Spanish lessons. I’ve started to really enjoy our Spanish it’s so nice to be able learn the language whilst we are here. We have different groups based on your level of understanding but we all have them in the morning.

One of the projects we have been doing is creating signs for the beach on littering, recycling, no vehicles on the beach and rocky areas. To finish them it took us maybe 3 days as we had to let the paint dry so we could go over to outline it.

Our turtle watches. I’m afraid to say we have not seen any baby turtles yet as they haven’t hatched. We hope they will in the next day or two. We all take 3 hour shifts everyday from 6am till 12pm. The shifts were uneventful and slightly painful sitting for 3 hours with no turtles. But hey they will come some day!

We also have had a trip to another beach to teach some kids how to surf. When I say the word teach I use it loosely, we took them out spun them around and then pushed them when a wave came. It was a lot of fun being able to help them out and play with them though.

Hopefully we will see turtles next at Montezuma. Until then it was lovely chatting with you!

Turtle hatcheries, surfing, yoga and more Emily Dinovo

We began building our own turtle hatchery at Banana Beach in Santa Teresa on Monday. Jakera decided they would like to take on the mission of helping out the turtles themselves. With our shovels and rakes we cleared out an area and began digging as well as made signs for the new hatchery. We spent a couple of our mornings this week surfing. With the help of Chris, we rented a couple of surf boards, got up early in the morning and headed down to the beach. Since Henry surfs almost daily back home in California, he acted as our surf instructor and helped us attempt to catch a couple of waves. Also, this week Kat and I attended another yoga class. This one was also at sunset. The yoga classes always make us feel very relaxed and, while some of the stretches may be strange or difficult, it’s very enjoyable.

On Friday, as a group, we decided to take a short weekend trip to a town called Tamarindo. I was impressed to see paved roads and sidewalks. The first day we arrived, we didn’t waste any time finding a place to eat lunch. As we explored the new town and the new night life, we started the night off with a toast to our friends that couldn’t be there with us and to the ones that have already made their way back home. Saturday was spent relaxing at the beach and visiting the shops in town.

Sunday, we booked a boat tour on the river. Tamarindo is known for its crocodiles and we saw a few, we also were able to see monkeys, different types of birds and iguanas. To see the monkeys our guide had us get off the boat and walk through the jungle. We also discovered a new kind of insect this weekend. Our time in Tamarindo was a great way to spend the weekend and I felt that we were able to bond in a different kind of way than before. The next day would be spent going back to Santa Teresa for a final week before we all head our separate ways back home.

Tyre garden, hot springs and reforestation Maya Sanden

Monteverde has been a very different experience, since we got to work in a variety of places!

For the first week, we helped out at a local school with their gardening project. There were multiple different beds that needed work, as well as a cute car tyre garden that we created! The best part of that week was working together. The tyre garden came together from nothing with everyone helping in different ways. It was nice to have a project to work on from start to finish, and at the end, we left our mark, with everyone painting their hands and leaving handprints! We had lots of fun and did lots of work! The kids at this school were just as welcoming as the last school, and we played games with them during free time. The kids were always willing to help, and insisted on grabbing our shovels and paint brushes and being a part of the team!

In our free time, we got to explore the Monteverde Reserve, discovering beautiful overlooks and an amazing suspension bridge! It was wonderful to be able to actually get to know the trails that we worked on, and we loved the forests so much we went back for more, doing hikes over and over again and making sure everyone in the group got to see it.

Last weekend, we found out about some natural hot springs nearby and a group of us braved the long, slippery walk down to relax in them! It was definitely worth the hike- the view of the hills was incredible, and the hot springs were two levels high and right next to a beautiful waterfall. We spent the entire afternoon there, leaving right as it started to rain.

We’re very excited for our reforestation work next week, look out for more info and pics on it soon!
When we aren’t working, we’ve been exploring Santa Elena, finding great restaurants and ice cream shops! The area is beautiful, but walking the hills every day wears us out, so we’ve had early bedtimes here. The host families we’re staying with have been incredibly welcoming and accommodating, and we’re trying to practice our Spanish more with them!

"You changed my life"

I love Jakera more than anything and you guys changed my life so much. I am forever in debt to all the things I have learnt here and the people I have been lucky enough to meet. Thank you to every single person at Jakera.

- Jack R

"Best food!"

The best food I have ever eaten in my life

- Jack

"An experience not to be missed!​​"

The Leap took all the responsibility and stress out of the gap year experience. Would advise that all teenagers do this part of their gap year before they 'free' travel. The Leap are highly professional and inclusive of parents.

- Sara

"I would say 100% I was able to make a positive contribution"

I was helping the community by making the beach cleaner and also helping protect the turtles from poachers and plastic in the ocean.

- Kit

"​Amazing, emotional and I would do it all again "

Communication was very good before and during the trip, it was nice to know that the leap would reply quickly plus I felt very safe, the 24/7 security relaxed and settled me in. Stella matias and jimmy were amazing, they made my trip!

The programmes and schools we visited were life changing and made me appreciate what I have. The fact that we actually made a difference by raising money for an orphanage to build a well is so exciting and rewarding! And the relationships I made with the children and the other leapers I will never forget.

- Bethany

Gap year post lockdown?

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