Lord Wandsworth Leaderboard

Costa Rica Trip 2022

Published by St Michael's School on Wednesday 30th of November 2022

Several of our pupils are currently on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Costa Rica, which has been organised by our Head of Sixth Form, Mrs Prickett. The pupils will be sending us a diary entry each day so that we can follow their travels…

Day 1 – Report by Olivia and Sara

We departed from school at 4.30am (earliest we’ve ever woken up!). Arrived at the airport at 8am to find MASSIVE queues. Not much to report there. Boarded the plane to begin the longest 8 hours of our lives. We played card games, had long discussions, watched films etc to pass the time. Josh slept like the dead (he was one of the few who managed any sleep!) A very welcome bit of excitement presented itself in the form of turbulence as we flew into New York! American customs was one of the most stressful parts of the journey. We found ourselves having to sprint to baggage reclaim, before shooting over to a different terminal, rechecking our baggage (at least we knew it was all with us!) And then with relief boarded the plane which had mercifully been delayed. I (Olivia) then stopped asking …. so what happens if we miss the flight? Another 5 long hours of the worst sleep ever and we finally arrived in our beautiful destination – Costa Rica. We met our local guide, Edward and travelled the short distance to the hotel, a Park Inn, which was very fancy for our first night. We had a quick snack, then headed to our rooms for a much needed rest after 24 hours travelling. We were all exhausted!

Day 2 – Report by Cillian & Zamel

Today started at 6.30am where we ate a delicious breakfast at the hotel consisting of fresh fruit (watermelon, mango, papaya, pineapple), pastries, meats, cheese, scrambled eggs, beans, rice, curry! It was already hot outside and we enjoyed some “gallo pinto” (beans and rice) and plantain. Then after a 3 hour coach trip from San Jose to Arenal Volcanic National Park. We commenced a grueling hike of epic proportions, smothered by the baking sun and dense vegetation. As thick forest transitioned into barren volcanic rock, we came across glass butterflies, a myriad of insects strange and bizarre. Then a huge monolith emerged into view…Arenal Volcano, dominating the landscape. It’s peak lightly dusted by clouds. It was a sight to behold. After that we got to Finca Educativa Don Juan, had more delicious food and played cards. We were able to use the pool at the Finca! We wish we could speak better Spanish!

Day 3- Report from Zamel & Cillian

Today we were taken on a tour of the farm at Finca Don Juan by the legend Gustavo. He had a really cool machete but Mrs Prickett didn’t let us buy one for ourselves! They have a bunch of medicinal plants good for things from cancer and diabetes to prostates and sore throats. We stepped out of our comfort zone to try various leaves, and also some exotic fruit and spicy peppers. Gustavo enjoyed seeing our faces when he gave us a particularly bitter leaf which left a disgusting aftertaste! 🤣 Next we pulped sugar cane for the juice, and had a piece to chew, it was delicious and refreshing 9/10!

Afterwards Jonny the Legend taught us about the chocolate making process…from the four different types of cacao that grow on the farm. We got to make our own flavoured chocolate, with vanilla, salt, honey, coconut, chilli, paprika etc! It tasted amazing! We also had “proper” hot chocolate and mocha!

In the afternoon we helped on the farm, planting spring onions, parsley, coriander and celery. Mulched the beds with rotted sugar cane (nothing goes to waste on this organic farm!) We then planted some indigenous trees and saw a toxic green and black tree frog and found some cicadas that make a huge noise, considering their size!

We visited the local town La Fortuna to buy some souvenirs and where we got drenched in a torrential tropical downpour (it only lasted about 15 minutes but there was as much rainfall as we have in a whole day in Wales!) In the evening we helped prepare a delicious dinner with fresh ingredients grown on the farm. It was a good day!

Day 4 – Report by Ashton & Shane

We had breakfast for the last time in Finca Don Juan at 7am. There was once again a variety of delicious foods including pancakes, scrambled eggs, gallo pinto, plantain platanos and fresh fruit. We thanked the cooks and staff for the quality hospitality and then bid our farewells to them. ¡Pura Vida!

After breafast we travelled to Monteverde cloud forest. We took a route around the perimetre of Arenal Lake and the surrounding scenery. We also stopped at Macademia Cafe for a scenic view and some souvenirs. The 3 hour drive to Monteverde, was long and windy, with worse potholes than Wales!

We eventually reached our destination. We had a tasty lunch in Stella’s with vanilla ice cream for desert (Mrs P and Josh had sugar cane ice cream, which looked amazing because they’d run out of vanilla!)

In the cloud forest there were many plants and animals to see for example, lizards, centipede, massive beetles. Lots of fungus and a really old strangler fig tree which was hollow inside! We saw a waterfall too. We go back to the reserve tomorrow to do some volunteering. We were able to spend half an hour watching humming birds and practising our slow mo photography! They were wonderful to watch.

The hotel Montana Monteverde was luxurious and we were treated to a thunderstorm and played games and had a quiz which our team did not win! (In fact we lost spectacularly 🤣

Day 5 – Report by Ashton & Shane

This morning we were able to have a lie in (hurray!) with breakfast at 8.30am, in the hotel restaurant which was a bit of a hike up the hill from our rooms! The morning was clear and we could finally see the view west all the way down to the Gulf of Nicoya and the Pacific Ocean.

We spent a pleasant hour or so wandering around the streets and local stores of Santa Elena – Monteverde’s small town, purchasing souvenirs, a football (for the beach) and coffee.

We arrived back at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve for lunch at 12pm and then began our afternoon volunteering with a talk from Rosemary about the history of the reserve and how we would be assisting with the protection through the eco-tourism project. Our task was to do some footpath maintenance, so using rakes and manpower we raked all the fallen leaves and debris off the path so that as they decomposed their nutrients would go back into the forest around us. It was hard, hot and humid work for about 2 hours. This was exhausting but also fascinating as we could see all sorts of flora and fauna in the wild! We cleaned approximately a kilometer between us and finished at one of the highlights so far….a canopy level suspension bridge (Mrs P felt like she was on I’m a Celebrity….get me out of here!). We were all awarded certificates for our efforts and Joe, Sam and Olivia won a frog ornament for their efforts.

We had time for a quick freshen up before heading to the Frog Pond at 5pm to spend a happy hour playing find the frog! Some were around 12cm, others only 2cm, we were staring into the little enclosures searching for the cheeky little amphibians with little luck! They were so surprisingly well camouflaged that we often needed the guide to point them out.

Finally, we stopped at a hillside restaurant for dinner, our last with Edward and Hernán. The food was top notch and we really enjoyed it.

Before we went to bed, Mrs P told us to turn out all the lights and look at the epic night sky from our balconies. The stars were insane and we could even make out the Milky Way!

Pupils with their certificatPupils standing on a rope bridge

Day 6 – Report by Sam and Samrat

Contrary to yesterday, this morning’s start was early in order to catch the midday ferry from Puntarenas. So after a half hearted breakfast and sentimental farewells to the much loved Edward and Hernán, we hit the road under the wing of our new Kenyan compatriot Jack.

After a 90 minute drive we arrived at NATUWA animal sanctuary. Some highlights included a magnificent Jaguar, many inquisitive monkeys, sloths and too many colourful Macaws. Another gruelling hour later we arrived at the ferry and embraced our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, before swiftly embarking. The sea breeze was much appreciated!

The ferry arrived at the miniscule port of Narenjo, on the isolated southern Nicoya Peninsula, on the Cape of Puntarenas, where we did yet more driving…another 90 minutes to our accommodation Jakera, in Santa Teresa.

Upon reaching Santa Teresa, Jack came into his element. We weaved through half paved roads, and low bridges on foot to reach Jakera Youth Hostel/Hotel where social skills became mandatory and the outdoors met catering!

To finish an exhausting day most of the group made a dash for the beach where the salt of mother nature’s greatest ocean now stung our eyes. Making do without surf boards, we rode the waves with our bodies as we crashed time and again into the warm tropical waters. In proper St Mikes fashion we ended the afternoon with a mediocre game of beach football!

Pizza night at Jakera was delicious and we ended the evening with table tennis and cards whilst listening to the calls of the howler monkeys and night sounds of the tropical jungle!

Day 7 – Report by Sam & Sam

The day began with a light breakfast and a short trip to the supermarket to stock up on some much needed supplies for our upcoming 2 day stint at Cirenas.

One bumpy taxi ride later we arrived at the starting point of our hike along the beach and through crocodile infested rivers (don’t worry parents, the crocs were upstream in fresh water!!!). Despite the sun’s glare, the cool ocean breeze drove us to the finish line approximately 5km later. To be perfectly honest our expectations were low and our spirits were lower, but one tour around the compound ignited our hope that these 2 days might not be so bad after all!

We had lunch (rice, vegetables, beans and for done of us – beef), and after a short rest we were off. We were briefed on the life cycle of turtles (they can life up to 80 years!) and learned about how the volunteers at Cirenas help to ensure more turtles make it to the sea from the eggs. We headed to the hatchery to see exactly was was entailed, and then participated in some manual labour carrying sand off the beach to replenish the stocks.

As a storm seemed to be approaching (it didn’t arrive) we headed back down the beach and were cajoled into an impromptu beach clean of epic proportions. We simply could not believe the amount of PLASTIC waste and filled 3 massive bin bags with everything from toothbrushes to toilet lids.

We returned to Cirenas for dinner and then headed back to the beach for night patrol. Equipped with red lights we formed a line from the sea to the top of the beach (our ability to keep the line for any length of time proved impossible).

The sky periodically lit with brilliant flashes of lightening from a distant storm illuminating the beach. It was like walking on another planet. Then came the moment of the evening. Though we were not due to find a turtle on this patrol, we did sadly come across a turtle corpse 😪, found thanks to a trail of hermit crabs. We also found a shell covered in crustaceans coming to complete this circle of life.

To cap off a day which had been stretched out time and time again resulting in us walking more than 30000 steps we returned to much needed showers and beds to ready ourselves for what we knew would be a busy day ahead.

Day 8 – Report by Johnny & Joe

The day began at 6.30am with showers and hydration. At 7.30am we had breakfast which included fresh pineapple, watermelon and banana pancakes with honey…Needless to say this was brilliant!

With plenty of energy set off on our quest to hack trees with machetes, (hmm…we first had a lesson in how to do this safely – Mrs P) otherwise known as permaculture. We learnt how and why to prune trees to save energy and nutrients which was quite interesting. After sweating in the heat working for over an hour we refuelled with a scrumptious and delicious lunch of gallo pinto…followed by a perfect 2 hour siesta where we rested, played cards and contemplated the amazing location we were in.

At 3.30pm we returned to the beach and the turtle hatchery where we attempted to repair the damaged fence which was allowing crabs to enter and putting the turtles in danger. Everyone worked extremely hard and we made decent progress on the reparations, although still not managing to fix the whole fence. Most of us then moved on to bringing sand into the enclosure. For many if us this was hard work due to the weight of the buckets of sand but we all put in the work and completed the job. We returned to Cirenas for a delicious lentil burger dinner ready to set out again on patrol at 8pm.

Although we were tired, we were all keen to get back to the beach and the clear skies gave us optimism that we might see a turtle. The stars were simply awesome and at times it was hard to stay focused on the beach looking for turtle tracks. However, eventually we struck gold and found turtle tracks and a nest, but sadly no turtle (we must have missed her by less than an hour 😢). However, a nest meant work for us, and Andreas showed us how to collect the 87 eggs safely, transport them to the hatchery (slight hiccup when the bucket handle broke), rebury them and write up the tags. The eggs should hatch around the 6th September.

It was a very tired but happy and upbeat team who returned to Cirenas to shower and rest. It was a successful day 😁😁.

Pupils on the beach with a sunset in the background

Day 9 – Report by Joe and Johnny

The day started 7am and we had a full breakfast shortly after which contained a variety of fruits. After breakfast our activities commenced. We were to decorate plastic containers that would be repurchased as hanging baskets and also use macrame techniques to knot cord in order to hang them. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed getting creative and this activity was both a relaxing and fun way to end our short stay in Cirenas.

Our walk back to the taxis was much quicker going back. We had an early lunch so we could cross the rivers at low tide. The bumpy ride on very potholed roads got us back to Jakera for 2.30pm. We were all desperate for a shower and to use the pool, where we played our version of water polo, this was spectacularly fun; the sort of fun beyond imagination.

At 4.45pm we headed to the beach, where following a dynamic risk assessment it was declared to be too rough to venture into the sea beyond knee height. Thankfully the sea rewarded us with huge waves and tumbling ourselves through them, tilting our heads like palm trees to the wind. Obviously, our energy was spent so we demolished the burger and chips, and the grape Fanta at 7pm dinner!

The evening was spent, chatting, playing table tennis, cards and listening the torrential rain and thunderstorm rolling around above us!

Day 10 – Report by Josh & Mrs P

After breakfast we were briefed on the issue of plastic waste in the world. We found out about macro, meso and micro plastics (in descending order of size). We were informed of the impact of plastic within the marine ecosystem due to bioaccumulation and biomagnification. The statistics are concerning…93% of adults have BPA in their urine and 8 out of 10 babies have plastics in their system. Not enough research has been done on the long term impacts of plastics on people. We headed down to the beach to collect some of the massive amount of plastic trash washed up twice a day on the tide. Because most plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, it washes into rivers and then into the ocean and onto the beach. The team were aiming to fill “gallon” bottles with meso and micro plastics that would eventually become “L-ECO” bricks to use in construction around Santa Teresa. We also filled 2 huge bin bags with macro plastics, but it felt like fighting a never-ending battle. We had a competition to see who could find the smallest piece of plastic which Zamel won.

We returned to camp for lunch and then found out about how they compost their vegetable and fruit waste, by mixing it with ashes and dried leaves and twigs to make a numinous mulch for the many flower and fruit bushes, and the herbs. The compost bins gave off a lot of heat, and the job was quite smelly with Zamel finding the smell quite difficult to deal with!

After composting we had some chill time and were able to go to the shops to buy snacks (very expensive) before trying our hand at Latin dancing! (I have to admit I [Josh] was the best and should pursue a career in dance rather than Physics).

In the evening we played a kahoot! quiz about our time in Costa Rica, which was fun.

sorting out plastic bottles

Day 11 – Report by Arthur & Mrs P

A tasty breakfast was eaten by most of the team who got up on time (not me [Arthur] who was 30 minutes late). We travelled by mini bus to the Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper/Bionics plastic recycling centre where we were taught about which plastics could be recycled and the materials they could be turned into including, clothing, bricks, furniture etc. They aim to reuse the recycled plastics locally. We then volunteered around the plant for an hour sorting 12 sacks of plastics into the correct colour bins and removing the caps so that they could be recycled more efficiently. Some of the team got to crush the bottles into bales too which was fun. Apparently, our team was the best they had so far, sorting the most in an hour!

After lunch we walked about 2km to the tidal rock pools for a swim and chill, before returning to camp with the addition of Fred the frigate bird who was injured and in need of rescuing.

After dinner many of us (year 10s) went to our rooms to pack and sleep for the long day travelling back to San Jose tomorrow. Jack hosted an epic ‘pub’ quiz which Team ASSJO (Angela [Mrs P], Sara, Sam, Josh & Olivia) won…by 1 point! All in bed by 10pm ready to get up early 5am….😬

swimming in the rock pools

Day 12 – Report by Olivia and Sara

Our last day in Costa Rica…

The day started at 5.30am with Rob (our Global Action Leader) knocking on the door to wake the team up ready for our early start! We had packed our bags the night before so lugged them down with us to breakfast, on time, for our journey back to San José. After a final delicious breakfast at Jakera we said goodbye to Jack and thanked him for giving us a wonderful experience. We loaded our bags onto the bus and had a very sleepy journey to the ferry.

It was to everyone’s great delight, relief and excitement when we were reunited with Edward once again to escort us back to Punta Arenas. Once on the ferry we bought some snacks and soaked up some sun on the deck. When the ferry docked we were all happy to be greeted by Hernán and his comfy air conditioned bus. An hour later we were back in San José and had a delicious lunch in Nuestra Tierra restaurant with a great live band.

Edward then escorted us into San José’s huge market for some last minute shopping. The sounds and scents, colours and flavours of Costa Rica were all around us while we got some gifts and souvenirs.

We then returned to the Park Inn Hotel where our adventure had begun. We relaxed for a few hours and then headed down to dinner for our final meal together. The starter – tomato soup was extraordinary! We ended the evening with an awards ceremony where everyone won a prize of a Costa Rica wristband to recognise our achievements/contributions to the group which made everyone laugh. It was a great last evening, and we happily went to our rooms to prepare for the long journey home.

A final word from Mrs P…. Thank you all for a great trip, I hope you all got something from it and learned about yourself and how your actions affect the lives of people and animals around the world. I hope the jet lag wasn’t too bad and look forward to catching up with you all in the future!
Costa Rica Trip 2022 - Photo 1Costa Rica Trip 2022 - Photo 2Costa Rica Trip 2022 - Photo 3
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