2019 Cleveland High Costa Rica Osa Conservation Expedition

Dear Families, Friends, and Travelers – Welcome to the 2019 Cleveland High Costa Rica Osa Conservation Expedition ! We have created two webpages dedicated to this once in a lifetime experience so that travelers are as informed as possible throughout the process. The first page, Pre-Enrollment, is meant to share exciting details, highlights, and pertinent info, that participants will want to know before enrolling. Once enrolled, the Post-Enrollment page is intended to prepare travelers for participation on the adventure ahead. Please be sure to review the information on the appropriate page thoroughly and get excited for Costa Rica! Pura vida!
Travel Dates: June 18, 2019 - June 27, 2019
Group Organizer(s):
WTT Contact:
Program Tuition: $1,890 USD
Airfare not included in program tuition
Confirmed Airfare: $709
Deadline(s): Interested travelers need to enroll by February 28th.

What to Expect

Please read through all of the information below. More details will be added as your departure draws closer.


We do everything possible to run safe, engaging, and immersive programs for our travelers and given the unpredictable nature of international travel we must remain flexible in our planning. Changes to a schedule are uncommon but, we reserve the right to adjust programming in the best interest of the group. 

June 18North Carolina, USA - San Jose, Costa RicaToday the group will travel from North Carolina to San Jose, Costa Rica. After arrival, the group will settle into their hotel, grab dinner and find time for an orientation meeting.Casa Cielo Grande
June 19San Jose - UvitaAfter breakfast we will have some latin dance lessons and then depart south to Manuel Antonio National Park on the central Pacific coast. We will spend the afternoon enjoying the trails and beach. After we will head to Uvita. Dinner will be at the hotel and in the evening students can relax in the pool.El Tecal
June 20OsaAfter breakfast we will be having private surf lessons from some of Costa Rica's best surfers. Never surfed before? No problem! The waves at Uvita are perfect for beginners and almost everyone is able to stand up. After lunch we will depart for Reserva Playa Tortuga. Upon arrival we will tour the Reserva for an introduction to the bountiful flora and fauna in the area. Here we will settle in and meet the researchers with whom we'll be spending the next few days. Night crcodile watch today!Reserva Playa Tortuga Field Station
June 21OsaAfter breakfast we'll take a hike through the surrounding tropical rainforest in the morning to get our bearings on the local ecosystems in the Osa. We'll then receive an orientation for the research we'll be conducting -- surveys of mammals and reptiles. We'll take a break for lunch and continue to conduct these surveys in the afternoon, in addition to receiving a lecture on local and national wildlife conservation efforts. The next few days will consist of us working with researches on a variety of research projects. Reserva Playa Tortuga Field Station
June 22OsaToday, we'll pay a visit to the local community, where Reserva La Tortuga conducts yearlong environmental education campaigns with local schools. In the afternoon we will visit a waterfall and have some down time to break from the heat.Reserva Playa Tortuga Field Station
June 23OsaContinue field research. Evening activities will vary.Reserva Playa Tortuga Field Station
June 24Manuel AntonioAfter breakfast we'll say goodbye to our friends at Reserva Playa Tortuga. We'll head north to Manuel Antonio National on the central Pacific coast. We will spend the afternoon souvenir shopping and enjoying the sunset!Villas Mimosa
June 25San JoseToday we'll end the trip with a splash as we whitewater raft down the Savegre River! After lunch we'll make the drive back to San Jose for a farewell dinner ahead of our international departure the following morning.Casa Cielo Grande
June 26San Jose - FlyingWe'll have a relaxing morning before making our way to the airport for our flight home in the early afternoon. Hasta luego!Airplane
June 27HomeArrive home just after midnight on June 27th. Your own bed, eventually!

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In order to provide a safe and memorable experience, we follow strict guidelines when choosing program accommodations. Walking Tree partners with hotels and guest houses which are centrally located, clean and safe.  We vet and inspect the accommodations to ensure they uphold the ethos of our programs, are great values for our travelers and nice places to rest after enriching days of travel.  

Below are the accommodations we anticipate using on your trip, subject to availability. 
Villas Aracari

Villas Aracari is a beautiful property ideally located just twenty minutes from the airport. Close to the city center yet perched high in the mountains, the views of the Central Valley are breathtaking and the new pool is a delightful respite after a hot day. Spotless rooms and friendly staff will make you feel at home the moment you drop your bags.

Cabinas El Tecal

Cabinas El Tecal is a locally owned and operated three star hotel close to playa Uvita in the Marino Ballena National Park. Off the beaten path, the hotel comes with modern amenities, a private pool, and great service. It’s the perfect place to relax away from the crowds. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.

Villas Mymosa

Hotel Villas Mymosa is a modern 10 room condo hotel located in the peaceful setting of beautiful Manuel Antonio.  These spacious rooms are fully equipped to provide you with all the amenities of your own home.  Each Villas Mymosa villa has a private terrace or balcony or both.  You have the option of peace and quiet at your villa or interacting with other guests around our beautiful large centrally located pool.

Group Flight

Type Carrier Name Carrier Code Flight Number Departure City Departure Date and Time  Arrival City Arrival Date and Time 
RDU – Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Morrisville, USA
June 18, 2019 1:44pm
ATL – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta, USA
June 18, 2019 3:19pm
ATL – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta, USA
June 18, 2019 6:17pm
SJO – Juan Santamaria International Airport, Alajuela, Costa Rica
June 18. 2019 8:20pm
SJO – Juan Santamaria International Airport, Alajuela, Costa Rica
June 26, 2019 1:10pm
ATL – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta, USA
June 26, 2019 7:27pm
ATL – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta, USA
June 26, 2019 11:49pm
RDU – Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Morrisville, USA
June 27, 2019 1:15am

Once your flight has been confirmed, the itinerary will appear here.

Walking Tree will secure a seat on the group flight for each participant unless otherwise instructed.

Travelers are responsible for checked baggage fees. Please visit the airline’s baggage webpage to learn if you should expect to pay anything.

We will provide a group manifest – complete with reservation codes and ticket numbers – to the Group Organizer/s before departure, and travelers will need to check in at the airport in order to receive their boarding pass and have documents verified. We recommend arriving no later than three hours prior to the scheduled departure, but contact your Group Organizer for specific details on exactly where and when to meet on the day of departure.

Air travel can be unpredictable.  Regardless of proper planning, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to staffing shortages, weather, mechanical problems, etc.  Please note that in such an event, Walking Tree Travel (WTT) is not financially responsible for unanticipated costs incurred by travelers en route.  Our programs officially begin and end in the destination country, and because our staff doesn’t fly with the group, Group Organizers (the traveling faculty member/s) become the front-line advocate for the group in the event of a delay. In most cases of cancellations or delays, the airline will be the one who re-books travel or possibly arranges a hotel and food the night.  Our primary role will be to  keep families updated and provide support to the Group Organizer to reach a  quick and effective resolution.

Host Community and Project Details

Reserva Playa Tortuga is a scientific research and conservation center located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, right next to the Osa Peninsula â one of Costa Ricaâ s most wild and undisturbed rainforests. It was founded by local citizen scientists and Costa Rican scientists with the primary objective of gathering environmental data relevant to local conservation initiatives and making the data widely accessible in order to facilitate future environmental monitoring and research ventures. RPT accomplishes this through a variety of programs, such as the Mammal Monitoring Project, Crocodilian Monitoring Project, and various long term environmental education and citizen science initiatives. Students will have the opportunity to assist researchers on some of the below projects, which vary in intensity throughout the season.

Overview: Mammal Monitoring Project

Within the Reserva, there are more than eleven species of mammals â the most common being raccoons, coatis, kinkajous, weasels, tayra and monkeys. Capuchin monkeys are easy to find into the Reserva forest.
Anteaters, opossums, and sloths are also common in the area, but are a bit harder to observe.

Students will have the opportunity to help place and collect/analyze data from camera traps, which, when place on trails are an excellent tool to determine the presence and abundance of mammals in the area. The mammals are important for the forest dynamic balance, and the data generated on their behavior, diet, and local movements offers information that can be used in reforestation plans for the coastal area to establish Biological Corridors.

Overview: Environmental Education Initiatives

It is part of the Reservaâ s core mission to educate and actively involve the youth and community at large in these areas. We do this by conducting workshops and activities for children and their families from schools in the region. These initiatives aim to create environmental awareness and active stewardship through lectures, guided tours, field trips and volunteering.

To this end, RPT implements a yearlong curriculum of modules based on the different ongoing conservation projects and natural resource management projects undertaken by RPT. Our students will have the opportunity to be part of the workshops, prepare materials, make crafts, or conduct and work with children of local schools during environmental education workshops. Depending on the time of the year students will work in a small service project in the local school

Overview: Crocodilian Monitoring Project

The main objective of this study is to collect real-time information about the crocodilians at the Reserve: their distribution, relationship with the environment, and the human impact on the ecosystem. RPT is conducting an initial profile of the population, in order to help the conservation and management of these species by adding new information about crocodilians’ status in the South Pacific of Costa Rica.

Because it is an initial study, the research consists of nocturnal monitoring multiple times per week, where the eyes of the animals will be detected with flashlights. Students will count the number of animals and mark their locations with a GPS unit. Smaller individuals may be captured to determine the species, size, sex, and other variables. Students may also observe the Reserva’s wildlife experts tagging of selected individuals.

Overview: Turtle Monitoring and Conservation Project

Four species of turtles nest on the beach in Reserva Playa Tortuga. The nesting period extends from July to December, with the peak of nesting in the months of September and October. During this period it is possible to observe an individual turtle nesting every other night, sometimes up to two or three at a time. Hatchlings continue to emerge in January and February.

Due to an inherent poaching threat, most nests are moved to the Reserveâ s protected nursery/hatchery where staff and volunteers monitor and observe the area 24/7.
In the hatchery, important data about the biology of the turtlesâ nests is gathered, such as the incubation period, nest temperature and how this influences the sex of the hatchlings, as well as observing environmental factors such as precipitation and physical environmental factors. In the past two seasons Reserva Playa Tortuga has successfully protected over 140 nests and released 5,000+ hatchlings.

Will vary on different applied ecology activities, and will receive an introduction to the different themes of biological research going on at the station. Mini-training and research introduction to prep the students for the work, then every day there will be programmed activities: sea- turtle monitoring – night patrols, turtle release and nest construction depending on season, cayman and crocodile monitoring – researchers will capture juvenile crocs from the boat and show the kids how to weigh, measure, and tag them. Basic environmental monitoring in the area (temp, water, salinity, etc). Students will set up camera traps, program them, then retrieve data. Can conduct bird observations. There is the potential to make their own research project, design their own methodology.

During the school year they visit schools to do environmental education work.

Packing List

What follows is a sample packing list that is provided as a guideline. Feel free to augment as you feel necessary.  We recommend you bring a larger piece of luggage like a roller, duffel bag, or backpack, as well as a smaller backpack that you can bring on hikes, weekend excursions and shorter activities.

“Less is more” is a packing tip we encourage for all our travelers. The list below should cover everything you would need, but know yourself and what you are comfortable traveling with.  We suggest bringing only as much as you would be able to carry on your own.

Finally, we recommend consulting a weather forecast for your destination. 

The sea turtle reserve is located between the lush tropical rainforest and the ocean and therefore humidity is omnipresent and it can take a while for clothes to dry. Keep this in mind when selecting your clothing fabric.

CLOTHES (quantities depend on your trip length) :

  • Underwear
  • Socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks)
  • T-shirts (some quick dry)
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Long sleeve quick dry shirt (for night patrols and work under the sun)
  • Rain jacket or poncho
  • Travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
  • Comfortable/hiking/everyday pants (NOT all jeans)
  • 1 nice shirt/top to be worn to more formal dinners (girls might want a skirt or something a little nicer for such occasions, boys may want to opt for a polo shirt or button up shirt with jeans)
  • Durable athletic/hiking shoes with good grip
  • Sandals (Chaco/Teva/Keen/Merrel sandals are great to have for water activities)
  • Work gloves – required for service work
  • Thick long socks (for the sand fleas)
  • Quick drying dark (black/dark grey) clothes to patrol
  • Bandana for work site (optional)
  • A hat that can protect your neck
  • Swimming suit

TOILETRIES (in addition to the basic toiletries):

  • Face masks
  • Reef-safe, biodegradable sunscreen
  • Deet-free mosquito repellent
  • Band Aids and Neosporin, other 1st aid
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Medications (any prescription meds should travel in the original bottle with patient’s name)


  • Sunglasses
  • Eyeglass straps (such as Croakies, Chumps, etc) for water activities
  • Journal and pen
  • Book
  • Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
  • Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $50-$150, depending on number of desired snacks, souvenirs, extra items etc.)
  • Durable water bottle
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Flashlight/headlamp. Please ensure the flashlight/headlamp has a red light function. This is required to mitigate our impact on wildlife during night patrols.
  • Batteries
  • Deck of cards or other portable games

Support Team

At a minimum, one experienced Program Leader will travel on every trip. In addition to this full time leadership presence, Walking Tree has additional support staff in all destinations and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program.

Sara Lavell
Sara Lavell
Program Leader

Universidad de Costa Rica – B.Sc. Geography

Proudly born a ”tica” with a British father and a Panamanian mother, Sara was raised in the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Sara started traveling the world at a young age and has visited 4 continents. Passionate about conservation, sustainable development and education Sara spent her college years volunteering in different communities during mid-term vacations and later found herself sharing some of her interests with US students and volunteers traveling all over Central America. Nowadays, Sara is finishing her master’s degree in Planning with an emphasis on Socioeconomic Project Management.

Luke Mueller
Luke Mueller
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO

Emory University – B.A. Sociology and minor in Latin American History

During college, Luke spent a semester living and traveling in rural Mexico. His experience sparked a fascination with Latin America and a commitment to community service that continues to this day. Upon graduating from college, he joined WorldTeach and lived with a local family in a small village in Costa Rica while teaching elementary English. After this experience, he moved to San José, the capital and largest city of Costa Rica, and wrote for The Tico Times newspaper. Luke has since traveled to over 60 countries on five different continents.  Now settled in Denver with his family, he continues to crave massive helpings of rice and beans.

Christian Hernández-Gracia
Christian Hernández-Gracia
Program Leader

University of Puerto Rico – B.S. Agricultural Science, Major in Animal Science 

Once Christian graduated from high school, he decided he wanted to study agriculture and moved from his hometown, half way across the island, where he could pursue his dream. In the short 3 years he spent there, he made some wonderful friends, got involved in different activities and worked at a recycling program and as a librarian and in the chemistry laboratory. All of these different experiences motivated him to continue his dream. He moved again, now from the central area to the west side of the island. There he got the opportunity to work has volunteers for 3 years on the college educational agricultural fair “5 Días con Nuestra Tierra” where he gave basic information to families visiting the animal and butterfly exhibitions. He also went on several student international trips focused on animal production in Colombia, Costa Rica and Peru. Right now, he is finishing his master’s degree in animal science and working as a laboratory instructor at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez.  Christian has always been passionate about animals, plants, the environment, food and teaching others.

Group Roster

Below is a list of the travelers enrolled on the program.

  • 1 Abigail Stancil
  • 2 Bryanna Poore
  • 3 Chloe Holland
  • 4 Gail Clougherty - Group Organizer
  • 5 Julia LaBrack
  • 6 Lillian Abel
  • 7 Miranda Monge
  • 8 Raleigh Poore
  • 9 Richard Hopper
  • 10 Sherie Conner
  • 11 Victoria Yauch
11 Travelers

Blog and Communication

During travel we will work hard to keep families updated as frequently as possible with blogs and photos, giving you peace of mind that your traveler is safe and thriving on their program.  Students regularly contribute to these posts, giving parents a great way to vicariously track the progress of the trip. You will receive an email notification when the first blog is posted, after which we recommend you check in regularly via the black “Program Blog” button at the top of this page.

Beyond this proactive approach to communication during the trip, most destinations are wired enough to allow participants semi-regular access to WiFi so you can also expect to communicate with your traveler directly. Ask your Walking Tree representative about the degree of connectivity on your program.


GLC Curriculum

Walking Tree has developed a curriculum of activities meant to help travelers get the most out of their trip before departure, during travel and after they return home. These simple and engaging activities are meant to spark discussion, frame experiences, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on this trip and on future adventures.

For more information about student learning objectives and the format of the curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.

Learn More About the GLC

To view and complete the Pre-Program Activities, visit our online portal at the button below.

Pre-Program Activity Portal

Standards of Behavior

In order to run a safe and successful program, it is important that we create an environment of trust, security and respect. All individuals participating in our programs are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct.


  1.  Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
  2. Associating with participants while they are in possession of, or are consuming, or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
  3. Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety.
  4. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.


  1. Getting a piercing or tattoo.
  2. Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials.
  3. Threatening physical or emotional harm, or brandishing a weapon.
  4. Possessing, consuming, or distributing tobacco or nicotine, including vape pens.
  5. Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle.
  6. Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew.
  7. Breaking group rules.

These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of your program. Please take the time to review these as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them.

Health and Safety

We strongly recommend visiting the CDC Costa Rica website to get the most updated information on health and vaccination considerations in your destination country. In addition, we encourage you to consult with your personal family physician so you can be as informed as possible when making important decisions about vaccinations and other necessary health-related preparations before travel.

Our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. Walking Tree will register our programs and travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, thoroughly vet homestay families via in depth interviews and home visits, and keep up on important current events in the region.

Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in a multi-day leadership training retreat. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based staff.

We receive medical disclosures from all participants to ensure we are able to meet every students’ needs during the program. Please inform us immediately of any additional health issues that you did not list during your initial registration process. Program Leaders will also hold an online information session before your departure, as well as an arrival orientation in-country, in order to give participants important instructions on food safety, hygiene and preventing injury and illness. Leaders and in-country staff always respond immediately to any mental, physical or emotional health issues and follow comprehensive emergency protocols.


While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers on program, experience teaches that travel is never without risk. For this reason, we recommend that all travelers consider a travel insurance policy with  two additional provisions: Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) and Bed Rest. Detailed explanations of both provisions can be found on the link below.

To provide families with a quality option, Walking Tree has partnered with Travel Insured International, one of the most respected providers in the industry.  Begin by getting a quote here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: in order to secure coverage with CFAR included, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of your deposit/first payment. You must also insure 100% of your trip cost, so program tuition + flight.