2022 Vashon Island Osa Costa Rica Conservation Expedition
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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, but given the unpredictable nature of international travel we must remain flexible in our planning. Changes to a schedule are uncommon but if inclement weather pushes us off course or an unexpected opportunity arises which travelers are excited about, we reserve the right to adjust programming in the best interest of the group.
|June 14||Seattle, Mexico City||This evening we will depart Seattle and travel through Mexico City to Costa Rica.||Airplane|
|June 15||Mexico City, Alajuela||We will arrive to Costa Rica in the late morning and head to hotel to eat, shower and relax. In the afternoon, we will visit a local market and have an orientation meeting to prepare for the adventure ahead.||Hotel La Rosa de America|
|June 16||Alajuela - Pacuare River||In the morning we'll be picked up for our two-day white water rafting trip along the Pacuare River. We'll spend the next handful of hours navigating the rapids of one of the most beautiful rivers in the world. We'll stop for lunch at a lodge along the banks of the river where we'll eat lunch and then relax in the afternoon, exploring an impressive network of trails or just relaxing in a hammock with a good book.||Pacuare River Lodge|
|June 17||Pacuare River - Alajuela||After breakfast we'll enjoy a full day on the river, traveling back to Alajuela around the middle of the afternoon to get ready for our departure to the south of the country for the next portion of our trip. In the evening, students will have time to relax by the pool and have some group activities||Hotel La Rosa de America|
|June 18||Alajuela - Osa||After breakfast we will begin our 4 hour journey to Pura Suerte, a beautiful ecological farm deep in the southern rain forest of the country. Upon arrival at Pura Suerte we will tour the farm on a hand on experience that involves tropical fruits and farm animals as well as a nearby coffee plantation that produces some of the best beans in the area. We will learn about the importance of organic farming and how rural farmers are taking advantage of sustainable farming practices. We will settle in our jungalows and enjoy dinner after some group activities.||Pura Suerte Jungalows|
|June 19||Osa||After breakfast we'll hike down to Nauyaca waterfall, one of the largest and most beautiful in the entire country. Spend the morning swimming and relaxing by the riverside. We will take lunch at the waterfall and then hike back to Pura Suerte, where we will pack up and drive south down the coast to the Turtle Reserve Field Station. Here we will settle in and meet the researchers with whom we'll be spending the next few days.||RPT Field Station|
|June 20||Osa||After 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 animals such as monkeys, crocodiles, sloths, birds and sea turtles (seasonal from May through August) using different methods like camera traps and observation. We'll take a break for lunch and continue to work in maintenance for turtle hatchery, the butterfly garden among others in the afternoon, in addition to receiving a lecture on local and national wildlife conservation efforts or doing a beach clean up. The next few days will consist of us working with researches on a variety of research projects.||RPT Field Station|
|June 21||Osa||Continued work and research in the field station and surroundings.||RPT Field Station|
|June 22||Osa||Continued work and research in the field station and surroundings.||RPT Field Station|
|June 23||Osa||Continued work and research in the field station and surroundings.||RPT Field Station|
|June 24||Osa||Continued work and research in the field station and surroundings.||RPT Field Station|
|June 25||Osa - Uvita||We will have an early breakfast then say goodbye to our friends at Reserva Playa Tortuga, before heading northwest to Uvita on the central Pacific coast. We will spend the morning 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 and some shopping and free time at the beach.||El Tecal|
|June 26||Uvita, Alajuela||We will have a leisurely morning in the beach to explore and relax, then head to Manuel Antonio for a canopy zipline. This will be an exciting network of cables strung through the jungle canopy and provide a new prospective and adventure! |
In the afternoon, we will return to Alajuela for a going away dinner and depart for Mexico City.
|June 27||San Jose, Mexico City, Seattle||We will arrive to Mexico City in the morning and begin our exploration of one of the world's great cities! We will explore cultural sites, eat delicious foods and make the most of this long layover before catching out connection home.||Your own bed!|
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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 locally-operated, three-star equivalent hotels and guest houses which are centrally located, clean and safe.
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.
Finca Pura Suerte
A grouping of bamboo cabins and impressive communal spaces, this farm is nestled deep in low-land rain forest with views of the Pacific coastline. The accommodations are comfortable, the food fantastic, and the surreal setting provides an ideal introduction to the country’s impressive flora and fauna.
Pacuare River Lodge
Along a hillside overlooking the Pacuare River, this one-of-a-kind lodge sits amid exotic primary rainforest, indigenous reserves and isolated valleys, and is only accessible by raft, 4X4, or horseback. A collection of rustic yet cozy cabins, each allowing to enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding pristine jungles and experience the wilderness. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability. Most river lodges have no electricity, wifi and cellphone reception is very limited as it is the case for Pacuare River Lodge. The rafting companies communicate by radio in case of needing any land departure from the lodge or any emergency.
Rosa de las Américas
A charming ranch-style hotel on the outskirts of San José, Rosa de las Americas is a great spot to unwind after a long day’s travels. This hotel is complete with a lush gardens, a big pool, updated rooms, and friendly staff.
|Type||Carrier Name||Carrier Code||Flight Number||Departure Airport & City||Departure Date and Time||Arrival Airport & City||Arrival Date and Time|
June 14, 2022 at 10:00 PM
June 15, 2022 at 05:25 AM
June 15, 2022 at 08:35 AM
June 15, 2022 at 10:40 AM
June 27, 2022 at 01:55 AM
June 27, 2022 at 06:05 AM
June 27, 2022 at 03:45 PM
June 27, 2022 at 8:00 PM
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.
FLIGHT INTERRUPTION, DELAY OR CANCELLATION
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
Reserva Playa Tortuga is a scientific research and conservation center located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, right next to the Osa Peninsula — Costa Rica’s crown jewel for biodiversity. It was founded by local citizens and 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, Sea Turtle Conservation, and various long term environmental education and citizen science initiatives in the nearby exemplary community of Ojochal. Students will have the opportunity to assist researchers on some of these projects, which vary in intensity throughout the season. Depending on the length of the program, environmental education service projects can be organized alongside the local school.
Overview: Sea Turtle Conservation
As part of volunteering with sea turtles program, participants will have the opportunity to learn about the biology of sea turtles, especially the Olive Ridley or ‘Lora’ (Lepidochelys olivacea) which is the most common on Playa Tortuga. Depending on the season (while different types of turtles may be spotted year round at RPT, the primary nesting period extends from July to December, with the peak of nesting and hatching in the months of September and October), participants will see adults, babies and eggs, and learn about its life cycle.
By helping with this project participants will be part of a serious scientific research project, which provides important data for the conservation of sea turtles. Upon arrival, sea turtle volunteers will receive training about the research project in which they are participating, how to use the equipment, and what kind of work they will do, as well as proper behavior in the field. Volunteer groups will always be working with experienced staff members, who will show volunteers the proper scientific methods for working with sea turtles during night patrols, hatchery work, handling nesting females, eggs, and data collection.
Overview: Mammal Monitoring Project
Within the Reserva, there are more than eleven species of mammals – the most common being raccoons, coatis, kinkajous, weasels, river otters, 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. These mammals are important to the balance of the forest dynamic, and the data generated on their behavior, diet, and local movements offers information that can be used for reforestation plans in the coastal area to establish Biological Corridors.
Overview: Environmental Education Initiatives
It is part of the Reserva’s core mission to educate and actively involve the youth and the community of Ojochal in these areas. RPT does this by conducting workshops and activities for children from schools in the region and their families. These initiatives aim to create environmental awareness and active stewardship through lectures, guided tours, field trips and volunteering. RPT implements a yearlong curriculum based on the different ongoing conservation projects and natural resource management projects undertaken by the Reserva. Our students will have the opportunity to prepare materials and conduct or work with children of local schools during environmental education workshops.
Overview: Crocodilian Monitoring Project
The main objective of this study is to collect real-time information about the crocodilians at the Reserve: their location, relationship with the environment, and the human impact on the ecosystem. RPT is conducting a 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.
Since this is a comprehensive 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 witness the Reserva’s wildlife experts tagging selected individuals for continued observation.
Accommodations are dorm style, simple, but clean and hospitable, and there is a sweet ping pong table on site! Rooms are kept neat, and we can assure you they’ll be welcomed after a long day of activities and nights patrolling the beach! The rest of your time in Costa Rica will be spent in hotels where you’ll share rooms with 1 or 2 of your fellow participants. Please refer to the Accommodations section for links to our planned lodgings.
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.
Most importantly, be sure to remember your PASSPORT and STUDENT ID.
CLOTHES (quantities depend on your trip length) :
- 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 clothes to patrol
- Bandana for work site (optional)
- A hat that can protect your neck
- Swimming suit, for surf classes a rash guard is recommended for sensitive skins
TOILETRIES (in addition to the basic toiletries):
- Two rapid COVID tests. Program Leaders will carry additional tests and will also administer the one to be verified by a medical professional within 24hrs of return to the US.
- 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)
- Journal and pen
- Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
- Alarm Clock and watch
- Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $50-$150, depending on number of desired snacks, souvenirs, extra items etc.)
- Durable water bottle
- 1 quick-dry towel
- Deck of cards or other portable games
- Spanish/English Dictionary
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.
Juan Pablo “JP” Rabanales
Global Country Operations Manager
Earlham College – B.A. International Studies, Minor in Economics
Born and raised with a big family in Guatemala, JP spent seven years living and studying in the US where he was exposed to highly diverse communities. JP worked as a Wilderness Leader guiding expeditions in the Southwest of the US. After spending two years in New Mexico studying the International Baccalaureate, he moved to Indiana where he spent the next four years at Earlham College. His passion for international affairs brought him to spend a semester in China, and several other Southeast Asian countries. During his time abroad, he spent his summers traveling and backpacking through 15+ different countries, and participating in several service projects. Today JP is based in Costa Rica where he works full time with the Walking Tree team. Juan Pablo also enjoys hosting friends and travelers coming to visit. He’s always down for an exciting road-trip around the country, or even better, around Latin America. He is a long time art and design enthusiast, and a photography aficionado.
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO
Colby College – B.A. International Relations and Government
While at Colby, Gabriel spent a semester in Spain at the University of Salamanca studying contemporary Spanish politics and Spanish language. He also lettered for four-years on Colby’s lacrosse team and earned All-American honors. After graduating, Gabriel hit the road. He fished commercially in Alaska, taught in Chile and China, led programs for students in Spain and Costa Rica, and traveled to over 50 countries and all 50 states in the USA. Regardless of where Gabriel is located, he is constantly haunted by his naive faith and unconditional love for Denver sports teams.
Universidad de Costa Rica – B.A. in Art History
New York University – M.A. in Art Education
Growing up in Costa Rica, Sofía developed an early passion for nature and the outdoors. She originally wanted to be a biologist but ended up going into the arts instead, specializing in Art Education in New York City where she lived and worked for over eight years. Having mostly worked in non-formal education settings like museums and community spaces, her work focuses on generating transformative learning experiences beyond subjects or settings.
She is passionate about critical pedagogy, community development, multicultural perspectives, and conservation efforts. She has traveled extensively (over 25 countries in 3 continents) believing that there’s nothing like traveling to expand your mindset and allow for growth and connection to new spaces, people, cultures and oneself. She currently lives in San José, Costa Rica, and among her favorite things to do are hiking, whale watching (when possible), eating delicious food, dancing and enjoying quality time with friends and family.
Below is a list of the travelers enrolled on the program.
- 1 Amelia Krouse
- 2 Daniel Boyle
- 3 Frederick Rasmussen
- 4 Grace Denall
- 5 Isabella Fisher
- 6 Kaiya Van Brost
- 7 Kiara Bartel
- 8 Lyra Shannon
- 9 Madeline Pettis
- 10 Nathaniel Davidson
- 11 Qwynn McBrady
- 12 Sam Gill
- 13 Sarah Powell
- 14 Scarlett Papenfuss
- 15 Taj Holloway
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.
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.
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.
- Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
- Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
- Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety. 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.
GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE
- Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials.
- Possessing weapons.
- Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle.
- Getting a piercing or tattoo.
- Being out after curfew.
- 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.