2023 Ranney School Costa Rica Conservation Expedition

Dear Families, Friends, and Travelers – Welcome to the 2023 Ranney School Costa Rica Conservation Expedition! We have created two webpages dedicated to this exciting opportunity: this first page, the Pre-enrollment, is meant to share exciting details, highlights and pertinent info that potential travelers will want to know before enrolling. Once enrolled, the Post-enrollment, is meant to prepare travelers for participation on the adventure ahead. Please be sure to review the information on the appropriate page thoroughly and we hope you are excited for all Costa Rica has to offer!!
Travel Dates: May 30, 2023 - June 7, 2023
Group Organizer(s):
WTT Contact:
Program Tuition: $2,590 USD
Airfare not included in program tuition
Confirmed Airfare: $775

What to Expect

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

Itinerary

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. 

DayLocationDescriptionLodging
May 30USA - AlajuelaToday the group will travel from the USA to Costa Rica, and flights usually arrive in the evening. After arrival, the group will settle into their hotel and have an orientation meeting where the group will discuss the upcoming trip in detail. Dinner will be at the hotel.Rosa de las Américas
May 31Alajuela - La VirgenAfter breakfast the group will head for Sarapiquí, an area characterized by its lush tropical rainforest and swift rivers. The bus ride is two hours north of the capital city. The group will settle in Sarapiquis Hotel. After lunch the group will then go whitewater rafting down the Sarapiquí River, renowned worldwide for its scenic beauty and thrilling class 3 rapids. Students will have the opportunity to learn about the natural history of bats, their classification, diversity, adaptations, reproduction, threats. They will also be able to take a close look at the snare net and bats captured for this research.Sarapiquis Hotel
June 1La Virgen de SarapiquíWe will begin our day learning about the history of one of mankind’s favorite foods: chocolate. Originally from Central America, this plant has an extraordinary history; it was one of the most important products for the Mayan and Aztec cultures. After lunch will do our Ethnobotany tour, where students will engage all five of their senses in getting to know different plants and learn about the scientific importance of the tropical rainforest in the medical and cosmetic fields.Sarapiquis Hotel
June 2La Guaria de Sarapiquí
After breakfast, we will set off on a hike through La Selva Biological Station, owned by the world-renowned Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) some of the multiple trails in the middle of the primary rainforest where students will learn about the natural history, ecosystems, and biodiversity of the reserve. In the afternoon the group will settle in Ara Ambigua Hotel located in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. The group will get familiar with the facilities.After dinner, we will have some reflection time to discuss some of our goals for the upcoming days.
Ara Ambigua Hotel
June 3La Guaria de SarapiquíToday we will begin with an introduction to the several research projects conducted but the OTS in La Selva station. After we receive the lecture and general instructions, the group will be divided into different tasks we will be completing for the rest of the day to participate in one of the several on-going projects La Selva. Projects vary but these may include topics of water quality, plant adaptation and mammal monitoring, specially peccaries which love to hang out around the station! After lunch we will visit a beautiful water Pozo Azul in La Virgen de Sarapiqui.Ara Ambigua Hotel
June 4La Guaria de SarapiquíToday we will involve service in collaboration with a riparian forest restoration project of the OTS. The group will learn about the different strategies scientists use to restore the vegetal area that protects and supports rivers and streams, as well as the biotic components that support these ecosystems. After lunch, will take a short break from our conservation work to learn how to dance salsa, merengue and bachata. After dinner in the station, the group will set off on a night hike through the trails in the middle of the primary rainforest to find frogs and other nocturnal creatures.Ara Ambigua Hotel
June 5Horquetas - La FortunaAfter breakfast we will head to La Fortuna, a small city right next to the Volcán Arenal, an impressive volcano that stands out in the middle of the flatlands. Students will have some free time to explore the towns center and do some souvenir shopping. We will see the forest from a different perspective after we go zip-lining in the afternoon. At night we will relax at the Baldi hot springs, where we will be having a buffet dinner as well.Montechiari Hotel
June 6La Fortuna - AlajuelaToday we will hike down to La Fortuna waterfall, where students can relax, swim, and explore in the morning. After lunch, we will make the drive back to San Jose for a farewell dinner and our final reflection before our international departure the following morning.Rosa de las Américas
June 7Alajuela - USAAfter breakfast, we will head to the airport for a morning departure back to the USA.Your own bed, eventually!

Fundraising

Need to Raise Money? We Have You Covered.

Walking Tree Travel is proud to team up with Equal Exchange, a worker-owned cooperative that distributes organic coffee, tea, sugar, bananas, avocados, cocoa, chocolate bars, and more.  There is no limit to the amount you can earn, so the sooner you can start, the better!

Learn more here.

WTT coffee

Accommodations

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. 
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.

Montechiari Hotel

Arenal Montechiari Hotel located 400 meters from the central park, very close to the beautiful town La Fortuna. The Hotel is sorrounded of lush gardens and a spectacular view of the Volcano.

Sarapiquis Hotel

Sarapiquis Hotel combines research and education with ecoturism to create a unique experience for its visitors and to promote conservation. The rooms offer bunk and single beds, shared bathrooms, bug protection on windows and fans. Students will be grouped according to gender. They offer a dining hall, wireless internet, all-access trail, and on-station security.

Ara Ambigua Hotel

The hotel is located in Sarapiqui the rooms are surrounded by beautiful gardens, all have a balcony, where you can enjoy the nature that surrounds them, also have private bathroom, A / C, hair dryer among others.

Group Flight

Type Carrier Name Carrier Code Flight Number Departure Airport & City Departure Date and Time  Arrival Airport & City Arrival Date and Time 
Outbound
UA
1080
May 30, 2023 at 08:16 AM
May 30, 2023 at 11:38 AM
Inbound
UA
1079
June 07, 2023 at 07:45 AM
June 07, 2023 at 03:00 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

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Packing List

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.

Most importantly, be sure to remember your PASSPORT.

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)
  • 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
  • Bandana for work site (optional)
  • A hat that can protect your neck
  • Swimming suit

TOILETRIES (in addition to the basic toiletries):

  • Sunscreen
  • 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)

MISCELLANEOUS:

  • Sunglasses
  • Journal and pen
  • Book
  • 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
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • 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.

Gabriel Duncan
Gabriel Duncan
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.

Amelia “Ame” Garita Castillo
Amelia “Ame” Garita Castillo
Country Operations Manager - Costa Rica


University Nacional, Costa Rica. Business Management/Sustainable Tourism

Amelia was born in San Gerardo de Rivas, Costa Rica, close to the highest mountain Cerro Chirripo. While a young girl Ame had the opportunity to climb Cerro Chirripo with her father over 50 times before she turned 18, and fell in love with the outdoors and wilderness. After having these amazing experiences she went on to study tourism and business management in the National University of Costa Rica where she graduated with a bachelors degree. Since then she has worked for the Costa Rican tourism board, before moving on to guiding. She has worked guiding students in outdoor adventure working for Outward Bound Costa Rica, Outward Bound Mexico, and Outward Bound Hong Kong. She also guides wilderness therapy with Pure Life by Aspiro in Costa Rica. She has had the pleasure of traveling in Europe and South America which further confirmed her love for traveling, the outdoors, and guiding. She has traveled to over 14 countries and loves to share her experiences with others and also help them discover their own passion, and worldly views. She speaks fluent Spanish and English, and most enjoys her time by guiding and helping others. She now works for Walking Tree full time as a part of the Country Operations Team in Costa Rica.

Karen Gómez López
Karen Gómez López
Program Leader


Universidad de Costa Rica – English Bachelor

Universidad Libre de Costa Rica – Social Work

Karen was born in the southeast part of Costa Rica border with Panama. She loves nature, being outdoors and helping others to dream and follow their dreams. She started loving outdoors and nature when she worked as a wilderness therapy guide for Pure Life, an experience that change her life. Traveling is also one of her passions and it started when she was part of UGRAD program from 2011-2012. Lately, in 2017 she participated on YLAI program. Currently, she is a social entrepreneur and works to bring self growth opportunities at-risk young people in the rural areas of her country through adventure activities. Karen believes that the best experiences you can have in life are related to traveling and nature because are the one who will take you out of your comfort zone and keep you growing.

Group Roster

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

  • 1 Samuel Brannon
  • 2 Justin Buck
  • 3 Heavin Pierce
  • 4 Gavin Jones
  • 5 Gwendolen Kokes
  • 6 Alexander Holt
  • 7 Avery Weiner
  • 8 Micah Seiler
  • 9 Victoria Fitlin
  • 10 Mia Rivera Ricketts
  • 11 Andrew Cerussi
  • 12 Alivia Pisane
  • 13 Connoly Chavez
  • 14 Dev Nayar
  • 15 Lola MacRae
  • 16 Lukas Davis
  • 17 Priscilla Michel
  • 18 Nekayla Bailey
  • 19 Jack Pentony
  • 20 Emilia Colella
  • 21 Sean Reed
  • 22 Julia Stobie
  • 23 Morgan Kottka
  • 24 Justin Atnes
  • 25 ZHIQING RAN
  • 26 Chelsea Kucharski
  • 27 Rachel Lasda
  • 28 Roxanne Spencer
  • 29 Julia Stobie
29 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.

ABSOLUTE DISMISSAL

  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.

GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE

  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.

Insurance

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.

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