I had my sights set on travelling to Central America this summer and due to my friends having other commitments I found myself organizing a solo trip to Costa Rica. A friend of mine suggested going on an organized trip and she then recommended The Leap having used them in her gap year to go to Tanzania in which she had a great experience teaching and volunteering.
Before flying, the three-week leapers arranged to meet at the airport and we met the rest of the 6-week leapers out there who had arrived a few days before us. We thought it was strange at the time that we didn’t all start the ‘program’ as one group but we realized that no specific program had been planned for either the 3 week or 6 week leap volunteers.
The trip that we had signed up to was entitled ‘Costa Rica Turtles’ but the turtle conserving was very minimal. This element of our trip was brought forward to our second week of the trip when we asked our camp leader about it which also made room for a trip to Monteverde. When at the turtle project there was a lot of free time. It became apparent that project organizsers had been expecting us in the third week of our trip and not the second and therefore volunteering tasks hadn’t been prepared for us. The highlight of our stay here was of course seeing mothering turtles laying their eggs which was extremely special. However on a 3 week turtle conservation trip to Costa Rica, 9 hours of turtle conservation did not match up to the trips description. Another group in our camp had a much more hands on experience as they attended in the third week as planned, having busy days volunteering and even dance classes included.
Furthermore, the leap had described the Spanish lessons as optional, 45 minute extras to our trip should we be interested. However, it became clear these were part of our daily schedule and lasted for an hour and a half each day. Whilst it was great to learn Spanish, it was not the main reason we were there and the trip began to feel like something quite different to what had been sold to us.
The most memorable parts of the trip were the extra activities that we paid for which included a waterfall tour, a day tour on ATVs, a trip to Monteverde and surfing lessons. These varied in price from $45 for the waterfall tour to $160 for the surfing lessons. This added up which became costly especially when the trip was expensive in the first instance. It was lucky that my group had budgeted for these as the trip would have felt empty without them. Before arrived, I was aware that Costa Rica was expensive but I did not anticipate the extra activities to take up most of my budget considering that we were already on an organized trip.
The last week of the trip worked well when we mentioned to our leaders that we wanted to be busy and more involved. Our itinerary then included daily surfing, Spanish and volunteering - it was a shame that the trip did not start of in this vain. The most enjoyable volunteering activity we took part in was the beach clean-up. This was the most efficiently ran exercise and we could see we were making a direct difference to Banana Beach. It was done by a smaller group of volunteers that used at the project meaning that we could get hands on. Meli, Brandon and Edwin were all great leaders and we felt particularly safe and encouraged when working with them. It was a shame that the three week leapers did not get involved in the bridge project that the six week leapers started after our arrival.
Overall I had an amazing time and made some really great friends. I would recommend this trip to gap year/students looking for a chilled out holiday with some volunteering but not as a turtle conservation/volunteering program in the first instance. I would also recommend checking items on the kit list with the leap (i.e mosquito net and sleeping bag) before coming as it was not necessary to have these things.