It took two years of planning, saving money, fundraising and hard work, but in June many Girl Scouts (including me) achieved our goal and left the comforts of home in Tucson to travel to Costa Rica to participate in a conservation project.
When we arrived, we spent a few days learning the specifics of our service project—erosion of the land and how important it is to maintain the mangrove forest. We boarded boats and took a tour of the forest, where we collected seeds to plant the following day. The next day we walked to the mangrove nursery. At the nursery we planted the seeds in recycled bottles. We had to clear the path that led down to where we would transplant the older trees that previous volunteer groups had planted. As the tide was coming in, girls started to plant in water up to their knees! They didn’t complain though—they made it into a fun experience by splashing each other, which was great since it was so hot and humid.
Our chaperones surprised us the next day with a trip to Manuel Antonio National Park to spend the day at the beach. There are white-faced capuchin monkeys that our tour director called the Monkey Mafia because they try to steal your belongings. He told us about a time when a chaperone sat with some bags and a monkey tried stealing one. The chaperone grabbed the bag, the monkey grabbed the other side, and they began fighting over it. The monkey eventually had enough, reached over and smacked her in the face, so she let go and the monkey ran off with the bag. There were also raccoons running around the beach stealing food. One even stole a whole loaf of bread.
At the Arenal region we visited La Fortuna Waterfall. We had to walk down 500 stairs to reach it!
Later we went zip lining. A few girls sat out, but I decided to face my fear and try it. It turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. It was also probably the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen.
We also got to go kayaking on Lake Arenal, and visit the hot springs heated by Volcano Arenal. We met some local teens who taught us salsa and other Costa Rican dances. In San Jose we toured a coffee plantation where we sampled and purchased some Costa Rican coffee. That evening we had a traditional Costa Rican dinner. The nice part is they had a lot of vegetarian options—four of us, including myself, are vegetarians.
It was sad to say goodbye to this beautiful country, but I know someday I’ll return. Over the course of my nine-day stay, I had the experience of a lifetime.