Exploring national parks and working in a wildlife conservation project
16 – 27 March 2020
Costa Rica Aventure – Overview
We meet in San José, on 16 March, before travelling south to San Gerardo de Rivas, a village on the edge of the Chirripó National Park. This will be our base for climbing Cerro Chirripó (3820m), the highest point in the country. Next, we move further south to the Osa Peninsular and spend three full days working on a nature conservation project on the border of the Corcovado National Park. As a reward for our endeavours, we then spend two days in the park itself, experiencing the unique flora and fauna of the region. Finally, we move to Uvita beach to rest and recuperate for a day before returning to San José on 27 March.
Day 1. Meet in San José
The trip starts after breakfast on Monday 16 March, at our hotel in San José. After an expedition briefing, we head south towards San Gerardo de Rivas, the mountain village on the edge of the Cherripó National Park.
On the way, we’ll stop in Santa Maria de Dota, where there is a world-renowned, sustainable coffee factory and cooperative. We’ll take a tour of the facility and see coffee production in action.
We arrive in our comfortable accommodation in San Gerardo early in the afternoon. This will give us time to organise our luggage, pack for the trek and register with the park authorities in anticipation of the next day’s hiking.
Days 2 - 4. Cerro Chirripó Trek
It’s an early start on Tuesday morning, then we travel 2km by 4×4 to the start of the trail. This day involves walking uphill for 14km to Crestones Base Lodge. After 7.5km we arrive at a mountain hut where we can refill our water bottles and use the facilities before continuing our way along this well-maintained path through secondary rainforest.
Wednesday is the summit day. We’ll be waking up at 2.30am to reach the peak for sunrise at around 5.30am. It is a 5km walk to the top and is not technically difficult. However, walking in the dark will make it slow, and the final 150m of ascent are steep and rocky. The reward for our hard work is a sweeping panoramic view ranging from the Carribean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, including the surrounding Talamanca Mountains.
Alternatively, you may choose to stay at the lodge and explore some of the shorter paths in the unique páramo shrubland that is found only at higher elevations in Central America. We all spend a second night at Crestones Base Lodge.
On Thursday we return the way we came, taking a small detour near the park entrance to view some stunning waterfalls and pools in the Cloudbridge region of the park. Our 4×4 will drop us off at the accommodation. There will be time in the afternoon to relax; you may choose to visit the local hot springs or swim in the small pool near our cabins.
Days 5 - 8. Conservation Project
On Friday, we travel further south, to the Osa Peninsula where spend three full days supporting scientists with their ongoing work at a well-established, international conservation site.
Accommodation is basic here. We have a cabin to ourselves and will be staying in bunk beds, four people to a room. Other volunteers will also be working in the station and we may work alongside them on some projects.
Saturday, Sunday and Monday will be spent carrying out sea-turtle patrols and working in the turtle hatchery, assisting in the plant nursery to support rainforest re-wilding projects, and monitoring biodiversity in the area.
The field station depends on visitors like us to undertake this kind of work. We are providing a useful service as well as learning new skills and gaining a unique experience.
Days 9 - 10. Corcovado National Park
For the next two days, the jungle experience will become even more special. An expert guide will lead us into the heart of the Corcovado National Park, home to 50% of all species found in Costa Rica.
Tuesday will involve a 25 km walk from the park boundary to Sirena field station, the research centre where we stay for one night. It will be a long hot walk, but the trail is flat, and we’ll be in the shade most of the way.
Along the route, our excellent guide will take time to teach us about the flora and fauna of the region. As an example, we are likely to encounter some, if not all, of the four species of monkey that live here: Spider Monkeys, Howler Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys and Cappuchin Monkeys.
Dawn is one of the best times to view nature, so you may wish to join our guide on a pre-breakfast jungle walk on Wednesday morning. March is an excellent time to view Tapir as it is the dry season and they come to the rivers for water. Our excursions on Wednesday are short, slow and quiet; the guide uses all of his senses to locate and the show us species that we would never notice without him.
You can wander freely on the trails surrounding the station and may like to find somewhere quiet to sit for some time during the morning. Aside from resting from the long walk in, this is often the best way to catch sight of a rare bird or animal.
We leave by boat on Wednesday, around 12.30. This saves us the long walk out and gives us a little more time for rest and relaxation in our jungle lodge by the beach, our destination for Wednesday night.
Day 11. Uvita Beach
We’ll be staying two nights in a jungle lodge at Uvita beach, overlooking Ballena Marine National Park.
There is no agenda for Thursday. You may choose to sunbathe all day or swim in the sea. The lodge has its own trails which can be explored in the surrounding forest, so there are opportunities to put your skills as a naturalist back into action.
Alternatively, you may like to book a whale-watching boat tour. Whilst there is no guarantee of seeing a whale, these tours are still highly recommended.
Day 12. San José
Finally, on the morning of Friday 27 March we head back to San José. The trip ends when we drop you off at the airport or hotel.
We visit Costa Rica during the dry season (Dec – April) and can expect temperatures to range between 0°C on the mountain top at sunrise to 37°C in the jungle at noon. Rain is unlikely.
Costa Rica has a strong Spanish influence with a few areas that have a more noticeable Jamaican or indigenous culture. 70% of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholics.
Level of difficulty
The treks are not technical. However, the walking days are long and Cerro Chirripó involves a significant amount of ascent (2.6 km up to 3820m). Therefore, a good level of fitness is essential.
Throughout this adventure, we’ll stay in shared rooms. In Chirripo and Corcovado National parks, these will be dormitory-style with bunk beds. Sleeping space throughout the trip will be shared – from two to four people per room.
Costs & Inclusions
The cost of this trip is £2750. This includes all food, drinking water, transport and accommodation for 12 days.
Other drinks (alcoholic or otherwise) are not included.
Flights are not included.