Biology Trip to Costa Rica

7 February - 16 February

Staff Members: Karen Miller, Jane Inglis and Dean Campbell.

Day 1

Travelling to Costa Rica

Twenty-nine pupils and three staff members set off in the very early hours of Friday morning in search of Pura Vida. Our first meeting point was the steps of the Playfair building, in view of the bronze doors, the beginning of so many Dollar adventures over the years. With the excited chatter and well wishes from parents ringing in our ears, we headed for Edinburgh airport. The flight to Newark passed without incident but as we were nearing the airport the pilot warned of turbulence. It was turning into a pretty bumpy ride and just to add to the drama there was a medical emergency on board. A number of our fellow passengers were definitely feeling the effects and there was much rummaging for sick bags. The pilot aborted our first landing and we circled round for another go. With the plane finally on the ground, the pilot was given a loud cheer and even the teachers admitted to sweaty palms! After a quick turnaround at Newark, we were finally on our way to San José. The second leg really did pass without incident and soon we were on the ground being met by our guide, Julio and driver, Roy. Roy’s bus would carry us many miles but after nearly a full twenty-four hours of travelling, our first stop was a hotel in central San Jose. This trip has already involved many very early starts and late finishes, and through it all this bunch have grinned, sang and charmed their way around this beautiful country. The accounts that follow are from the pupils in their own words…

Day 2

Poas Volcano, Chocolate Tour and the Tirimimba Rain Forest Reserve

On our first full day in Costa Rica we visited the Poas Volcano, as well as the crater at the top. Upon arrival to the volcano we watched a brief safety video and put on our large, yellow construction helmets which we all had a giggle about! Everyone was stunned by the beautiful views – we could see the crater at the summit of the volcano and all of the surrounding mountains. The crater itself was beautiful, with an array of colours inside. Although the volcano has been dormant, it was still steaming and very much alive.

Our second adventure of Costa Rica was learning about the effort, expertise and experience of chocolate making. After learning about both the history and process of making chocolate, we all had the chance to taste the various chocolates – all with different spices and flavours. This went down very well and most of the group had a third or fourth taste of the melting chocolate. Our overall favourite was the 70% coco with a measure of corn-starch, chili and vanilla.

After our delicious chocolate tasting, we experienced a nerve-wracking walk across a suspension bridge, which stretched for two-hundred meters across the rainforest, looking down at the steep valleys and fast-flowing river below. As we walked high in the forest, we had our first close up view of the Costa Rican wildlife, spotting some bullet ants and iguanas in the trees. After a lot of wobbling and shaking, we made it to the other side and waited for the rest of the group to catch up, before doing it all over again to get back to the bus.

Written by Jonny, Alex T, Anya and Ailsa 

Day 3

Cano Negro River Safari and Ecrotermales Hot Springs

The following day, we sailed on the Cano Negro River. Within seconds of our journey, we saw a graceful stork hop from branch to branch before gliding into the air…little did we know of the biodiversity we would experience in the next two hours!

We preceded to catch a glimpse of the caiman, blending with the logs as we sailed by. Hanging above the bow of the vessel, a two-fingered sloth left everyone in awe as she swung from her branch, her baby perched on her back.

Howler monkeys stared down at us in groups, whilst white-collared capuchin monkeys greeted us from the lower branches, allowing everyone to get up close with the primates. As we made our way back to shore, we spotted turtles and emerald basilisks sitting quietly, still as statues, alongside the spider monkeys, making themselves known by shaking the trees! A variety of birds including kingfishers chirped across the waters.

Exploring the wildlife, Julio, our knowledgeable tour guide, guided us through the animals and assisted us with investigating and understanding our surroundings.

Following the river safari, what better way to finish off the day than to relax in the Volcanic hot springs?! The varied temperatures of the pools gave us lots of options to choose from and many waterfalls provided great opportunities for photos. When the heat became too much, we were able to leave the pools and relax by the bar which served us a delicious range of mocktails and smoothies. When it was time to leave, we were advised not to shower because we had just cleansed ourselves with minerals that are good for our skin. A traditional Costa Rican style meal was a perfect end to a wonderful day.

Written by Mark, Callum, Jamie and Alex M

Day 4

Back to school and a visit to the farm

The next day we visited a local school and were greeted by twenty smiling and enthusiastic children. They were all wearing traditional Costa Rican outfits, which consisted of flamenco skirts or shorts, with white shirts. They greeted us with wide smiles, and holding our hands, led us towards an area where they performed some dances for us, before including us and teaching us their routine! Proud to show off their school, they led us to their dining hall and laboratory, before rounding off the morning with a game of football.

Following the visit to the school, what better place for a freshly cooked lunch than the farm where the produce has been grown? During a tour of the farm, we saw coffee and cinnamon plants, alongside some iguanas and sloths hiding from the glorious midday sun. The afternoon was topped off by processing sugar canes using traditional Costa Rican methods and sampling the sweet juice. With the temperatures rising, we went back for a dip in the pool before heading out for dinner.

Written by Ellen and Sophie

Day 5

Night walk in Monteverde

After spending most of the day witnessing the splendid scenery of Costa Rica on our bus journey. We prepared for the night walk though the rainforest in Monteverde. We saw snakes, sloths, toucans, tarantulas and scorpions. Some of us were even lucky enough to spot an armadillo! This experience was new and extremely exciting for us. However, something even more fascinating happened near the end of our amazing tour…we were fortunate enough to hear the cry of a pack of chayotes. Although it was rather terrifying, our tour guides claimed they hadn’t heard these cries in about a year. This walk was potentially one of the highlights of the entire trip and definitely an experience that will never be forgotten.

Written by Isabella, Emily and Claudia

Day 6

Zip-line tour in Monteverde

Zip-lining through the Costa Rican cloud-forest was truly an unforgettable and once in a lifetime experience for everyone. We arrived at the adventure park, collected our equipment and were taken up to the wire in our shuttle bus. Just before embarking on the first wire, we were given a safety brief, which explained how to break whilst on the zip-line. We then climbed our first steps onto the wire. The first zip-line was fairly short – but by no means un-enjoyable – it set us up for the more adventurous lines to come! The next three passed in a blur – quite literally – and soon we arrived at the two-person wire. This one seemed to stretch into nothingness, but as we zoomed through the forest and over the treetops, we felt as if we were close to flying!

Before the last wire, we had the chance to take on the Tarzan Swing, which was a bungee jump off of a platform. We swung over the forest canopy and back again. As we climbed the steps, the anticipation mounted to breaking-point, and as we each jumped off, screams and laughter were as loud as ever. The last wire was another two-person wire, spanning one-kilometer and also the most breath-taking and exhilarating wire in the forest. The wind whipped around our hair and rain stung our faces but it was worth it for the most unbelievable birds-eye view of the Costa Rican forest from above.

Written by Rosie and Sophie 

Day 7

Surf lesson in Tamarindo

We approached the beach, scared and excited of what was to come. We were going surfing, attempting to ride the waves and try not to fall over! We started off by being assigned instructors, with one instructor for three of us. We got kitted out with a surf board and leash, wrapped around out non-dominant foot. We practised our surfing on the beach, first having our toes at the edge of the board. We then went into a plank position. From there, we brought our non-dominant foot up to our hand, and jumped to stand on the board. We bent our knees, and were told to look ahead and not into the sea, as we would fall in otherwise! A lot of the group managed to stand up first time, but fell off a few seconds later. Throughout the session we all improved, some members of the group even standing up and surfing the waves all the way to the beach. Throughout the session, the laughs, high-fives and fist-pumps with the instructors was evidence of our progress and enjoyment. All too soon it was over and we had to head back to land, return the boards and enjoy the rest of the morning sun.

Written by Amy and Brishti