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I Wanted To See Nature In Its Purest  Form

Sitting in the only café/bar within 8km of our conservation jungle camp I’m enjoying my first day off at the end of my first week here in Costa Rica. As I stare out at the lush tropical vegetation teaming with birds, primates, mammals, amphibians and reptiles it feels a bit surreal surrounded by flocks of Scarlet Macaws instead of good old pigeons. What an adventure this is going to be!

Majestic Scarlet Macaws fly overhead and land on the decking next to me to take advantage of the seeds laid out by the owners. These beautiful colourful birds are thriving here and are endemic to Costa Rica, in particular the Osa Peninsula. As I sit here taking all this in I feel that we are becoming increasingly complacent towards the natural world, which is easy when something appears to be in such abundance around you. These stunning and iconic birds are just one of hundreds of species that are suffering through global warming, climate change and loss of habitat. Our children’s children may never see some of the breath taking flora and fauna that we are currently blessed with and that hits me where it hurts. I feel like it is high time to educate myself more about these issues as I’m a BIG nature lover!

I’ve travelled quite a bit in my 34 years but have always felt like a tourist, unable to witness the true soul and identity of a country. Conservation volunteering I felt was an opportunity for me to see nature in its purest form in a country so very different from my country, the UK, and to travel safely as a solo traveller. I loved the idea that this kind of volunteering would enable me to contribute towards the preservation of a countries identity and authenticity. Frontier offered the perfect project for me with the Big Cats, Turtles and Primates project in the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, one of the most bio diverse places on the planet! Here I’m working alongside other volunteers, research staff and project leaders who all share a passion for the natural world and to aid in its conservation. What a wonderful thing to be a part of.

‘Camp Osita’ lies near the edge of Corcovado National Park and from here we run daily surveys on sea turtles, mammals, primates, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The aim is to record the population and estimate species richness, abundance, habitat preference and dependence and ecological importance in the area. Camp life is basic but luxurious at the same time. We have a kitchen, bunk rooms, cold showers and flushing toilets that run with fresh water from a nearby stream and we even have a bit of electricity generated from solar panels that’s limited but sufficient enough to get cameras charged. The evenings are spent by candle light and the stars in the night sky are the size of planets! The comradery here on camp is amazing, everyone takes their turn on cooking and cleaning duties which showcases an delicious and inventive range of meals made with local produce delivered weekly by the Collectivo from the nearest town 40km away. We get regular species workshops from enthusiastic staff and other workshops from Spanish class to debating whether zoos are important for conservation. There are also lots of opportunities to do your own research or to wander around the camp finding other species to identify, hammocks to chill out in, and a gorgeous beach to walk and play volley ball on.

My first week is mainly spent acclimatising to the insane heat and learning as much as I can about all the different species we are monitoring along with the project aims through presentations from the staff. The support, knowledge and passion of the incredible staff is making my day to day experience enjoyable and inspiring. 3 to 4 trails are run every day and I pick wisely based on my energy levels as I’m warned some are pretty tough going. This week I have gone on 1 primates trail, 3 sea turtle sunrise beach patrols, 2 night time amphibians and reptiles trails and have helped set up camera and wet sand traps around camp which caught an ocelot on camera! The amount of animals I have seen is incredible and I hope to be able to identify many by the time my month here is up. I have not seen any sea turtles as the breeding season is now over which is a bit gutting but the sheer abundance and diversity of other fauna that I’m seeing has quashed any disappointment on the turtle front. I have seen 4 different types of monkeys… Spider monkeys, Howler monkeys, White Faced Capuchins and Squirrel monkeys, many up close as groups have passed straight through camp. I’ve seen Scarlet Macaws, Humming birds, Brown Pelicans and Caracaras, Halloween Crabs, Glass frogs, Poison Dart frogs, Cane Toads, Basilisk lizards, Iguana, Snakes and Spiders. We also have a Tamandua, an anteater, that hangs around the forest surrounding our camp who is super cool.

Over the next 3 weeks I aim to hit all the trails and take an overnight trip into Corcovado National park, a UNESCO world heritage site, on the hunt for Tapir and Jaguar with another volunteer and a local guide. As I sit here with squirrel monkeys playing around me, the sound of the crashing waves and the honey scented breeze from all the hibiscus I feel energized at the idea that it truly is possible for one person to make a difference, put together all us individuals make many and with many we can achieve great things. This tropical paradise alongside many other countries, communities and habitats need us to look after them, we all need to take responsibility for how we choose to leave footprints behind on this beautiful planet we call earth and educate ourselves and others as much as possible. I definitely feel I made the right decision to do conservation volunteering with Frontier rather than just backpack as I’m learning so much about the reality of climate change and habitat loss whilst experiencing this beautiful country and seeing so many awesome animals. I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last project I do and will certainly be taking a bit of the Costa Rican Pura Vida spirit away with me.

By Anna Blatchford - Costa Rica Big Cats, Turtles and Primates Volunteer

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

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