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My Stay At Camp  Osita

Back in January my friend Emma and I started on our Oceania and Latin America tour. We've become used moving at quite a fast pace through countries, staying an average of about three days in each place. So to stay put for a whole two weeks was a novelty. That's not to say the time didn't fly by. It was nice to form a close knit group of friends that all shared a common interest. We are accustom to having to make new friends every couple of days and so to have a group that had time to work out that the sour face at 5am breakfast was due to the time of day and not to be taken personally, was a weight off my shoulders.

In September I'm starting my masters in ecosystem services, so I knew that, as part of my travels, I wanted to do some sort of ecological research or conservation volunteering, and what better place to do that than in one of the most bio diverse areas in the world. Costa Rica was already a key country on our travel list due to the care and emphasis the country puts on its natural environment and animals. I wanted to apply the knowledge and techniques I had learnt in the UK in a more exotic and extreme environment looking at species very different to those at home. So, big cats, primates and turtle conservation in Costa Rica seemed perfect.

My first primate survey really showed me what the jungle had to offer. Before even reaching the trail head we spotted a couple of spider monkeys racing overhead. They were quickly joined by a good 5-10 other spiders chasing after them. A hundred metres down the path we saw a family of howlers foraging with infants on their backs. Further along the trail we saw more spiders, capuchin and squirrel monkeys. All four monkey species on one survey!

My first turtle survey gave me a similar sense of awe. We went out onto the dark beach and only an hour in we found a laying olive ridley turtle. Although three nests had already been found, this was the first turtle sighting of the season. We watched as she finished up laying, covered her eggs, we marked the nest and followed her back to the sea. It was a very touching thing to have witnessed. As soon as we finished up recording the nests location the heavens opened and we made our way back to camp. We turned up at camp sodden, with puddles in our wellies but huge smiles on our faces.

The staff are wonderful, friendly, hardworking people but the other volunteers are what made it for me. Early mornings are a struggle but when you've got good company with you, the walk up shady doesn't seem so bad. After walking along the beach for hours and spotting a turtle laying it was wonderful to share that with people just as stunned as I was. Even cook and clean days can be a joy when mashing chickpeas into hummus turns into a dance party in the kitchen. And as crazy as it may seem to those still on camp, I'll be missing that early morning howler monkey wake up call.

By Abi Gardner - Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates and Turtle Conservation Project

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