Monkeys swinging from tree to tree, sloths stretching out across branches, and macaws flying overhead, Costa Rica truly is “pura vida.” Offered as one of the 2018 Agora trips, Costa Rica proved to be eventful and even had a record attendance of 43 students. Overseen by Mr. Nixon, biology teacher at Ottawa Hills High School, the trip is centered around active exploration, biology, and the conservation of nature.

To begin the trip, students stayed overnight at a lodge in Sarapiquí on the Pacific side of the country. Within the bedrooms of the lodge, the walls and windows were made of netting to allow the students to fully experience the sounds of the rainforest. While sleeping, pouring rain, howler monkeys, and the roaring Sarapiquí river could be heard.

The next morning the group enjoyed white water rafting on the Sarapiquí river and paddled through both Class III and Class IV rapids. Elise Porter loved the rafting because, “It was out of my comfort zone and even though I was nervous for it, I had so much fun and I would definitely do it again.”

Following the white water rafting, they made their way to Arenal and took a nature hike observing the wildlife around the Arenal Volcano and taking in the view of the lake at the base of the volcano.

After their stay at Arenal, the Costa Rica group traveled by boat, horse, and bus to their next hotel at Monteverde. At this location, the students visited a nearby town and enjoyed dinner out. They also enjoyed more hiking and explored the Cloud Forest Reserve in which the clouds sit on the mountains around creating a very moist atmosphere for plants and animals. The reserve is home to over 2,500 plant species and receives more than nine feet of rain each year.

While hiking through the reserve, students learned of the detrimental impact of climate change on the Cloud Forest. With increasing temperatures, clouds are disappearing along the lower regions of the mountainsides, further leading to the disappearance of both plants and animals in these lower regions that need the excessive moisture and mist the clouds provide.

Aside from learning about the ecological aspects to Monteverde, the students and chaperones (Ms. Krill, Mrs. Puskala, Mrs. Visser, Mr. Leads, and Mr. Spiess) ziplined through the canopies of the Monteverde mountain side and enjoyed a view of wildlife and the Nicoya Bay and Peninsula. Max Wray says, “I liked ziplining because of the rush I got going through my blood and seeing all the land across Costa Rica. It was surreal.”

Next, the group made their way to Punta Leona, situated on the Caribbean side of the country, and stayed on a private beach only a short drive away from well known Jacó beach. The Punta Leona Resort is a private reserve that is home to a transition between northwest region dry forests and the rainforest of the southwest. For their final day, the students enjoyed surf lessons at Jacó beach.

With the perfect opportunity to experience nature up close and learn about the ecosystem of the rainforest and the importance of conservation, Costa Rica provided the students who traveled there with lasting memories and knowledge.