Proyecto Asis and Rio Salto
Pura Vida, every day! Our day was filled with volunteering, hard work, fun and even some adventure.
We started our day off on the right foot by meeting bright and early at 7:30 am for a hearty breakfast. Eggs, gallo pinto, salchichas, fresh fruit, juices and of course… coffee! We slathered on our sunscreen and bug spray and headed to Proyecto Asis.
As soon as we arrived, we were split into two groups to better understand the commitments and intentions of the institute. We were able to not only meet all the animals and find out about their detailed backstories but what their future rehabilitation entailed. We met two baby monkeys (one howler, one spider, two of the four types of monkeys native to Costa Rica) a Margay (look them up: the ocelots cuter, tinier cousin) a group of capuchin monkeys, Macaws of every colour and many parrots who were once household pets. We even saw some mapaches!
From our guides Alvaro and Carlos, we learned about how Asis works (volunteers make up a huge help for animal enclosures and cleaning!) We were taught about all the specific needs of each animal for our next tasks…but first, a coffee and fruit break.
Our first activity was making tamales for monkeys. Students sliced up banana leaves and stuffed them with small bananas and then tied them with thin strips of leaves into a beautiful bow for the monkeys to open and enjoy! Another group made toys for parrots, with a special edible glue made with water and cassava (from the yuca plant) which they covered in bird seed. That way, not only would the parrots be entertained with toys, but they would also receive a tasty treat for pulling them apart. Our final group chopped up food for animals, each dependant on the creatures special dietary needs. This included creating skewers of bananas to place in bird cages, hollowing out corn on the cob to place on strings for the monkeys, as well as hacking coconuts in half to fill with veggies for the peccaries. The students would then hide the filled coconuts in the mud in the enclosures for the sweet wild pigs to discover. We all went as a group to watch the animals enjoy the (literal) fruits of our labour).
Our first round of activities worked up a huge appetite for our students: we had a brief break to enjoy a delicious home-made lunch of frijoles, chicken and potato empanadas, a huge ensalada with tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, onions and spinach, followed by fresh pineapple and watermelon. All the students agree: fresh fruit just tastes better here!
Refreshed by lemonade, water and fruit juices as well as our satisfying lunch (parents, be proud, your young adults were gracious, thankful and many tipped the chefs!) we were ready to continue. This time, we were broken into six groups. One group helped mix cement to make a small pool for a brand new enclosure. This would help the animals drink fresh water, as well as giving them a place to bathe, or in the case of the mapaches (or as we know them at home, “trash pandas”…I mean raccoons) somewhere to “wash” their food. While one group was busy working inside, another group painted the enclosure green to help it blend in with the surroundings to make the animals feel more at home in the forest. Right next to the enclosure, another group worked up a sweat disassembling the old path and recreating a new one. They used shovels to dig out the previous rocks that lined the path and placed them in their new spots. They then filled up wheelbarrows with smaller pebbles to lay down in the new walkways.
While three groups worked tirelessly in the forest, another group cleaned out the enclosures of the animals we met during the morning. One group even completely disassembled the skunk cage to get it ready for an incoming hybrid macaw to have more space! Of course the animals had worked up an appetite for their afternoon feeding: and our students were there to be their personal chefs. A group weighed out the ingredients and chopped them up.
We all met up as a group with Alina, who explained the importance of the tasks to begin with, and she reiterated what a difference your children made in the quality of life of the animals. The difference they made was huge, and they were all invited to come back anytime.
Fired up from a fulfilling day of volunteering, our students were ready for a taste of adventure. We sang songs all the way back to the hotel, where students made a quick change into their bathing suits. In an amazing 10 minute turn around, they quickly dropped off their bags and we were off to Rio Salto! There, the students were greeted by an incredibly beautiful waterfall where they took turns cliff jumping, swinging into the water by rope and simply enjoying the water. Even an unexpected deluge from the heavens couldn’t dampen their spirits!
Only when the entire crew were drenched and tired out did we head back for some R&R. Students had showers, naps and time to reflect before dinner. Now, with full bellies, the students are enjoying some well-earned free time.
Most students are at the local carnival that happens to be in town (like a mini CNE!) at the same time we are, enjoying the rides and food. They’ve packed up their bags already, so that they can be up bright and early for breakfast at 7:15am for ziplining. Those who aren’t zip lining will either be hitting the local gym, enjoying the town square or shopping for some souvenirs with me!
How has it already been two days? Time flies when every moment is action packed! We’re off to enjoy the hot springs and pools of Los Lagos tomorrow.