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Conquering Costa Rica

April 12, 2017
by Nikki Wellington

One of the amazing experiences that Madeira offers is the opportunity for students to travel abroad and learn about different countries and cultures through our Global Travel and Exchange Program. During spring break this year, I accompanied four students on a trip to Costa Rica. One student had visited Costa Rica previously with her family, but it was the first time for the rest of us, and a unique experience for us all.

Our first stop was in the national park of Tortuguero, land of the turtles. Though we didn’t see any turtles there, we did see spades of other animals. On our three hour tour of the canals, our amazing boat guide pointed out sloths, three types of monkeys, tons of birds, an anteater, and (one of our favorites) the Jesus Christ lizard. The Jesus Christ lizard disperses its weight across its wide feet, and can run on water! Our lodge in Tortuguero also had animals to see, including a porcupine, lizards, and green tree frogs with bright red eyes that we could only see in the evening hours.

After Tortuguero, we traveled to the town of La Fortuna and saw the Arenal Volcano, which provided a beautiful backdrop to the entire area. We spent the day hiking the 400 steps down to the La Fortuna waterfall (and then back up!), touring an organic farm with its own restaurant, learning all about the coffee bean at an intimate coffee tasting, and finished the day relaxing in the pools and zipping down the slides at the hot springs. The slides were so fast, we bounced across the surface before crashing into the warm waters! 

We then drove to Monteverde, a small town in a cloud forest. This was our day for ziplining! There was a steady drizzle as we flew through the clouds and over the tops of trees, with nothing but air around us. At the end of the ziplining there was a “Tarzan swing”: you climb up to the top of a high platform, step off the top, and swing back and forth like a pendulum until the guides pull you to a stop. We all ended up taking the leap, which was both exhilarating and terrifying, but I don’t think anyone completed it without a scream. In the afternoon, the sky cleared and the sun broke through, and we spent a couple of hours hiking across the hanging bridges throughout the forest.

The final leg of our trip was to Manuel Antonio, where we spent a relaxing couple of days at the beach. We frequented the beach in front of our hotel, and also had the opportunity to hike to the beach in the national park. The sands were a beautiful white, the water was clear, and white-faced capuchins were running all around. The weather was perfect for the beach, without being overcrowded, and was a wonderful finale to the trip.

Together we drove past pineapple and banana plantations, across blazing hot flat lands, through tropical rainforests and cloud forests, up and down the mountains, and along the beach. We learned about the country, and about each other. Thank you to Dr. Keilhauer, who supported me before and during the trip; to Monica, our amazing tour guide; to Alexandra, our funny and kind bus driver; and to Emily, Sophie, Casey, and Olivia for creating such an unforgettable experience.

Nikki Wellington is a Math teacher at Madeira and a dorm director in East Dorm.