Alternative Spring Break Takes Y Students to Costa Rica’s Rainforests

During spring break, I was one of 12 students who went to Costa Rica for the Caltech Y Alternative Spring Break trip. The group consisted of both undergraduates and graduate students across all majors, but everyone shared a strong love of the outdoors and protecting our planet Earth. Our goal was to volunteer with research scientists at Osa Conservation’s research center in Costa Rica to learn about it’s conservation efforts.

From a fortuitous Internet search, I happened upon the Osa Conservation in September 2017. Working with my other trip leader, Nicholas Hutchins, and Greg and Camila from the Y, we began planning our nine-day Costa Rican adventure. We arrived in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, a city filled with colorful buildings and bustling markets.

Our group started learning more about one another as we prepared to drive down to the Osa Coast the next day. On our bus journey, our tour guide pointed out a variety of tourist destinations along the coast. As we made our way to the Osa Conservation Research Station, our bus drove through rivers into the rainforest.

The Osa Coast is a peninsula of Costa Rica and is covered with stunning rainforests, miles of sandy beaches, rivers, and swamps. With 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity in a very small region, the Osa Coast is known as one of the most biologically intense places on Earth. The area was deforested heavily to make way for pasture and cropland, but in the last 50 years, conservation efforts have added a thriving secondary forest to the area. For all these reasons, the Osa Coast really demonstrates how the impact of conservation can be seen within one’s lifetime.

At Osa, we had a brief orientation where we learned what we would be doing throughout the week. We stayed in cabinas, small huts with an open façade where howler monkeys woke us every morning at 5 a.m. We volunteered at Osa for five days. All the volunteer groups ate breakfast together before beginning our projects.