Exploring Costa Rica

Thursday 11th May 2023

The Spanish Department put on a trip to Costa Rica during the Easter break with 14 Marlburians joined by three staff for a 12-day adventure.

Gandoca, where the group was based, is the southernmost Caribbean coastal town of Costa Rica and is surrounded by the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. The trip comprised Spanish immersion, 20+ service hours and gave Marlburians the opportunity to develop cultural sensitivity, teamwork, positive mental health and self-confidence skills.

Pupils were asked to keep a diary with the below entries providing an insight into the trip…

Friday 24th – Saturday 25th March (Harry)
We made our way towards Heathrow with suitcases full of bug spray and sun cream. A smooth succession through Heathrow made everyone feel at ease and we boarded the plane. Dozens of films later we arrived in humid, sweltering San Jose, finally! We quickly hit the hay upon reaching our hostel. The next day we headed towards Gandoca, stopping for lunch to have a traditional Costa Rican dish ‘gallo pinto’. After a bellyful of delicious food, we embarked on the final stretch of our journey.

Sunday 26th March (Chloe and Aston)
We awoke to a scorching sun, then packed our bags and set off on a tour of the community. We encountered a multitude of wildlife including spider and howler monkeys, a snake and spiders which scared most of us. In the afternoon we walked along the beach to a lagoon where we swam and played some ball games. Our guides then took us in two boats to tour the lagoon and mangroves.

Monday 27th March (Sam and Theo)
Today we made tamales which are a local delicacy; chicken and rice covered in maize and wrapped in banana leaves to cook. We also had our first Spanish lesson, and we were taught to make hammocks by a local called Santiago. After this, we got to experience our first turtle beach patrol which was sadly unfruitful! The day was packed full of new things, and we began to settle; we still had lots of energy and couldn’t wait for the rest of the trip.

Tuesday 28th March (Saul and Laila)
This morning we volunteered at the local school; after our hard work gardening, we were offered refreshing watermelon which quenched our thirst! In the afternoon we completed a beach clean. The locals were stunned with our work and appreciated our help.

Wednesday 29th March (Annabel and George)
Today we visited an organic farm and got the chance to harvest cacao and corn crops before being treated to fresh coconuts. After a lovely and well-deserved pre-match meal, the MC XI football team (!) departed for the first match of the trip; the Gandocan XI were the opposition. The afternoon started out with some 7-a-side followed by a full out 11-a-side match… and what a thrilling game it was with Marlborough winning 3-2. Players’ player was shared between Señor Gibbs and Sam C for some defensive brilliance.

Thursday 30th March (Felix and Alice)
Waking up on Thursday morning, we packed our bags with lots of water and headed to the beach for a clean-up. Team morale was at its highest; we had done the locals proud and learnt a lot of new vocabulary. Winding through the jungle we collected bamboo for a mangrove restoration project in the afternoon. Dinner was delicious and then we chilled in Pura Vida time, playing Uno and a competitive game of Dobble!

Friday 31st March (Tom and Phillipe)
Friday was kicked off with a concoction of banana, muesli, and a side of the infamous Gandocan papaya.The 8am wake up was now one we were accustomed to! Navid, one of our local tour guides, then gave us a presentation about his indigenous Bribri culture. Following some cultural games and activities, we prepared ourselves for the last turtle patrol. The search for the elusive turtle continues…!

Saturday 1st April (Ines)
Despite the weather looking questionable, we made our way over to the lagoon for the morning. In the afternoon we started the process of making chocolate with the cacao we harvested. Firstly, we roasted the beans accompanied by a discussion of the health benefits of cacao including being an antioxidant and lowering cholesterol. After roasting, we de-shelled and ground the beans into a thick paste which we enjoyed with roasted bananas. Then it was off to bed for an early night.

Sunday 2nd April (Laila)
Our last full day in Gandoca. We set off around 9am to trek to Monkey Point and swam in the sea once we reached our destination. Then we played some volleyball and took a boat back to the lagoon, seeing some dolphins on the way. After dinner we had an emotional goodbye. As a gift, the team from the Costa Rican community gave us homemade rock and sand filled keyring turtles! After an ice cream dessert, we packed up ready to head back to San Jose, and onwards home.

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