One of the most magnificent things that Sol Education Abroad has done that is included in my program is the inclusion of supporting, promoting and learning about local organizations that are deeply passionate about the problems they are trying to fix. The vast biodiversity that exists within the multitude of ecosystems in Costa Rica is something that is deeply cherished by Ticos and we had the opportunity to see an organization fighting to save endangered species and doing their best to bring injured animals back to optimal health. In this particular case, this is the Toucan Rescue Ranch that specializes in rescuing and rehabilitating a wide variety of native animals, as a means of fulfilling a need for an organization like this. Before its inception, there was little to no efforts being done to save animals that are such an important component to preserving the unique biodiversity that exists in Costa Rica but through the efforts of this rescue center, there is more and more awareness of the need to help fund more organizations like this that help bring attention to the detrimental aspect of adopting animals that one does not have the means to survive in a healthy manner as well as how illegal poaching can impact animals that are not even sold.
Although Halloween is something that is not really celebrated on the massive scale that the United States celebrates it on in Costa Rica, we still managed to start off the month of October by visiting one of the spookiest places nearby – Sanatorio Durán! This place is said to be one of Costa Rica’s most haunted places since the spirits of the dead are rumored to roam the area. We actually stumbled upon this small gem on our way up to our original destination, Volcán Irazú. This active volcano was breathtakingly beautiful, the crater lake at the deepest point of the volcano has this gorgeoues hue of blue that complements the nice greenery on the outskirt rim of the volcano, as shown below. I think that it has been one of my favorite trips so far because this was my first time visting a volcano and it was a fantastic thing to experience with my sol mates!
Back to the theme of spine-chilling October, the sanatorium was definitely something out of my comfort zone but I am so glad that I pushed myself to do because it helped me create new memories and experience something that I had not been exposed to before. At first, we started off in the natural sunlight – lit open areas of the sanatorium and saw a peek of how a large majority of individuals who resided inside of these walls a couple of decades ago, lived through the labeled, designated communal areas and rooms. We moved towards the rooms that seemed to once hold solitary confinement patients that were much more dim and hidden in the dark and we did get to experience some of that eerie atmosphere that el Sanatorio Durán is known for.
Considering that this second portion of the trip was something that truly something outside of my typical choices of extracurricular activities, the following weekend we decided to head to the Guanacaste region to explore some of the most well-known beaches of Costa Rica, particularly Playa Tamarindo. Our first night in Tamarindo was also our first night in a hostel and given that the power went out about ten minutes post-arrival; we shared stories with people who were staying at our hostel and it truly relinquished any uneasiness I had about staying a hostel since everyone there was extremely kind and open-minded. The following morning, we decided to take a small walking tour of Tamarindo and at the last minute, decided to go on a catamaran tour. We saw whales in the distance, manta rays jumping in and out of the water and I even ventured out into the welcoming arms of the Atlantic Ocean despite not knowing how to swim, thanks to the relentless encouragement of my roommate! Saturday morning, we came across the weekly Tamarindo farmer’s market and met a wide array of wonderful human beings that helped us find a vendor who sold spicy sauces, a persistent craving that had been burning within me for weeks since spicy is something that I missed from the U.S.
Overall, I have been having a marvelous time – from planning a last-minute day trip on a catamaran to choosing to explore one of the most haunted places to exist, Costa Rica has been fantastic and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the month has in store for me!