Costa Rica News – The folks at Adventure Tours Costa Rica (based in Jacó), have once again proven that they are willing to go above and beyond what is expected of them. I’m not talking about special offers they can give to tourists; I’m referring to an amazingly rewarding program they’ve set up with local school, Escuela de la Hacienda to give something back to the community.
Once a month, the crew powers up the big jungle cruiser, fills it with 6 excited Costa Rican schoolchildren and takes them for an unforgettable day out in the mountains surrounding Jacó. I was lucky enough to be asked on one of their latest excursions, and I had just as much fun as the kids!
Children ranging from just 5 up to 13 years old are selected by their teachers based on academic achievements, environmental work (picking up rubbish, being careful with plants and animals etc.) and general behaviour. Currently just one school is involved with the project, but Adventure Tours Costa Rica is hoping to branch out and eventually include several of the other schools in the area.
Despite living so close to this amazing countryside, many of the children have never been right up into the hills, so what better way to introduce them than in a huge, windowless monster of a vehicle? The ride up into the mountains takes around an hour, and at all times they’re accompanied by 3-4 of the Adventure Tours team and a number of assistants from the school. After a few stops along the way to take in the scenery, we finally reach the first destination – or rather, the descent to that first destination. Hold on tight, it can get pretty steep! After parking and going for a short hike along the pathway, all weariness was forgotten when the kids caught sight of the gorgeous waterfall and natural pool that was to be their playground for the next hour or so. Within minutes the shoes were off and everyone was rushing to climb up the surrounding rocks, only to jump right off into the pool. Even those who didn’t know how to swim had a great time splashing around in the middle of such a stunning natural environment.
After a while, amid a couple of groans and grumbles, the leaders announced it was time to move on. Everyone piled back into the cruiser, hoping the next destination would involve some lunch. It certainly didn’t disappoint! The main attraction of the day was a visit to Rancho La Paz del Campo – a restaurant complete with its own tilapia farm. Perhaps the only thing more heart-warming than watching these kids running to grab a wooden fishing rod was the look on their faces when they made a catch; and even more so on the occasions where a big enough fish was lifted out and then ceremoniously taken to the kitchen, ready for preparation. That’s fresh food! We were all treated to a delicious meal of fried fish, plantains, vegetables and, because it’s Costa Rica, a side of rice and beans. Needless to say, after an exciting morning of sightseeing and swimming in a waterfall, there were a lot of empty plates. As soon as everyone had finished eating, it was a race back to the fishing rods to see who could catch the most tilapia before it was time to go.
Throughout the whole day, what really struck me was how well-behaved these kids were – it was a real pleasure to be there with them. They made me laugh and although they were of varying ages, all six of them got on well together. A lot of business and companies around Costa Rica are starting to organize more projects to really get involved with their communities, but Adventure Tours Costa Rica just offers the whole package. The kids all had a great time and on the ride back, they were thanking the team and saying how much fun they’d had. Part of that might have come from being allowed to wear a huge ATV helmet and pretending to be a robot, but who knows?