Life at BELL Costa Rica
We are outside a lot in this program. We have some spectacular places at our fingertips and our goal is to get to know them both through formal study and also by spending time listening, observing, and relaxing in them during down time.
Several of our projects involve full days in the field and on the ocean including: planting and maintaining reforestation plots; conducting field experiments; camping on a remote beach; boating and snorkeling; and participating in a variety of activities on farms.
You can expect a moderate level of physical activity every day, and should be ready to get your hands dirty. We will be walking a lot on sometimes steep terrain.
We stay at two locations throughout the course, which enables us to see nearly all of the major habitat-types that can be found in Costa Rica. All sites have electricity, running water, reliable communication systems, and are located within one hour of emergency medical services.
Instructors live on-site and are available to students 24 hours a day to provide support and supervision. All instructors are bilingual and have extensive experience living in and travelling around Costa Rica.
A Typical Day
Our days will start early, and each one will be packed full of activities, including field research, educational sessions, and time for team-building, recreation and reflection. There are many field trips, hikes, and meetings with local conservationists and entrepreneurs. Here's what a typical day might look like:
6:00am –Morning Wildlife Walk (optional)
7:00 – 8:00am: Breakfast.
8:00 – 11:30am: Morning Activity Period (ex. tropical forest restoration project)
11:30 – Free time
12:00 – 12:30pm: Lunch.
12:30 – 2:00pm: ¡Siesta! or Free Time
2:00 – 5:30pm: Afternoon Activity Period (ex. studying a leaf cutter ant colony in tropical dry forest)
5:30 – 6:00pm: Dinner
6:00 – 7:00pm: Free Time
7:00 – 9:00pm: Evening Activity Period (ex. Night Hike or Leadership Activity)
9:00 – 10:00pm: Free time
10:00pm: Well-Deserved Rest
This course takes place in the rainy season which means that we will generally experience sun in the mornings and rain showers most afternoons. The regular afternoon showers keep the forests green and the temperatures in a comfortable range.
Average daily highs and lows in August are as follows: ACG, max: 89F, min 75F.
Students should come prepared with a rain jacket and umbrella and not worry about getting a little wet.
Food and Water
Students can expect three balanced, home-style meals each day, and plenty of fresh tropical fruit (e.g. it will be mango season!). A typical Costa Rican meal consists of beans, rice, salad, chicken/beef/fish/pork, and a vegetable side dish. The first three ingredients can be expected in every meal while the last two will vary.
While Costa Rican food does not have much variety in comparison to American standards, students should be delighted to know that their food will be fresh, locally-grown, mostly organic, and well-prepared. Vegetarian options are always available. All dining facilities have experience handling food allergies. Please be sure to fill out forms to inform staff of any allergies or dietary restrictions ahead of time so that accommodations can be made.
Water is potable at most sites. It will be made clear to students when water is not safe to drink. Clean drinking water will be available at all times.
Staying safe and comfortable in the field
We have a unique opportunity to visit sites with a rich assemblage of wildlife, including the six and eight-legged varieties. Unfortunately not every species can be charismatic and benign, and tropical forests do have their share of inhabitants that bite, sting, and otherwise molest the humans that come to visit them, including ants, bees, wasps, and scorpions (not nearly bad as they sound). We take seriously the discomfort that insect bites and stings can cause, and work closely with students to minimize their exposure. For example, we encourage students to wear long pants and long sleeves in the field to prevent insect bites (as well as sunburn).
The other organisms we are often asked about are snakes, as there are venomous species present in the habitats we are visiting. Students will wear snake gaiters in the field and will be instructed in how to stay safe in snake territory. Snake bites at biological field stations are very rare, and with proper precautions and a few simple safety guidelines the risk is minimal.
The instructors have many years of experience in these habitats and are practiced at spotting and avoiding potentially dangerous organisms. Students are always accompanied by instructors in the field. In the event of an incident requiring medical attention, instructors have reliable communication systems at all times and remain within one hour (and usually less) of a hospital emergency room.