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Costa Rica: Sea Turtle Conservation Session 2

Costa Rica: Sea Turtle Conservation Session 2

Costa Rica: Sea Turtle Conservation Session 2

Program Type:Smithsonian Open Enrollment iconOpen Enrollment Learn More

Dates: July 6th - July 20th 2018  |  Tuition: $2,990 Tuition Details

Service Hours: 35 Service hours

SSA Contact: 

Morrison Mast, morrison@walkingtree.org, 202-792-8953

Deadlines: TBD

Enroll Now Make a Payment

Dear Families – Welcome to the homepage for the Costa Rica: Sea Turtle Conservation Program Session 2! If this is your first time on this page, please read through the categories under Pre-Enrollment to learn more about this unique travel opportunity, or peruse the other categories as you like. Once you have enrolled, please check out the Post-Enrollment information. Around one month before departure, we will post the remaining information under Program Prep to review on a call with the entire group. We hope you will join us on the adventure of a lifetime in Costa Rica!

Program Highlights

  • Experience hands on interaction with wildlife
  • Volunteer with international researchers
  • Raft down one of Costa Rica's best rivers
View Full Itinerary

Smithsonian Student Adventures was created through a collaboration of the Smithsonian Institution and Walking Tree Travel. Although this video is branded as Walking Tree Travel, it encapsulates the mission and spirit that is present in all SSA programming.

Important Program Details

Click on the sections above to learn more

Program Itinerary

July 6USA - San JosŽToday the group will travel from the USA to Costa Rica. Flights usually arrive in the evening. After arrival, the group will settle into their hotel for the evening and have an orientation meeting where the group will discuss the upcoming trip in detail.Casa Maki
July 7Alajuela - La FortunaIn the morning, the group will head to Alajuela to La Fortuna. We will enjoy a traditional Costa Rican lunch and have a short cultural orientation meeting, before jumping straight into our first adventure activity -- ziplining through the rainforest!Montereal
July 8La FortunaFollowing breakfast, we will go on a wildlife and nature hike in Arenal National Park. During the day, we will visit the massive Lake Arenal and in the evening we will soak in hot springs at the base of an active volcano. Throughout the program, we'll have the opportunity to interact with community members in Spanish, participate in cultural/language exchanges, and explore Costa Rican culture.Montereal
July 9La Fortuna - Widecast Field StationToday the group will travel to the Caribbean side. After a beautiful and scenic boat ride, we will arrive at the WIDECAST Field Station. After an introduction and tour of the station, we will begin our nightly beach patrols in search of female leatherback and green turtles
Field Station
July 10Widecast Field StationDays at the WIDECAST Field Station will be dedicated to helping research assistants with their personal research projects or camp maintenance tasks, such as beach cleanups or equipment inventories. In the nighttime, we will continue the important task of patrolling the beach
Field Station
July 11Widecast Field StationThe morning will be spent on assisting with the research projects and camp maintenance tasks. After a hearty lunch, we will go on an exciting river biodiversity tour with a local expert who will help us identify the diverse plants and animals that call the river home.
Field Station
July 12Widecast Field StationIn the morning, we will have an exciting lecture on sea turtle biology, ecology and conservation. In the afternoon, there will be an optional rainforest hike, and in the evening, there will be an exhumation demonstration of hatched turtle nests.Field Station
July 13Widecast Field StationToday we will continue assisting with field research and projects and learning about sea turtle biology. In the afternoon, there will be free time to relax and unwind.Field Station
July 14Widecast Field StationAfter the mornings fieldwork session, we will participate in an organized local beach cleanup project. Field Station
July 15Widecast Field StationToday we will continue assisting with field research and projects and learning about sea turtle biology. In the afternoon, there will be free time to relax and unwind.Field Station
July 16Widecast Field StationIt is our last day to complete our research projects and help out around the camp. After lunch, we will have time to play soccer with the local community and in the evening we will celebrate with our new friends with a fiesta de despedida!Field Station
July 17Widecast Field Station - Playa ChiquitaIn the morning, we will go on a boat ride from Tortuga Feliz and travel to the southern Caribbean coast. After all of our hardwork, we will have some much deserved time to relax and swim on the beach.Casa de Papito
July 18Playa ChiquitaToday the group will have the unique opportunity to visit the indigenous village, Bri Bri. Arriving by motorized canoes along the R’io Sixaola, we will be led on a tour of the village and participate in the process of making chocolate from the raw cacao plant. We will also learn about medicinal plants and have the chance to interact with villagers.Casa de Papito
July 19Playa Chiquita - San JoseA full day is ahead of us, with white water rafting along the Pacuare River and lunch along the banks. In the afternoon, we will head back to San Jose for our final dinner together before our international departure the following morningCasa Maki
July 20Alajuela - USAAfter breakfast, we will head to the airport for a morning departure back to the USA.Home!

Philosophy Of Travel

Our mission is to inspire the next generation to become global leaders by taking an active interest in the world around them. With a dedication to learning, along with an enduring passion for exploring the world, Smithsonian Student Adventures designs transformative and meaningful travel programs that uncover the authentic culture of each destination and inspire students to take action in their local and global community.

Smithsonian Student Adventures stands for a more open, curious, and compassionate approach to travel. We partner with select schools around the world to provide memorable small-group experiences, and invest in cultivating and maintaining longterm relationships with our partner communities. If you are interested in our organization and philosophy of travel, click here to learn more about us.


Alajuela: Casa Maki

La Fortuna: Monte Real

Playa Chiquita: Costa de Papito

La Tortuga Feliz

Standards of Behavior

SSA provides fun, safe, and meaningful programs for our travelers. In order to achieve this goal, it is important that we create an environment of trust, security and respect. All individuals participating in our programs are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct. Any of the following are grounds for early dismissal or in-country consequences at our discretion.


  1. Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
  2. Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
  3. Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.


  1. Getting a piercing or tattoo
  2. Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials
  3. Threatening with or using weapons such as firearms, knives, explosives, etc.
  4. Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle
  5. Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew
  6. Breaking group rules

These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of a travel program. Please take the time to review these rules as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them before choosing to travel with SSA.

Tuition & Fundraising

Tuition Includes:
all accommodations, basic travel insurance, 3 meals per day, drinking water, ground transportation, group activity and entry fees, full time leadership team and taxes and tips.

Tuition Excludes:
 International airfare, baggage fees, airline minor fees, personal shopping, passport or visa fees, and activities not listed on the itinerary.

We believe that cost should not prevent enthusiastic students from having the opportunity to join an SSA program. We are pleased to offer opportunities for fundraising and payment plans to help make this goal a reality. Please visit our Tuition and Funding page to find out more about tuition, fundraising, payment options, referral discounts, and more.

Passport & Visa Check

Passport must be valid for six months after the final day of your travel program, including one open visa page.
No Visa Requirements for US Citizens traveling to Costa Rica.

Non US citizens should check with their country’s embassy abroad to verify vaccination and visa requirements.
US citizens traveling from a country other than the United States should check the State Department website (www.travel.state.gov) for more information regarding additional visa or vaccine requirements.

Please contact us for further information regarding vaccination and visa requirements.

Health and Safety

We strongly recommend visiting the CDC Costa Rica website to get the most updated information on health and vaccination considerations in your destination country. In addition, we encourage you to consult with your personal family physician so you can be as informed as possible when making important decisions about vaccinations and other necessary health-related preparations before travel.

Our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. SSA will register our programs and travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, thoroughly vet homestay families via in depth interviews and home visits, and keep up on important current events in the region.

Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in a multi-day leadership training retreat. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based staff.

We receive medical disclosures from all participants to ensure we are able to meet every students’ needs during the program. Please inform us immediately of any additional health issues that you did not list during your initial registration process. Program Leaders will also hold an online information session before your departure, as well as an arrival orientation in-country, in order to give participants important instructions on food safety, hygiene and preventing injury and illness. Leaders and in-country staff always respond immediately to any mental, physical or emotional health issues and follow comprehensive emergency protocols.


Travel Insurance

If you are traveling on a program which departs before September 1, 2018 the following travel insurance is included in your tuition:


$500 Return Airfare for Trip Interruption
$750 ($150 per day) Trip Delay of six hours or more
$500 (Three or more hours) Missed Connection
$1500 ($250 per article) Baggage/Personal Effects
$300 Baggage Delay – 24 hours
$25,000 Accident & Sickness Medical Expense
$100,000 Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation
Emergency Assistance Non-insurance Worldwide Emergency Assistance Services Included

If you are traveling on a program that departs after September 1, 2018 you must purchase travel insurance if you want to have coverage beyond what your family’s package may already provide. This change is due to new federal regulations.

While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers while on program, experience has taught us that travel is never without risk. For this reason, we strongly encourage families to purchase travel insurance which would cover you in the event your student needs to withdrawal before travel due to a covered reason, loses baggage in route or encounters an emergency while traveling, among other unforeseen circumstances. Please see a summary of a recommended plan below and follow the link for a more detailed explanation or to purchase the plan for your traveler.

Classic with Trip Plus*
Trip Cancellation Up to 100% of Trip Cost
Reimburses your prepaid, non-refundable expenses if you must cancel your trip due to a covered reason.
Maximum coverage: $100,000.

Trip Interruption Up to 150% of Trip Cost
Reimburses for the unused, non-refundable portion of your trip and for the increased transportation costs it takes for you to return home or to continue your trip due to a covered reason. Maximum coverage: $150,000.

Missed Connection $1,600
Reimburses for covered expenses resulting from a covered delay that causes you to miss your scheduled flight or cruise.

Travel Delay $1,600
Receive up to $200 per day per person to cover additional accommodation/travel expenses and lost prepaid expenses due to a departure delay of six or more hours.

Medical Protection: 
Emergency Medical and Dental $50,000
-This primary coverage provides reimbursement for expenses incurred during your trip due to covered medical and dental emergencies. No deductible.
-$750 maximum for emergency dental care.

Baggage Protection
Baggage Loss/Damage $2,000
Covers loss, damage or theft of baggage and personal effects.

Baggage Delay $600
Covers the reasonable additional purchase of essential items during your trip if your baggage is delayed or misdirected by a common carrier for 24 hours or more. Receipts for emergency purchases are required.

Assistance Services
Emergency Medical Transportation $1,000,000
Provides medically necessary transportation to the nearest appropriate facility following a covered injury or illness. Also covers the cost of your transportation back home following a covered injury or illness.

24-Hour Hotline Help Included
Help is just a phone call away with Allianz Global Assistance. Our staff of multilingual problem solvers is available to help you with any medical, legal or travel-related emergency.

*Terms, conditions, and exclusions apply. Insurance benefits underwritten by BCS Insurance Company (OH, Administrative Office: Oakbrook Terrace, IL), rated “A­” (Excellent) by A.M. Best Co., under BCS Form No. 52.201 series or 52.401 series, or Jefferson Insurance Company (NY, Administrative Office: Richmond, VA), rated “A+” (Superior) by A.M. Best Co., under Jefferson Form No. 101­C series or 101­P series, depending on your state of residence. Plan(s) may not be available in all jurisdictions. Allianz Global Assistance and Allianz Travel Insurance are marks of AGA Service Company or its affiliates. AGA Service Company is the licensed producer and administrator of this plan and an affiliate of Jefferson Insurance Company. The insured shall not receive any special benefit or advantage due to the affiliation between AGA Service Company and Jefferson InsuranceCompany. Non­Insurance benefits/products are provided and serviced by AGA Service Company. Consumer may be responsible for charges incurred from outside vendors for assistance or concierge services. Contact AGA Service Company at 800­284­8300 or 9950 Mayland Drive, Richmond, VA 23233 or customerservice@allianzassistance.com.

Global Leadership Curriculum

Walking Tree Travel has developed a curriculum that helps SSA travelers mature as global leaders before, during, and after their travel program. These simple, engaging tools are meant to spark discussion, frame the experience, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on our programs and in the future.

For more information about student learning objectives and format of the curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.

Learn More About the GLC

To view and complete the Pre-Program Activities, visit Walking Tree’s online portal at the button below.

Pre-Program Activity Portal

Language Resources


Want to learn a new language and be better prepared for your travel program? Duolingo is the easiest, most entertaining way to start learning and using a new language right away! The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to communicate with locals in your host country and help your fellow travelers navigate a foreign environment.

Tap the Duolingo owl to get started, or download the app to your mobile phone.

duolingo owl logo

Group Flight Information

In an effort to make the flight booking process as smooth as possible, we have partnered with STA Travel. This partnership provides our participants with discounted fares through STA’s contracts with the top airlines to help our travelers get the best possible rates. To learn more about STA as an organization, please check out their website at www.statravel.com.

STA Travel will help our families and travelers book their round trip travel between their home city and our host countries. We are excited to offer this premium service to our participants so that we can focus on what we do best – providing meaningful adventures around the world.

Open Enrollment participants are responsible for booking and paying for their own international flights. You have two options for making your flight arrangements:

1. (Preferred) Book a seat on the chaperoned international group flight.

Each Open Enrollment program has a suggested, chaperoned, group flight that will depart from a designated departure city in the United States and arrive to the destination country. Participants on these flights will have the support of our on-scene Airport Liaison as well as an accompanying Program Leader, on-flight. The Airport Liaison will help gather, coordinate and direct the arrival and departure of our participants in the airport and the Program Leader will accompany the group to and from the host country while on the flight. The vast majority of our travelers choose this option. 

The following information is for the chaperoned group flights for this program:

Flight: DL325
Date: July 6, 2018
Departs: Atlanta, Georgia (ATL) at 5:50pm
Arrives: San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) at 7:57pm

Flight: DL902
Date: July 20, 2018
Departs: San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) at 7:00am
Arrives: Atlanta, Georgia (ATL) at 1:07pm

Here’s how to proceed:

Call our dedicated representative at STA Travel at 800-781-4040 to learn about your booking options.

  • Tell the agent you are a Smithsonian Student Adventures participant, the full name of the program you are traveling on and your program travel dates. They will walk you through the details of your flight options.
  • Once you know your flight options, you can book directly with STA or on your own to travel to the host country.
    • IMPORTANT NOTE: Should you elect not to travel on the suggested, chaperoned, group flight please email your complete flight reservation to flights@SmithsonianSA.com

Program participants should meet the airpot liaison at the below airline check-in counter three hours before the international flight. If you are traveling on a connecting flight from your home destination, you will meet your flight chaperone at the boarding gate for your international flight. If you have trouble locating the group, please contact Smithsonian Student Adventures at our 24/7 emergency hotline: 303-997-0310.

2. Book your own flight to the host country.

For this option we require travelers to arrive at the same time, or earlier (no more than 3 hours), than the suggested group flight’s planned arrival. We ask participants not to arrive later than the suggested group flight’s time of arrival. If travelers arrive on their own prior to the rest of the group, we will arrange for either a Program Leader or the Country Director meet them when they land in the host country. If a participant arrives more than three hours before the group chaperoned flight, we will have in-country staff pick them up, but a $100 fee will apply.

With either option, we strongly encourage you to book your flights through STA, but it is not required.

STA operates a full 24/7 emergency line and can support you with issues from date changes, cancellations, or general crisis management support wherever you are in the world. To contact them, please call 800-781-4040.

Air travel is unpredictable. Although we can ensure that our groups arrive to the airport with ample time and follow all airline instructions, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather, mechanical problems, labor strikes, etc. Please note that in such an event SSA is not financially responsible for unexpected costs incurred by travelers. Our programs officially begin and end in our host countries.  Notwithstanding, our travelers’ well-being and safety is always our number one priority in all facets of our operations and programming, so please know that in case flight delays or cancellations occur we will do everything we can to get travelers home in a timely manner and will keep family members updated on developments as we are able.

Important note: Please make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the final day in country.

SSA is not responsible for fees associated with checked baggage
or for lost or stolen luggage. We strongly encourage all travelers to pack a carry-on bag if possible, or to at least put all valuables and a change of clothes or two in a carry-on along with all important medications and basic toiletries such as a toothbrush, deodorant, glasses, contacts etc.

Please confirm with your air travel provider as some airlines may require that travelers under a certain age have completed an unaccompanied minor parental consent form. Please consult the airline website to confirm whether this is required on your flight.

Leader Profile

SSA will send a minimum of one experienced Program Leader on every program. In addition to this Program Leader, we also have support staff in our host countries and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado that are available to the group for additional help when necessary. Below you’ll find a list of the Smithsonian Student Adventures staff involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program. Meet your support team!

  • Clara Cuthbert
    Clara Cuthbert Program Leader

    University of Colorado at Boulder— B.A. in Psychology and Spanish Literature, Minor in Creative Writing

    Clara’s first taste of life outside of the United States was a semester abroad in Santiago, Chile. Those six months—spent dancing bachata, traveling to every corner of the country, and trying to master the peculiar Chilean Spanish—were unforgettable. To finish the semester off, she spent two weeks backpacking in Patagonia, and that sealed the deal: Clara was officially infected with the travel bug. Since then, she has attended music festivals in the heart of Cataluña and learned to pick and sort coffee beans in Colombia. Clara’s true profession is that of an adventurer, although she currently works with at-risk youth in an alternative high school. Whether she is trekking snowy backpacking routes with a map and compass or helping students find success in a non-traditional environment, there is always a new adventure to be had.

    • Chamby Zepeda
      Chamby Zepeda Program Leader

      Wheaton College – B.A. Spanish
      Middlebury College – M.A. Spanish Language, Lit & Culture

      Chamby was born in San Salvador, El Salvador, and immigrated to the United States in 1982 at the age of four. He was raised in Maine, and then ventured to Massachusetts graduating from Wheaton College with a degree in Spanish and a minor in Latin American Studies. During college, his teaching career began with a one-month experience of teaching English to Korean children at Sogang Language School, an English ski camp in Seoul. After college he worked as a research assistant in the Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University, and then returned to his hometown in Oakland, Maine to teach Spanish for three years. Upon beginning a two-year teaching stay at the Hotchkiss School, he enrolled at Middlebury College, where he received his Master’s in Spanish language, literature and culture. After graduating, he worked as a Spanish teacher, dorm parent, and coach at the Taft School in Watertown, CT. Over the years, he has also accrued extensive experience in volunteering abroad in places like El Salvador, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Australia, China, Tibet, Peru, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and South Africa. Last year, he was a co-leader for a group in Costa Rica. His passions are Spanish, traveling the world, his dog Sebago, and playing guitar whenever he has time. Chamby is currently teaching Spanish at the Wilmington Friends School in Wilmington, Delaware, and is looking forward to another great summer in Costa Rica!

      • Esteban Arguedas Country Operations, Costa Rica Operations

        Earlham College – B.A. Non-Profit and Business Administration, Minor in French

        Born and raised in Costa Rica, Esteban has spent the last seven years of his life traveling around the world and fostering his education in the U.S. Esteban has a strong background in cross-cultural education and developing business projects that strive for sustainable and social development. While attending college in Indiana, Esteban spent a semester abroad in France. During his free time Esteban loves reading, playing soccer, surfing, hiking, drinking a good cup of coffee, and dancing to Latino rhythms. These days Esteban has moved back to Costa Rica and loves leading awesome SSA programs in his home country!

        Group Roster

        Please have all travelers check to ensure that their name is spelled correctly. If you have any questions or edits please contact Lacey Merkel at lacey@walkingtree.org.

        1. Maria Barragan
        2. Ethan Kniss
        3. Alexander Ahn
        4. Lina Fang
        5. Skylar Flynn
        6. Clara Albacete
        7. Connor Pogue
        8. Naomi Ellis
        9. Niamh Mansfield
        10. Alison Guenthardt
        11. Zora Helson
        12. Julia Phillips
        13. Colby Moore
        14. Benito Aragon


        Community & Project Details

        La Torguga Feliz (where we will be staying while doing turtle conservation projects) is located right nest to the sea turtle research field station (run by WIDECAST, the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network) which focuses on protecting giant leatherback and green sea turtles. It is only accessible by boat down canals surrounded by tropical rainforest. While at WIDECAST, you will receive information about sea turtle nesting biology and local ecology, as well as participate in nightly beach patrols in search of nesting turtles. You will be able to assist field researchers in data collection such as turtle measuring, egg counting and track measurement and get a feel for what it is really like to work in field conservation. Days will be spent lounging in hammocks along the beach or hiking through primary rainforest in search of sloths, monkeys, poison dart frogs or even the elusive jaguar.

        Communication & Blog

        Travelers will be able to keep in touch with family and friends at home by using Wifi (when available at hotels and restaurants) via Whatsapp, Skype, and Wechat for free.

        During the program we keep families and friends updated on the group’s adventures as frequently as possible with text and photo blogs. If parents would like updates regarding the group beyond these blog posts and email updates, please direct all general inquiries to info@SmithsonianSA.com. We are always checking this email inbox and will respond promptly to inquiries. You can also reach us by dialing 303-242-8541 from the U.S. In case of an emergency, please dial 303-997-0310.

        To access the group’s blog, click here.

        Photos which appear in the blog will become available after the program ends. We will send out a link to the photo gallery, where you will have access to view and download as many of the photos as you like!

        Packing List


        10 pairs of underwear
        10 pairs of socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks)
        4-5 t-shirts (some quick dry, dark colored for beach patrol)
        1-2 breathable long sleeve shirts (dark colored for beach patrol)
        1 light sweater (dark colored for beach patrol)
        1 rain jacket or poncho (dark colored for beach patrol)
        2-3 pairs of travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
        2 pairs of quick-dry pants (dark colored for beach patrol)
        1 swimsuit
        1 nice shirt/top to be worn to more formal dinners (girls might want a skirt or something a little nicer for such occasions, boys may want to opt for a polo shirt or button up shirt with jeans)
        1 pair of durable athletic/hiking shoes.  Best to get breathable shoes that will dry quickly
        1 pair of sandals or water shoes (Chaco/Teva/Merril sandals are great to have for water activities)
        1 hat


        Sunscreen (you will use a lot)
        Mosquito repellent
        Band Aids and Neosporin
        Hand Sanitizer
        Medication in properly marked original container. It’s important that medication travel in its original container, as customs officials have the right to confiscate it otherwise.


        Alarm Clock and watch ***Required***

        Durable water bottle  ***Required***

        Flashlight/headlamp with red filter  ***Required***

        Journal and pen
        Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
        Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $50-$150, depending on amount of desired souvenirs, extra items etc.)
        1 quick-dry towel
        Batteries for flashlight or alarm clock
        Deck of cards or other portable games
        Spanish/English Dictionary

        Tuition Details

        Tuition Includes:
        all accommodations, basic travel insurance, 3 meals per day, drinking water, ground transportation, group activity and entry fees, full time leadership team and taxes and tips.

        Tuition Excludes:
         International airfare, baggage fees, airline minor fees, personal shopping, passport or visa fees, and activities not listed on the itinerary.

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