Ara Project

Read the next part of the story from our current team training on the Expedition Leader Training Course. Update courtesy of Matt Smith:

Waking up after a very lovely sleep on a luxury wooden floor, we packed our stuff up and headed back to civilisation all looking forward to the week ahead doing project work at Ara – a green macaw sanctuary.

We started the day doing white water rafting with our leader Deigo, who really knew how to make things fun. With torrential rain and level 4 Rapids, we were battered and bruised (especially Jen from Theo being a bit clumsy with his paddle) and before we knew it we were back in Doug’s can on our way to Puerto Viejo.

The traffic in Costa Rica at parts has been amazing slow, and we found this out the hard way. After a few hours of pushing our way through the boredom we found ourselves in Puerto Viejo with an amazing local styled dish in front of us. We all scoffed it down and then made our last leg of the journey to Ara. We said our goodbyes to Doug and went to find our home for the next 6 days. It was a bird cage. Don’t worry, it was a bit bigger than the ones used for pet budgies. We slung our hammocks up and hit the hay for what was to come a very wet night for some of us.

With a bowl of cereal down me and a slop of porridge for the guys, we began our work laying down gravel for a path up to a look out spot for the birds. We were 5 minutes into our task and Theo tells us to look up – a green macaw, perched right above our heads on a branch. Now seeing one of these creatures for the first time was magnificent, we all thought we were extremely lucky to see one of these beautiful birds on our first day here. We were utterly wrong. Within half an hour of working we had at least 20 birds all standing around on branches no more then a couple of metres away from us. It was one of the most amazing sites of my life.

We tried to continue working as hard as we could but when you have endangered birds flying over your head it is quite difficult to stay concentrated. With the hard workers we are we smashed out the path and had lunch. That was when we met Tom – the man in charge. He told us a bit about the birds and what he does, and he also told us something interesting. He said if a bird flys down next to us, so it’s touching distance, we have to run at it clapping our hands to scare it off. I know it sounds a bit mean, but it’s so they are scared of humans so they adapt easier to the wild. I never in my life thought I would have to do that, but it happened more than you think.

Over the next few days we started building a platform on the view point out of steaks and mud. It was a lot of sweaty work and very unsafe hammering, but we were making our way through the task. We were a well oiled machine getting the mud up and engineering this platform, even though none of us had any idea what we were doing. But sadly, the day had come that we would lose one of our team mates. It was Jen’s last day.

We finished our work early so we could go out for the night to say our goodbyes. Tom and Roch (a volunteer at Ara) came along to say ciao as well, and for a chance to drink obviously. The night flew by with a session of salsa dancing and multiple stops at the fried chicken stand. We arrived at her hostel and said our final goodbyes, and then headed back to our cage for a 1 team member down sleep.

We arose the from our hammocks feeling dandy and sadden by our lost. Well, I felt like death. I had incredible stomach pains, so bad that I spent the day in town at the doctors trying to find out what was causing me this trauma. The others continue working on the project like that keen individuals they are.

We only had 3 more days to finalise our work and show that we do actually do something when left alone. With the help of my team they pushed me and themselves to do a tremendous amount of work and build a platform that wasn’t too shabby for a bunch of jungle boys. We sat on top of our kingdom enjoying the view of the jungle and birds and feeling a great sense of pride. All we needed now was an ice cold beer.

This was when we met Enrique, the man behind the whole sanctuary. He was incredibly passionate and inspiring when he was telling us about his history with the birds and the land. We spent a good hour all engaged in what he had to say and all the stories he had. We shook hands and said goodbye to Enrique has we were leaving tomorrow.

We were tidying our things up around the cage when we heard a call out from the darkness. Confused and curious, we sent Jared to recce it. It was a gift from the gods. 12 ice cold beers, donated by the kind man he is, Enrique. We thanked him massively and sat around our fire sipping away at what felt like the nicest drink we’ve ever had.

All packed up and tidied away, we headed into Puerto Viejo for a nice relaxed day before starting our first trek. Working at Ara over the past 6 days was an amazing experience and the green macaws are the most stunning birds we’ve ever laid our eyes on.

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