Volunteer Ivan’s visit to Costa Rica

Volunteer Ivan’s visit to Costa Rica

In the spring of 2023, there was suddenly an opportunity to go to Costa Rica for Adopt Rainforest. I was also in Costa Rica a year earlier and there someone tipped me off about an organization of two Dutch guys who were working to protect and restore the rainforest. When I got home I decided to get in touch. After all, I was far from finished in Costa Rica and I was immediately excited when I saw what Adopt Rainforest was all about. After great conversations with the founders Matthijs and Maarten in real life and via video call, I traveled to the reserve in Costa Rica in June.

The reforestation project

The foundation is engaged in a beautiful and important reforestation projectt. Planting trees on former agricultural land will reconnect the reserve and Barbilla National Park. This is essential for the animals so that they have a safe habitat which is large enough. There are also many surveys done by students, other nature projects and the daily operations of the reserve. The foundation was short-handed, so they could really use my help there. The project was a half-hour drive through the hills in a beautiful spot overlooking the surrounding area and the reserve. You could see the coast, Barbilla National Park and a volcano from the highest point. Between work I liked to come here to enjoy the beautiful surroundings for a while

San Miguel

Co-founder Maarten lives with his wife, Hanneke, and his two children, Abel and Lucas, near the reserve in a finca near the village of San Miguel. A village among hills, rainforest, pastures with cattle and vast banana fields. I stayed in a cottage close to Maarten and his family. In the first weeks, I walked with the students who were completing their research. I went to the reserve and participated in chores and activities. For example, every Wednesday we all walked through the village picking up trash and Thursday was gardening day at the finca: clearing paths, taking care of the permaculture garden and other small jobs. Meanwhile, I was inducted into the reforestation project and was pretty much the jack-of-all-trades. It was a great time and I met a lot of nice new people.

Maarten, Hanneke and the children

After a month, the students and volunteers left one by one. It was quiet at the reserve and then it suddenly became very close. We had agreed that I would ‘babysit’ the reserve for 3 weeks and keep an eye on the ongoing projects. All this so that Maarten, Hanneke and the children could ‘finally’ go on a real vacation. And how happy I was! They are such nice people doing such incredibly important work. They put their heart and soul into giving students an unforgettable experience. At the same time, they provide accommodation, food and regularly organize fun excursions to get to know the environment and local biodiversity. And oh yes, the many activities and projects around the foundation also keep half the village working. In addition, I just got along well with them. I like to think back to going out early with Maarten for birding, to the reserve with Hanneke and the fun times in one of the village pubs, which is a little store with an attached terrace.

All alone?

I dropped Maarten, Hanneke and the kids off in the nearest town to take the bus to San Jose to start their vacation. And then suddenly I was all alone. It only felt that way for a moment, because in Maarten and Hanneke’s house the foundation’s guide and handyman Gerald lived temporarily. We ate together regularly, we went to the reserve, we went shopping together in the nearest town, and the two of us picked up odd jobs when, for example, a storm knocked out the power again. We became friends. I was also immediately invited to his mother’s house and later to his sister’s house for dinner. This warmth quickly made me feel at home and not at all alone. I got to know the others from the village. All of them were nice people. And I had company from the three dogs on the finca. Meanwhile, the reforestation project continued and I got to know Hurben, the Costa Rican project leader of the reforestation project. We helped each other with the ins and outs of the reforestation project and could talk about anything. About Costa Rica, about the Netherlands and especially about nature. After all, he is also an avid birder and knows a lot about local biodiversity. Something I was already very interested in, but through Costa Rica this has grown into a passion!


Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on earth, and I noticed that once again at the reserve. I woke up to howler monkeys, I saw a sloth a few times a week and was surrounded by the most beautiful birds: toucans, parrots, hummingbirds, motmots, kingfishers, trogons, manakins, woodpeckers and many species of birds of prey. I also saw on game cameras in the reserve many species of mammals; raccoons, rodents, ocelots, coyotes, armadillos and many more. And then there were the many species of frogs, snakes and insects. In short, a true biodiversity paradise!

Closure and beautiful memories

After 3 weeks I picked up Maarten, Hanneke and the kids from the same bus station again. We still had 3 weeks before new students arrived so we had some time to do some fun things together. With the absolute best being a boat excursion down the Pacuare River to the coast. We were on a boat with two fellow volunteers, my girlfriend (who had also been at the reserve for a few days in the meantime), the local captain and Maarten, as the best guide you can have. Even before sunrise, we sailed along a small river among monkeys, birds and reptiles. We hardly encountered anyone, lovely! After 2.5 months it was time to say goodbye to everyone. A sad moment, but fortunately I had a beautiful prospect. I was going to travel through Costa Rica with my girlfriend for another month. Now that I am back in the Netherlands I realize what a great time I had. What a beautiful country Costa Rica is and what a great thing Maarten, Hanneke and the foundation have built up there! Deep respect and admiration!

Volunteer in the Netherlands

Ivan is also active in the Netherlands for the Adopt Rainforest Foundation. Here he volunteers for the elementary school project the Children’s Rainforest.

Would you also like to become a volunteer for the Foundation Adopt Rainforest? Then get in touch with us!

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