Educational tourism is one of the fastest growing areas of travel and tourism. Not just for students, educational travel is about learning and being involved in community action projects while traveling and relaxing on vacation.
Costa Rica offers a wide variety of educational travel and volunteer opportunities for people of all ages. An excellent destination for educational tourism and volunteer groups is Lirio Lodge by Tortuguero in Costa Rica.
The Costa Rica eco-lodge is located in an area of the northern Caribbean Coast, between the port city of Limon and the Tortuguero National Park, where the famous whitewater rafting river, the Pacuare, meets the Caribbean Sea.
“It is like Tortuguero 20 years ago before it was developed, with the same wetlands and lowland rainforest, lagoons, beaches and turtles that come to nest,” noted Lirio Lodge operations manager Helberth Chavarria Madrigal.
The closest community of Pacuare Sur (South Pacuare) is tiny with maybe 100 persons in residence. The area is surrounded by water between the ocean, the Pacuare River and the immense Mother of God Lagoon (named after the “Madre de Dios” river that forms it).
“The community here is very poor. There is no electricity. There is only one classroom with one professor for 10 students, each in different grades. And this one professor must give classes to all of them. He has to travel 25 kilometers each way every day to teach; one hour by bus and 15 minutes by boat each way,” Chavarria explained.
Resources in the community are precious and meager, he said. For this reason, Lirio Lodge focuses on educational tourism to bring student groups to the Costa Rica jungle lodge both to experience and learn about the amazing nature of the area, and to contribute to the community with betterment projects.
“When groups ask us for volunteer projects, we try to help the community and the school as much as we can,” said Chavarria.
Lirio Lodge primarily receives groups of university students who are in Costa Rica on language study programs for several months. The students come to the lodge on weekends to do community work. Among the community improvements educational tourism students have made are: building a dining room for the school, constructing dry pathways above the swamp mud to the school entrance, creating gardens, cleaning up trash, building a new bathroom for the school, and improving the school’s water storage and usage.
Article by Shannon Farley