For all those burning questions . . .
Q: Where will I be staying & what kind of facilities are available at Campanario?
A: You will be staying in a private cabin or in the two-story field station close to the beach. The five cabins can sleep up to 4 people, and each has its own private bathroom. The cabins are about a five-minute walk up behind the field station, which is the center of activity at Campanario. The field station houses the kitchen, dining hall, and study areas downstairs and dormitories upstairs. The two large dorms are partitioned into smaller “rooms” with differing number of bunkbeds in each, for a total of 24 persons. The bathrooms for the field station, all nicely tiled, are downstairs and off to the side of the main floor. On the other side of the bathrooms are sinks and a clothes washing area. The water for bathing and washing is cold, coming from natural springs in the reserve. Bed linens are provided and changed weekly.
Q: What about the water, is it safe to drink?
A: All the water at Campanario for drinking and bathing comes from natural springs. This water is fed through a series of filters, then into tanks which can be chlorinated should the need arise. Then there are additional filters, and last in line there is a porcelain filter for drinking water. The most filtered water is located in the large orange cooler in the dining hall.
Q: What are the meals like?
A: Regular and plentiful meals are served three times a day, and for the most part, are typically Costa Rican. Fresh fish is available if you get busy and catch it! Meal times are usually simple buffet style. You will have plenty of food during meals, and you can serve yourself as often as you’d like, but we ask that you eat absolutely everything on your plate. Remember, this is a no-waste facility. If you have dietary restrictions, please let us know ahead of time, and we’ll do our best to accommodate your restrictions. Snacks and carbonated and alcoholic beverages are not kept in stock, so you should plan to bring your own, if desired.
Q: What will we see, and who will guide us?
A: There is a great biodiversity, both in flora and fauna, in the area and in Campanario in particular. On your walks/hikes, you will no doubt see many animals and an exhuberance of plant life as you will be walking/hiking through primary, secondary, and successionary rain forests. Please understand, however, that biodiversity does not indicate bioabundance, and that many of the larger animals are rarely seen. Obviously, there is no guarantee as to what you will see. Our resident guide, however, is an expert in locating wildlife, so with patience you should be able to compile a long list of animals seen. You may be walking/hiking with our resident guide, with one of our staff biologists, or with a visiting researcher, all of whom have expertise in different fields.
Q: Is this an appropriate place for children?
A: We generally recommend a trip of this nature for children over 12 years of age, not so much for the child’s interests, but for the parents’ nervous reactions. Many small children, even 4 years old, have visited Campanario and have had a great time. If you’re the nervous type, you might want to consider a hotel/resort where the biodiversity is limited. Please note: it is necessary to have at least one adult per young child for adequate supervision.
Q: What will the weather be like when I’m there? What should I pack?
A: Although December through May is theoretically the dry season, please come prepared for rain, which can come unexpectedly throughout the year and may last several days. Then June, July, August see a nice combination of sunny days with rain showers. After all, this is a rain forest, and it’s wonderful to see, and even hike through, the rain. The sun is warm throughout the day, but the evenings can be cool so pack a light-weight jacket. Light weight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and good sturdy walking shoes/boots which cover your ankles and with good “tread” are necessary for hiking, particularly through the mud when it is raining. We have several pair of rubber boots at the field station for your use, and therefore, we recommend that you bring at least one pair of knee-high socks (soccer socks) to prevent the boots from rubbing on your legs. Sandals are good for relaxing in the field station and out on the beach only. Be sure to include several changes of quick-drying shorts, T-shirts, socks, and underwear. Sun glasses, hats, and lotions are also a must. A more extensive list of things to pack and a general check list will be sent to you.
Q: What about the bugs, should I bring mosquito netting?
A: Mosquito netting is generally not necessary. The sleeping and eating areas are completely screened. Occasionally a stray mosquito gets in, but this hasn’t been a big problem. If you would feel more comfortable bringing your own netting, you are welcome to do so. Repellent is recommended for the trail and for the evenings when sitting outside, particularly if you are one of those people who attract the bugs. We ask that you use any repellent before leaving for the trails. Folks with any allergies need to be cautious and bring necessary medication.
Q: What about health risks and health insurance? Do I need shots to enter Costa Rica?
A: Yes, there are health risks at Campanario - all those associated with the tropical rain forest. Contact with certain plants, insects, arachnids, reptiles, amphibians and particularly the poisonous snakes must be avoided. Usually a watchful eye and observant attitude, along with your protective clothing, can keep you out of trouble. The guiding rule is DO NOT TOUCH. All visitors should be aware that the Campanario Biological Station lies in a remote location where medical attention is not readily available. We are concerned about safety and, therefore, ask that everyone is able to swim, hikes with a guide, and always has a “buddy” when swimming or away from the field station. A cellular phone and a boat are available for emergencies.
If you are doubtful about your physical condition, we recommend you see your doctor for a check-up and bring all personal medications that you anticipate needing for the duration of your trip. While the field station keeps basic first aid supplies for small accidents, we suggest you bring a small personal kit with Band-Aids, medicated cream, anti-diarrhea pills, calamine lotion, aloe for sun burns, motion sickness pills (for your trips on the boat), etc.
It is essential that you inform the Campanario staff of any medical conditions or food allergies you have. You should advise a friend or a member of the staff of where you keep your medications and how and when they should be administered in case of an emergency. Bring copies of prescriptions to accompany any medications you are bringing with you.
All visitors to Campanario must hold a medical and accident insurance policy that will cover them on trips of this nature. The policy should also cover evacuation from the site by boat, plane, helicopter, and/or land vehicle, should any of these be necessary.
There are no inoculations required to enter Costa Rica. We would, naturally, recommend a vaccination against tetanus and hepatitis B, which all travelers should have.
Q: What is the area like for water sports?
A: The beaches are quite calm where we are - nice warm swimming water. The beach is fairly secluded, with no resort traffic. If you’re looking for surfing, you need to go somewhere else, but boogie boarding is good at Campanario during some high tides. If you’re looking for something more challenging, there are larger waves up the coast, about a 90 minute walk from Campanario.
Some snorkeling is done off our coast, where you can see lobster, eels, and, of course, lots of fish. The coral reefs are off Isla del Caño, about 45 minutes by boat directly in front of Campanario. While Campanario has a few sets of snorkeling gear, we encourage you to bring your own set of mask and snorkel. A few pair of fins are available at the field station.
Exploring tide pools is also a big discovery event. We have a long list of marine critters that can be found during your scavenger hunt. Obviously, these few hours of exploring come only during low tide.
Scuba diving is also a popular sport in the area. Should you want to plan a diving trip, we will coordinate ahead of time with a local company that offers this service to reserve a spot for you. Prices vary for a day trip, but can be found for approximately $150/day/person with equipment rental included. Licenses are required; so don’t forget your paperwork.
Q: How much cash will I need? How should I bring it?
A: Once you are at your boat pick-up point, according to your personal arrangements with the Campanario office, your stay is completely taken care of. All your meals, lodging, and boat transport to and from Campanario are included (arrangements for volunteers are slightly different). Before your arrival, additional excursions and/or activities should be requested in order to be included in your trip package. There are a few items for sale at Campanario, which might include some handicrafts made by the artisans in the area. In this case, some cash would be handy. Both US dollars or Costa Rican colones are accepted, all, preferrably, in small denominations ($1, $5, $10 bills), as finding change sometimes gets difficult. Once at the field station, we have no method of accepting credit cards.
Your expenses, while in other areas of the country, can vary considerably depending upon your preferences. Decent hotels in San José range from $50-$200 per night for a double. For those of you on restricted budgets, you can usually find a less-expensive hostel in San Jose or a “pension” in most any town, running anywhere from $20-$30 per day per person. Don’t forget to budget for food and a bit extra for special excursions, shopping, park entrance fees, and the airport tax to leave the country (about $30).
You should plan to bring US dollars, in cash and in bills smaller than $50, no ripped or damaged bills. Many restaurants, hotels, and large stores also take credit cards. Visa and Mastercard are accepted in most tourist establishments throughout the country. Campanario is able to accept credit cards with a 5% surcharge (what the processing company charges), but only while in the town of Sierpe.
Q: Are there any indigenous groups or archaeological ruins in the area?
A: While the whole area had indigenous peoples at one time, there remain only two “Reservas Indigenas” close by, one a bit north of Palmar Norte, the community of Boruca, and another more centrally located within the Osa Peninsula, the community of the Guaymi. There are indications of tombs throughout the peninsula, but, to date, none have been scientifically excavated, to be studied and displayed as “ruins”. Many sites have been looted in the past, and you can only see indications of where they once were. Isla de Caño offers a few artifacts that have been unearthed on that island.
Just before arriving in Sierpe, there is an archeological park being developed by the National Museum. This is an area that was inhabited by the Disquis Indians who have become well-known for the stone spheres they made. The park, eventually, will have areas unearthed to see some of the original spheres and their placement within the Diquis community. There is still a good deal of mystery surrounding the spheres.
Q: Will there be any access to the internet at Campanario?
A: No, sorry, we’re still off the grid. There are internet connections in San José and even in Sierpe. Taking computers, or other electronic equipment, to Campanario is not recommended due to the corrosive damage that can be caused by the salty air. There is a cellular phone for absolute necessary communication with the outside world, but the beauty of being at Campanario is the peace and quiet that only remote locations like this can offer.