Volcanoes, zip-lines, waterfall rappelling, and ATV's in the jungle: it all sounds a little more like a movie than a school-sponsored trip. But students will have the chance to do all of these things on the Outdoor Center's spring break trip to Costa Rica on March 22-28.
“Our goal this year is to do new things, approach new audiences, and see the program grow,” OC Excursion Coordinator Calvin Laatsch said. This is the first international trip the Outdoor Center has planned.
The trip's itinerary includes a wide range of adventures and sight-seeing. The Arenal Volcano, an active volcano in Northwestern Costa Rica, is one of the first stops on the trip. Students will take a boat ride across a lake near the volcano and hike to vantage points around it. Then, the trip continues into the tropical rainforest, where students will rappel down rock faces and waterfalls to get to canyon hiking trails, Laatsch said.
Students will also have the chance to walk on foot bridges and ride zip-lines at 25 to 30 miles per hour, hundreds of feet above the ground in the forest canopy, OC excursion coordinator Bridgett Jamison said. Other activities will include horseback tours, ATV trips through the forest and whitewater rafting on the Sarapiqui River.
While the trip may sound intense, you don't have to be an outdoor expert to go, Jamison said.
“I think the important thing to note about this trip is that you're pretty much staying in hotels the entire time,” Jamison said. “It's meant for beginners.”
International excursions Laatsch spent a year at Nordfjord folkehá¸gskule (folk high school) in Norway before coming to Western. Nordfjord is a school that focuses almost exclusively on outdoor classes and activities such as hiking, surfing, climbing and scuba diving.
“It's basically a way to learn all the stuff you can't just jump into,” Laatsch said.
Laatsch said his co-workers expressed a lot of interest in planning an international trip when he started working at the Outdoor Center last year. Preliminary destination ideas included Thailand and South or Central America, Laatsch said.
To help with the task of planning such a huge excursion, the Outdoor Center is working with a company called Eco-Adventure International, which is helping plan the trip and providing tour guides.
“In the future we probably won't go with a company like this,” Jamison said. “For now, since this is our first trip, we're doing it this way because it's a lot easier to organize and guarantee a really good time.”
Laatsch and Jamison said they hope this is the first of many international trips for the Outdoor Center.
“This is going to be a precedent in a lot of ways for future international trips,” Jamison said.
The Outdoor Center may start hosting annual international excursions during Western's spring break, Jamison said. Other possibilities might include international exchange programs, Laatsch said, where Western students might visit a place like Munich to hike the Black Forest while students from Germany come to Bellingham to go rafting on the Nooksack.
The Costa Rica trip is likely to cost between $1,500 and $2,000, Jamison said. Ideally, the cost will pay for the plane trip and most of the food, as well as equipment rental, guiding services and hotel stays, Laatsch said.
Official sign-ups are not available yet, but anyone interested in going on the trip can go to the Outdoor Center to sign up for more information.
“I think generally we kind of cater to people who already have a lot of experience,” Jamison said. “So we're trying to open it up to the general public to have a good time.”