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Testimonial from

My name is Niamh Blundell, I am from Oxford in England and I am starting my A-Levels this September. This summer (2018) I took part in the Under 18’s Wildlife awareness programme in Costa Rica. This was my second Under 18’s trip with GVI as I went on a marine conservation and diving trip the previous summer in Mexico, and I wanted to go on a similar trip this year. A typical day in base for us would be breakfast at 8am, followed by a morning forest survey on one of 4 trails that were nearby. This would take up to a couple of hours, followed by lunch at 12pm. One group would go out for a forest survey at 2pm, whilst another would do a beach walk to look for turtle/jaguar tracks and turtle nests from the previous night. Before dinner we may have set up a camera trap, played some frisbee or just relaxed in our dorms. After dinner at 6pm, we may have a lecture on the different bird species, what to do if we encounter a jaguar or what to expect on a turtle night walk. Before bed we would either play a good old- fashioned game of cards or a group would go out on the beach to look for nesting turtles. The staff on our trip, Thijs and Charlie were so friendly and easy to talk to and served as amazing leaders through our conservation adventure. The rest of the volunteers and I bonded so much in the 2 weeks that we were with each other and were all good friends by the end of the trip. My experience with GVI has confirmed that I want to pursue a career in marine biology, and the information and training I have been given has made me better prepared to go into the field of conservation. For example, we were taught how to identify many vertebrate species in and around the jungle and canals, and I was able to distinguish the species of the turtle that we saw nesting and her behaviour. My advice for anyone joining a GVI programme would be to go with an open mind, and to expect the unexpected as you will be amazed and inspired by the experiences that you will walk away with. I started looking for opportunities to volunteer abroad as it had always interested me, I love travelling to new and exciting countries and I wanted to go somewhere where I could learn to SCUBA dive, which is what I did in Mexico, and discover more about the environment and biodiversity of the planet. I found the GVI projects through an advertisement on Facebook and from their website. At the start of the programme I was nervous as I was flying to an unknown country to spend 2 weeks living with strangers, so I did have my doubts about how much I would enjoy my experience. However, by day 3 of the trip I soon realised I had nothing to worry about as everyone was so lovely and the activities we did were really engaging. The 2 weeks flew by far too fast and I was very reluctant to leave behind my jungle home and the friends I had made. Overall, I had so much fun on this trip and learnt lots, my favourite part being the turtle night walk, where I was lucky enough to witness the spectacle of a turtle nesting her eggs, and walked on the sand for hours in the darkness (which is much more enjoyable than it sounds!) During the trip I learnt a lot about myself, including that I can survive without Wi-Fi and signal for days at a time! Most importantly I discovered that I can adapt to a challenging environment which is a lot different to the one I’m used to at home. Throughout the experience I felt completely safe in the staff’s hands, and that the other volunteers and I were constantly supported. To conclude, I had such a wonderful experience with GVI on this trip and I can’t wait to volunteer with them again in the future.