Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

True Colours of Rainsong

Author: Kristi

I have now been at Rainsong for over a month and I am totally disillusioned. Before arriving I had done some quick research on cheap places to volunteer in Costa Rica. Rainsong sounded right up my alley, small town in the jungle, work with animals, not to mention the price! I have been disturbed and disheartened by what I have found here.
I do not recommend this “sanctuary” whatsoever. The cages for the animals are far from sanitary, let alone large enough to hold the animals captive in them. It is a sentence worse than death for the poor animals here. The owner, Mary appears to want to run a petting zoo rather than a sanctuary. She has no plans on setting any of the animals free. She has no knowledge of what animal care really is and is uninformed about the dietary needs of the animals. In the time I have been here, two animals have died, and it is not an uncommon occurrence. Mary will sit in her room all day and watch TV and smoke weed while her volunteers, whom the locals call ” slaves”, are working their hardest to keep this place running.

Currently, Mary has three grown porcupines that are in perfect health and would be fine to be set out into the wild. She has an iguana, for only God knows what reason, it too could be set free. She has three howler monkeys that are consistently getting sick, I believe due to the incorrect diet and lack of cage sanitization. The local vet has told Mary on numerous occasions that things need to change around Rainsong or she will be shut down. Up until recently, Mary would refuse to allow us to sterilize the monkey’s bottles after each use and to replace their milks with fresh milk for the next feeding. At any point in time when you try to suggest anything to Mary she would lose it and start screaming at you.

Recently we had a baby howler monkey, sweet Evie, die in the middle of the night because Mary got high and forgot to check on her like she said she would. Evie died because of dehydration caused by Mary overheating the incubator. In my last blog I told the story of the baby raccoon that died from the improper medication Mary gave it. The vet in the area was appalled when she got all this information. After the vet came in to de-worm the animals she demanded that Mary adjust her routines. The cages need to be cleaned with Clorox at LEAST once a week and new animals must be quarantined with one specific volunteer tending to the one animal in case of cross contamination.

Mary is already trying to get out of these new rules. Shocked? I’m not.

We received a new baby howler monkey and Mary insisted that he get his recommended amount of liquids for the day. When the monkey refused to drink more Mary grabbed him from my arms and demanded we force feed him. The monkey was distressed (how could he not be) and bit Mary and she then threw him to the ground. This is not the only case where Mary demanded we force feed the monkeys at Rainsong. She will not try new tactics, or listen to other alternatives. The monkeys are already traumatized being abandoned by their family and then they are put into a hostile environment where they’re being forced to do something they’re resistant to.

Accomodation at Rainsong will be far from what you hope. The shack that Mary calls the farm is poorly built and terrifying to those less rustic. Most new volunteers take one look at the shack and say “f**k this”. I was brave and tried it out. It is not as bad as it looks but it is far from what Mary makes it out to be. If you do not bring a mosquito net expect to wake up covered in bites and possibly a swarm of army ants. She is always expecting couples to stay up at “Honeymoon hut” which is a smaller shack further into the jungle with no walls, no mattresses (unless you want to fight the rat family living in one), no gate to keep the goats out, no electricity and no running water. They would have to hike the 10mins down to the farm to use the kitchen and to go to the washroom.

There are many varying opinions about Mary and Rainsong out there and this is mine. I think that at some point Rainsong was started with the best intentions but got lost along the way. Unfortunately, the volunteers who come hoping to do some good work are supporting this sad situation so it will continue. I can see why Mary insists you pay your “donation” upfront as many will and do leave when they see what’s going on. I can only hope that eventually the vets or authorities will close this place down. Until then I urge you to volunteer elsewhere in Costa Rica.

Return to the Jungle

Author: Kristi

Finally off Utila and I could not be happier. Once I got to La Ceiba I caught up with Noemi who had left a day earlier. We had a great girls night in a hotel with pizza, beer and ice cream. She left early the next morning so I got in contact with Angel and he kidnapped me back to the jungle. Though I didn’t put up much of a fight! Angel took me on all the tours at Jungle River Lodge.

The first day we went canopying and had a hoot!! The next day was also incredible. We started by going white water rafting. Angel knew I have been rafting a few times and seeing how I wasn’t a paying customer I got to be the guinea pig for the raft guide he was training. When we came to a point in the river, Angel looked at me and said “if anything happens, swim to the left”. I yelled at him for saying that for now we were jinxed. Sure enough, next thing I know I was scrambling for air after the raft flipped. Not only did we flip but when I fell in, my bikini bottoms came undone! So now I am trying to keep my head above water, my bikini bottoms on and avoid any rocks. I have fallen out of a raft before but nothing like this. I was pretty scared. After we got to safety and finished our trip, Angel took me on hike to a waterfall. But he didn’t take me on the route the tourists take, oh no. He had me jumping off cliffs into the river, swimming through rapids, wading through water up to my waist, climbing slippery rocks and dodging army ants. It was definitely a real adventure. He was walking along catching toads and other various creatures. I was jealous so I caught him a lizard which he put on his hat and kept for the rest of the walk.
That night Angel and I were bored so we decided we’d split up and see who could catch the most geckos. I unfortunately lost, but I also didn’t grow up in the jungle catching them daily. He put one up to my cheek to make it “kiss” and the little bugger bit me! Then he made another bite my leg as well! I was not impressed!

On the third day we went canopying again and Angel insisted that I eat termites. He stuck his hand into the termites nest and grabbed a few. He held two in between his forefingers and put them into my mouth; they didn’t really move and freak me out as much as I thought they would. I just chewed them up as fast as I could and to my surprise they taste like carrots! After canopying I helped the boys out cleaning helmets, we took all of them apart and put them into bleach. We scrubbed them right down until they looked new again.
I woke up the following day and when I came downstairs I was shocked to see a familiar face!! Imran, a friend from Utila, had come to the jungle with some friends to do some rafting. After they finished that afternoon, we all hiked back to the waterfall. His friend, Rich was like a little kid once he got there. His smile was ear to ear and he was in awe of this feat of Mother Nature. We all jumped in and took a million pictures of ourselves playing in the falls.

Imran and Rich the next day decided I was going with them to Copan. I knew it was going to be hard leaving the jungle. The guys that work there had made me feel like family. As I was saying my goodbyes I was trying my hardest to keep it together. Though once I got to the jeep to take us back to the city I burst into tears. It was the hardest goodbye I’ve had to deal with since I’ve started this trip. The jungle was the first place that made me feel at home, and I had to leave that behind. I was lucky to have Rich and Imran with me to keep me together. I don’t think I could have done it alone.

After what happened with the jail situation, G and I thought it would be best to let things cool down back in Utila, so we spent a few days “vacationing” in Roatan.  We had an amazing time including a delicious meal at a Thai restaurant.  Very expensive from what we were used to in Utila but the setting was stunning, a dock that had tables all along it and the sun setting in the background as we ate our meal.


The hotel Chillies where we stayed had two puppies named Messy and Max. We fell in love with them instantly. Max was a very sleepy puppy and Messy had more pep, yet needed attention consistently. We took Messy out for the day to West Bay for a relaxing day on the beach. People flocked to her because she was so adorable. We had a great lunch at a resort right on the water then followed lunch by tanning on the gorgeous beach.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay in Roatan on account that G had to finish his Dive Master. Monty and Christy helped us get in contact with a man named Captain Vern who has a catamaran he uses to and from Utila and Roatan., This is a very popular and affordable option to get from one island to the next. The ride is smooth and the company is great. Ask any dive shop in Utila or Roatan(West End) to get information. On the ride you wouldn’t guess who got to come with us, Messy! We got to keep her for a week while we were in Utila and then we sent her back home with Captain Vern.

Once we got back to Utila I decided to get my Open Water and Advanced Open Water Diving certificate. It was a neat feeling going underwater and being able to breath. One of the courses I took was called Peak Performance Buoyancy Control, they had us going through hoops underwater and knocking over weights in the sand with our regulators. It was such a blast, though my favorite part of the class was when I got to do ninja moves with my friend John underwater. They had us doing flips and kicks and punches all in slow motion Matrix style, so much fun!

It took no time at all to get my certificates and start fun diving. We saw so many amazing things underwater such as; lion fish, parrot fish, moray eels, barracuda, lobster, eagle rays, dolphins, turtles and my favourite… WHALE SHARKS!


Once G left I moved in with our friend, Noemi, also from Quebec.  She and I got along like two peas in a pod. Noemi works at Coco Loco’s bar and there were nights it could be rather dead and lonely there.  One night I dropped by to keep her company and there was the biggest storm I have ever seen on the island.  The rain was pouring, the thunder crashed all around us and the lightening lit up the sky.  It was a spectacular show.  Noemi and looked at each other, looked out at the dock being pounded by rain, looked back at each other then ran to the end of the dock.  We were soaked the second we stepped out from under cover .  We blared the music and danced for hours  like crazy fools.  It was one of my most favourite nights!

As the days went on, Utila began to get very busy. People were coming from all over the place to attend the biggest party in Central America, Sun Jam.  Sun Jam is held on a deserted island just 45mins away from Utila. It consists of loud music, lots of dancing and tons of drinking. The website goes on how there is a ton of security, but it’s bull. I do not think I saw one security guard or cop on the island. The party starts around 2pm and ends around 12pm the next day. Noemi and I stayed from 5pm until 4am. Interestingly enough, I ran into my tour guide, Angel,  from Jungle River on my way to the party. He got me a free ticket , SCORE!