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Sloths and howler monkeys, night hikes exploring the forest floor with frog experts and tropical birds galore – this is not your typical summer camp.

Yes, you’ll need sunscreen, and there’ll be bugs, but you’ll be deep in the rainforests of Costa Rica.

The Costa Rica Family Rainforest Camp in the Selva Verde Rainforest Reserve is an opportunity for the whole family to venture into a living classroom with local guides, partnered with Holbrook Travel, and Florida Museum experts, creating family memories that will last a lifetime.

Group photo of the Family Rainforest Camp at the Selva Verde Lodge in Costa Rica.
The Costa Rica Family Rainforest Camp is designed by the Florida Museum of Natural History and Holbrook Travel to encourage families to engage with unique natural environments together and foster a better understanding of why conservation of these delicate regions is important.

Costa Rica is home to about 5% of the Earth’s biodiversity, yet occupies a very small footprint on the planet. It provides a rich and diverse environment where you can encounter wildlife feet from your doorstep.

The camp, based at the Selva Verde Lodge in Sarapiqui, is nestled on the bank of the Sarapiqui River with a thrilling suspension bridge into the lush rainforest. A quick walk up and over the river and you are immersed in a dense, damp forest with natural delights all around.

You’ll spot dart frogs and leaf cutter ants almost immediately, walk through huge, ancient trees and hear the calls of howler monkeys in the distance.

Upon arrival, families learn how to be researchers and are introduced to the concept of fieldwork. And after becoming familiar with some of the local plants and animals, children and caregivers become scientists themselves, learning how to collect specimens and record and document species they see.

Kids will dive feet first into fieldwork, donning rubber boots and sloshing into a creek to look under leaves, turn over rocks and catch fish with dip nets.

Dave Blackburn, Museum herpetologist, guides the kids as they look for signs of glass frogs native to Costa Rica’s tropical rainforest. The frogs lay their eggs on large leaves that hang over streams. Others use screens to catch insects and spiders and scoop them into collection bottles for further examination back at the lodge lab.

Blackburn says the camp provides an opportunity for “families, together, to go out and look at the natural world and experience the world through the eyes of how we’d approach science at the Museum.”

In addition to learning about the unique natural environment in the Selva Verde Reserve, camp participants will learn about Costa Rica culture, community and the important relationship with the delicate ecosystem in which residents live. A visit with local schoolchildren at a community center provides an opportunity for campers to explore similarities and differences in every day life.

Extend your experience with a new optional add-on where you will visit El Bosque Nuevo, a butterfly farm and conservation project where butterfly pupae are raised before they are shipped to the Florida Museum for emergence and flight in the “Butterfly Rainforest” exhibit!

“Feeling like you’re one with the natural world is something we can do with this camp,” said Tina Choe, camp co-leader with Florida Museum’s Exhibits and Outreach. “We are able to get people out there and away from all the distractions of today’s world, it’s really the best thing.”

Find out more about summer camp in Costa Rica and other eco-tours offered by the Florida Museum and Holbrook Travel.

Kristen Grace is the Museum’s resident photographer and had the opportunity, in partnership with Holbrook Travel, to visually document the Family Rainforest Camp during the summer of 2019, as well as photograph the rich biodiversity Costa Rica has to offer while at the Selva Verde Lodge. She has a passion for documenting informal science learning, especially when in the field with children.