Most students at Hall-Dale High School spent their holiday break in December in sweaters, hats and gloves, helping their families get ready for the holidays. Senior Anna Hodgkins, of Hallowell, spent part of hers on a beach in Costa Rica.

Hodgkins, 18, traveled to Playa del Ostional on the country’s Pacific Coast as part of Outward Bound Costa Rica’s Sea Turtle Retreat Destination. The group of 30 Girl Scouts from across the U.S. was in the country for 10 days participating in a multi-day service project focused on protecting the sea turtle population.

“It was an incredible opportunity to get outside and experience the beauty of the natural world,” Hodgkins said in a news release from Outward Bound International. “The experience truly gives you the opportunity to live the adventure.”

The adventure for Hodgkins, after flights from Boston and Orlando, began with an overnight stay at Outward Bound Costa Rica’s base about an hour from the airport in San Jose. The following day, the group took a seven-hour drive to the coast, where they would camp for the next several days.

“We were in tents on the beach in the middle of nowhere,” Hodgkins said in a recent interview. “It was very rustic, but it was pretty cool.”

While at the beach camp, Hodgkins said the group got up early in the morning, around 5 or 6 a.m., because the sun wasn’t as hot then. They’d clean the beach of debris such as driftwood in order to make a clearing for mother turtles.

“We didn’t see any turtles until our second day, and it was only one,” she said. “But the day before we left, there were hundreds of them. It was really amazing.”

In addition to cleaning the beach of driftwood, Hodgkins said the group had to protect the turtle eggs from vultures.

“They would eat the eggs, so we would run on the beach trying to scare them off,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing to go and do hands-on science.”

For four hours each day, the sun was so hot that Hodgkins and her group had to sit under a roof to protect themselves from the heat. But that gave the group time to relax and get to know each other.

While not helping the turtles, the group helped the community by painting a community center and playing soccer with children. Hodgkins, who runs track at Hall-Dale, said it was fun because the children don’t get to see a lot of Americans.

According to the news release, Ostional is one of the world’s most important nesting sites for olive ridley sea turtles. The group witnessed the mass nesting of hundreds of turtles and even helped some newly hatched sea turtles get into the water.

The rest of the trip included a rain forest hike and a tour of the nearby volcano Irazu, along with checking out historic sites in Cartago. Hodgkins and her fellow Girl Scouts ended the journey zip lining through jungle canopies and exploring the artisan market in San Jose.

Hodgkins, who was born in Waterville, has grown up around science. Her father, Glenn, is a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and the two have spent countless hours outdoors studying nature. Hodgkins plans to attend college in Maine and major in biology. At Hall-Dale, Hodgkins helps coach the middle school mathematics team and also is a member of the National Honor Society


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