Summer 2019 was one for the Girl Scout memory books for Girl Scout Seniors Parker V. and Emily N.! After traveling to Savannah, GA with their troop, then on the GSKSMO council-sponsored trip to Belize, Parker and Emily hopped on a plane back down to Central America for their Girl Scout Destination trip for two weeks of scuba diving, volunteering and working with sea turtles in Costa Rica and Panama!
This trip was inspired by their Silver Award where they worked to eliminate plastic waste polluting the ocean and endangering sea turtles. Parker and Emily partnered with Kindcraft turning bags into yarn that was used to create sleeping mats for the homeless, doubling the impact of their project!
“I remember the day you told me about the trip!” Parker said to Emily. “We were at the first Girl Scout meeting of the year and we went to get something to drink and you said you heard about this thing you get to do where you go somewhere in the Pacific and to help sea turtles!”
Upon arrival they stayed overnight Outward Bound Costa Rica’s home base then traveled Bocas del Toro Panama where they stayed with a host family for seven days and earned their NAUI Scuba Certification.
Their countless scuba sessions included a 67 foot dive (their deepest), a shipwreck exploration where they saw nurse sharks and sand sharks under the boat and a night dive where they activated bioluminescent plankton!
“You go in the water and it is pitch black, but when you move around it glows green around you,” Parker explained. “Essentially they’re specks of dust that glow when you touch it,” Emily added. “It was so cool.”
When the girls weren’t scuba diving, they were volunteering at a K-8 school playing volleyball with kids during recess and doing beautification projects around the campus and community, ziplining through the rainforest, swimming on a hidden beach and bonding with their new Girl Scout friends and sisters.
The highlight of the first part of their trip was the cultural immersion experience sleeping on a dock over the pacific ocean of their host family. It was a very different experience from their time in Belize staying at resorts!
“We got there and there was no air conditioning, we made our own food and there was no electricity and the bathroom was a bucket bathroom. At night it was dark so dark but it was so beautiful,” Parker said. “We got to sleep on a dock under the stars!”
For the second half of their trip they headed to the San San-Pond Sak where they worked on sea turtle conservation efforts.
Their group arrived after nests had been moved from the beach and were being kept safe until the eggs hatched, and their job was to make it possible for the turtles to emerge after hatching.
“You dug until you saw white, which were the little baby eggs, and then you loosely put the sand back in so they’re covered, but they can easily get out when they hatch,” Emily explained.
When the eggs hatched, they transported the sea turtles back down to the beach and helped release them into the ocean!
“You pick up a sea turtle and you lay it down and it just knows where to go, it’s awesome,” Parker said!
“We learned the faster you go, the more sea turtles you get to touch,” Emily added. “I released 13!”
Throughout their 15 days together, Parker and Emily developed deep bonds with the six other Girl Scouts on the destination and their two guides. Each day girls would rotate jobs that helped the group function and bond. They ranged in duties from carrying the medicine bag to educating the group on cultural experiences to summing up the day with a powerful phrase, quote or words.
“Ohana means family and family means no one is left behind,” Emily and Parker said in unison. “That was one of our favorites.”
Each night they would pass around a string of eight wooden sea turtles, express their highs and lows of the day then give the necklace to someone who did something great for the group that day. At the end of the trip, the guides disassembled the string and created a necklace for each individual girl with one sea turtle on it. Their guides explained that they were all like a pack of baby sea turtles at the beginning of the trip, but by the end they had developed and grown and were ready to go out into the ocean on their own.
Parker and Emily have been back for three months but they’ve continued this nightly ritual, everyone texting the group with their highs and lows of the day.
Are you interested in exploration, service and sisterhood like Parker and Emily?! Learn more about Girl Scout Destinations and apply by the first deadline on November 15! Don’t forget, you can use Cookie Dough, Cookie proceeds and there are scholarships available!