INTREPID young travellers have embarked on the four-week journey of a lifetime to the jungles and volcanoes of South America.

Some 51 students from Ripon Grammar School are heading deep into the wilds of Nicaragua and Costa Rica on a trip that has been two years in the planning.

Accompanied by six staff and three expedition leaders they are also visiting remote coastal regions and working with underprivileged children in schools.

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The students, aged from 14 to 18, were given the chance to volunteer for the expedition before undergoing a simple fitness test and a training weekend in preparation.

They all had to raise £4,000 to take part and did so through a variety of sponsored activities, from completing the Three Peaks walk to abseiling off the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge.

The trip is the latest in a series of exotic expeditions by the school and follows adventurous journeys to Peru in 2008, Namibia in 2010 and Vietnam and Cambodia in 2012.

The students are being split into three teams to visit different parts of the countries and take part in different projects and activities.

Will Stobbs, 15, of Bishop Thornton, said: "My group is trekking in the Osa peninsula and the Monteverde cloud forest, with the main trek lasting a week.

“We'll be camping in the jungle. We'll also be working in a school in Nicaragua, doing painting and decorating or building and teaching and playing with the children."

Lucy Kettlewell, 15, of Melmerby, is putting her GCSE Spanish to good use. "I'm most looking forward to the project work and also exploring how different the countries are to ours," she said.

Erin Fowler, 15, of Kirby Hill, and Lauren Pybus, 14, of Kirkby Fleetham, were looking forward to experiencing different cultures and seeing diverse wildlife. As well as seeing sloths and venomous spiders, one group is visiting the Tortuguero coast, which is famed for nesting turtles.

Head of RE and trip organiser Julian Clarke said he hoped it would inspire the students to visit more unusual countries when they are older.

"One of the purposes is to equip the students with skills, experience and confidence so they feel able to visit more remote parts of the world in safety as independent travellers," he explained.

He added: "What they witness may inform decisions they make in later life with regard to ethics and helping others. We hope it will develop further a sense of awe and wonder and appreciation of diverse cultures, landscapes and wildlife.”