Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Final Goodbye to Costa Rica

We spent our last night in the country in Alajuela where we checked into our hotel, and had one last night on the town. This was the first city we'd been to, since arriving in Costa Rica! We ate dinner at a restaurant with live music, where we sang and laughed and enjoyed each others company. We explored around the area, visiting a park and soaking up the city life.

That night we said goodbye to the first four people who had an early flight home. The next morning, the rest of us had the chance to walk around town, and visit some shops before heading to the airport. It was a long day of travel, but at around midnight, we finally landed in Chicago.

We are all coming back to the freezing temperatures with minimal sunburn, refreshed minds, and inspired to adventure. We talked about all of the amazing things we did on our last bus ride together. We swam in a waterfall, zip lined through a cloud forest, snorkeled, learned about Costa Rican wildlife, and met some amazing people. It was a truly incredible trip that we will be talking about for a long time.

Pura Vida!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Mogensen and Cabo Blanco

Mogensen had to be one of our favorite locations. We hiked up the mountain with all of our gear. It was an hour and a half hike through rivers and up a steep slope. We stayed in beautiful cabins with hammocks on the decks, and howler monkeys in the background. At Mogensen, we hiked the dry forest, bird watched, explored waterfalls and saw some amazing green tree frogs. Our time at this reserve was peaceful, where we could just bird watch and explore the area. We met the man who had been living at the reserve for his 75 years and learned the story of the land. He was a neat man who hiked all the way back down the mountain by himself that night. 
At the end of our stay, we hiked back down the mountain and stopped at an amazing cascading waterfall, where we swam in the pools and enjoyed the scenery. 

Next, we traveled to Cabo Blanco National Reserve. Cabo Blanco is on the southernmost tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Here, we cleaned the beaches, and explored the tidal pools where we found octopi, pufferfish, mollusks, and got the chance to snorkel again. We saw a sea turtle, and many brightly colored fish. We ended our stay here with a salsa dance party and a campfire on the beach after the sunset over the ocean.
Next we headed to our final stop, in Alajuela, before heading to the airport. 
Pura Vida!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Samara and Baulas National Park

We apologize for the delay: a combination of being super busy and lack of wifi!

We left UGA, to head west to the Pacific coast, to Samara. Samara was where we kayaked to an island, snorkeled, and had New Years on the beach. When snorkeling, we saw many brightly colored fish, eels, crabs and starfish. And ate fresh pineapple and watermelon on the beach. Samara was a beautiful beach town, with wonderful people!

We left Samara to head north to Baulas National Park to work with sea turtles. There we met with an employee of the national park, Randal, who shared his passion with us. For two nights we went to the beach to wait for the turtles to come on shore to lay their eggs. Once they laid their eggs, it was our job to collect and relocate them, to keep them safe from poachers. Many of us saw baby turtles hatch and immediately head to the ocean. Another group of us was lucky enough to see a leather back turtle! This was such an incredible rare experience for us. We really appreciated conversation with the biologists and Randal. His passion for the turtles and his work in Costa Rica radiated from him, we were all inspired by his words.

We also went on a boat tour of the mangrove forests where we saw a lot of wildlife and learned about the amazing mangroves in the estuaries of Costa Rica. We are now en route to Mogensen Reserve where we will hike a mile to our cabins and explore some waterfalls! We're all hot and humid, but still having a blast and soaking up our time in the sun!

Pura Vida!

Monday, December 29, 2014

¡Hola from Costa Rica!

Day 1: Getting Acquainted with Costa Rica

Our first day in Costa Rica started with a hike in the forest at the University of Georgia campus. We spent much time discussing the ecology of the flora and fauna of Monteverde. One interesting thing we learned was the symbiotic relationship between the cecropia tree and the aztec ants. The tree provides shelter for the ants, as it is hollow on the inside. The ants, in turn, ward off any potential predators or disease that may plague the tree. As we trekked further into the jungle, we witnessed more astounding organisms that inhabit the forest. We also spent our first day volunteering at a tree nursery where we pulled weeds and prepped areas for seeding. In conclusion of our first day, we explored the same jungle, but at night, where it became a different world. It gave us a completely new perspective of the tropical forest. We saw tarantulas, frogs, bioluminescent fungus, and heard the songs of many insects. Lots of "oos and aahs" were said.

 Day 2: Adventure in the Cloud Forest
"Nothing is wrong in nature."
This quote said by one of the tour guides, Manolo, that rings so true; and how amazing it was to view the forest from so many different angles today. Some of us made our way to the Continental Divide at the top of a mountain, while others saw a rare bird called a Quetzal. Later in the day, we were able to get a bird's eye view of the canopy via zip lines. It was a nerve wracking, exciting, adrenaline rush. There was a series of 8 zip lines that took us through the clouds and over the forest. We had a blast and would recommend this exhilarating opportunity! We wrapped up the day with another delicious meal here at the UGA campus, exhausted, but ready for more adventure!

Photo Credit: Jake Lamons

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Costa Rica Bound!

We all gathered at O Hare International Airport, to start our long day of travel! We met up with botanist, Keith Clancy, who will be joining us for our trip. We are waiting to get on our flight to San Jose, then we've got a couple hour drive to Monteverde. It's going to be a long night BUT we're all excited! 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Just a Few Weeks Until NMU Students Embark on 2014/2015 Trip!

It's been quite a wintry autumn here in Michigan's U.P.!  Since this IS the U.P., after all, we're not too surprised. Even though the snow and cold offer many lovely outdoor recreation opportunities, they also offer a nice contrast as we begin to anticipate this year's study abroad in Costa Rica!  Hurray! Start packing 2015 students!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Day 10, 11, 12: Flickr Photostream

Cabo Blanco is a beautiful place -- it's obvious why it was an early target for designation as a protected area!  The park staff provided a welcoming evening presentation about the park's history and natural history.  On Wednesday morning, we awoke to a gorgeous sunrise looking east toward the mainland.  After so many adventures, we set off on our morning hike with perhaps a bit less energy than usual!  But the 2-hour hike to the beach was well worth the effort -- We enjoyed several hours in the sun, sand and surf, and especially enjoyed the snacks of watermelon, papaya and pineapple provided by the ranger and kitchen staff!  We took it easy on our return hike, along which we encountered an NMU grad & his family from Munising (small world!), several monkeys, and a deer!  Thursday morning, we posed for several photos before boarding the bus for Paquera, where we boarded the ferry to Puntarenas -- San Jose bound!