Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day Two: Monteverde Hike and Santa Elena Zip Line Tour

Well hey there!
We had a very interesting day which started with a guided tour in Monte Verde where we got to see a sloth, a quetzal and many many plants! Our guides were incredibly intelligent and engaging and it was nice that they were local. Ecotourism is so important for the local economy because the jobs and the profits go directly to local people and business.
Costa Rica has a Five leaves Program, where ecotourism business are ranked one to five in different categories of sustainability and they receive an overall rating that can only be as high as their lowest category. This is an amazing idea that encourages businesses to implement environmentally friendly practices so that they can display their green leaves with pride. If you are interested in this, you may check out this website for more information:

After lunch, we took a zip line tour, which was wonderful to bring all of us students together as a team and it was an amazing way to see more of the landscape. The combination of facing our fears and seeing the amazing surroundings was thrilling and refreshing. For those of you that are interested, our zip line tour company received two leaves in the five leaf program and included a sky tram and sky walks and a hummingbird walk, so there was something to do for everyone, which is important to bring in tourists.
We had a very interesting conversation as a class last night as to whether we would classify zip line tours as ecotourism or as just plain tourism. There are small things that every tourist company can do to help the environment and certainly the zip line tour was doing some of these, but are they doing enough?

After dinner we took a dance lesson with a man named Geovanni, who works here at U.G.A. Monte Verde and who is also a local and has been dancing his entire life. We learned the meringue and the cumbia. This was a blast! Hopefully we will get to show our new dance skills tomorrow night for New Year's Eve
An agouti- similar to a raccoon

A quetzal seen through binoculars

Happy tree!

At the hummingbird coffee shop

Marsha is too excited for zip-lining!

Getting geared up!

Sky walk

Matt on the practice zip line

One of many rainbows that we saw near the cloud forest

Downtown Santa Elena

Spotting the two-clawed sloth

Sunset view from U.G.A's porch

Waiting to go zip-lining

A beautiful waterfall during our nature hike

Safety instructions

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Day One: UGA Monteverde

Hello all!
We had a wonderful first day in Costa Rica. We are staying here at the University of Georgia's satellite campus in Monte Verde. We started the day off with some bird watching, followed by a delicious Costa Rican breakfast which consisted of gallo pinto, which is a traditional dish of rice and beans. The food is all local and the dairy is from cows that we walked past today, which is really awesome.
After lunch, we went to a presentation by Faricio, who talked to us about ecotourism and its importance in Costa Rica. Fabricio was very passionate about ecotourism and about the human connection with mother earth, which was very inspiring to us students.
After our presentation, we went on a nature hike where we took a crash course in tropical ecology and saw countless amazing species.
We mingled during dinner and got to talk to the super cool interns that work here. Each intern is stationed here for 6 months and they serve as the campus naturalists that lead our tours and hikes. There are also people here for several on-going research projects.
We just got back from our night hike, which was full of many creepy crawlies and some super cute sleeping birds.
See picture captions below:
Arum leaves. The holes are naturally there.

6 am birdwatching

Cecropia tree

Tiger rat snake about 5 feet long!

Tiger rat snake

Listening to Emily, the naturalist on the nature hike.

White-faced capuchin monkeys

Planting trees to off-set our carbon emissions to get to Costa Rica.

Service Learning. Planting trees to offset carbon emissions. 

Bird watching.

A beautiful overlook.

Football during free-time!

This is the strangling fig plant. It acts as a parasite and completely grows around an existing tree, sucking all of its nutrients out. Once the inner tree dies, the strangling fig remains.

A picture from the inside of the strangling fig where a tree used to be.

Welcome to U.G.A. Monte Verd