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!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Day 10 and 11: Cabo Blanco

It was a privilege to be able to stay within the park. Cabo Blanco was the first National park in this peninsula and is absolutely beautiful. We took a six-mile round trip hike to a lovely beach where we enjoyed “becoming one with the forest” as David says and relaxed on the secluded beach. On our hike we saw dear, white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys (including a baby one), coatis, and many bird species.
Interesting: the name Cabo Blanco comes from the white of the rocks that result from the guano of the brown booby bird. Also, we learned that all sport hunting has recently been outlawed in Costa Rica as well as owning any animals in your home other than a cat or a dog.

As we check the weather for Marquette and note that the schools there are closed for the third day in a row, we wish we could stay here forever lounging in the warmth. But alas, a ferry is waiting to take us to Alajuela, our last stop before we are homeward bound.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Day 7, 8, and 9: Karen Mogensen Reserve

This was such a peaceful stay. We hiked up to beautiful views where we were woken every morning by howling monkeys. Our cabins had hammocks where we enjoyed some much needed free time. We took a few hikes to some scenic waterfalls and swam in some natural pools. It was very surreal to swim with monkeys surrounding us. On a night hike, we got to see the gaudy leaf frog (which is the symbol of Costa Rica) and a few other species of frogs.
The wonderful people working at the reserve were like a family away from home and the cooking was so delicious! They have a beautiful research station just waiting for researchers to fall in love with it. We did a service learning project to help clean up the area and a tree was planted in the name of one of our own (Fred) because we donated a good sum of money for the reserve to be able to purchase more forest land.

I will miss having howler monkey wake-up alarms when we leave.

apparatus used to cook the beans! now THAT'S solar power!

Stick bug found on our night hike!

Eggs of the gaudy leaf frog. They are layed on a leaf above the water so that they fall into the water when hatched.

The Fred tree!

Honey bees are starting to be a great way for locals to make money.

Day 7, 8 and 9: Flickr Photostream

Part of the beauty of the Karen Mogensen Nature Reserve is its remoteness -- including lack of cell phone and internet access!  So, now that we have reached Cabo Blanco (where there is internet access), we have added a few photos of the previous three days spent enjoying Mogensen.  You'll see photos of morning birding, our wonderful cook Mary, explorations of the local swimming holes, and another group photo!  Also, two of our students (Fred and Marcia) made a donation to the Reserve, for which they were honored by the planting of a tree!  Our last celebration of Mogensen came in the form of the most scenic swimming hole ever -- at the base of a lovely cascade!  On our departure from Mogensen, we stopped at a local beekeeper's home to see her hives and gardens before heading to Cabo Blanco -- Costa Rica's 1st national park!