Name: Annie Rhae Cisneros
School: University of Southern California
Major: International Relations
Program: Sustainable Development Studies, Costa Rica
Our weekend was filled with adventure. We went on a safari with the crocodile man and we saw lots of crocodiles and heard the beautifully raucous calls of a flock of scarlet macaws. We had no need of a bird book with our encyclopedic tropical ecology professor Edgardo, although the interns kept offering them throughout the trip.
We cruised until we entered the red mangrove forest where we turned off down a secluded stream and cut the motor to have a tropical ecology lecture on the ecology and environmental importance of mangrove forests. As we sat on the boat attentively taking notes some students were distracted by the elusive arboreal crabs that were scampering along the roots right up to the edge of our boat.
Next we headed to one of the most polluted beaches in Costa Rica at the mouth of the Tarcoles River. Here we had a lecture under a palm tree looking out at an ocean full of garbage and pollutants. We learned about the dangers of rapid growth without adequate city planning and the far reaching effects of urban run-off and poor sanitation practices. After lunch at the beach we headed to Carara National Park where we explored a transitional forest ecosystem and learned about acacia trees, and saw agoutis, coatis, turtles and many beautiful birds.
The next morning we were off again to explore the elfin forests surrounding Poas Volcano. After a strenuous hike up to the crater we were rewarded with a gorgeous view of both the lagoon filling the dormant crater and the sulfuric fumaroles billowing out of the active crater.
When we arrived back at the visitor center we were tasked with conducting surveys concerning the park facilities and visitors environmental awareness. We met many foreigners and locals and got to test our Spanish skills as they told us about their experience and their previous travels.
When all the surveys were completed we attended a guest lecture by a park ranger on the efforts of the most visited park in Costa Rica to become more sustainable and more involved in the local community. It was interesting to learn about the constraints, both monetary and bureaucratic, which prevent the park from expanding their reach through educational outreach programs and increased guided tours.
After a long weekend of hiking and travels we were glad to have Sunday off to rest and relax by the pool and prepare for the next exciting week filled with salsa classes, community outreach, a trip to the University of Costa Rica in San Jose and the long awaited home stay.