Here at the Center for Sustainable Development Studies, field trips play a critical role in the curriculum by adding another dimension to the material in our classes; we have traveled to Monteverde to study cloud forest ecology, to the Río Tárcoles to study mangrove ecology, and to multiple farms and plantations to learn about sustainable and unsustainable practices.
Our most recent excursion, a weeklong field trip to Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua, was ostensibly to renew our 90-day Costa Rican visas, but of course was much more than that. The trip fit into our curriculum as a way to learn about the environmental and social implications of the Nicaraguan Canal project, invasive species in Lake Nicaragua, the impacts of tourism in a small community, and Nicaragua’s tumultuous history, all while we were there surrounded by it. We could compare Nicaraguan resource management and tourism to Costa Rica’s in order to better understand the difference between their weaknesses and the actions needed to address them.
Outside of our classes, we had time to explore the island and what it had to offer. We toured a local farming cooperative, saw petroglyphs left by inhabitants of the island thousands of years ago, and swam and relaxed at a water hole.
We completed a sweaty midday hike to a waterfall partway up the slopes of Maderas, the smaller of the two volcanoes that make up the island. We were rewarded for our efforts by the sight of water cascading hundreds of feet down a mossy cliff, the cool mist on our faces.
Photo courtesy of Travis Walker
We also spent one afternoon making (and eating) our own tortillas with a local women’s cooperative, Entre Volcanes, which is focused on community-based tourism.
And, of course, there was plenty of time to relax near the shores of Lake Nicaragua, serenaded by the bellows of howler monkeys, and read or play cards as we watched the sun set over the shores of Lake Nicaragua each night. Ometepe Island calls itself an “oasis de paz,” and this trip truly was an oasis of peace in a busy semester.