The weekend before classes really started everyone in the Buenos Aires program was swept away for a short vacation in Uruguay. The first few weeks had been intense, with us trying to get a grip on a new country, getting used to living 24/7 in Spanish, and working with a completely different university system. Uruguay was a chance for a break before we had to buckle down.
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The Caribbean side of Costa Rica is like a different country than the western half. More beaches, of course, but beautiful in a different way. The culture is spectacularly Rastafarian and carefree, and all of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, where I stayed for a weekend, is filled with surfers and bikers.
I also made a trip to Bribri, an indigenous reserve that included waterfalls and an indigenous reserve.
Finally, I went snorkeling at Punta Uva (“Point Grape”) to explore some of the best coral reefs in Costa Rica.
Right before we left, a view of River Sixaola and, just beyond, Panama.
Volunteering at a turtle conservation project in Matapalo was by far the most meaningful experience I’ve had in Costa Rica.
We visited the hatchery as part of our “Ecological Richness of Costa Rica” class. All of us were split into patrols, either walking along the beach collecting eggs or releasing hatched turtles into the ocean. All of them were at night.
My first job was a 3 a.m. shift at the hatchery, monitoring the nests for any hatched turtles. Just as the sun was rising, we found one, lone lora turtle walking around its nest. It was part of another batch that had been born earlier that evening, and it was just late to the party.
We named it “Vida,” which mean “life” in Spanish. Watching it waddle along the sand, back into the ocean, to its home, was incredible and life-affirming.
Normally, these turtles are born in a nest in the sand. But threats, both natural (snakes, crabs, foxes, etc.) as well as man-made (poachers), have driven them to near-extinction.
To protect those eggs, I went on a four-hour patrol in the dead of night. We hiked a total of 9 kilometers at a power-walking speed. On our way back, our guide Daniel spotted a mother lora turtle making her nest. It was majestic, watching this mother laboriously, yet gracefully, make a home for her babies.
We carefully took her measurements and removed the eggs, all 103 of them, and placed them in a bag to bring back to the hatchery to be cared for by the volunteers until they hatched.
The work that these volunteers do every day and every night is not easy, but it is necessary. If these volunteers are successful, they could serve as an example for all turtle conservation efforts in Costa Rica.
Without them, without us, these turtles, as a species, would not survive.
My trip to Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio was by far my favorite part of my trip to Costa Rica. Beautiful, white sand beaches, jungles and hordes of monkeys.
The southern tip of Nicoya Peninsula is known as “Mal Pais,” which literally means “Bad Country.”
It’s anything but bad.
First, a wonderful ferry ride across the Gulf of Nicoya.
After two bumpy bus rides, we made it to Mal País, and, more importantly, the beautiful Playa Carmen.
The next day we took a horseback ride around the surrounding jungles and beaches.
We capped off the weekend with a trip to the famous waterfalls of Montezuma, where we jumped and swam to our hearts’ desires.