To make a long story short, the field study in Costa Rica was unbelievable. After landing, we went by bus to the Poas Volcano, about 8,200 feet above sea level. This volcano was so high up the clouds surrounded it, and we were able to walk through clouds. The forest adjacent to the volcano is known as a cloud forest for exactly this reason. Because of the moisture here, there were many species of ferns and mosses; because of the cloud forest’s elevation, many of the plants looked similar to Florida’s plants. Following our trip to the volcano, we took a windy road down to the lowlands of Sarapiqui. This area had the typical rain forest everyone pictures, complete with giant kapok trees, howler monkeys, screech owls, bullet ants, and kinkajous. Of course there was plenty of rain, and we all learned truly how waterproof our rain jackets were. It was incredible to see so early on in our trip just how much the flora and fauna changed with the different zones of Costa Rica. You could see the changes in the leaves of the trees, along with some of the animals, as we moved from the cloud forest to the lowlands.. Here we experienced more howler monkeys as well as spider monkeys, and the beautiful strawberry poison dart frog. It was truly surreal experiencing the rain forest that I had only seen and heard about in text books.
Our next destination was Tortuguero. We could only reach this destination by boat, and the views were unbelievable. It was reminiscent of the Jungle Cruise at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, only more real and unbelievable. Following our arrival, we boarded the boats again and went on a tour where we saw Cayman, iguanas, more monkeys, and plenty of birds. This location was one of my favorites on the trip. We were right on the Caribbean Sea, and the beach had black sand from the volcanic origin of the land. From here we flew back to San Jose and began our drive to the drier side of Costa Rica on the Pacific Ocean. Before reaching the ocean we stopped in Monteverde, another cloud forest. Here we went ziplining above the canopy, an experience I’m sure to remember for a long time.
After our departure from Monteverde we officially began our journey to the beach. We stopped along the way for hikes and got to see an agouti, which belongs to the rodent family and resembles a small capybara, very cute. One of the highlights for me on this journey to the beach was seeing a flock of scarlet macaws and a beautiful Costa Rican sunset. Once we were in Manuel Antonia, our final destination on the trip, we visited the national park located there. Although crowded, we got to see white faced capuchin monkeys, which in my opinion were the cutest and had the most personality of the monkeys we saw. After our visit to the national park, we got to have a fun afternoon at the beach complete with skim boarding, paddle boarding, and kayaking. We saw our last species of monkey here, the squirrel monkeys. The following day we went white water rafting and saw a very interesting Mexican porcupine that actually had a lot of green on it! We spent our last afternoon in Costa Rica relaxing by the beach that we loved so much. The beach and ocean were exactly how you’d picture them, fine sand and clear blue water. Our last meeting we were visited by a troop of capuchin monkeys that playfully began throwing coconuts and palm tree bits at us!
What struck me the most about Costa Rica was no matter what zone you were in, the flora and fauna were so lush and vibrant, nothing like I had ever seen before. There was life everywhere, even along the road when we were driving. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Kaley Stirtzinger ’15