Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pacuare Reserve (Leather Back turtle volunteer program)

The Pacuare Reserve is just north of Limón.  The reserve owns 5.7 kilometers of beach. Every night they have people going out at 8pm, 10pm and midnight on turtle patrols. Even when it is very dark you can see the turtle tracks, because when they crawl on the beach, they expose the wet sand. If you find a turtle track, you stop and wait while the group leader goes and sees what it is doing. If it is looking for a place to nest, or digging a body pit, you want to stay away from it because it is very easy to scare it off. When it starts digging its nest, you can come up behind it, but not go in front of it because it still might get scared off. Sometimes the turtles come up and go back to the water without laying eggs. When it is laying its eggs you measure its shell and you can touch it. Each turtle has a tag on its right back flipper, and one on its left back flipper. The tags help them to figure out where the turtle has nested before and also so they can tell the turtles apart when writing down where it nested, how many eggs it layed and how big it was. They usualy lay 70-100 yolked eggs and 20-30 yolkless. They think that the yolkless eggs make the cavity in the nest bigger so there is more air. After it has laid its eggs, it will fill in the nest and start flinging sand around and digging big holes. All of this mess it is making makes it hard for predators to find the nest. Unfortunately, we have to get sticks and flatten out all of the mess it has made so poachers don't see the nest. The poachers drive up and down the beach in boats, and look for the mess the turtle has made. If there is a mess,then they know there is a nest, and they come ashore and dig it up. So if the messes are flattened out, then they don't see them all and don't think it is worth it to come ashore. The beach is divided into sectors. One sector is 100 meters (300 feet). On our first night we saw a turtle in sector one, which is directly in front of the building that we eat in. I got to hold its flipper while it layed eggs. Then we walked up the bech to sector 3, which is 300 meters (980 feet) away. There was another turtle there. After that I went back because it was 11:30 at night. We went with EPI. They have a place on their website where you can look up the turtles you saw. I will put up the information about the turtles I saw in 2-3 months, when they update their website.
EPI website for Costa Rica
The largest Leather Back turtle ever recorded weighed more than 900 kilograms (1980 pounds). It was drowned in a fishing net. A Volkswagen Beetle weighs 952 kilograms (2100 pounds).  A Leather Back turtle can dive to 1600 meters (5250 feet) because its shell is flexible, and compresses. They can stay under water for 6 hours because they can store oxygen in thier muscles, but when they are caught in fishing nets, they panic and use all of their oxygen quickly, and then drown.

A butterfly on the trail between the stations.

The nesting beach.
Making a sign.
They had good sunsets.
This is what the turtle tracks look like.
I dug a hole on the beach.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

San gerardo de dota (in Los Quetzales National Park)

San Gerardo is a cloud forest about an hour and a half from San José. It is at 2500 meters (8250 feet) elevation, so you are in the clouds a lot of the time. There was an amazing viewover the mountains and it was made even better because one side of our cabin was mostly glass. Apparently there are tapirs, but we didn’t see any while we were there. There is a type of bamboo that has what looks like clumps of grass growing out of each joint. This is a staple in a tapir’s diet. There was lots of this bamboo, but no tapirs eating it. We went for a walk down to the creek. In some places the ground was springy. This was because a rotting tree got buried and rotting wood is springy. On our way out, we went to see a Quetzal. The males have two tail feathers that are longer than their bodies. They also fly in a funny way, going up and down like a butterfly. There was a nest with babies, but it was in a hollow tree, so you couldn't see the babies. While we were there, the male fed the babies. When he was holding on to the side of the tree with his head in the nest, he blended in well, and would have been easy to miss. Every night, we went to Mimiriam’s Soda (a soda is like a small restaurant in Costa Rica). They gave the four of us five drumsticks, two trout, a bowl of rice, a bowl of beans, a bowl of potatoes, a jug of juice, a plate of tortillas and four stewed peaches, and they gave us this much every night!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Drake Bay

Drake bay is on a peninsula in the south of Costa Rica.
It is very hot and humid in Drake. There was a creek near where we stayed, so we rented kayaks and paddled up the river. We saw a sloth and a caiman. It was very pretty up the river. There were some beaches and mini waterfalls. We paddle up as far as we could, to the start of the rapids and stopped and swam. There is a caiman that lives in the river, but swims out to the ocean to catch fish during the day. There are Scarlet Macaws in Drake Bay. We had already seen one by the time we got to our hotel. They like to eat the almonds from the almond trees. We went out to Caño Island. It is about an hour boat ride from Drake. We went snorkelling on Caño Island. There wasn't much coral, but there were a lot of fish. All of the fish were making clicking sounds. At the top of the island there are huge stone spheres. We didn't go and see them.They think that they were made and put there by the inhabitants of Costa Rica, long before Spain found Costa Rica. They think that the island was a burial site. It was all good until someone stole my backpack. He came into our room at about four in the morning, so I was asleep. He had gone through my duffel bag, and only found clothes, so he left it. Then my dad woke up and saw the man and jumped up and ran after him. The man grabbed my backpack and my dad's day pack. He tripped going down the stairs and dropped the day pack, and a kitchen knife which he had been using to try and open other people's doors.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I had another week of Spanish school in Monteverde. Monteverde is a cloud forest up in the mountains. Monteverde has a very interesting history. In 1951, 11 Quaker families fom Alabama moved to Costa Rica when two of them were jailed because they refused to fight in the Korean war. They looked at different places in Central and South America, but they chose Costa Rica because they had gotten rid of their army in 1948. The families bought 3000 acres in Cerro Plano hill. They named their land Monteverde. It took them three months to travel 18 kilometers from the main road to their land because they had to make the road as they went. Two years later, in 1953, the Quakers founded the cheese factory. The cheese factory is still there today, and we went to see it. They make cheese and meat products, because when making cheese, only 10% of the milk turns into cheese. The rest turns into whey, and they have a few hundred pigs which they feed on the whey.
Spanish school was good. My teacher didn't speak any English, so I learned a lot more than in Heredia. The weather in Monteverde is strange. Since you are usually in the cloud, it doesn't really rain, though it is misty most of the time. We went on a night tour and saw a fox and two Agoutis. Agoutis are like huge guinea pigs with long legs. We also went to a humming bird cafe. Outside they have 8 or 9 hummingbird feeders. There are always lots of hummingbirds around, and they are not afraid of people. Some of them fly really close to your head. My dad saw eight different types in the hour we were there. It is amazing how agile the humming birds are. It is also amazing how they can fly so fast because Monteverde is at 5600 feet (2000 meters) so the air is thin, and they must breathe very fast. We went to a bat jungle. We learned that there is a type of bat which eats nectar, and it beats  its wings even faster than a humming bird. They also have small fruit bats which get a piece of fruit and hang upside down while they eat it. They are very cute. They didn't have any bug eating bats because a bug eating bat eats 500-3000 mosquitos each day.

Volcan Arenal

After we finished Spanish school, we went to Volcan Arenal. Nobody knew it was a volcano until it erupted in 1968, killing 97 people. Since then it has been steadily active.The first place we stayed at was amazing. When they put food in the bird feeder, toucans came and ate it. They also had a waterfall and a funny spider thing. There were so many spiders that when you scared them, they all moved and it looked like the plants were moving. After that we stayed at Los Lagos. We could see the volcano from the window in our room. They also had 4 hot pools, 3 cold pools and 3 water slides. Their waterslides went much faster than regular ones. You went about twice as fast as the water. The also had butterflies and a crocodile farm.