For the past three weeks, I have been taking an Ecology and Human Rights course. Not only has this course enhanced my knowledge of the natural world, but it has opened my eyes to ways of life much different than my own. For five days in the middle of the course, we packed our bags and drove to the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica for some “hands-on” learning.
During our trip we met a variety of people, swam in the ocean, and sampled ice cream from each town we passed through. It was both fun and educational, which is why I’d like to recount some of the highlights for you…
Our first stop was a place called Romelia. Romelia is a marine turtle conservation site. While we were there, we had the distinct privilege of handling baby sea turtles, taking their measurements, and finally setting them free into the ocean. The unusual part about this experience was that most of the time spent with the baby turtles occurred between 9:00 at night to 3:00 in the morning. Some students went to patrol the beaches; looking for adult sea turtles laying their eggs in the sand. Other groups worked in the hatchery looking after the babies.
After we hiked out of Romelia we drove to Cabo Blanco, which is a national park housing a breathtaking transition forest. We got to hike around the park for a few hours before driving to our next stop which was an UNA (National University) Research Center near Playa Blanca. This research center provides a place for marine biology students to come and do research in an actual marine environment. We were introduced to mangrove forests and I got to test out my “Write in the Rain” notebook underwater—turns out you can write in the notebook under water! Pretty cool if you ask me!
We spent two nights at the research center, and then we drove to a small coastal town called Tarcoles. Tarcoles was my favorite of all the places we visited. Why is this town so special, you ask? Well, Tarcoles is home to the only fishing cooperative in Costa Rica. This cooperative is community owned and operated, and it is changing the way people think about artesanal fishing.
While in Tarcoles we stayed with host families, went fishing with some of the cooperative fishermen, showered in a secret waterfall on a hidden beach, and experienced life at a slower pace. This little town may never be nationally recognized for the awesome work they are doing, but they are making a significant impact regardless. This cooperative not only benefits the community, but it supports sustainable fishing practices as well.
It was hard to leave the salty sea air and the shrimp dinners, but somehow we ended up right back where we had started in the little town of San Rafael. It was nice to come back home and share with my family about the people I met and the things I learned. I am still processing this trip, even as I look forward to leaving for Nicaragua in 3 days. I have exactly one month left on this Costa Rican adventure, and much more to learn I’m sure.
Thanks for the continued prayers!
Until next time…