Wednesday, July 13, 2016

You better Belize it

I have decided to resurrect my blog now that I am part of Miami University's Global Field Program getting my Master's in Biology. Over the the next 2.5 years I will be traveling to foreign countries with classmates and learning about inquiry driven education, environmental stewardship and gaining a better understanding of global issues.

This year I had the opportunity to go to  Belize. During the trip we visited the Belize Zoo, Tobacco Cay and Mayan archaeological sites, but I am going to start from the beginning.

The first day really began the day before since I was lucky enough to be taking a red eye across the country from San Diego to Atlanta then down to Belize. I was really excited to be going somewhere new. Over the past 4 years since the last entry, I have been traveling, but just back to places I was familiar with, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and the US Virgin Islands. This was going to be the first new place and I was excited, but nervous and not sure what to expect. However, as I headed through customs I started seeing the yellow Earth Expedition tags on my classmates bags and we all started to connect and get to know the people we were going to spend the next 10 days with.

I had gotten in 3 hours before the class technically started so those of us who were there early had a long time waiting and chatting before we go on the bus and headed to the Belize Zoo. When we got to the zoo we met Jamal and he took us on a brief but very interesting tour of the zoo. We learned the history of all the animals in the zoo and that they were all natives and rescues.

Indy the Central American Tapir
Tayena, Greater One Horned Rhino
The first animal we saw was Indy the Central American tapir and he let us give in peanut treats. It was really neat to be so close to the rhinos closes relative. It was cool to their similarities up-close and differences. The main one that surprised me was the teeth they were very different than a rhinos and much sharper than I thought. I also found it interesting that tapirs face the same persecution for being feared. People that visit the Safari Park are always scared of rhinos and ask me if they will charge our truck or if it is okay that we are so close to them and for that reason we let guests feed and pet them to dispel some of those stereotypes. I learned that in Belize people feared tapirs, they thought these herbivores were ravenous beasts that would tear your skin off. The Belize Zoo has been doing guests interactions with these animals to allow the locals to gain appreciation and eliminate the fear of their national animal. This interaction really reminded of the important job zoos have to enlighten people of the natural wonders of animals from around the world, but more importantly instill some passion for animals found in your backyard.

We continued the tour and saw the spider monkey, a macaw the king vultures and then we saw Rocky. Rocky was incredible, he is a jaguar that was rescued from a trap. In Belize, jaguars that are posing a problem for farmers can be destroyed, but the zoo in looking to stop this by being a safe place for these cats. They do a lot of outreach to the local community and so now when community members have a problem with a jaguar they call the zoo. The zoo is able to humanely capture and rescue the jaguar, This is how they came to have Rocky. We were able to get right up next to him and see his shear power. The most incredible part about seeing him was his recall. Jamal called him and he came running. In fact every animal seemed to know and love Jamal.

After the tour, we got to meet Sharon, the woman who started the zoo. She is incredible, she has such passion and she truly has spent the past 30 years devoted to the animals of Belize and making them accessible and  to change their stereotypes. She has worked hard to show people that the animals aren't scary and to dispel the myths surrounding them.

After the talk, we went to the Tropical Education Center for a great dinner of jerk chicken and rice and beans. Then to the cabins for a much needed sleep, before the following days activity of hanging out with some manatees.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Now I'm sad to say, I'm on my way. I won't be back for many a day- Jamaica Farewell

Today Kayla and I woke up early  so we could hike to the La Fortuna waterfall. When we got to the park, we were the first ones to enter for the day.  We made it down the countless stairs in record time and only stopped to take in the surrounding beauty. We spent a little time at the bottom looking at the falls and bird watching from the basin. After about 15 minutes we got the courage to take on the stairs again. Seriously, there were so many!

Just a small portion of the stairs.

Kayla and I then grabbed a quick cup of iced coffee and breakfast before heading back to the Tabacon Resort. We quickly packed up the room and headed to the hot springs for one last time before our long trip to San Jose.

After 2 hours of lounging around, we decided to take the scenic route around Lake Arenal towards San Jose. Our only flaw was not realizing that this route added about 2.5 hours onto our trip… We actually were only 1 hour away from Costa de Oro. This unfortunately made us arrive to San Jose well past dark . Anyone who has been to Costa Rica knows maneuvering through the capitol during the day is incredibly hard, but at night it is so much worse. Luckily, my parents were able to book us a hotel just outside the city and very close to the airport. When we arrived, I discovered it was the first hotel I had stayed at in Costa Rica 15 years earlier. It was fun to see how much it had changed.

A group of coatis we found on the drive home.

Congo monkey also know as a howler monkey

Howler monkey 
Well off to bed, I have a long day of flying tomorrow, but I can't wait to be back in the USA!!
Christmas tree at the hotel.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tree Top Flyer

Once again Kayla and I were on shuttle by 8AM and we made it back to Arenal by noon. However, while on our journey we made friends with a great couple from Ohio and we showed them around La Fortuna. After we were kindly treated to lunch, we brought them up to Tabacon Resort and we headed down to find a more reasonable priced location to see the hot springs.

Kayla and I checked out 3 different resorts before deciding to return once again to Tabacon and see what kind of price we could get. We ended up securing a room for another fabulous price and headed out to Ecoglide to do some ziplining. I had a blast seeing the volcano, while flying through the canopy and it was a blast talking with the same group of guides that had taken my family out just 2 months earlier.
Kayla enjoying the zipline

Me, getting ready to jump/ fall on the Tarzan swing.
Once we had finished our treetop flying, we headed to a great steak place and grabbed some food to go and headed back to our luxury hotel. We ate our meal ever so romantically since we were wearing the" His and Hers "matching bathrobes and slippers provided by the hotel. Then finally we made it to the hot springs.

We enjoyed the hot water from many different pools and only called it quits when our feet became too prune-y to walk. We returned to the hotel to get some beauty sleep before our long day of waterfall hiking, hot spring enjoying before  driving back to San Jose.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Barefoot Children in the Rain

View of Arenal from our hotel room.

By 8AM Kayla and I had packed a small bag of stuff to bring to Monteverde with us and left the rest of our stuff packed safely in our car. We then climbed into the shuttle van and made our way towards the boat launch.  It took us just under an hour to cross Lake Arenal, but the boat trip was very mellow and we saw great views of the Arenal Volcano.

Volcano from the boat

When we finally crossed the lake, we were surprised to find out that we had another hour and a half of driving ahead of us. Obviously, we didn't do our research. Upon arriving to the town, we were dropped off at the sunset hotel.

A quick glimpse of Nicoya peninsula from the shuttle.
We set up camp and headed straight to downtown. Kayla and I ended up spending the afternoon wandering through shops and making plans of our day. We decided to go to the serpentarium at sunset because Kayla's goal of the trip was to see a fer- de- lance snake. While there, we saw both an adult  and a baby fer- de- lance and I even held a dead one. I was amazed to learn that this snake gives live birth to an average of 25 snakes. We also saw a variety of pit vipers, coral snakes and some venomous snakes. We learned a lot about the local snake species and I now know they are scarier than I thought.
Fer- de- lance

Coral Snake

Box turtle

Holding a large fer- de- lance

Brown basilisk lizard

Eye-lash viper

We rounded our trip out by going on a tour. During the tour, we were lucky enough to see a kinkajous (which looks like a lemur), cool spiders, a sleeping rainbow toucan and 2 pit vipers. The tour was one of my highlights of the whole trip. Our guide was so knowledgeable, I could have gone on multiple more tours and not gotten bored. I have a new found passion for the Costa Rican rain forest.

Green pit viper

Another pit viper

We got back to the hotel just before midnight and we once again were going to need to be up early because we have a early boat trip back.