Thanks to RAW Tours for putting together this wonderful video from our trip, please take a look!
What can I say that has not already been said about this trip? Costa Rica was easily one of the greatest experiences of my life, and something I won’t soon forget. I made friends, experienced a new culture, and had fun all while learning. Every day was a brand new adventure that we all woke up early for and tackled head on.
We got a taste of all forms of life during our time in Costa Rica; from the city to the rural surf towns. A couple things were constant in all the locations; never a hot shower, limited wifi, and hammocks. The limited wifi was great when I look back on it, because like everyone has said it made us enjoy Costa Rica more. Our focus down there was never on our phones, it was on the beauty of the land and our amazing group. Honestly, it could not have been a better group that went on this trip. We were all ready for each day and anything Kathy or Dr. Miller had planned for us. Throughout the whole trip we all became close and now that it is over we shall continue the friendships we started in this class. I will admit it has been quite strange not seeing the gang every day.
Out of Liberia, Coco, and Ostional my favorite location like most has to be Coco. It has a little bit of everything and is not only a place that I would visit again, but maybe even a place to live. The town has everything you may need within walking distance, and even more within a quick drive of it. Yet it was not just all the relaxing that made Coco great, it was the adventures and interesting presentations we had there. Within the span of about five days I zip-lined, snorkeled, learned basic scuba, planted trees, and enjoyed a hot spring for the first time in my life. Then on top of that we got to hear about marine projects from three different speakers in Ocotal. It was great to see their passion when presenting their projects to us.
Ostional was definitely an experience that we cannot properly convey to those that ask about our trips. You need to see and live in Ostional to truly appreciate its simplicity and laid back personality.
Every day down there is a memory we will remember and a story to tell for years to come. I cannot believe how quickly it all went by, and that is something that saddens me a bit. We definitely made every day count down there. There was never sleeping in and when an idea or plan was pitched we were all ready for it. Sure there were something’s we did down there were not all too enjoyable at the time, but they are stories now that we can all laugh about.
Lastly I just want to thank everybody here for making every day down there something I will cherish. Dr. Miller for making this whole trip possible and introducing me to Troll 2. Kathy for setting up everything for us down there, sometimes on the fly as well as getting us discounts. Her passion for the environment and life was awe inspiring and made for some interesting conversations with the group. Kathy’s friend Marialaura for allowing me to check out the Four Seasons and experience what working at a resort is like. And of course everyone from the class; thank you guys for all the memories I will have. Good or bad we all stuck together and made the best of our situation.
PS: Does anyone know what a mangrove is?
Pura Vida! Having had a week now to reflect on our ecotourism trip to Costa Rica, I believe that my biggest “takeaway” from this wonderful experience was a higher level of consciousness regarding the impact of the human footprint on nature. An ecotourism journey by far has more respect for the flora and fauna of a country than does a more wasteful mass tourism trip, which very often degrades nature. It is a sustainable type of tourism that engages both the tourist and the local people in preserving the natural environment and resources. Ecotourism is expected to grow rapidly over the next twenty years and has the attending and more global effect of having ecotourists return to their native lands being more cognizant of human footprints and the viability of a more “green” lifestyle.
The Central American country of Costa Rica has much to offer its citizens and visitors: a stable political atmosphere; a growing economy; easy access to neighboring countries; a mild climate; fabulous Caribbean and Pacific coastlines and beaches; unspoiled natural tropical beauty. Ecotourism in Costa Rica is a booming industry, and the local Costa Rican economy has come to depend upon it. Martha Honey (co-director of the Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development and editor of Ecotourism and Certification: Setting Standards in Practice) defines ecotourism as: 1) Involving travel to natural destinations 2) Minimizing impact 3) Building environmental awareness 4) Providing direct financial benefits for conservation 5) Providing financial benefits and empowerment for local people 6) Respecting local culture and 7) Supporting human rights and democratic movements. Ecotourism allows tourists to explore and enjoy the lush countryside of Costa Rica while keeping the integrity of and conserving the land. Ecotourist activities—which we participated in with great zeal–in Costa Rica include zip lining, scuba diving, snorkeling, and visiting and taking tours of various local attractions such as hot springs, waterfalls, mangroves, volcanoes, and rivers.
The activity of zip lining certainly raised our awareness of the diversity and complexity of the jungle ecosystem without doing it harm. We enjoyed a bird’s-eye panoramic view of the jungle canopy as we soared far above it, while smelling the pungent jungle flora and hearing the howler monkeys in their native habitat. The zip lining activity employed local guides, whose aim was to promote environmental awareness through dialogue with us “zippers.” They discussed key points about local ecology and wildlife. Zip lines certainly are “green” because they use no electricity, emit no fumes, and burn no fossil fuels. It was an exhilarating way to enjoy lush Costa Rican nature.
In summary, I view my Costa Rican experience as a huge educational success. I intend to be more cognizant of how my human actions affect my natural surroundings, and for that I credit our professor and ecotourism expert Dr. Andy Miller as well as the unflappable and friendly Costa Rican eco-tour guide and naturalist, Kattya Lomel. You two helped me create memories of Costa Rica I will always cherish. Thank you!
After having a week to digest our trip to Costa Rica, the fastest two weeks of my life, here’s the thoughts that keep crossing my mind: 1. I LOVE COSTA RICA! I’ve missed it every day since I’ve been back. I miss the Costa Rican people who took every challenge as it came with a laid back approach, the general friendliness and heartwarming personalities of the people we encountered and the constant beauty of nature that surrounded us everywhere we went. I gained an even greater appreciation for the Costa Rican beaches we experienced while spending this past Fourth of July at the Jersey Shore- In case you hadn’t guessed, Jersey beaches aren’t even in the same class as Costa Rican beaches. I even miss the rice and beans (never thought I would say that!). There’ s just something magical about Costa Rica that makes you want to never leave and keep exploring its incredible and diverse beauty. Every place we went had something unique to offer and we only explored a very small portion of Costa Rica. I can’t wait to find out what the rest of the country has to offer because I will be going back! 2. I LOVE ECOTOURISM! One of my favorite quotes goes something like this, “In order to be comfortable everywhere, one must always do things that make them uncomfortable.” Although I am unsure of whom the quote is from, I would not be surprised to hear that it was from someone who has experienced ecotourism. The greatest things that ecotourism has to offer is an adventure at every turn. As an ecotourist, your comfort zones are pushed everyday in the best way possible. Although you’re not always comfortable with what you’re doing, there are always local people who are happy to help at the drop of a hat and proud of what their country has to offer. The beauty of it all is that each ecotourist will have a different experience. As an ecotourist, you can count on nature and what is in front of you to provide you with the adventure. Because of that, you will not be getting the same cookie cutter experience that would be provided for you by participating in mass tourism. Also, ecotourism involves and envelops the local community, so that every experience that you are having is authentic and original. Ecotourism is a happy marriage between off the map traveling and mass tourism. Anyone who enjoys adventure, personal growth, and unscripted learning should really invest their next vacation time in ecotourism 3. I AM SO LUCKY! Taking Political Science 354- Ecotourism Development in Costa Rica was one of the best choices I have ever made. This trip was a short but incredible time in my life that I will always look back on with a full smile across my face and a light heart. I learned about Costa Rica, ecotourism, and a lot of personal life lessons. What more could you ask for? Expanding your view of the world can be a scary thing and calls for conscious effort to accept that differences can be celebrated as opposed to denigrated. And, if you can get through that initial phase of shock and mild resistance, you can learn to love those differences. Anyone who is lucky enough to learn those lessons will have so much more to offer those whom they come in contact with. I am so grateful to Dr. Miller as well as everyone else who made this trip possible. This experience has changed me and none of that would have been possible without all their hard work done behind the scenes. I hope that those who made this trip possible know that their efforts to give us this opportunity have helped us develop into not only more knowledgeable people, but also into wiser and more receptive individuals. This trip was absolutely incredible. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
This was Leanna Brisson signing off one last time!
Buenas tardes one last time amigos!
I can’t help but look back at our time in Costa Rica and smile. Our trip was filled with laughs, learning, and adventures. The past two weeks flew by. Although I was sad to leave the rich coast, it’s good to be home. I missed the simple luxuries that us Americans are accustomed to.
One thing that I took away from this trip is how simple the Costa Rican way of living is. Wifi is a luxury, cold water for showering is scarce, and there was no Starbucks available for my morning coffee. After a rough few days, I got used to not having it, and I found out that it was something of a chore for me to jump in the car and go get a coffee every morning. I survived without it. I liked the feeling of simplicity. I liked not having to keep up with texts every couple of minutes. I liked enjoying the company of the people around me, and not being distracted by my cell phone. We all got so close on this trip. We made the best out of ever situation we were put in. This trip was a learning experience for us and I’m glad the eight of us got the experience it together.
Tico’s are all about enjoying life, smiling, saying Purta Vita to complete strangers. They enjoy every minute of every day. The Tico way of life taught me to slow down, breathe, appreciate what you have, and most importantly live in the moment. We zip lined from the tallest trees in the Region, we snorkeled in the deep blue, and we hiked through a mangrove. We got the experience the beauty of nature first hand. We saw animals up close, and we got the experience new life being born on the beach of Ostional. Kathy, our connect, loves every bit of nature, she showed us that there is beauty in everything. Every day was a new adventure for us. Kathy lead the way, her passion and excitement for what the day had in store rubbed off on us and even somthing as simple as planting trees on a farm, made us feel like we were donating a million bucks.
In Liberia as we toured the Museo de Guanacaste, we saw how excited Kathy was about the future plans for the museum, and it motivated us to help. The museum was once an old fort,years later a jail cell and now the town is renovating it into an art gallery with a place for a band to play, and people to just come and hang out. I think its great how instead of knocking such a history building down, like they do here in America, they are turning it into something great. I cant wait to return years from now and see how wonderful it looks, and be able to say I help with this.
In El CoCo we learned a lot about Marine life and how humans are destroying it. We got to experience it first hand as we snorkeled and then learn that the coral reefs may be extinct 20 years from now. We need to appreciate it while it lasts.
Every summer my family and I go on a vacation to a new location, we usually stay in a resort where they serve America food and every amenity that you can imagine is available to you. After this trip I am 100% against resort vacations. They are the worst possible thing for the enviroment. They cut down the rainforest to build these huge buildings, they waste so much food, and not to mention the business they take away from the small mom and pop hotels. I wish that every American could have the opportunity to take a trip like like and see all the options that are available, as compared to an over priced resort. I learned and had so much fun on this vacation, more than I ever had on any other.
When you go to a new country you want to learn the culture, taste the food, talk with the locals, experience what the country has to offer. You don’t get the chance to do this when you are stuck in a resort the hole time. Im glad that I took this oppertunity. This trip opened my eyes to a hole new world. I learned to much about the the culture on this trip then any other vacation I have been on. Rough’in it in Ostional made me a stronger person. And now I have these great memories to look back on.
Thank you to the Costa Rican Crew, Dr. Miller, and Kattya. This trip is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Hola, my name is Michael Connelly and I realize that I’m late to the game here on wordpress. The trip was so much fun, with everyday being a new adventure. One such adventure for me took place on Sunday 6/23 when I went to work at the Four Seasons.
Earlier that week we met with Marialaura Rojas who is the manager for Embrujas Papagayo florist studio. We met her through our contact Kattya Lomel, and were able to get to know her on a personal level. Because of this connection I asked if it were possible for me to go to work with her. The next day I was off to work early by way of carpool.
The ride over took an hour and I made friends with an extremely nice woman. She is originally from Guam and told me of her time in Coco and her adventures. Once we arrived at the hotel, Marialaura showed me around the whole resort. Not only was I able to see the behind the scenes employee areas. But I was able to check out the hotel and presidential suites that I will never afford to stay in.
For the remainder of the day I was working. It began with just stringing orchids together on fishing line for a couple hours. The whole day other workers had been setting up the outside banquet area. The beach was full of dinner tables, bars, and buffet tables. In the middle was a flower stand full of many different varieties of flowers. This is where the bulk of my work took place.
I was a host to the guests of the event at the flower stand. I walked through with the guests, and assisted them in picking out flowers for their center pieces. All the flowers were grown in Costa Rica which was a bit of the sales pitch they gave me to say. Walking through with the guests was fun and I got to chat with a few about their stay. Some asked about me and how I ended up working at the Four Seasons.
My day at the Four Seasons was eye opening for me. I got to be a part of the staff and see them work all day while guests enjoyed themselves. I have way more respect and appreciation for those that work at resorts. I feel rather uneasy about staying at a resort after this experience.
Our experience in Costa Rica was one that I will never forget. We had the unique privilege of learning about Ecotourism and its role in Costa Rica’s economy first hand while simultaneously participating in various projects and tasks and learning about other aspects of their culture and daily life. The further along we came in our journey, the more appreciative I became of Costa Rica and everything it has to offer and as we neared the end, I found myself wanting to stay. I was shocked at how fast the time flew by because I did not believe Dr. Miller when he told us how fast the trip would fly by. It seemed as if one day we were arriving and the very next day we left. Although the two weeks went by so quickly, we got to experience a great deal. What made this trip even better was that we got to see ecotourism from both an educational as well as a recreational standpoint and understand how it is marketed to travelers, how it benefits the local community and of course how enjoyable eotourism can be.
I personally learned quite a bit from this trip not only about ecotourism, but about culture and life outside of what I am accustomed to. What initially caught my attention and stuck with me throughout the whole trip was the similarities and differences in lifestyles between Costa Ricans and Americans. From an outside perspective or from someone who may have never been outside of the U.S. before, one may be led to immediately believe that a country that is still categorized as “developing” must be vastly different than a nation such as the U.S. However, this is definitely not the case with Costa Rica. People of Costa Rica live just as we do, and just as people of countries around the world live as well. But what struck me was that although they have all or most of the things we do, most people of Costa Rica choose to live in a simple, more content manner. From what I observed, many people tend to have just necessities and are content with what they have rather than having extravagant homes, vehicles, or electronics. A prime example of this was when we visited and planted trees for a doctor in Liberia. Although he is a surgeon in the city, his home in the country side was not a mansion, but a simple house with just the basic amenities. This same way of life is seen throughout the country and that was one of the main reasons I enjoyed it so much. The simple way of living is not a sign of anything negative, but just the preferred way of life in Costa Rica.
I am very glad that I went on this trip because it was an experience unlike any other and It is something that will last with me. I learned a lot about Costa Rica and I had a great time participating in all of the things we did. Maybe some day in the future I will have the opportunity to return.
Pura Vida! – Jason Parfitt
The gang returned to JFK on Monday evening after having spent the past two weeks in Costa Rica. I’m sure I speak on behalf of everyone to say that this trip was one of the greatest experiences of our lives.
We learned much at our three locations in Costa Rica: Liberia, El Coco, and Ostional. Each location had something different to offer and presented an opportunity for us to grow, as people and students. Liberia was a small city in which we worked firsthand with organizations and interacted with the locals. Playas Del Coco we got to experience ecotourism firsthand by participating in ecotourist activities and listening to people involved in ecotourism organizations. In Ostional, we worked with a turtle refuge; we went out with guides at night to take stats on turtles, such as how many eggs a female laid, how long it took her to lay the eggs, and the length and width of the turtle herself. I actually got to measure a turtle as she was laying her eggs and it’s a moment I’ll probably never forget.
I learned much about ecotourism, like how I prefer it to resort vacations. Ecotourism presents a traveler to really submerse themselves into the culture and the country, to live life like a local in the areas they visit. I love that I got to experience Costa Rica in this way. It was so much better than staying in a resort just going to the beach every single day. I also learned a lot about the group and myself. I found eight other students that I didn’t even know I went to school with and probably would not have met if it weren’t for this trip. We learned a lot about each other during these two weeks and we made each other grow and experience this trip to the fullest. It was such a cohesive group and that only added to this experience. I honestly could not have picked eight better kids to accompany me on this journey and create the memories we have, so thank you everyone. And a big thanks to Dr. Miller and Kattya, for if it weren’t for you two, I definitely would not have met the people I have or would have gained this amazing opportunity.
The group at Ocotal before one of our lectures.
We accomplished much on our trip: helping a local museum, visiting a local high school, working with and learning about several charities and organizations, snorkeling, and witnessing and collecting information on one of nature’s miracles. Though we have done all this, one of my favorite things from Costa Rica was the relationships we all established with one another. The bonds we all created made the trip that much more memorable and our work that much more special.
Until next time, Costa Rica; for we will meet again.
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Costa Rica was one of the greatest adventures I have taken in my life so far. Embracing in a different culture and learning the history of how a different country was established was very interesting to me. Talking to many of the Costa Ricans I found that they are very proud of the environment and ecosystem that their country provides. They love the promotion of ecotourism because not only does it connect people to the land of the area but also provides a good source of income to many local businesses.
I am so glad I had the opportunity to be part of this class that promotes ecotourism in this area. I was able to do so much in this country to help with some of the environmental aspects of ecotourism. One of the projects we did involved sea turtles. This was something I would never forget, seeing the sea turtle make its way up to the land and dig a hole to lay its eggs in is definitely something all should experience. Being part of a group that measured the sea turtle, tagged it, and counted its eggs was very cool knowing that we are helping with the research of these animals.
This trip really opened my eyes about how people in different parts of the world value the land around them. Costa Ricans are without a doubt one of the top leaders in promoting a healthier way of living by not wasting anything and not abusing the amount of resources they have. I would love to go back to this country again and I would also recommend others to go here also because this was really a good experience that I feel no one should miss out on. I will definitely try to make my future visits to other countries using ecotourism.
The past two weeks in Costa Rica have been nothing short of amazing. The sights we have seen, things we have done, people we have met and lessons we have learned are things we will remember and treasure forever. With ecotourism, you have to be ready for anything. You have to be willing to rough it for a few days. It’s not a luxury vacation, it’s an adventurous exploration. You will probably need to bring more pairs of shoes than you normally would, not for fashion purposes, but for utility. Old sneakers, flip flops, sandals, & water shoes will replace your Michael Kors & Steve Madden items of the season in your suitcase. Ecotourism is an adventure, it’s unusual and exciting, and sometimes it can be work. To travel as an ecotourist requires enthusiasm, a free spirit, and a positive attitude. At the end of the day, if you can replace your hot shower and fluffy white towel with a cold shower and towel that smells slightly of mold and barely covers your behind, then you can survive any other challenges you may face traveling this way. At the end of the day in Costa Rica, you will probably prefer a cold shower anyway, and might I recommend bringing your own towel! The luxury of ecotourism lies within you, and around you in the ways of nature. It doesn’t come with a day at the spa or room service. It comes about through being cut off from the rest of the world. The hustle and bustle of traffic, busy schedules, work emails, and phone calls fade away as you begin to live in the moment. At first you may try to resist these colossal life changes, but when you can learn to let go of it all and live without the unnecessary comfort of material objects, you can begin to instead focus on the moment; your surroundings without and within you, that is the luxury of ecotourism.
The luxuries of mass tourism vacations are substituted by the irreplaceable, awe-inspiring learning experiences one can only get as an ecotourist. Mass tourism generally brings people away from the outdoors, confining them within the boundaries of a resort; whereas ecotourism throws people right into the wilderness without an umbrella. A hot stone massage at some ritzy resort could never hold a candle to the things we have experienced through traveling as ecotourists.
Travelling by mass tourism would never allow one to get caught in a tropical rain storm while walking back from the beach in el Coco, or to see monkeys and crocodiles in their own natural habitat, without bars to separate our not-so different worlds. Helping the people of Liberia advertise for their local museum, watching a mother turtle’s venture onto land to lay 114 eggs on the beach in Ostional at 4AM, and planting trees in Guanacaste are just glimpses of the things we have done to give back to our environment while on this trip. All of these things have been part of our ecotourist travel adventures that could only be experienced through this way of travel. While travelling in Costa Rica, remembrance of a quote I have heard resonated with me and my experiences. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. Such a concept can never truly be understood until it has been lived. So go ahead and put your cell phone down, remove yourself from your comfort zone, and try experiencing your next vacation the ecotourist way.
I cannot believe how fast the past week and a half have gone by! We have been so busy between presentations, sightseeing, and adventures that the time has really flown. Now we have reached our last destination in Costa Rica: Ostional! The drive here was one that would have made my mother cringe. The roads were windy and narrow, but that didn’t stop traffic from racing around each turn. At certain points we were even driving right through streams of water. The view, however, was simply breathtaking. The most greenery I have ever seen in my 21 years of life was rising up on both sides into mountains as high as the clouds. I see now why Costa Rica takes such pride in its environment, and works hard to keep it so beautiful.
Once we arrived in Ostional, it was quite a culture shock from our previous locations. We went from the city in Liberia, to the beach town of El Coco, to the desolate countryside of Ostional. To my content, our cabins resided just off of the beach, and the view of the ocean was incredible! We got settled into our rooms and had dinner, then took the rest of the night to rest up and prepare for our midnight turtle adventures. At around 1AM, we covered ourselves in bug spray, dressed head to toe in dark clothing, and set off to the beach to begin our search for nesting turtles.
Ostional serves as a nesting place for turtles all year round. Turtles come from as far as California and India to lay their eggs on the beaches here. During the rainy season, up to 200,000 turtles a month come to lay their eggs. One of the most common varieties of turtles found in Ostional is the Olive Ridley. Because of the large density of turtles that come to lay their eggs in such a short period of time, there is an overproduction of eggs on the beach, which leads to a spread of bacteria that causes up to 70% of the eggs to perish. Due to the overpopulation of turtle eggs, Ostional is the only beach approved by the Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention to permit egg harvesting. Each arribada, which occurs during a full moon and results in a mass production of eggs, permits a limited amount of eggs that can be harvested. The harvesting of turtle eggs serves to decrease poaching, which is a common crime here, as turtle eggs are a delicacy in many dishes. It also provides some financial support to the local people of Ostional, as they can sell the eggs and earn an income that way. Harvesting allows for people to come and take eggs to sell or consume, which in turn helps to increase the chance of survival for other eggs, as they are not competing as much for space on the beach. Egg harvesting is sometimes seen as a cruel practice to those who are not aware of all the benefits it provides, both biologically and economically. However, in reality, harvesting serves to manage overproduction of eggs, decrease illegal trafficking, and supply local families with a source of income.
It has been wonderful working with the turtle refuge in Ostional. Over the past few days I have learned a lot of interesting things about turtles, and we were all very fortunate to witness mother turtles come to lay their eggs here on the beach. Being here in Ostional and observing one of nature’s most incredible miracles has been one of the most rewarding and life changing experiences of my life.
Hola! This is Jason Parfitt again. On the morning of June 24, we were given the opportunity to listen to a real estate attorney and notary public named Priscilla. She works out of Playas Del Coco but works with clients both locally as well as internationally. She gave us insight from a local perspective into many aspects of Costa Rica including government practices, international relations, citizenship,ecotourism and of course real estate. I felt that she was very informative and insightful in her presentation but more importantly, the information she provided us gave us better understanding of our purpose in Costa Rica; to learn about the development of Ecotourism and why it is such an asset to their economy. She also gave us brief history of Costa Rica including key historical events that aided in the country’s push for development. One interesting fact about Costa Rica was the abolishment of their military and how that aided in Costa Rica being categorized as the peaceful Nation that it is viewed as today. To compensate for the lack of any military force, the government enhanced its number of police forces in the country to maintain order and protect it’s citizens. Furthermore, Costa Rica does not have any immediate international threats, not having a military is not detrimental to the country. From Priscilla’s point of view, Costa Rica’s good standing in the international community further contributes to it’s tourist appeal along with it’s natural attractions. The presentation by Priscilla gave us a unique privilege to see Costa Rica through the eyes of a citizen, business owner and a beneficiary of ecotourism when people decide to purchase homes in Costa Rica after visiting there. Her presentation helped make my experience and that of others more enjoyable and unique.
Here is part of the work we did for the Museo de Guanacaste
Buenos Dias! It’s Emily again. From 8AM-12PM on Tuesday, we snorkeled with the help of Ocotal’s scuba instructor, boat, and equipment. We travelled 25 minutes off the resort shore to a small island where we awkwardly put on our flippers, strapped masks and tubes to our heads, and swam around. The crystal blue, 80+ degree water allowed us to explore the wildlife below sea level. We got to hold a starfish and saw puffer fish, sting rays, and other brightly-colored fish. When exhaustion set in, we hopped back into the boat for water and fresh tropical fruit, and we changed locations so that we could explore a nearby beach. The sailor anchored the boat and we swam to shore, able to look down into the waters and see our fingers (that doesn’t happen too often at the Jersey shore!) Upon reaching land, we noted the white sand and lush vegetation growing on the mountains. To our right were caverns–as soon as we spotted them, we excitedly jogged to get a closer look. Light poured in from both ends, but the inside of the caverns were still dark in comparison with the bright Costa Rican sun. The semi-calm waters lapped up against the jagged rocks on the far end of the cavern. Our morning was filled with good fun and many laughs, but we learned in the process. After returning to shore and having lunch, we were given a presentation by a German student, Ines, working in Costa Rica with another student to complete research for their doctorates. Ines explained, in her presentation, coral reefs–from a brief overview to different types to human and natural interaction that threatens coral reefs. Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems and the reefs are home to many different species of wildlife. The student noted how tourists, a lot of the time unknowingly, interfere with the reefs as they break off pieces as souvenirs and when boats are anchored, the anchors also break and kill coral reefs. The presentation was eye-opening as it connected what we had just seen firsthand to real world ecological issues. It was exciting to not only enjoy ourselves snorkeling, but also to become more aware of issues around us, especially in regards to ecotourism. If the coral reefs are killed as a result of our actions, the inhabitants of the reefs will either die or relocate to other coral reefs, making tourists less likely to want to snorkel in that area and therefore, decreasing ecotourism. We, as students listening to the presentation, realized that our effects have a direct impact on the environment around us and in order to maintain and protect our environments, we have to be aware of issues and work in an effect to preserve our land
Buenos Dias! It’s Emily again. From 8AM-12PM on Tuesday, we snorkeled with the help of Ocotal’s scuba instructor, boat, and equipment. We travelled 25 minutes off the resort shore to a small island where we awkwardly put on our flippers, strapped masks and tubes to our heads, and swam around. The crystal blue, 80+ degree water allowed us to explore the wildlife below sea level. We got to hold a starfish and saw puffer fish, sting rays, and other brightly-colored fish. When exhaustion set in, we hopped back into the boat for water and fresh tropical fruit, and we changed locations so that we could explore a nearby beach. The sailor anchored the boat and we swam to shore, able to look down into the waters and see our fingers (that doesn’t happen too often at the Jersey shore!) Upon reaching land, we noted the white sand and lush vegetation growing on the mountains. To our right were caverns–as soon as we spotted them, we excitedly jogged to get a closer look. Light poured in from both ends, but the inside of the caverns were still dark in comparison with the bright Costa Rican sun. The semi-calm waters lapped up against the jagged rocks on the far end of the cavern. Our morning was filled with good fun and many laughs, but we learned in the process. After returning to shore and having lunch, we were given a presentation by a German student, Ines, working in Costa Rica with another student to complete research for their doctorates. Ines explained, in her presentation, coral reefs–from a brief overview to different types to human and natural interaction that threatens coral reefs. Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems and the reefs are home to many different species of wildlife. The student noted how tourists, a lot of the time unknowingly, interfere with the reefs as they break off pieces as souvenirs and when boats are anchored, the anchors also break and kill coral reefs. The presentation was eye-opening as it connected what we had just seen firsthand to real world ecological issues. It was exciting to not only enjoy ourselves snorkeling, but also to become more aware of issues around us, especially in regards to ecotourism. If the coral reefs are killed as a result of our actions, the inhabitants of the reefs will either die or relocate to other coral reefs, making tourists less likely to want to snorkel in that area and therefore, decreasing ecotourism. We, as students listening to the presentation, realized that our effects have a direct impact on the environment around us and in order to maintain and protect our environments, we have to be aware of issues and work in an effect to preserve our land.
I am having the time of my life on this trip! Everyday is better than the last! Not only am I learning so much about ecotourism, the environment that we our surrounded with, and the Costa Rican culture, but I am having an incredible time while doing it!
One of my favorite things we have done so far on the trip was snorkeling. Prior to going out into the ocean and snorkeling, we took a lesson in a pool on how to snorkel and scuba dive.When I was a child, I learned how to snorkel in Cayuga Lake. It was fun, but the most exciting thing I saw was a sunfish. The next day after out lesson, we all hopped on a private boat and took a ride out into the ocean. While on the way to our first snorkeling destination, we were able to see turtles in the ocean. After about a twenty minute boat ride off the Costa Rican coast, we docked out boat off a small land formation a ways out into the pacific. We put our flippers on, strapped on our masks, and jumped off the boat into a whole new world.
The colors of the fish were incredible! There were large black fish with neon blue dots, yellow fish with strikingly blue bodies, and eels the color of the ocean floor so that you could only see then as they slithered around the coral floor. Our guide made the experience that much more memorable by not only pointing out animals such as sting rays and pufferfish, but by letting us hold different neon colored sea stars and an imperial sea eurchant. Thinking about it now, it’s hard to believe that there are so many incredible and diverse fish. ! I mean, some of these animals were just plain weird looking and to find them in nature just shows what an incredible an diverse world we naturally live in, above and below the sea. Honestly, you just have to google what an imperial sea eurchant looks like. I promise that it won’t even come close to what you guessed
After a session of snorkeling, we got back on the boat and spent some time at a remote beach. At the beach, there were caverns that you could walk through clear to the other side of the rock formation and into the ocean. Once we had explored this beach, we swam back to the boat and drove to another snorkeling destination where we were able to see different schools of fish and a number of string rays.
To finish off our trip, we went to another remote island with white sand and clear water. It looked like a picture that you would see on a calendar. We jumped off the boat, swam to shore, and just enjoyed our surroundings for the next hour.
Once out boat pulled after our snorkeling trip,we headed into a classroom to hear a few lectures on ocean research and shark/ocean conservation. After seeing the incredible world under the water, the speaker’s message hit home that much more. Snorkeling made me think more about the way I view the world. There’s all this incredible beauty around us that we just don’t perceive because we’ve seen it so many times before or because we don’t have the right tools to capture it. But maybe if we change our perspective a little, or try something different, we could find a whole new world of beauty and awe inspiring things.
Hola again, this time from Playas Del Coco. Dawn here writing to tell you about a really interesting lecture we had the other day.
On Tuesday we received a lecture from Andres Lopez who created an organization called Mision Tiburon (Shark Mission). With the declining shark population, Andres started this organization to tag sharks, as well as other marine life like sting rays, to keep track of the population and hopefully build it back up. Andres gave us a presentation about the birth of the organization, the process and forms of tagging, and their progress thus far.
Members of Shark Mission also visit schools to inform children about the importance of sharks and our oceans. Students perform activities to learn about sharks and even paint murals to display what they have learned.
Earlier in the day, all of us participated in a snorkeling expedition, so it was neat to relate our new knowledge about sharks and the ocean to an activity we had previously done. It was an effective learning method.
It is obvious Andres is passionate about Shark Mission and its efforts to bring awareness to sharks and the restoration of the population. That passion was contagious amongst the group. After the lecture several of us purchased t-shirts and stickers to help spread and support awareness on sharks. It was a really interesting and informative lecture, one that changed my perspective and will make me inform others of the importance of sharks and oceans.
If you too are interested in learning about this cause, you can visit the Shark Mission website at http://www.misiontiburon.org.
Hola de Nuevo!
The past couple of days we have spent in the beach town of Playa Del Coco. It is a gorgeous beach town full of culture and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. One of the activities that really stood out to me here was when we visited one of Kathy’s good friends.His name is Andres and he is an orthopedic surgeon. When Kathy explained to us that we would be helping him plant trees on his farm, I wasn’t too thrilled.
My attitude quickly changed as we pulled into his farm. It was a gorgeous piece of property. Animals were roaming freely, trees were green and plentiful, and a quaint little cottage sat at the top. He recently purchased the land 7 months ago, which was crazy to see all the work he has done in such little time. At that moment I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty, and help add some more beauty to this majestic place.
Prior to this I had never planted trees before, actually I never really did much gardening. I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t even cut the grass at home, so this was a whole new experience for me and I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I was excited to be planting a baby tree that would grow to be massive and would give shad to animals years from now.
As I started digging my hole, the soil was dry and tough, it was going to be a lot harder then I thought. But I was motivated by the beauty that surrounded me, so I kept going. After about ten minutes of loosening the dirt and then shoveling it out, I finally had my hole to the proper depth. I then began to plant my tree. As I pushed the dirty back around it and began to water, a sense of pride came over me. It felt good to be able to say that I planted a tree in Costa Rica that would give food, shelter, and shade to future animals. It felt good to contribute. This feeling was so good that it makes me wanted to get more involved at home. The sweat, blisters, and callouses were all worth it to know that I added a piece of beauty in Costa Rica.
My name is Giuliana Ayers and I am a junior at Wilkes University studying Business Management. I love to travel and be in new places, so when I first learned about this trip I was extremely interested right from the start. After attending the first meeting and learning that this was an ecotourism class I knew it would be something so different from what I was used to and I knew I had to be a part of it. I recently came across the quote, if it scares you it might be a good thing to try. I have been applying this saying to almost everything in my life and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, and I’m so glad I did.
When I go on vacation with my family we usually stay in resorts, so this experience is something so new and different to me, completely out of my element. But this trip has been nothing but remarkable so far.
Every place you visit you shortly discover that there’s something that particular place is known for. For example in Hazleton it’s farmers iced tea and Jimmy’s hotdogs. The Guanacaste region of Liberia specializes in four very unique drinks.
The first, and probably my favorite, is called chan. Made with the seed of a plant found mostly in the region. It reminded me a lot of bubble tea. It is defiantly an acquired taste. The seeds are soaked in water until a they become enveloped in a slimy yet delishous substance, sugar is added and sometimes cola syrup for color.
The second drink I tried was flax seeds. Flaxseeds are a healthy yet refreshing beverage. The consistency reminded me a lot of jello, I really enjoyed it.
Tamarindo is the name of the third drink. In Costa Rica, fresco de tamarindo is a traditional beverage found all over the country, but particularly in the dry and hot Guanacaste plañís where the tree grows amazingly well. I have to say I wasn’t to crazy about this beverage . The drink consisted mostly of rice and the tamorindo bean.
last but not least was cas. The cas fruit is blended with a sweetener to make a creamy, delightful, sweet-acid drink that has a hint of guava flavor. It was a beautiful yellow color, that had a zangy tast to it.
Althought the food has been excellent the drinks where something that stood out to me the most. I wish I could take them all home with me.
¡Hola from Costa Rica!
Hola from Costa Rica! My name is Dawn and I’m a senior sociology major. Myself and the group are excited to be here in Costa Rica and telling you about the details of our trip!
Today we went to a high school here in Liberia that is the only public art high school in Costa Rica where students can study an art form, such as dance or theater, as a major part of their education along with their academic classes. The students invited us to give us lessons of traditional folk dance. The students demonstrated several dances then taught us each one step by step. After we were taught each dance, we performed them along with the students. It was an exhausting workout, but it was so much fun too. The students then performed a play they had written especially for our visit. We were able to talk with them and ask each other questions and converse. We ended the visit by taking many pictures with the students. They even invited us to come back tomorrow!
This is an experience we would not have had on just a regular trip to Costa Rica. Not many people can say they were given dance lessons by high school students on their trip to Costa Rica. It’s experiences like these that make the trip that much more special and memorable. This was definitely the highlight of the trip for me thus far. Looking forward to what the rest of the trip has in store!
Hello, my name is Jordan. I’m a junior at Wilkes University majoring in earth and environmental science. So far this trip to Costa Rica has been one of the biggest adventure I have ever done in my life.
Arriving to this country I never realized how much different this place would be compared to the United States. I have noticed the people here already have many different customs than back home. For example I noticed that a lot of the shopping stores in Liberia close around six every night. I thought that was very different compared to back home where people close shopping stores at nine at night. I feel this is probably due to the fact that the sunsets here at that time and there is minimum street lights in the area. The people seem to be very welcoming wherever we go. Today we met a guy who makes flower pots out of old car tires. He welcomed us into his house where he explained that everything he creates and sells goes to a nonprofit group to help children in Costa Rica. I hope that I get the opportunity to meet more people like him that helps give back to the community.
Buenos Dias, my name is Jason Parfitt and i am a junior at Wilkes majoring in criminology and sociology. I took this class because i saw an opportunity to volunteer and serve while simultaneously being able to travel and experience a different culture. I have traveled in the past and i have a great desire to help others, so I saw this trip as an opportunity to do both. Although it is only day 3, I have already worked with the other group members and we have accomplished quite a bit at the museum we have been volunteering at.
Even though the work we have been doing has been productive and there is a plethora of other topics i could discuss, i wanted to touch on a few things we have seen in country that line up with some of the concepts Dr. Miller discussed in class prior to leaving. For example, Dr. Miller discussed how many areas in Costa Rica are unevenly developed, meaning some areas are heavily focused on developing ecotourism attention, while others are left to waste away because they are viewed as having no potential for ecotourism. The way this was portrayed in Liberia was evident when we went walking around the town to see what was around. When we began our walk, we were in a clean, developed part of town that was busy with tourists and locals alike. However, near the end we came to a bridge over what seemed like a nice river only to discover that it was filled with garbage and was not being taken care of at all. This is a prime example of the uneven development that occurs and it is common throughout the country. I can understand why uneven development can occur so easily because when an area is popular for ecotourism, all effort and work are immediately focused on that area because it is profitable. With ecotourism being a main enterprise in Costa Rica, areas that don’t benefit ecotourism can be easily forgotten.
I feel that this trip makes the topic of ecotourism so much more real because we aren’t just reading theories and statistics in textbooks, but witnessing first hand how these concepts manifest themselves first hand.
Buenos Dias! My name is Emily and I am a sophomore triple major–Political Science, Psychology, and Spanish. I’m very excited to be a part of this Costa Rica trip!
Upon our arrival in Costa Rica yesterday, we met our in-country coordinator, Kattya, and went out for dinner. Most restaurants in Costa Rica serve a dish called casado, which is a typical meal, consisting of rice, black beans, a type of meat, salad, plantains, and another component that varies depending upon the cook. Casado translates to “married,” and it is said that the dish originated from males eating small, simple meals until they got married. Once married, men were spoiled by eating huge, complex, nutritious, and fulfilling meals made by their wives. Another theory is that the dish is called casado due to rice and beans always being together or “married.” Regardless of the theories, casado proves to be nothing short of delicious. A nice mix of proteins and starches, casado leaves everyone filled until their next meal. The juicy, fresh fruit bursts with flavor and is paired nicely with the filleted fish, usually just caught earlier that day. The rice and beans seem to mix naturally. Along with the mouth-watering Costa Rican cuisine, the drinks that join them are delightfully exotic. Fresh pineapple or papaya juice is a Wilkes’ favorite. The restaurant at which we ate this afternoon had drinks including flax seed, which had a thick, syrupy consistency and tamarindo, which tastes mildly sour and refreshing. Snacks throughout the day included mamones and coconuts bought from street vendors. Overall, the cuisine is amuse bouche and has been a highlight of the trip!
Today we worked with the Museo de Guanacaste on translating their tourist information pages into English–we even had a couple Canadian tourists stop by for a visit! The museum itself was first built as a fort and then was used as a jail, before becoming a museum. The hope is that the museum can preserve the building’s history while also teaching tourists as well as Guanacastecos about the history of the region.
I wanted to pass along the list of projects we will be doing in Liberia with the Museo de Guanacaste–looks like we need to brush up on our Spanish!
Creation of a brochure in English for tourists and prospective museum visitors
Translate existing pamphlets and marketing materials from Spanish to English.
A proper translation of the Museum’s Facebook Page into English to help in broadening the reach for non-native speakers
Create a flyer template which can be utilized by museum officials to announce and market current events and exhibits as they change throughout the year
Wilkes University will once again team with R.A.W. Tours for a student service-learning trip to Costa Rica. Previously, R.A.W. has coordinated Wilkes’ yearly trip to the Tarrazú region of central Costa Rica so students can live a day in the life of a Costa Rican coffee farmer and complete various community service projects. Each time we’ve worked with R.A.W. on a service-learning trip it has been put together by RAW representative Kattya Lomel who will also be leading our trip this year.
One of the many things that I like about working with R.A.W. is that Kattya and I really share a lot of same ideas about what students should get out of a trip and the best way to carry it out. It is really nice to work with the same organization again and again because it not only makes the planning process easier, but I know that everything will run very smoothly while we’re in-country.
Here is a little bit about Kattya: Kattya Lomel, Operations Director and founder of R.A.W. Tours – Raising Awareness Worldwide, has been in the service/volunteer tourism industry for 7 years. A native of Costa Rica, she has an unbridled passion for helping others and raising consciousness in the world through her organization’s volunteer projects. Her passion and experience culminated in late 2010 with the founding of R.A.W. Tours; a non-profit organization focused on creating life changing experiences for volunteers from across the globe by immersing them in rural communities in Costa Rica in service oriented projects.
Thankfully for us, Kattya likes working with Wilkes as well, “I have been fortunate to have a chance to work with Dr. Miller and the students from Wilkes University for several years now and they are certainly a highlight for me. Dr. Miller always has an innovative approach to whatever project we are working on and the students are always selfless and full of love for the communities we serve. I am particularly excited about this upcoming class on Ecotourism and its impact on the community; as it is one of largest industries here in the coastal Guanacaste regions. I have no doubt that this will be an enriching and educational journey for the students and the individuals in the communities we will be collaborating with. Our hope is a higher level of awareness and fresh approaches will be birthed out of work in the coming weeks. We here at R.A.W. Tours feel very blessed and excited to be partnering and sharing with Wilkes University for this summer course.”
For more information on RAW and photos from past Wilkes trips led by R.A.W., please visit their website at http://rawtours.org/ (If you hurry a Wilkes group from two years ago is the cover photo!) You can also contact Kattya directly at Kattya@rawtours.org.
You should also follow them on Facebook because Kattya will be posting updates and photos as we progress through the trip, http://www.facebook.com/RAWTOURS
Welcome to Wilkes University in Costa Rica blog. Please bookmark this so you can follow along with nine Wilkes University students and one professor as they complete various service-learning projects in the Guanacaste region of northwestern Costa Rica as part of 3-credit hour course entitled “Ecotourism Development in Costa Rica.”
The group will meet for class the week prior to the trip, travel and work (and have class!) in Costa Rica for the next 2 weeks, then wrap up the experience back on campus for the final week. This class emerged as a compliment to my own research interests, however I also wanted to create an experience that would have a lot of appeal for students. I have also really enjoyed introducing students to Costa Rica and this trip will be the 5th time I have taken a student group to Costa Rica and my 7th student trip overall. (Besides Costa Rica I have taken groups to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic)
This year, the trip is divided into three segments, all of them in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica.
After landing in Liberia, students will spend the next three days working on a development project for the Museo de Guanacaste. Here is a link to their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/MuseoDeGuanacaste
For the second part of the trip, we will be working with various stakeholders in the small town of El Coco on a variety of development and sustainability projects.
The final portion of the trip will be in Ostional, which is a nesting site for Ridley sea turtles. Here, the group will be paired with a local organization to work on a sea turtle preservation project. Here is a link to the wildlife refuge. http://www.costarica-nationalparks.com/ostionalwildliferefuge.html
The link between all of these projects is the pursuit of ecotourism as a development strategy, so what exactly is “ecotourism.” Ecotourism is tourism that showcases the natural world and does so in a sustainable way. Ecotourism therefore involves travel to natural destinations, with minimal environmental impact, while also building environmental awareness. In addition, it is important that ecotourism provide direct financial benefits for conservation while also providing financial benefits and empowerment for local people. Finally, ecotourism is respectful of local culture and supportive of human rights and democratic movements. From Martha Honey, Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise? 2nd Edition. (Washington, Island Press, 2008), 29-31.
That’s it for now, please post any questions or comments that you have. Also be aware that sometimes internet can be spotty so if you ask a question that doesn’t get answered for a day or two, please forgive us.
*Pura Vida is a Costa Rican expression that literally translates to “pure life,” however it is better translated as the “good life” and is used extensively throughout Costa Rica in a myriad of situations.