Costa Rica has been an absolutely amazing field course, mainly because of the diversity of each area, the passionate lecturers and the array of tropical wildlife which we witnessed. Our final location on the field course, was at an eco-lodge on Jungla del Jaguar, situated within the Osa Peninsula. Here’s a reflection as to why this location was so incredible, and a highlight of the trip:
The journey to the Osa Peninsula didn’t disappoint, and we got up to some cool things on our lunch stop. Following our traditional Costa Rican meal, we got to explore the local town a little bit. This included walking across a bridge, where crocodiles could be seen dominating the water which flowed underneath it. It’s hard to imagine how big they truly are until you see them in person…..I’m just glad I was on a bridge instead of alongside them. Following this, we listened to a talk led by an extremely dedicated conservationist, Randall Arauz. This talk was focused on marine conservation, and how Costa Rica has not wholly achieved sustainability in its blue areas. It was eye-opening to learn about how all 8 species of sea turtles are considered endangered, and how shark meat is still actively being exported. Sadly, the conservation of any species faces many challenges, and it is clear that support from the community, the government and international trading partners are all required.
Due to our long day travelling, we had a quick stop over in Sierpe, so that we could get up early and continue our journey towards the Osa Peninsula. We set out in the morning, cruising along the mangroves. The boat trip in itself was incredible, we saw more Kingfishers, Herons, crocodiles, capuchin monkeys, and a really cool bird that camouflages itself as a tree: the common potoo.
The cruise quickly became a speed-boat trip, as the driver started racing out of the mangroves and into the sea. Then something even more incredible happened….a pod of pantropical spotted dolphins were seen alongside the boat. They were quite happy jumping in and out of the water alongside us, almost appearing to be showing off. The driver then drove us around in a circle, and the dolphins were using the surf to jump higher. It was such an amazing way to start our time on the peninsula. We couldn’t quite believe how stunning our next location was, it was literally a tropical paradise. Upon arrival at the eco-lodge on Jungla del Jaguar, two scarlet macaw soared above our heads and the surrounding palm trees.
This location offered a wider opportunity to study the marine environment. We continued our student-led discussions, where we learnt the relevance and importance of the threats facing this environment, including plastic, pollution and fishing. During our time here, we had the opportunity to go snorkelling around Isle de Caño, a marine protected area. We all enjoyed swimming amongst white-tipped sharks, green turtle, exotic fish and sting ray!
But the excitement was not just restricted to water….Although a group of students eager to spot a tapir, didn’t get the chance to see one on the optional hikes, our luck turned around one evening. By chance, there was a spotting of the outline of a tapir, and we decided to pursue it. Caught off guard, lots of us weren’t wearing our field clothes, instead opting for dresses and flip-flops: sensible. When word got out that the tapir was nearby in the local banana plantation, excitement broke out, and we began sprinting after Andy. Despite the trauma of losing flip-flops, getting stuck in mud, and being fully exposed to ticks whilst sitting in the field wearing dresses, the experience of being near a tapir was truly worth it. It was widely agreed that it was one of the most wonderful wildlife encounters that we have experienced. We sat in silence, holding our mouths shut, whilst the tapir sussed us out and continued munching on bananas. Others were lucky enough to experience a similar encounter, with the tapir returning to its banana snacks the following evening. What did I learn from this opportunity? Costa Rica is truly an incredible field trip, to fully appreciate all forms of wildlife, to always wear walking boots, and to use the closest bridge to avoid getting stuck in mud.
Land based activities also included bird mist netting, bat trapping and moth netting. This meant that we got to see a whole array of tropical species!
I can speak confidently on behalf of the rest of the students on the field trip, when saying that Jungla del Jaguar was definitely an absolute highlight. We were sad to leave behind the gorgeous scenes and wildlife, but happy to have been given the opportunity to get involved in some amazing activities there.