Leaning In – The 25K Hike To Corcovado National Park

Today is certainly the most difficult day of our trip. We hiked from the Luna Lodge to the Corcovado National Park. The hike was especially long, ranging to a distance of 25 kilometers. The approximate time to cross the trial was around 6 hours. We woke up early in the morning and were ready to go at 6:30am. At 7:00am, we reached the entrance of Corcovado Park and began the hike. For the first few kilometers, we were walking in the forest. After 15 minutes, we walked on the beach. It was rather cozy since the sun was not up high. We reached the first resting station and took a short break. Then, we re-entered the forest, hiking along the beach line. We saw some anteaters looking for ants in the tree trunks and branches. We also found four spider monkeys hanging on the branches. As the sun got strong, we walked for an hour, then on to the beach around 10am. It was quite hot, so we put some sunscreen on. As it reached noon, unfortunately we had to keep hiking on the beach, it was tough: hot sun, no shade. We found a tree with shade and stopped to finish our lunch box. Time passed noon, we headed back to the forest for about an hour. We suddenly saw something moving in the bushes, first thought it was a group of huge ants moving forward, but looked closer, it was a gigantic snake about 1.5 meter long. We were so lucky to see a snake. From 1-2pm, we walked along the shore, constantly running away from the upcoming tide, which was quite exciting. At the end of the beach, we climbed up the dust and rocks, eventually heading into deep woods. Taking a 30 minute break, we continued hiking into the forest. We saw tapirs sleeping and crabs digging holes. With another 1 hour hike, we reached a shore and took a 5 minute rest. Good news was we were 15 minutes away from the lake. To cross the lake, we toked our shorts up and went through 1 meter deep. This was the highlight of the hike because it was both refreshing and adventurous. Twenty minutes after the river, we arrived at the station. The second we saw a huge grassland with couple of houses were certainly one of the most wonderful feelings we will have once in our lifetime. Accompanying with great fatigue and tiredness, we managed to cross the Corcovado Park on foot. Nevertheless, it was a unique experience that not only gives us awareness of protecting the nature and enjoys Costa Rica’s biodiversity, but also shows us the value of endurance and perseverance.

Namaste- From the Yoga Platform to Surfing

Today Stella and I (Marnie) woke up very early to go and climb up the mountain to the yoga platform to see the sunrise. It was so beautiful and it had us both in awe. We got hungry so we walked back down to get some coffee. We chilled there for a while admiring the ocean view while we were talking with Heather and Hazel. We then had to walk back up the stairs to get to yoga by 7:15. After yoga we went back down and had pancakes, eggs and toast for breakfast. We went for a hike on a trail called the Loop of Gold, which heather had started to build 13 Years ago which was the last time she was in Costa Ricawith Ross Students. When we got back to Luna lodge we had time to  relax and gather our belongings before we had to leave to go to the beach to surf. The waves were awful for the more experienced surfers but they were good for the beginners who mostly caught white wash. The surfers with more experience went further out to try to catch the bigger waves, but there weren’t any good waves so we made our way back in to the beach and caught some smaller waves. Since we rented our boards from a hotel near by we had to walk back to return them. We then walked back to the cars got in them and listened to songs the locals listen to. When we got back to Luna, we took showers and ate a delicious meal before we went to sleep for the day.
~Marnie and Stella

Continuing Our Quest for Conservation

In the morning, we had the amazing experience of releasing baby green sea turtles into the ocean.  It was so cool that we got to play such a big role in their journey. This was a meaningful way to end our stay at Osa Conservation Center. In the late morning, we began our ascent up the mountain to Luna lodge. When we arrived, we were all amazed at the beauty of the facility and the nature surrounding it. After eating a delicious lunch we got settled into our rooms and we had some free time to swim in the salt water pool. We then had a tour of the ecologically conscious and incredible area. We were shown how Lana designed each building with the idea of sustainability in mind. She has been trying to preserve the land around the lodge for the animals and plants that are here. We went to the organic garden where they grow all of their own greens and saw the worms that they use to decompose the food waste. Lana also showed us how the hydro energy system worked. She told us about how more energy was required each year to keep the facility running due to global warming. This shows how everything is connected and what happens in other parts of the world directly or indirectly impacts what happens here. Then Lana invited us to see her home. It was beautiful and the view was breathtaking. I think it really made us all realize how important the jungle really is. We then walked up to the top of the mountain to the yoga platform. It was one of the most incredible places any of us had ever seen. We could see the ocean blending into the sky to the left and the lush green forest all around us. The sounds were just as amazing. We heard tons of different birds communicating with one another as well as monkeys in the distance. While doing yoga, we felt more in tune with nature and ourselves. When we were finished, we felt a sense of contentment and relaxation. After a delicious buffet dinner, we viewed an informative film introducing us to the purpose and vision of the White Hawk Foundation and Luna Lodge. They are currently working with local community and private sponsors and the Costa Rican government to raise awareness and further their conservation efforts. ~Iza & Caly




Turtle Patrol

Hello everyone! Today, we woke up at 4:45am to do a turtle patrol. We walked through the trails to the beach for 20 minutes, passing through a river and bridges. Once we got there, we found the Green Sea turtle trail. It was so wide that our ballroom teacher (Hazel) could not walk over it! Then we followed the trail to the turtle’s nest to find their eggs.

Manuel, the turtle man, found the hole where the eggs were (it was not that easy to find the egg nest, because the turtle mother has to find a safe place to prevent predators from stealing the eggs. So, we spent approximately half an hour, poking holes in the sand with a stick). The hole was about 77cm deep, and we each got to dig up the turtle eggs. There were about 113 eggs, which was very incredible! The shell was so soft. You have to be careful and do not shake them! We dug up the egg so that the predators won’t eat them even though it is a natural process. Even though turtle eggs are a main food source for the Coati, they eat everything. Humans also have a big impact on turtles already, which includes poaching, eating, and global warming.

After collecting the eggs, we dug up a nest that had already hatched, and we found 4 baby turtles that were still alive in the nest! And of course, not all the turtles in the nest were alive. There were 7 of them that were at first and third stage of development. We released the 4 baby turtles to the sea, BUT!!! The bird of prey snatched one of them from the beach. Noooooo! Manuel tried to scare the bird away, but it was too late. Later on, we went to the hatchery and buried the eggs we collected in the hole that Manuel dug, which was in the shade to control the temperature. We control the temperature because we don’t want the turtles to turn into scrambled eggs. The other reason, is the temperature determines the sex of the turtle. The eggs under 26-27OC are most likely to be male, while eggs over, are female.

This is so far, our favorite part of the trip.

~ Lin, Padma, and Kari

Lin, Kari, and Padma excavating turtle nests with Manuel

Some turtles don’t make it out of the nest, which is why turtles lay over 100 eggs!

Zheming and Kari releasing the surviving turtles into the ocean.

Baby Green Sea Turtle on its way to the roaring ocean.
~Photo by Hazel Wodehouse

Ross students cheering on the turtles

Almost there!

It’s a big big world
~Photo by Lin Sirada Ye

Click here to see a video of Dong witnessing the food chain.

2/24/2018 Saturday

Today we were going to the beach to monitor and help hatching sea turtles from the hatchery. We met at the main building around 5 A.M in the morning. We followed our guide to across the rainforest. There is a river while we cross the rainforest and most people forgot to bring their water shoes and rubber boots so their shoes got wet.

After that, we arrived at the beach and we saw the footprint of the big sea turtle. We found the place that the female sea turtle hide eggs by looking at the footprints. First, our guide used a stick to test the sand in order to find right place of eggs. Sometimes, it would take 5 to 6 hours to find sea turtle’s egg, and we also found out that the big sea turtle just went back to ocean about 20 mins ago before we arrived.

Finally, our guide found the place that the sea turtle hid her eggs and dug the sand out. Sea turtle’s eggs are so soft and it was about 100 eggs. Each person took 3 out of the hole and put into the bucket because we would carry them to the hatchery. We found other sea turtle holes on the beach and we dug all the eggs out. Most of the eggs were empty that baby sea turtle went to the ocean, but some of them died in the egg. We also found 4 live baby sea turtles while we dug them out. Afterward, we let them push their way to the ocean by themselves. However, a bird of prey carried one of them off because the sea turtle is their food. Life & Death.

After baby sea turtles went to the ocean, we went to the hatchery to put the eggs into the sand. Each person put 10 eggs into the hole and covered it with sand. The depth and temperatures of the sand are really important because it can affect the eggs and their sex.

When we came back to the research center, our guide gave a presentation about different types of sea turtle and the things that can kill the sea turtles such as the plastic bags that look like jellyfish.

~Ryan Zhang

Back To The Jurassic

After the amazing lunch made up of curry chicken with South America rice, we had the best moment of the day, taking a shower and resting for 1.5 hours. This special experience seems very unique and it is the first time for most of us to stay in the rainforest and live independent by ourselves. Before the trip in the afternoon started, it was very hard for us to choose what to wear and bring because of lack of experience. Rain boots are hot and uncomfortable but hiking boots are not water-prevented and high enough to prevent the snakes, but due to the temperature of 31°C, we have to choose hiking boots instead. Even though it was not hot as it was in the morning but it’s still extremely hot compared to the freezing Hamptons.

Before we depart from the dorm, there was a strange monkey-like animal that popped-up in front of boys’ dorm and people tried to get close to it, however when we got closer enough to see it clearly , we found out that wasn’t a monkey but a special animal that I have never seen before. It was an animal with a long furry tail and an elephant-like nose, monkey-shaped and very quick.  It is called a coati.

That was a very meaningful and special afternoon. For students from cities like us, this was a great opportunity to travel into the rainforest and to see this kind of primary and original landscape. After 20 minutes traveling through the rainforest, it seemed Jurassic Park-like and those huge plantations brought the feeling of dinosaurs.

There is a fun fact, in Spielberg’s movie, the Jurassic Park, the setting of the park is just located in Costa Rica and that could be a great business idea to open up an original but advanced zoo like the one in the movie.

The landscape was amazing, we are not allowed to get in the sea because of the location of Costa Rica is special and the waves are strong and easy to drag people in to the sea like a beast, it is not a matter of being a good swimmer or not. If we look through the map, we can see that the beach is clearly part of the South Pacific Ocean.

Instead of swimming in the ocean, we get chance to go in and swim in a lagoon which was composed of both salt and fresh water.

Then there was an earthquake test that we acted as volunteers to help the researchers to accomplish their study of the relationship between earthquake and Hermit Crab. All the students got into a line and we walk to the location where they tested without our shoes. The sand was super hot and the thing we will do is to circle around the testing stick for 30 seconds. The researchers were trying to measure human foot steps vibration and they will use it to see how the Hermit Crab react.

After that, we got a kind of free time, everyone got inspired by the great landscapes and the amazing beach.

A Peaceful Sunset

At 2:30 pm we had a lecture on the history of Osa Peninsula. We developed a better understanding about why Osa Peninsula became the most biological intense area. We talked about the formation of the Osa peninsula, and the Corcovado National Park. We also debated the impacts of the decisions carried out by the Costa Rican government on the Osa Peninsula.

One of the studies being done right now includes getting a count on the wild cats around Osa. They are installing tracking cameras in trees and on the ground throughout the Peninsula. In class, we talked about how the motion cameras work. Rachel also showed us some interesting videos which was taken by the motion cameras of pumas and jaguars. We really learned a lot through Rachel’s presentation. We had fun, but also leaned a lot!

At 4:30pm, we started walk to the beach. We experienced walking through branches and rivers in the rainforest. We also enjoyed touching the hundred-year-old shrubs. Along our trail we observed White Faced Capuchin Monkeys hanging out on the huge trees. They are so cute! We probably took 20 minutes to get to the beach. We watched the beautiful sunset. Walking on the sand of the beach gave us such a sense of comfort. This feeling was very amazing. There were gentle breezes that came with the sunset. Huge clouds slowly covered the sun. We silently listened to the sounds from the waves. The horizontal line, the sky and the sea waves all gathered there. At this time, there were no quarrels and no noises, because everyone lovingly and quietly felt the power of the sea or nature. I really loved this experience. Gradually, we could not see the sun and the sky turned black. It was the time we hiked back to the Piro Conservation Station and to have our dinner.

~Linda Liu

Photos: H. D’Agostino

Making a Difference

[image: Inline image 1] After a long day of travel, our team settled in to our cabanas and went to sleep for a night of well deserved rest. Unfortunately, our house parents were not present to wake us up. Instead, this task was taken up by a gang of howler monkeys. A terrifying howl that resembled a hurricane woke people up as soon as the sun rose. After a quick cold shower and few bottles of sunscreen, we proceeded to breakfast. A healthy meal of eggs and beans was followed by a detailed lecture on “Re-wildering and restoration of rain forest and Osa ecosystems.” The local scientists were kind enough to share their extensive research and educate us on the importance of eco-tourism and conservation of nature. Later we proceeded to the “field” in order to get some hands on experience. The walk from the camp to the site took us approximately half an hour. The humble facility was a number of houses surrounded by acres of land where constant research was performed. There, after a quick tour, our team was divided in two. The first group, equipped with steel machetes, helped rid the local gardens of the parasitical weeds. The second group, planted a new row of saplings that will one day grow into mighty trees. By noon, the job was complete and we quickly returned to our base. Feelings of hunger, exhaustion, and pride could be sensed in the air. ~Assad Nukenov

Vamos Pura Vida

[image: Inline image 2]
Today is February 21, the first day of the Costa Rica course trip. We are definitely happy because we finally get to travel. We don’t know what kinds of challenges will wait for us. Will it be dangerous? Will it be exhausting? Or will it be absolutely fun and enjoyable? We don’t know. However, we are all very positive about this trip.
In order to not miss the flight, we had planned to start at 1:45 am. When we got to the Newark Liberty International Airport, we still had a certain amount of time to eat and relax. Luckily we got through the security check in a short time. Although the destination of this flight was San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, our final destination was Osa Conservation Research Station (OCR), a place that in near Puerto Jiminez. To get there, we took the chartered plane, which was operated by Sansa Airlines, and then a taxi directly rode to Puerto Jiminez. The short flights were amazing at about 12 people per plane. Once we got to the OCR, we met with the staff there and had an orientation. I am glad that OCR was willing to loan us high rain boots tomorrow. After that, all of us had dinner. The dinner included many local foods. The rice and beans were very good. We did not really have an evening discussion due to the late arrival. That is the end of our day, then we were dismissed. For the room arrangement, each rooms have 4 people while each one sleep in one bed. It is a good opening to our trip.
~ Di Lin

Hola from the Chaperones!
The students have been a pleasure to travel with. They weathered a sixteen hour day and 12 passenger propeller planes. At the end of our short flight over the lush green mountains, we first sighted the pacific ocean, which then led way to the beautiful Golfo Dulce, protected by the Osa Peninsula. In the last leg of our trip, crammed into 4 minivans, we found ourselves surrounded by a herd of cattle being driven by a young boy on horseback followed by some cowboys. It was a thrilling beginning to an adventurous and life changing experience.