Welcome to the blog for the 2017 Costa Rica 10 Day Osa Wildlife Conservation Expedition with Smithsonian Student Adventures!

July 22, 2017
Written by: Georgi Kalinchak and Juliet Mooney
Smithsonian Adventures Student Participants

Georgi Kalinchak- Friday the 21st started as an early morning. After a delicious Costa Rican breakfast, we headed to the beach to surf. In the pouring rain, we got a quick lesson on how to ride a wave. We all dove in with our boards and watched as each of us fell off trying to stand up. Some of us were more experienced surfers than others. By the end of the two hours, most of us were able to successfully ride out a wave without falling off.

After lunch, we hiked down to a “secret beach.” It had beautiful black sand and the tallest waves I’ve ever swam in. We spent time in the ocean playing different games and then took a walk down the beach. As we walked, we found sand dollars in the sand and hidden waterfalls behind the trees. Once everyone was showered, we gathered at the lookout and listened to Jabari tell us stories from personal experiences.

Juliet Mooney- This morning was our last morning at La Cusinga Lodge. We were up and packed by 7:30 for breakfast, which was a buffet with pancakes, fruit, and eggs. After that, we waited for the bus to come pick us up so we could drive back to Hotel Pacande. During our wait, the girls took turns braiding each other’s hair and some even learned to French braid. When the bus arrived, we loaded all the luggage on top of it and were pleased to find out the bus had air conditioning!!

On the bus, some people slept, talked, or admired the beautiful green scenery. We stopped at a local grocery store and picked up some snacks, such as chips. Then we were back on the road until we stopped at El Jardín, for a buffet style lunch and some souvenir shopping. After that, we drove straight to Hotel Pacande.

When we settled into the hotel, we walked to a local grocery store in the rain and bought snacks. We discovered the chocolate milk in Costa Rica is great! Dinner was also very good as we visited a local restaurant called, Bosco’s for our last meal in Costa Rica. Many of us ordered casado típico or a quesadilla along with milkshakes. The food has been amazing and it will be very missed. This trip has been an amazing experience all around, and we’re all going to miss each other, Rachel, and Brendan. The memories we’ve made here in Costa Rica are invaluable.

July 21, 2017
Written by: Aidan Kratt
Smithsonian Adventures Student Participant

On Thursday, we woke up and had breakfast at 9am. We had eggs, rice and beans. Then, we cleaned the bathrooms and bedrooms and left the RPT. It was very sad and we will miss everyone there and all the great fun times we had.

Then, we arrived at La Cusinga lodge and went down to the swimming holes in the forest. They were really fun and pretty and it was bueno to be in the nice, cold, fresh water. On our way back, we saw an agouti and a caiman. When we got back, we were just sitting on the balcony until dinner and saw three toucans. Then, we had dinner and had a very good banana boat for dessert. After dinner, we played “mafia” in a big thunder storm. It was really fun and also kinda scary. After that, we watched the lightning for a bit and then went to bed.

July 19, 2017
Written by: Laura Marsiglio
Smithsonian Adventures Student Participant

To start out the day, several of us took a short hike with Adrian, one of the researchers, to collect the cameras strategically placed earlier in the week to capture footage of wildlife. After a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and fruit, we had some downtime at the reserve. We engaged in some of our favorite pastimes here, ping pong and card games. Some of us also went to the beach to play games in the waves. Following lunch, we watched the footage from the cameras. They captured an agouti, which is a rodent, and a bird. Next, we listened to a presentation about the Blue Flag Project. They work with local schools and communities to discourage littering and educate the community about the effects of trash on marine life. We proceeded to collect trash on the beach ourselves. After filling several bags, we found fish nets that had been left behind and buried in the sand. We worked hard to extract as much of the nets as possible, then returned to the reserve where we all got ready for our going away party. The guys put on their nicest shirts and the ladies put on dresses. We had a dance party and practiced our Latin dancing skills. Hungry from all the dancing, we ate dinner and a delicious cake baked by Rachel and Brendan. We danced for what felt like hours when one of the guides on the turtle walk came to let us know that they had found a turtle. None of us had seen a turtle on our walks, so we were very excited. We scrambled to find shoes and left with the guide to see the turtle. We were still in our nice clothes as we ran the unlit trail to the beach. We proceeded to cross the river, which was deep enough to reach many of our chests. Once we reached the other side, we ran along the beach to the turtle, dodging driftwood along the way and using only a red light to see. When we finally made it, the guides were just finishing collecting the eggs. We were all silent, as we were in awe and thankful for this unique opportunity. She finished burying her nest and headed back to the sea. As none of us had flashlights, the walk back to the reserve was quite dark. After crossing the river once again, some of us went to the hatchery, but most of us returned to the lodge to sleep. After a very eventful day, we were all exhausted but grateful for the experience.

July 18, 2017
Written by: Absari Begum and Sarah Baytoff
Smithsonian Adventures Student Participants

Absari Begum-I’m not a morning person but here, I seem to wake up without an alarm for breakfast. After having an orientation about the turtles, we went out to the beach to swim and relax. Once we came back, we took off all the sand and ate lunch. The most memorable experience of the day was the ‪9pm‬ turtle walk. It was pitch dark and most of the time we couldn’t use our flash lights because it would scare the turtles away. Although we didn’t see any turtles, it was a surreal experience because the beach was completely empty. The fact that we couldn’t use our eye sight, made it possible to use other senses in this situation. It was a feeling of seeing, but not seeing. Occasionally, we could see flashes of lightning way out by the sea. We had to cross the river, but because the tide was pretty high, it come up to waist length, which wasn’t great, but the glowing sand made up for it.

Sarah Baytoff- Today was quite an exciting day! To start off, early in the morning everyone devoured their delicious ham (egg in my case) breakfast sandwich, and then depending on which time you had your turtle walk the following night, some got to sleep in a little later than others. After breakfast, prior to our exciting crocodile adventure, a group of girls and myself visited the butterfly garden right across the street. That place is absolutely breathtaking and so beautiful. Soon after that, we embarked on our beach walk, and boarded a boat to go exploring for crocodiles. The weather was so beautiful and our time slot was perfect, allowing us the advantage to see around ten+ crocodiles. We learned to take the salinity measurements, as well as take the temperature of the water to figure out the kind of environment the crocs prefer. On the way back, we stopped at a bank in the middle of the river because it was a low tide and measured the tracks of the crocs that were relaxing up there, that we scared away as we slowly approached. Before we left the bank, we stopped to take a group photo with a beautiful backdrop. Once we arrived back to the resort, we ate a hefty lunch consisting of squash, rice, and meat.

Later on, we all walked to the beach to play a competitive and intense game of soccer on the beach during the pouring rain. Later on, we all came back to the beach and regrouped. After dinner, we had another planned turtle walk on the beach! Hopefully we will get a chance to discover a wild sea turtle in its natural habitat, or even better, see its eggs!

July 16, 2017
Written by: Seyni Ndaw
Smithsonian Adventures Student Participant

Hola y bienvenidos! This is Seyni, one of the Wandering Scholars that has been so fortunate to receive a scholarship to participate in this week long program hosted by Smithsonian and Walking Tree Travel. It’s officially been one day since our arrival at Reserva Playa Tortuga. So far, we’ve enjoyed delicious dishes and been able to do some sight seeing, even just on the bus ride here! I did a lot of research about the reserve before arrival, but the pictures don’t do it justice. It’s absolutely beautiful here! The reserve itself is surrounded by gorgeous and prospering plant life, and the beach near by, has a stunning view as well. For the next few days, myself, along with nearly twenty other students will be engaging in research projects centered around sea turtles and their egg embryos, mammal and bird logging, water testing and other areas such as this. I am personally very excited, because my interests lie in marine science, so this is an opportunity for me to possibly foresee my future and the kind of research I could be doing. Although I’m not usually the type to be out at night, I am most excited for the nighttime sea turtle expeditions. Since I’m from the city, I rarely ever have contact with wildlife, especially not in their natural habitats. So far, this has been a very eye-opening experience! Not only am I surrounded by a culture outside of my own and learning how to navigate in terms of language and people, but there’s also the environmental difference. I’m being pushed to step out my comfort zone to truly get everything out of this experience. I am looking forward to all the actives we will be participating in throughout the next few days and am extremely grateful for this opportunity. Gracias por tu tiempo!