Aero: Annie Livingston – Costa Rica 2015 – Biodiversity
Aero: Annie Livingston – Costa Rica 2015 – Biodiversity
I was so looking forward to experiencing the biodiversity of Costa Rica. I had heard wonderful things about the environment, plants and animals there and it was true, there was always diverse beauty to be found everywhere. Of course I was looking forward to being out of the cold weather for a while, and the weather in our home base city, Alajuela, was usually always sunny and very warm. It would get a bit chiller in the evenings, and occasionally at night there would be hard rains and loud wind that would wake me up.
Later on we took a four day excursion out to visit the Arenal volcano area. We drove up high into the mountains, and as we got higher and higher it started to become foggy out the windows, however it wasn’t true fog that we were experiencing, we were actually up high in the clouds. The weather while we were in the Arenal region was considerably cooler and rainier than back in Alajuela, which is how it usually is, but apparently it was more so than than usual because the polar vortex in the US and Canada was pushing all the weather systems down, causing the weather to be more rainy during their dry season.
When we were in Arenal, we went on a hike at a place called Rio Celeste, which was in the rainforest. It was already tricky walking, with narrow steep muddy trails and many rocks and trees that needed to be climbed over, and all of a sudden it went from sunny to pouring rain in the blink of an eye. The dirt trails became even slicker with mud and even trickier to walk along, but we did it and it was actually a lot of fun, especially when I stopped caring about getting shoes or clothes wet or muddy and fully immersed myself into the whole experience. (Hint—Ponchos are great because not only are they light, easy to carry around and keep your whole body covered, you can fit your backpack under them to keep it dry as well.) The whole rainfall only lasted around ten minutes, which was pretty much how long the rainstorms always lasted before the clouds parted and the sun would shine again. The muddy hike was well worth it, though, because we got to see the most gorgeous pure blue waterfall. It looked so inviting to swim in, but unfortunately we couldn’t because the water was too acidic from the volcano nearby.
A warmer day there in Arenal was when we got to visit Tabacon Hot Springs, which was something I had been looking forward to for a very long time. It was very beautiful there, a little park/garden full of natural hot pools heated by the volcano. It was the most relaxing, wonderful place, and amazing that it was all natural! We also went ziplining on day, which was scary at first, but turned out to be a lot of fun. The view from above the trees in the rainforest with the volcano in the background was just incredible.
I was able to see some neat animal life in the rainforests. I really love sloths and was hoping so much that I would be able to see one. I thought we would be lucky if we saw even one sloth, but we ended up seeing about four in the wild that our tour guides spotted and pointed out to us, and two of them had babies as well! We saw both two toed and three toed sloths.
The sloths were up high in the trees and blended in, so they were a bit difficult to spot, but the tour guides helped me find them and I managed to get a few pretty decent pictures. They were so cute with the smiles on their faces and just hanging out from a branch. I heard that sloths can be dangerous when they get down on the ground though. I learned some new facts about sloths, such as that they always live up in the trees and only come down once a week to use the bathroom, that they can be vicious when they are down on the ground, that algae grows on their fur and acts as camouflage— and also that they smile down on all the Costa Rican people and are the reason they are so happy (just kidding, although that might be true.)
Other than sloths on our rainforest hikes, we also saw many tropical birds, little blue and red frogs, MANY large lizards, bullet ants, and leaf cutter ants. We didn’t see monkeys in the rainforest, however, we did hear them one day chattering up in the trees. Thankfully we didn’t encounter any poisonous snakes or anything.
The plant life was also beautiful. There were a lot of interesting types of flowers which I didn’t learn all the names of, but I noticed that blue, white and red hydrangeas were popular and grew in many places. I also saw many bananas growing in bunches on trees, and pineapples, which I learned grew in the ground like a bush. I felt silly for believing for a long time that pineapples grew on a tree, but I had never seen how those types of fruits grew before.
Strawberries grew wild all over along the sides of the mountains, and many people sold them at stands alongside the roads for less than a dollar per bag. Coffee also grew near the sides of volcanoes, and we got to tour a coffee plantation at Doka and see how the coffee beans are harvested, dried, and made into coffee. I personally don’t drink coffee, but I brought some home to my family, and they said it was really good.
Besides the rainforests, we also went to Jaco beach for a day, which was on the Pacific Ocean, The water was nice and warm, and the waves were really high, which meant it was a popular surfing beach. The current was really strong and we had to be careful not to get swept far out into the ocean.
The lifestyles in which the people lived helped protect their environment. Our home in Alajuela did not usually have hot water, and some places, such as the hostel we stayed in, had only certain hot water hours where the hot water was turned on. My host mother Mayra did all her cooking on either a hot plate or in a crock pot, as there was no oven. All these ways in which they saved energy could be slightly inconvenient, but it was helping keep the rainforests and sloths alive, so I didn’t mind the cold showers.
I loved the biodiversity of Costa Rica, and thought it was neat that we got to visit so many different areas, the beach, the rainforest, cloud forests, volcanoes, big cities and tiny mountain villages all within this one small country. For being small, Costa Rica—you sure have a lot inside.