Posts Tagged 'get going costa rica'

Close encounters with Costa Rican wildlife!

From Laura Bankey, Director of Conservation

Hello again from Costa Rica! I hope you’ve enjoyed my updates from our Get Going Costa Rica family sweepstakes trip! Our travels through the country have been nothing short of amazing, and filled with so many encounters with wildlife.

One day last week was particulary memorable for our group. A small number of us braved the early morning hours to get a bird walk in before breakfast. In less than an hour we saw an incredible variety of bird species without even leaving the grounds of the hotel! We saw brightly colored birds like the cherries tanager, blue-grey tanager, great kiskadee, rufous-tailed hummingbird, and the bananaquit. My favorite, however, was the fiery-billed aracari and the chestnut-mandibled toucan. We watched the toucan for several minutes. He foraged for fruit at the top of a nearby tree and dazzled us with his bright colors.

After breakfast we took a bus to Marino Ballenas National Park where we boarded a boat to go whale and dolphin watching. As excited as I was to get out on the ocean, it was hard to ignore the absolute beauty of the park itself. It’s miles of undeveloped sandy beach, with lush tropical forests in the background and strikingly beautiful blue-green water in the foreground.

Soon after leaving the beach, our captain got word that other boats had spotted a female humpback whale and her 3-week-old calf. Female whales migrate from the south this time of year to give birth off the coast in this area. We got to watch the pair for close to an hour as they swam slowly and came up for breath. What a spectacular sight. Every time they emerged, it took my breath away. The baby seemed so small — although easily bigger than our boat — and came up for breath much more often than its mother. They swam close together, almost touching, for the entire time.

After leaving the whales, we headed south to check out the cave formations nearby. Along the way, our guide spotted sea turtles bobbing in the waves. It was a mating pair of olive ridleys. Again, it was truly amazing to have a chance to see this. The two were clasped tightly together in some odd sort of “twister” pose.

We never see the olive ridley in the Mid-Atlantic. Our Marine Animal Rescue Program often sees its close relative, the Kemp’s ridley. We currently have one undergoing rehabilitation right now and have released several already this year. There are only seven species of sea turtles in the world, and all of them are considered threatened or endangered. Every time I see one in the wild, I’m hopeful that we can help bring these turtles back to healthy population levels once again.

Our guide told us that it’s common for these turtles to nest on nearby beaches beginning in October. They have, however, already seen three nests so far this August. There is a sense among a lot of people here that things are changing. Species are increasing or moving their ranges, and breeding/calving/nesting seasons are shifting.

Our next stop was a quick loop around whale island. This small rock formation is home to several nesting seabirds including the magnificent frigatebird, brown booby, and white ibis. New chicks were clearly visible by their contrasting colors.

After whale island, it was off to look at some caves and then find a calm spot to go snorkeling. Our group saw parrotfish, triggerfish, angelfish, and filefish. A pretty dizzying array for such a short time. We saw all of these amazing sights and animals before lunch!


Awesome adventures in Costa Rica!

From Laura Bankey, Director of Conservation

Checking in from beautiful Costa Rica! The Costa Rican Tourism Board have been wonderful hosts and have planned some pretty amazing excursions for our group, winners of the Get Going Costa Rica sweepstakes and representatives from National Aquarium and the Greater Los Angeles Zoo.

Our adventure started off with a trip to one of the central valley’s active volcanos. The Irazu volcano is more than 11,000 feet above sea level. We drove through some of Costa Rica’s richest agricultural lands with fields full of onions, potatoes, and mustard. On the way to the top, we passed through a cloud forest, home to a large variety of plants and animals especially adapted to the high altitude and high humidity. Once at the top, it was just a short hike to the active crater. Spectacular!!

We were standing on the rim, and could see the bright-green rainwater collected by the crater more than 1,000 feet down. The landscape is gray for as far as your eyes can see. The volcanic ash has covered just about everything in sight. The last time the volcano erupted was 1994, and some of the vegetation is just coming back. It’s a stark reminder of how our world is constantly changing.

Much of our afternoon was spent traveling down to the South Pacific coast to position us for a wonderful day spent at Corvocado National Park. The most popular way to get to the park is by boat. Our boat met us at our hotel in Sierpe on Tuesday morning. We traveled down the Sierpe River through acres and acres of mangrove forests. What a sight! Once we hit the mouth of the river, we headed out into the ocean along the coast of the Osa Peninsula toward the park headquarters.

Our main activity at the park was a three-hour hike through the rain forest. What an adventure!  We weren’t more than 50 feet inside the rain forest when we saw trogans, white-faced coati, a three-toed sloth, and howler monkeys.

As we traveled deeper and deeper, we saw frogs, tarantulas, and macaws.  It was awesome to discover just how closely the National Aquarium’s Upland Tropical Rain Forest compares to the real thing! During the boat trip back to Sierpe we also saw monkeys, a boa, and a humpback whale.

All in all, a very good day for wildlife viewing!

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