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Costa Rica, Voluntourism

Saying adios to Reserva Playa Tortuga

It seemed like every day at the Reserva Playa Tortuga was a new adventure, so we were sad when the time finally came to move on with the rest of our trip. We were there for just over a week and during that time, helped build cabanas for the sea turtle hatchery, went on a few caiman monitoring excursions, assisted with tagging and clearing forest for the reforestation project, searched for otter tracks for the otter monitoring project, and even had a day off, which we spent at Hacienda Baru, another reserve approximately 30 minutes north of RPT. On that day off, we missed a sad sight: a dolphin had washed up on Tortuga beach. He was successfully moved back into the ocean, only to wash up yet again. A local veterinarian believes that the dolphin was terminally ill, so euthanised the poor creature. As Oscar said, you never know what a day in the rainforest will be like.

Now we are on the move again. First stop: Monteverde, which is known for its Cloud Forest. Monteverde is in central Costa Rica and almost 4000ft higher in elevation than where we were in the south peninsula, so the first thing we noticed was the blissfully cooler and less humid weather [insert huge sigh of relief]. This also means fewer bugs, so I finally have a chance to recover from the countless bug bites that cover my body.

While in Monteverde, we did the Cerro Amigo hike, which is a moderate hike of approximately 1700 ft in elevation gain to the highest point in Monteverde. At the top on a clear day, you can see views of the forest below and Volcano Arenal in the distance, but alas—we had mist and clouds. We also did a night walk through the El Bosque reserve and were fortunate to have another sloth sighting, this time the two-toed. And an extra bonus: we finally saw the dreaded kissing bug sitting on a leaf. This is the bug responsible for Chagas disease (for which there is no vaccine). The bug is much larger than I expected and I cannot imagine how someone could not notice it on their face. For those who are not my friend Ryan (who showered me with articles about Chagas prior to my visiting Costa Rica), the “kissing bug” is so called because it crawls near the mouth (it is attracted to the CO2 that we exhale), it then sucks our blood, and then finally, it deposits parasites in (or near) the wound. The parasites can lie dormant in our bodies for years and we can unknowingly transmit it to others during that time. Eventually, the parasites cause deadly swelling of one or more vital organs until—years after the initial infection—we become suddenly ill and die from it. Some people speculate that Charles Darwin died of Chagas, which they believe he contracted while studying species in Central America.

On that lovely note, we are now readying ourselves for the supposed “jeep-boat-jeep” transport to Fortuna, which sounds really cool, but is actually minivan-boat-minivan, which is a lot less sexy. After all of the marvelous flora and fauna we’ve seen here, it is time to see an active volcano.

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About colleen finn

Colleen Finn is a globe trotting, sight seeing, day tripping, frequent flying traveler with a penchant for voluntourism.

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