So yesterday we had the opportunity to go river rafting through La Selva, and so far it’s been my favorite activity (although I’ve really loved the coffee plantations and our nature hikes too)! I have actually never been river rafting before so it was a great opportunity to try something totally new! Our river trip actually didn’t have any white water, but the current was pretty swift so we didn’t have to paddle very much!
Here’s our Raft!
We saw many beautiful birds, a green basilisk lizard (don’t look directly in it’s eyes) and a really cool little colony of long-nosed bats. Our raft went right under the bats, and I was just a few feet away. I’ve never been so close to bats before! They are actually really beautiful, and can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes per night! Wow!
So in addition to our amazing guide Kevin telling us about all the interesting animals and natural history of the river, we also were able to have some fun! We pulled off at one point to swim a little bit – and we got to “cliff” jump into a deep pool in the river.
Go big or go home!
We continued rafting, and at another point pulled off the river for our fruit snack. The guides flipped one of the big rafts over, washed it off in the river, and then cut up pineapples, mangos, and watermelon.
The finished product was amazing!
This morning we went to Zipline with Adventures de Sarapiqui – it was a blast! The zip line course was a series of 14 ziplines connected to canopy towers and large trees. It passed over the Sarapiqui river twice – awesome!
So on this zipline tour, on the longer ziplines you would use your left hand to hold the harness attachment, and your right hand had a leather protector that was placed on the cable, and to break you would pull down on the cable. The hand (with the protector) on the cable would also keep you ziplining in the forward direction. On some of the shorter cables we were not supposed to put our guide hand on the cable because it would slow you down too much. Pretty much without the guide hand I would immediately get swiveled around, and be zipping through the rainforest backward! Arg! Our guides were really funny – the first time or two I got turned around and went backwards I was a bit ruffled, but when I came into the platform the guide just told me to relax and enjoy seeing things a different way. Once I let go of the idea that going backward would cause me to crash, and that the guides would make sure I ended up safely on the platform, I just enjoyed the ride, regardless of the direction.
It started to rain about halfway through, which caused the cables to get a bit greasy/muddy, which sort of came off on you – can you see where my sunglasses were in the picture below?
No, I hadn’t been in a mine – I had just run a long cable in the rain! I got to ride down with a guide behind me for the last long cable over the river, and it was really fun. I got to turn pretty much every direction, saw a beautiful toucan fly right by us, and even flipped upside down (on purpose) for part of the cable. Super fun!!
Yesterday we had the opportunity to take a tour of Mi Cafecito Coffee Cooperative, and learn about the agricultural, processing, and business side of organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffee. Mi Cafecito in Spanish means little coffee break with snack – it’s an affectionate term, like a pleasant little coffee break. Coffee needs to be grown between 600 and 2,000 meters of altitude, and in rich volcanic soil. Mi Cafecito is the public face of the Sarapiqui Coffee Cooperative, which has 137 small growers that work together to process and sell their coffee. We first went to see the coffee plants – the bushes themselves are about 6 to 8 feet high. The beans ripen gradually, so over a several month period they have to go back to the same plant over and over to pick ripe beans. Coffee beans that have turned red are called first quality coffee, and those are the ones you want to pick. Coffee beans that are green are second quality coffee, and if picked when green are lower quality than the red ripe beans. Coffee does well in partial to almost full shade, and if trees are left among the coffee they provide many benefits. Sometimes rainforest trees are left over the coffee, and other times different trees, such as bananas are planted. Banana trees amongst coffee plants offer several benefits – they provide shade, they provide a distraction fruit for birds so they don’t go after the ripe coffee beans, and they slowly release water to the coffee plants during the “drier” season of growing. One of the benefits to having trees in your coffee plantation is that many species of wildlife can survive in and among your coffee plants. When in the grocery store and you purchase shade grown coffee, you are supporting native tropical wildlife. We saw three different types of bird’s nests in the small sample plot of coffee growing at Mi Cafecito, including a tiny hummingbird nest with a baby hummingbird inside! Once the red coffee “berries” are picked, they are placed in a big machine to pull the cover off the actual beans. This is what the inside of the coffee “berries” look like. You can see the two coffee beans! The beans are then dried in three different ways: First, they are air dried in the sun for 1 week. Then they are placed in a drying machine for two days. Finally they are stored to cure in a storage area with 12% humidity for 5 to six months. The beans are then packaged and shipped green (unfinished) to their destination if it is out of Costa Rica. Green beans will stay fresh for up to a year, while roasted coffee is only good for 4 to 6 months. Although I really enjoyed all of our tour, the last part was my absolute favorite. We got to have our Cafecito, our little coffee break. We drank fresh-roasted coffee and had Costa Rican pico de gallo (very different than Mexican pico) and queso fresco with fresh tortillas. A really enjoyable day!
<img This afternoon we had the amazing opportunity to learn the TEAM protocol for measuring vegetation cover in a tropical rainforest. The amazing Johanna, TEAM site manager for La Selva, taught us how to map out the plot (a 10 meter by 10 meter) and identify tree location with a compass reading.
We then got to work on our individual research project, which is comparing the vegetation, and therefore carbon sequestration, in old-growth versus secondary forest. We set up our own plot in the old growth forest, then picked a spot in a forest that had been cleared 15 years ago. Here’s our team hard at work on our project.
Jordan Ferris getting ready to measure!
Yesterday afternoon we went on an amazing nature hike. We first went to an area of secondary growth forest that had been growing for 15 years. We saw all of the following super-cool wildlife:
– Two different species of toucan, including a juvenile being fed by a parent
– 3 or 4 different species of hummingbird
– 1 large sloth moving up and around in a tree
– blue-jeans frogs
-leaf litter toad
-leaf cutter ants
We then went to an old growth forest, and saw:
– army ants
– bullet ants
In between the secondary forest and the old growth forest we passed over a river, and also saw multiple iguanas in trees, and fruit eating fish in the piranha family.
It was a super great nature hike!
Arrived yesterday afternoon in San Jose, Costa Rica after a slightly bumpy but overall uneventful flight. Met up with the Chicago Eco Classroom team and traveled to our hotel for the night, the Adventure Inn. I’m very excited about getting to work with teachers from all over the US – the Chicago team is an interesting, energetic bunch of ladies!
We had an AMAZING dinner- I wish I had taken pictures – the chef prepared both beautiful and extremely delicious food. For breakfast this morning I of course had amazing Costa Rican coffee and the ever- present but delicious breakfast staple, Gallo Pinto. In about 20 minutes we are on our way to La Selva Biological Research Station, in the heart of the Costa Rican rainforest, where we will be spending the next nine days. I can’t wait to get there!