Sea Turtles, Volunteers and Visitors, Wildcats

More than a green patch on a map: Osa’s biodiversity and charm must be experienced in person

Blogpost by Thomas Kao, Volunteer, Age 14

In this modern day and age, we often forget there is more on this planet than just your home. As a young student with a love for maps, I have always set my eyes on this little corner of the world, an untouched paradise: Osa Peninsula.

As I mentioned, I absolutely love maps. I have laid my eyeballs over thousands of them, hungry for locations and searching for something new. However, maps can only tell you so much, and in reality they are portals to the lands they project.

Thomas and his mother, Lynn, taking a break under a giant old Ajo tree while hiking the Ajo Trail. Photo: Lucia Vargas

For Christmas, Santa delivered me a beautiful atlas, however, this atlas was a very recent edition. Thanks to the work of scientists in the field, preserving the ecosystem has never been more highlighted in history and this new atlas revealed every single National Park in the world. While browsing the atlas, Costa Rica really stood out. National Parks practically litered the page, and the Osa Peninsula was drowned in a sea of green labels. One minute I found myself staring at a page in a book and in the next I found myself in a plane leaving Los Angeles. Life can be hilarious sometimes.

Once at Osa Conservation, we participated in hatchery checks where we released hundreds of sea turtle babies. Everyday, I watched them crawl into the ocean with a smile on my face. Once the turtles made it home, we would trek back to the camp through a beautiful rainforest, and we could see tons of different animals that Osa provides with its limitless biodiversity.

A happy group of volunteers and Sea Turtle Research Field Assistants headed back from a morning sea turtle patrol of Piro Beach. Photo: Shannon Millar

The forest is never quiet and is always so full with life and magnificent greenery. Butterflys float around the fields and birds soar across the blue sky with grace. Monkeys of all types leap across the forest canopy whilst snakes slither across the forest floor. In the rivers and swamps you can find basoliths, lizards capable of walking on water, and small schools of fish swimming through the clear water. In California, almost none of the animals found here exist; the two enviroments are polar-opposites. If there is something I will never forget about Osa, it must be the local fauna and plantlife.

While living at the Osa Verde BioStation was at first out of my comfort zone, it quickly became a lovely and comfortable second home. The first day, I found a large spider sitting on a counter the size of my hand, that certainly give me a heart attack! However, each night the sky is covered with stars, a view I never saw in the USA. When staring at the stars, you will always hear monkeys, insects and birds, a non-stop noise but not an annoying one. It gives the surrouding forest livelihood and soul, showing you just how active Osa is.

Thomas excitedly holding a butterfly he encountered at the Osa Verde BioStation. Photo: Lynn Kao

Once in bed I fell asleep, the living quarters were extremely clean, something you definently wouldn´t expect. In fact, I have never slept better in my life; I was sound asleep like a baby. Three times a day meals were served, and all of them were delightful. All things considered, the food served here is best I´ve had in a long time.

I have been in other countries before with rainforests, but Costa Rica´s Osa Peninsula tops the list as the best one. I definently will have plenty of stories to tell my friends, I´m very glad and grateful that I had the opportunity to set foot in this foreign land.

Maps can only take you so far; there are no turtles, stars and monkeys on a map. It is only when you set foot in a new location, will you actually feel and experience an entirely new world.

Volunteers and Visitors

A First Impressions of the Osa

Blogpost written by Sawyer Judge, Volunteer

Before going to the Osa for the first time, I was looking forward to seeing rare big cats, incredible crawling insects and of course the famous scarlet Macaw’s that thrive in the region. But the Osa was so much more than I could have ever expected and it amazed me from the moment I got here!

Photo by CIFOR on Flickr

Photo by CIFOR on Flickr

The taxi ride to Osa Conservation’s biological station is bumpy, but with taxi-driver Andi (a man from Germany who has lived in the Osa for 10 years) as your guide, there’s plenty of interesting things to learn. Andi has an incredible eye. Even while driving he can spot a family of tropical screech owls sleeping in a shady branch. In response to my awe, he replied, “when you’ve been here as long as I have, things become easier to see.”

Some things are easier to see than owls, even to the untrained eye. Closer to the biological station we passed something out of Dr. Suess. With skinny trunks about a dozen feet high or more, and wide, almost pentagonal leaves, the trees rise from the ground erect like a field of a telephone poles. “What are those?” I asked. “Oh, those are teak trees – young ones, too – maybe 6 years old,” Andi answered.

Photo by Feona on Flickr

Photo by Feona on Flickr

Andi went on to explain that teak trees are among some of the fastest growing tree species. Their wood is highly durable and makes good construction supply for exteriors and boats, due to the wood’s water resistant properties. Although not native to Costa Rica, these trees are doubly used here for quick forest cover and lumber supply – a good resource for quick wood, whether you want to keep it or chop it.

The fact that teak trees are a prominent source of lumber here is a double edge sword. As natural teak tree forests throughout Southeast Asia dwindle, commercial farms in places like Costa Rica increase to meet high demand. And, unfortunately, this is becoming an increasing threat to conservation throughout the country. Although reliance on teak means less exploitation of endemic tree species, teak requires a lot of land and resources which can harm and often pollute the environment. Teak could be a healthy alternative to lumber but only when managed responsibly.

I have been amazed by the things I have seen and learned in my first few days here. I can only image what the next few weeks will bring. Stay tuned for future blogs as I delve into experiencing the Osa!

Sea Turtles, Volunteers and Visitors

We're Excited to Announce Registration for Our 2011 Sea Turtle Conservation Program!

Sea Turtles have been around for over 100 million years, but all over the world their survival is being threatened. Volunteers are crucial to protect the sea turtles during their nesting season.

Our program conserves and protects 10 miles of sea turtle nesting beach on the Osa Peninsula—a largely untouched, and amazingly beautiful tropical rainforest located in southwestern Costa Rica. This rewarding program allows you to monitor sea turtle movements, protect hatchlings and learn about sea turtle conservation—all on some of the most incredible beaches in the world, from Matapalo to Carate. Our sea turtle program relies on volunteer support to increase our presence on these beaches and help reduce poaching pressure. Spaces are available from July through December – please visit our sea turtle volunteer page to sign up, or send this info to people you think may be interested. Volunteering is a great way to experience this unique place while giving back through valuable conservation efforts. Read More »

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