Summer Students Groups 2013

During the months of June, July & August of 2013 Bahia Aventuras & Geoporter are working with students to construct trash containers made from plastic bottles used during the tours. The student groups meet every Friday, after a Whale Watching Tour at the headquarters of Bahia Aventuras to work with Cindy Thiele , Luz Mirian Badilla & Amy Work (active community collaborators & Geoporter members) and our guides Wayner and Reimer. During the afternoon they create 3-4 trash containers that are composed of 458 bottles each. During this process the students have the opportunity to learn how to transform and resume trash and recyclable in order to minimize the pollution of our oceans and environment.

The goal is to deliver and place these trash containers for classrooms in the schools, at the newly constructed covered bus stops andat the entrance to Mariono Ballena National Park in our community.

Other projects students groups are working on are beach clean ups and painting and repairing the rangers stations and the facilities at the Marino Ballena National Park.

An Adventure at Sea

The sea was “boiling” in front of our boat.

Well, not boiling, actually, but “roiling” in silvery flashes as thousands of sardines broke the surface — only to be gulped down by brown-footed boobies bombing them from above.

“Why do they come to the top where the birds can catch them?” one of my ship-mates asked.

“Because big fish are attacking them from below,” replied Wayner, our Bahia Aventuras guide, who smiled grimly at this wildlife experience, the struggle for food and survival, a matter of life and death in the natural world.

This particular venue was a marine one, as we were sailing in Marino Ballena National Park, which encompasses 13,300 acres of ocean and only 270 acres of land on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Bahia Aventuras leads expeditions in and near the park — including hiking in the biologically intense Corcovado National Park and snorkeling amid the coral reefs encircling Cano Island, with its 200-foot sea cliffs and native burial grounds lying roughly 35 miles offshore.

Early May is between whale seasons, but Wayner and our sharp-eyed skipper, Piña, pointed out other wildlife: an Olive Ridley turtle swimming along the seam where seawater met brackish water flowing forth from the Terraba-Sierpa mangrove swamp. A booby resting its webbed-feet on the roots of a floating mangrove tree. Frigate birds playfully circling and soaring over Whale Island. Pelicans bobbing along waves crashing up against sea stacks. And on a beach, white-faced capuchins hopping from branch to branch searching for fruit in almond and palm trees.

Speaking of fruit, Wayner reached into a cooler and removed tasty treats of sandia (watermelon) and piña (pineapple). And speaking of Piña, our captain ably guided our craft ever closer to steep basaltic cliffs rising above the water’s edge, revealing a few of the 200 tunnels and sea caves found around Playa Ventanas. Nimbly navigating among the rocks that appeared and disappeared under crashing surf, Piña slowed the craft, then sped it up suddenly, surging into one of the tunnels. Inside the tunnel another cave appeared to our right, and we marveled at the beauty of the ocean’s work. We cruised forward again and emerged into sunlight on the other side of the cave, big smiles on every face.

Wayner pointed out the whale’s tail, a distinctive tombolo of sand and rock that is the key geologic feature of the park. Alcoa Company tried to build a dock of aluminum on the tail, spurring angry protests from locals that resulted in the creation of the park in 1969. A good thing, I reflect, given the numerous but fragile marine life resources there.

Life like the 6-foot long black and yellow striped moray eel we saw while snorkeling above the reef near Whale Rock. Our heads full of memories, we returned to Playa Uvita in the early afternoon after a day of adventure on the sea.

Puma Sightings a Sign the Natural Environment is Thriving

This account was written by Bahia Aventuras guide Reimer Brenes:

On one of my trips to Corcovado (I have the best job) in December 2012, I was leading a group of five tourists along the path known as Rio Pargo, (in honor of the red snapper which comes in at high tide). At the end of the trail there is a river where we took a break to rest. I observed the traces of a tapir in the Llorona River, so I began to track it, but its tracks were lost in the forest. I told the group I heard some noises in the forest, but I could no longer see tracks. I put my bag on the ground, and as the tourists returned to the river, I decided to remain a few minutes to see if I could see anything. Suddenly as I walked back to my bag I heard a noise, and when I turned I saw a big surprise. There was a puma near my backpack! He scared me a bit because he showed me his fangs like a dog ready to attack, and moved his tail like he was feeling nervous.  I stayed calm and picked up a piece of wood to defend myself in case he decided to attack. The animal remained quiet, so I pulled out my phone and took some photographs, then backed slowly away toward the tourists who were a few meters off. I wanted to alert them there was a puma so they could take out their cameras. While I was telling them what I saw, the puma walked toward the beach looking for a shady place to lie down and rest. When we found him we took pictures of him from all angles possible, like we were paparazzi! None of the visitors had seen one of these animals in its natural habitat, and it was the first time I had had an encounter with this big cat in my many years of visiting San Pedrillo.

Puma Resting on Beach at Corcovado
Puma Resting on Beach at Corcovado

During the early dry season, Bahia Aventuras guides and tourists observed pumas eight times in Corcovado. Some were adults and some were young. On one occasion we saw a full-grown male resting in the middle of the path. While these experiences do not happen every time we visit Corcovado, those who have had the opportunity to see a puma have an unforgettable memory of the natural wonders in our forests in the Southern Pacific area of Costa Rica. It is also a strong sign that this species is increasing in population, and that we are succeeding in our efforts to conserve this beautiful place.

Corcovado National Park – jungle at its best

The following is a guest post written by Chris and Anja, volunteers with Bahia Aventuras, about their Corcovado National Park Tour. Thanks Chris and Anja for contributing.

As I am really passionate about animals (especially monkeys!) I decided to visit Corcovado National Park, which is famous for its density of species. Some days earlier to my trip I already had joined an amazing snorkeling tour offered by Bahía Aventuras, so I knew where to turn to. And again they didn’t dissapoint me at all!
We drove to Corcovado by boat and went hiking for about 4 hours. Because it was raining the night before, the trail was a little bit muddy (hint: bring your hiking shoes, not your sandals!). Our guide had deep knowledge about both flora and fauna of the jungle and showed us every animal we discovered on a folder with pictures as well. We saw everything from howler monkeys and groups of spider monkeys to snakes, frogs to all kinds of eagels and hummingbirds down to fireflies, leafcutter ants and other things. Pretty much everything you would expect of a jungle. After the hike I was really exhausted, but the included meal at the park was excellent and more than enough for everyone. Unfortunately the weather changed on our way back and we got into a heavy rainstorm, leaving us soaked on the boat (hint #2: bring your raincoat, you never know!).

Nevertheless the whole trip was an experience I wouldn’t want to have missed!

Snorkelling at Isla de Caño – a great experience!

The following is a guest post written by Chris and Anja, volunteers with Bahia Aventuras, about the Cano Island Snorkel Tour. Thanks Chris and Anja for contributing.

Me and my girlfriend booked a snorkeling tour in December. We had a 1,5h long boat trip to Isla de Caño, south to the Marino Ballena National Park. The trip started right within the National Park, which turned out to be amazing: dolphins decided to accompany our boat and we even saw two humpback whales! Our guide explained everything about them and was really helpful. In total, we visited three snorkeling spots where we could explore the reefs in front of Isla de Caño. The water was quite cold that day, but we saw lots of different fish species and even a sea turtle. Our group also visited the island itself for lunch (typical costa rican arroz con pollo, pasta salad, sandwiches, fresh fruits – yummy!) and relaxing at the beach.

Overall the trip was informative, well organized and is absolutely recommendable!

Volunteering in Uvita, Costa Rica

In the beginning of 2010, me and my girlfriend decided to take a break from our jobs at home and to look for possible volunteer positions in Central America. We started by contacting several organizations and soon it was clear that Costa Rica was the country with most possibilities in this area.

We flew to Costa Rica in November 2010, ready to start working in December. We stumbeled upon the company Bahía Aventuras on www.sustainabletrip.org And it seemed to offer everything we wanted: the possibility to work in a marine environment, a connection to a national park and interesting fields of volunteer work. Travis was very quick in answering our inquiery and soon a skype meeting was set up. The enthusiasm of Travis regarding his work and the possibilities for us made it easy to decide that we would like to join Bahía Aventuras for one month.

We came to the community of Bahía in December and were able to find a nice apartement ten minutes away from our office. The first day at worked was all about introducing ourselves to the staff and making a working plan for the next four weeks. Bahía Aventuras resulted to be very cooperative and flexible – we were able to bring in our own ideas, wishes and suggestions. Finally, we agreed on the following things: our work would consist of optimizing and reprogramming the website www.bahiaaventuras.com, taking (tour) pictures for the company as well as evaluating the tours offered and defining measures to improve them. In exchange, we would be able to join the tours for free and use the surfboards of Bodhi Surf without charge. An employee of Bahía Aventuras also rented two bikes for a reasonable price for our time in Bahía. We also appreciated the possibility of using the wifi internet connection of our office for private matters.

Our working week was never the same – our timetable was pretty much defined by tour schedules, wheather conditions and the quality of the internet connection. Some of the work (editing photos, writing reviews of the tours, drawing sitemaps and a guideline for website improvements) was able to be done from our appartement, everything related to website programming and staff meetings had to be done at the office. It was a good feeling to have a list of goals which we should achieve after our month of work instead of having concrete times of work. That made it possible for us to connect work and leisure time in a flexible way (Waves are good in the morning? Let’s go surfing before we head to the office!) .

Travis took very good care of us – we installed a formal meeting once a week where we discussed our progress and other oportunities of working outside of the company (e.g. surf lessons for the kids of the community, GPS training, spanish lessons, taking photos of surf lessons etc.). We felt very welcome in the company and the community itself. A number of other volunteers made it easier for us to compare our experiences. We definitely made a good choice :-). All the people had a very friendly, open hearted attitude and soon we felt at home in Bahía. The small number of inhabitants made it easy to get a good feeling for the way of life in the community. Personally, we had the impression that many people are taking the pura vida lifestyle too seriously instead of life (work) itself.

Again, we want to thank the whole Bahía Aventuras team, expecially Travis and Walter, for their support! We will never forget this time! — Chris and Anja

Creating opportunities for our youth

Bahia-Uvita Youth Program “Grupo SURF”

SURF is a community-based organization that empowers youth as integral agents of change in the sustainable development of their communities. SURF is founded on the belief that youth are a fundamental resource in promoting responsible community development and creating a healthy future for themselves and their communities.
In Bahia Ballena, Osa, Costa Rica, SURF provides youth the opportunity to participate in capacity-building programs that enhance their quality of life, help them gain employment options and improve their decision-making processes.

Youth and Conservation

Costa Rica covers less than 1% of the earth’s surface area but contains 5% of the world’s biodiversity. It has 26% of its 52,100 km2 of land under protection, but less than 1% of  its 580,000 km2 of marine territory under protection.
SURF’s program operates in Bahia Ballena, Osa, a region that includes 149,808 hectares of protected areas including three national parks, two reserves a wildlife refuge and a marine national park.  The Osa area contains an incredibly diverse set of ecosystems that are currently being threatened by unregulated tourism, pollution, illegal extraction of floral and fauna and commercial and real estate development.

Bahia-Uvita and the Marino Ballena National Park

The community of Bahia Ballena is located at the footsteps of Marino Ballena National Park, Costa Rica’s first Marine National Park, which was established in 1989.  The park is the main tourist attraction in the area and plays a key role in the community’s socioeconomic development.  Conservation efforts in the Marino Ballena National Park and the greater Osa region can be improved by empowering youth as integral agents of change in the sustainable development of their communities.

SURFs Methodology

SURF is based on the education methodology: Tell me, I’ll forget; Show me and I may remember; Engage me and I’ll understand.   Students participate in hands-on activities around their neighborhood through which they gain a deeper understanding of their community, its needs and the steps they can take to bring about institutional change.  SURF participants learn GIS and GPS mapping techniques so that they can create comprehensive maps of the greater Bahia Ballena region.  They go on excursions into the Marino Ballena National Park and coastal mountains to learn about relevant topics such as whale migration and the origin of their town’s potable water.
SURF’s curriculum is divided into four modules called “The Four Waves” that encompass six months of weekly sessions.  Each wave contains trainings, workshops and extra-curricular activities that engage students with their community and marine protected area.  As students progress through the Four Waves, they participate in activities that encourage self-awareness by connecting them to their community, environment and peers.  After gaining a sense of belonging in their community, students learn the skills of a responsible leader and master the techniques for project design and management.  The group then employs the knowledge they have acquired to develop and implement independent, sustainable community projects. The group culminates its SURF experience by learning that generosity is rooted in one’s intention to care for the common good of a community. After graduating, youth participants become SURF mentors for future SURF generations, ensuring the sustainability of the program and living the knowledge and skills developed throughout their participation in the Four Waves.

Strategic Alliances

The KETO Foundation is a “non-profit organization focused on the study of biology, management and conservation of marine and coastal resources.” KETO uses its research on marine ecosystems in Osa to teach SURF youth the importance of aquatic management and conservation. The KETO – University of DUKE – SURF partnership empowers youth through marine education and interactive excursions such as snorkeling, whale watching and beach clean-ups, providing youth the opportunity to engage and build a relationship with their Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
Bahia Aventuras
Bahia Aventuras is a boat and nature tour operator in the national parks and reserves located in the Uvita-Bahia Ballena area.  SURF partners with Bahia Aventuras to augment students’ experiences studying the marine life in their community with boat tours and other excursions into the protected areas.
Bodhi Surf School in Bahia Ballena utilizes the incredible resource of Marino Ballena National Park to provide a unique surfing experience focused on a mind-body-earth awareness. Bodhi Surf provides lessons for SURF participants, introducing them to the national park and helping them build ocean awareness and confidence in themselves.
Outside The Lens (OTL) is a San Diego-based organization that works to “engage, educate and empower youth on issues affecting the world today” by promoting youth literacy through the arts.  SURF has partnered with OTL to bring dynamic photography and multimedia projects into the SURF curriculum that encourage students to reflect on the role they play in their community.
La Cusinga is a “coastal rainforest eco lodge dedicated to marine and terrestrial conservation and environmental education.” Located in Bahia Ballena, Osa, the lodge has obtained four out of five leaves marking certified sustainable tourism. La Cusinga maintains private trails to primary rainforest through which they lead SURF students on educational walks. Staff also teach SURF students about sustainable hotel operations.
GISETC has spent the last ten years providing workshops, software and curricula for both educators and students.  GISETC provides SURF students with GPS hand units and teaches the students how to use GIS and GPS mapping techniques as a tool to map their community’s resources.

Uvita High School

Uvita High School installs fence to border property

Uvita High School is now better protected and equipped to protect its students do to a mesh fence that was constructed around the institutions perimeter.  The project was finalized with the support of the Uvita community, Osa’s Municipality and other institutions.  The Uvita High School and its students are also working on the construction of a park inside the high school.  The goal for Uvita high school is to finish the gym, which started in 2001 and has a floor and locker rooms.  Another goal is to have two or three more classrooms built as the amount of students is increasing constantly.

Adapted from South Pacific News

Eco Friendly School in Uvita-Bahia area

School in Uvita-Bahia area is an example of sustainable architecture

Ballena school, located a few kilometers south of Uvita, is an example of sustainable architecture.  The school proves the benefits of practicing bio climatic architecture and serves as a sustainable development example for the Uvita and greater Osa region. The school uses a tropical bio climatic architecture that does not require air conditioning, containing large windows that permit natural airflow from the ocean breeze.  Not only does the school conserve energy, its design fits the natural beauty of the area.

Adapted from South Pacific News