We arrived to the Reserva Natural Monte Alto in Hojancha, Guanacaste, Costa Rica's wester province, at about 10pm. The parking lot was empty, there were no lights and no visible buildings. My boss, Roger, told us to get out of flashlights as he began leading us down a path into the jungle. Exhausted and just getting over the flu, I was beginning to question if coming on this four-day forest-management field trip was such a good idea. All that was going through my brain was 'bed, bed, bed, sleep, sleep, sleep, it doesn't matter where". A few hundred meters later a green building appeared that would be our lodging for the evening. It was all open, rustic in the true sense of the word. The sounds of the night insects sounded peacefully, interrupted occasionally by the terrifying howl of the Howler monkeys. Roger was giving us an introduction, and I must admit I did not hear a word. My eyes were immediately transfixed on a spider the size of a large man's hand in the room across the hall from mine. I couldn't scream, I couldn't jump around like a 5 year old child, which is usually my first instinct. No, I had to act like a dignified adult and pretend like nothing was there, kind of like how everyone else did. My friend walked by it and just casually kicked it to the side. No big deal!
Let's just say I didn't sleep so great that night. However our 5:30am wake up call was definitely worth it. The birds sang from the treetops, the sunlight poured over the mountains and a hummingbird gracefully sucked nectar from a banana tree.
We were guided through the 20 year old forest, that had been collectively paid for by the surrounding farmers and restored from bamboo, coffee and tree plantations into a vibrant habitat for over 40 species of birds, 70 Howler monkeys and countless butterflies, insects, snakes and I am sure many others.
|Butterfly by the river|
|Howler monkey enjoying the morning|
The following two days were just as informative of the first. It was an amazing experience to get deep into the woods and see some of Costa Rica's world renowned biodiversity. We drove through about half of the country, and I must tell you, it was beautiful. But nothing compares to the breathtaking mountainsides of Turrialba. It was nice to come home.