Animals of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio
Today we took an hour bus ride to Costa Rica’s national park, Manuel Antonio. On the bus ride to the forest, we passed many beautiful palm tree fields and small towns with local markets and vibrant houses. As soon as we got to the entrance of the park, our tour guide spotted a small of pack of white-faced monkeys that were swinging in the trees above us. Their playful and energetic nature captivated everyone, and it seemed as though they too were getting a kick out of us watching them. We then entered the hiking trail and began our journey. All of the trees were entangled by vines and other plants that were stretching to the top of the canopy. Bird calls of all sorts could be heard overhead, creating a natural symphony like no other. The sunny green leaves were incredibly varied and plentiful. As we got farther down the trail, some black lizards hesitantly crossed our path. Even further down the trail, the forest slowly became a mangrove, which reeked of some serious sulfur.
After walking through more mangrove and forest, we could start to hear the inviting sound of ocean waves crashing onto the shore. We got closer and closer, until we finally reached the breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. The light blue ocean water shimmered and waved, almost seducing anyone who saw it to go for a swim. Once again our tour guide, being as awesome and knowledgeable as she is, spotted a two-toes sloth that was just chillin’ in one of the trees on the shore. She told us that this was rarity, given that sloth’s are usually only active at night. And the even crazier part is that we saw another one just a few meters farther down the shore! How lucky!
After lingering at the beach for a while, we started our hike back to the bus. On the way back, we saw more lizards and geckos that scrambled around the jungle floor. I spotted an agouti, a large and more pleasant-looking rodent. There was a raccoon that someone saw, which wasn’t as exciting because of their popularity in Milwaukee. After more hiking and observing, we finally made it back to the entrance. On my way out I bought a raw coconut that had a straw in it for the coconut milk. What a refreshing way to end such a fulfilling hike!
Plants of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio & Crocodile Bridge
Hiking through the Manuel Antonio National Park was a very immersive experience. It allowed us to view the vast diversity of flora and fauna that Costa Rica has to show. We saw the tropical plants that grow there and the animals they support and shelter.
We also saw the more touristic side of the country at Crocodile Bridge. Seeing the crocodiles flock to the bridge in hopes to be fed was as eye opening as it was exciting. Students were in awe and the crocodiles were quite large and looked very intimidating. After you cross the bridge you see several locals that capitalize on the crocodiles from restaurants to souvenir shops.
Trip Reflection: What I’ve Learned About Myself on this Trip
So far into the trip I personally have been making the best out of every moment. I have been more open-minded to things I sometimes can be pessimistic about. For example, in Milwaukee I never go to the beach or on hikes. I’m a lot more afraid of animals than most, but in Costa Rica and Panama we went on two hikes where there were a lot of different animals. The first hike was in Panama at a place called Cerro Ancón. There weren’t as many animals compared to Costa Rica but we saw a boa constrictor, a nest of termites, and Panama’s version of a rat. In Manuel Antonio National Park where we saw the beautiful palm trees, sloths, iguanas, and crabs. I went in with a positive attitude and now all I have are positive experiences from the hike.
Even though we’re in a different country I have been able to learn how to be more open-minded even if you’re facing your life-long fears. I’m very thankful for this trip because I have been able to learn things that I can take everywhere with me.
Project Highlight: Water pH Sampling
One of the many many beautiful traits associated with the Costa Rica area is their dense rainforests and several natural water sources. In order to learn how the characteristics of the water affect the surrounding plant life, data collected from these water sources can show how different species of flora can flourish given the right circumstances. pH samples were collected from different naturally-occurring water sources in the Costa Rica area. So far tests have shown that the water being pushed through these areas is slightly more acidic than a glass of milk. The water with higher alkaline levels were surrounded with less shrubbery and plantation than the ones that tested lower. In order to collect data, we had to take some out of the ordinary measures, all while preserving wildlife and not disturbing nature.
Note: All students in Reagan's International Travel Program complete a research project based on a self-selected research question. The question must be one that requires students to travel to Costa Rica and/or Panama to answer it by gathering in-person data.