I studied abroad in Costa Rica for the spring semester of 2016. I always enjoyed hiking and even spent a few years living in Bar Harbor, Maine where a national park was practically my backyard. I was thrilled to explore Costa Rica’s rainforests, coasts, and all the outdoor activities the country had to offer. The fall before I went abroad I took the Global Studies course Global/Local Environmentalism. The course critically analyzed conservation and preservation efforts by looking at both the impact on the environment and local communities. The course inspired me to explore various conservation efforts being made in Costa Rica. I was able to explore conservation in Costa Rica by visiting three different regions within the country.
First, I visited Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast. Tortuguero is known for the large amount of sea turtles that nest there each year. While there, I visited the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s museum and learned about their efforts to protect sea turtles as an international organization and in Tortuguero with the local community. I learned that the community, which used to poach turtles, was now earning a higher income from tourism brought by the sea turtles than it had from poaching. Unfortunately, I did not spot any sea turtles while I was there. Nonetheless, the trip was still educational and enjoyable as I got to visit a beautiful and remote area.
Next, I visited Drake Bay on the southern Pacific coast. While there I hiked in Corcovado, Costa Rica’s largest national park. The park is located on the Osa Peninsula which is considered one of the most biodiverse places on earth. The national park was formed to protect the fauna and flora from the effects of gold mining and logging. Today research is conducted in the park and strict guidelines state that you can only enter the park with a certified guide. On the hike I was able to spot and learn about many animals and the vegetation.
Lastly, I visited an animal rescue and rehabilitation center that was started by a local family. Each exhibit explained the circumstances that led the animal to be put in the center’s care. The center also explained the difficulties that come with rereleasing animals to the wild once they have become accustomed to human care. The center does its best to release animals back to their natural habitat, when it is not possible they provide long term care.
It was amazing to be able to explore the themes concerning conservation we had discussed in class first hand in a country known for its eco-tourism. On the trips I was also able to practice my Spanish and learn about the culture while speaking to locals about their experiences with conservation efforts. I left with a deeper understanding of the various efforts being made to protect Costa Rica’s environment.