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Global Navigators in Costa Rica-- We're Back, Baby!

Hello from the other side! Adele was probably coming out of Corcovado when she wrote that song, because that's what it felt like for 20 brave and adventurous Global Navigators as they motored out of the Osa Peninsula Sunday morning, carrying with them their soaking boots and their stories from the past week. What stories, you ask? Lucky you! Here they are!

 On their way out of San Jose, way back on Tuesday, the Navigators stopped first in Cartago to visit an historic and beautiful church, where they sampled holy water and gazed upon the relics left behind by the faithful.

It kind of looks like they're having fun, doesn't it? 

After Cartago, the Navigators pushed on to the mountains of Cerro de la Muerte, where they stopped for a lovely lunch followed by an even lovelier hike in search of rare mountain salamanders. Once prevalent throughout the area, salamander populations have been steadily declining due in part to the worsening effects of climate change. Despite their efforts, the Navigators were unable to locate any of these slippery devils. But on the plus side, they still got to get their hands all dirty digging through the leaves.

A perfect day for salamamas.

 After a restful and air-conditioned sleep that night, the Navigators loaded boats and headed down the Sierpe toward Corcovado National Park-- their first extended stay, and the launching point for all the biodiversity module of the program. But before even reaching the park, the Navigators were lucky enough to experience several stunning samples of the rich biodiversity found on the Osa Peninsula-- including three-toed sloths, pantropical spotted dolphins, and even a pair of humpback whales.

Boats are essentially floating wildlife-viewing-platforms. 


Slothy McSlothface in all his glory.   IMG_5159

 This dolphin was worried we were lost, and was showing us the way.


 Hahaha there was this one dolphin who hit the water with his tail every time he did a leap, he was the greatest.


 That's no moon...


 IT'S A SPACE STATION!!! I mean, it's a humpback whale.

 Once they arrived at Campanario Biological Station, the Navigators wasted no time in assembling for a hike into the surrounding rainforest. With the help of their wonderful guide Freiner, the Navigators learned to differentiate between Primary and Secondary forest, and observed the natural rainforest in all its glory.


We told the kids to take a hike, and they took it literally. 


 Here, the Navigators learn how to travel quietly in the forest-- to best observe the wildlife, and to sneak up on their family back home.


Mene snags a glance through the looking glass at one of the many weird looking creatures hidden in the jungle. 


 It was already raining, so they figured getting a little closer to the waterfall couldn't hurt.

The next morning, the Navigators all said, "That's not enough! We demand more rainforest! More rainforest! More rainforest!" It quickly became an annoying little chant, so their instructors said, "Lucky for you, there's plenty more where that came from," and took them on another short boat ride to San Pedrillo, properly within the boundaries Corcovado National Park, for another biodiversity hike. Here, the Navigators saw many amazing creatures like the Boat-billed Heron, Green Kingfishers, Basilisk Lizards, and Spider Monkeys. On the way back, they even decided to cool off with a lil' swimmin' in the local swimmin' hole.


 Hey hey they're the Monkeys.


 Now THAT'S a waterfall.


 If there's a better classroom on the planet, I haven't found it yet.


They swim in waterfalls, don't they? 

 After San Pedrillo, the instructors said "You guys give up yet? Or are ya thirsty for more?" (like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone), to which the Navigators all replied "Never!!" (like Marv in Home Alone), so they set out once more into the rainforest surrounding Campanario. This time, the Navigators learned about Leaf-Cutter Ants and rejuvenating mud, and afterwards quenched their thirst with fresh coconut water.


 No hike is complete without a massage-train break.


Freiner applies the magic mud to Katie, who already feels ten years younger.


After this fresh coconut water, you just know they're all gonna go home and be snobs about the canned stuff... "Ho ho, no thank you, I only drink it fresh." 

The next day, it was time for a visit to Isla Del Caño, where the Navigators learned all about island biodiversity through a cool hike, where they learned that while islands have less total species than the mainland, the species that they do have become more numerous. To experience the intricacies of island biodiversity in person, they spent some time on the beach playing entirely professional and formal games in which they pretended they were sharks. Later, they dove into the ocean for some snorkeling, and came face to face with the island's beautiful biodiversity.


Beach Day! Not only everyone's favorite episode of The Office, but a pretty good way to have class, too. 

I'm glad that Aiden isn't a shark in real life, because we'd all be toast. 

After resting up from their snorkeling, the Navigators returned to Campanario for some lunch and some snacks, and then spent some time in groups studying Ecosystem Services, and then presenting their new knowledge to the group in the form of weird little skits that they all seemed to enjoy way too much.


 Camden played a student who was caught outside after curfew. The girls are decomposers, feeding on his corpse.


Zeya's either pretending to be a tree, or she forgot her line. It's really impossible to be certain.

What to do, oh what to do with the last day in Corcovado? Oh, I know! How about a canoe trip up Rio Claro?? Well that worked out perfectly, because that's exactly what was on the itinerary. On Saturday morning, the Navigators set off together up the magical river, carrying only their life-jackets and water bottles for company. And each other, I guess.


 It's important to always test the water before a canoe trip, to make sure it's liquid enough for your preferences.


Look at that, that's not a bad view!


Fall in the water, don't let the waterfall on you. 

But that wasn't the end of their day! The Navigators spent the afternoon learning about the steps of the scientific method, before splitting into groups and conducting their own observations and experiments on the beach of Campanario. We definitely have some young scientists in this group... though it's too early to tell whether they'll be mad scientists or the regular kind.


 It's always hard to resist burying your feet in the sand during class, but I'd say these students are doing admirably.


 Angela's coconut experiment seems to be right on track

Hermit pictureGlobal Navigator Corey Jacob got up close and personal with a hermit crab during his experiment and was able to capture this photo; don't worry, he was perfectly safe-- it wasn't as big as it looks. 

Corey was also able to capture a video of the beast:

 Whew. All that learning felt like a lifetime, but somehow it had only been four days! On Sunday morning, the Navigators loaded the boats at Campanario and motored their way back toward Sierpe. But on the way, the river proved that biodiversity didn't end in Corcovado-- the Navigators spotted a troop of adorable Squirrel Monkeys from the boats!


Is is a squirrel? Is it a monkey? To this day, these questions still stump even the brightest of scientists.

 Now, the Navigators rest for a night at the beautiful Hotel Pelicanos; in the morning, they'll continue their journey through Costa Rica as they head toward Isla Chira, and begin their module of study on the sustainable practices of the island community. They'll be off the grid in terms of wi-fi once more for four nights, but they'll be back in touch as soon as possible to tell you more about their crazy and educational adventures!


 The view from Campanario. I've seen worse.

More soon.


Words by Kyle Ritland

Photos by Trevor Ritland