Over the past few months, I’ve been occupied mainly with counting, weighing, and scanning leaves. Ecosystem ecology is a non-stop thrill!! However, I’ve gotten the chance to do some traveling both within and outside Costa Rica.
In July the whole Powers lab decided to take a trip to Isla Murciélago, a small, remote island a ~3 hour boat ride off the coast of the Santa Elena peninsula. Not much lives there aside from ctenosaurs, rats, and hermit crabs, but the snorkeling is fantastic. Or more accurately, it used to be… several red tides have claimed almost all the corals. With sufficient protection from the Area de Conservación Guanacaste (more info here and here), the reef may regenerate.
Last week I took a visa run to Nicaragua, the largest and perhaps most diverse country in Central America. A week was nowhere near sufficient to explore more than a small corner of the country, but I had a fantastic time and would recommend visiting Granada to anyone. It’s a beautiful colonial city with amazing cafés, no fewer than three Irish pubs, a good archeological museum, and amazing views of Lake Nicaragua (no swimming, though… the lake contains both caiman and bull sharks!)
A church off the Parque Central, Granada
Obligatory tourist monkey shot
I also got to check out Isla Ometepe, a volcanic island in the middle of the lake. My new knee made it 9 km up the volcano!
A view of Volcán Concepción, Isla de Ometepe.
The view from the volcano!
Although I was just a few hours across the border from Costa Rica, Nicaragua felt incredibly foreign to me in a way that CR does not. Nicaragua is poorer than its neighbor to the south, but culturally much more diverse (parts of the country are even English-speaking as a legacy of the British slave trade). Propaganda for the FLSN (Sandinistas) is everywhere, with banners proudly proclaiming that Nicaragua is ‘Socialist, Christian, and unique!’ In contrast to Costa Rica, where the vast majority of tourists are American, almost every traveler I met was European. Considering the awful legacy of U.S. intervention in Nicaragua, perhaps this makes sense. Nonetheless, everyone I met was incredibly friendly, and I got the sense that many Nicaraguans are rightfully proud of their amazing country. I can’t wait to go back!