Thursday, 9 July 2015

"150 and still young, dude. Rock on!" -Crush, Finding Nemo

Being the first post on this blog is such a privilege. I hope my experience here encourages you to travel from wherever you are to work for an organization helping the world's sea turtle population. Please feel free to email me personally if you have any Pura Vida! :)

I have spent the past 7 days here at Drake Bay in Costa Rica, and have had quite an eye-opening time. I have never traveled to Central America before now, so I was not too sure what to expect. From arrival on a 15-person plane to departing on a boat, every turn was positively surprising. I did not expect Drake Bay (Progreso) to be amongst the jungle paradise in the middle of really nowhere. However, this was the true and honest way to understand the Pura Vida lifestyle. Laying in a hammock, drinking REAL coffee, eating fruits and veggies straight from the plant/ground, playing cards during the nighttime, crossing a flooded road on foot,  picking avocados from a tree, learning how to open a coconut, using a machete, hearing howler monkeys, watching colorful macaws, monkeys, crocodiles, and sloths, running in the rain, planning to build a sea turtle hatchery, making friends from around the globe, and many more activities made this trip unforgettable.

Now to get to the turtle part...
Well because I came to Drake Bay before the peak of the nesting season, I was unable to see any females nesting or their precious hatchlings. However, being a marine scientist, I knew of this fact beforehand. Even though I did not see any turtles in this situation, I was able to view sea turtles mermaiding in the ocean during my snorkel tour of Caño Island. I highly recommend this day trip. We were lucky to see over 20 species of reef fishes, along with the turtles.
I went through a training program, learning about the various species of sea turtles, their nesting behaviors, tracks, and typical conservation procedures. I was also able to participate in a beach night patrol, in the hopes of spotting a female nesting. I wish I could comment more on the sea turtle aspect of this program, but I cannot wait to hear how my help during this time of the year (7/3-7/10) will impact the health and safety of new baby turtles.

Now to get to the work part...
I completed many projects for the hostel and organization with the help of other volunteers. We all worked together with the help of Aida and Elias (wonderful coordinators) to begin the sea turtle hatchery design. This hatchery will soon be the place for incubating eggs. I look forward to staying in touch with volunteers staying here longer, as well as the organization, to hear all about the progress and news about our special turtles.

Overall, this experience is one that I will never forget. Like any trip away from home and daily living in the suburbs, living in Central America had its ups and downs, but it has definitely opened my eyes to how people live in this part of the world. I am thankful for this opportunity and thankful for the people who made me feel welcome (Tute the dog, Aida, Elias, Rob, Marvin+family, community members/families). I will take what I have learned with me. I will also spread the word and share what I have done with others, in the hope that ocean conservation efforts will expand and become second nature everywhere.

Peace, Love, & Sea Turtles,
Kelly Muench
High School Biology and Marine Science Teacher
Tampa, Florida 

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