Monday, 14 December 2015

Costa Rica - Ojochal and Dominical

Two weeks travelling around the Coronado Bay area of Costa Rica: crocodile monitoring by kayak, mammal tracking, star gazing and beach loving

Beach camp constructed by previous volunteers, where we often napped during night patrols.
Destination? Ojochal, Costa Rica
Travel Mode? Air United flight from New York City to San Jose, Land Taxi
Time spent here? 14 days
Month? August

My trip to Costa Rica came about primarily as I didn't want to travel across the Atlantic twice in two months. I decided it would be a good opportunity to see another destination the other side of the pond, and I had heard great things about Costa Rica. I researched and decided to spend the month I had free travelling the Pacific coast, as this is generally safer and quieter than the Atlantic coast. I booked flights with United (there aren't a great deal of options even coming from the US), said goodbye to my boyfriend in San Diego and off I went!

This was the first time I had really gone "travelling" on my own and when I landed I was terrified. I needed to get to the Pacific Coast but had read some unpleasant reviews of what might happen on long distance coach services. I decided just to take a taxi at the airport from the airport's taxi firm. I immediately felt comfortable with the driver and when I told him where I was going, he explained (slowly - my Spanish is patchy) that it was near his home town, and asked if we could go pick up his wife so they could make a day trip of it! I said yes, and shortly he and his wife were giving me a quick tour of their home in San Jose, met their kids, and off we went on the 4 hour drive to Ojochal. I really think this was worth the extra expense for me to be safe. It also gave me a chance to brush up on some spanish before I arrived at the volunteer centre!

Ojochal is a tiny village on the Pacific coast. If you are looking for an authentic Costa Rican village experience, this could be it. The short walk to the beach is through patchy jungle, and the beach itself is completely unspoilt and rugged. We saw snakes (deadly ones at that), all kinds of monkeys, frogs and much more walking to the beach, which was really exciting.

Monkeys throw fruit at you as you pass underneath them...
During my two week volunteer placement, the highlight for me was without a doubt crocodile monitoring by kayak. (I'm not confident in a kayak so I decided the DSLR should stay back at the lodge for this expedition). We kayaked out from Turtle Beach across the currents and up the river. The study is observing the interaction of crocodiles with fishermen. As we paddled closer to shore again, crocodiles began to surface on both sides of the kayak. I wasn't undertaking the study at all myself, I was lucky to be there to observe the crocodiles. We also undertook beach patrols (it was the beginning of turtle season.. more about that in my next post), swamp profiling (as crazy as it sounds), outreach with local communities and much more.

Dog walks on the beach

New friend
I had my first surf lesson in the town of Dominical further up the coast. Dominical has a real surfer vibe, and we massively appreciated the beach bars. The waves were quite rough, not ideal for beginners, but I loved watching the pros later in the afternoon!

Jungle - looks great by day, but I wasn't so keen when we did night walks through it!
Lunch time frisbee
I spent one month travelling the Costa Rican Pacific coast. If you are planning to visit Costa Rica and have any questions, feel free to ask :)

With love, Tania xo

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