Costa Rica and Panama Adventure
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of travelling mixed with some very nice relaxation. Several months back I saw an advert for an amphibian symposium which had a list of speakers who I very much wanted to meet. This meant I decided to have a break from jungle life in order to visit Costa Rica. I visited Costa Rica back in 2007 and have always wanted to return.
Sophie and I flew from Iquitos direct to Panama City, it was amazing how quickly you can fly direct, when we are so used to internal flights. The flight to Panama City is the only international flight from Iquitos, however was one of the nicest flights I have been on, they even gave us free wine! We had a couple of days in Panama City and visited the Panama Canal, as well as going for a few walks around the city. It was very strange to suddenly be in such a large city so soon after the jungle! We went from giant trees to giant skyscrapers. Panama City was very interesting, it is very westernized and reminded us of large American cities mainly because there were so few local people and so many foreigners! Although it was interesting we were happy to leave the city as neither of us are city people both preferring the peace and quiet of more rural places. So from here we had an overnight bus to San Jose the capital of Costa Rica, which involved a very strange border crossing that we had to walk across as our bus had driven a few hundred meters down the road with our bags! From San Jose we had a shuttle bus which took us to Siquirres where we attended the week long Amphibian Symposium.
This location was chosen due to its close proximity to the Costa Rican Amphibian Research center (www.cramphibian.com), created and owned by Brian Kubicki and his family. This was a great opportunity to go back to the center which I had previously visited in 2007. Brian brought this land in 2002 so that it could be conserved specifically for amphibians. His continued research now spans all over Costa Rica. His reserve is home to a diverse range of amphibian species. We visited his reserve both during the day and at night, during the day visit he showed us the vivariums he had on site in which he was working with several interesting species including some salamanders and poison dart frogs. He also showed us the area where he was cultivating many interesting plant species. After this we went for a walk around the reserve and saw a few amphibian species. On the night visit we took a night walk around the reserve, we saw many different species including the red eyed tree frog, the lemur frog and many other interesting hylidae species, I have included several pictures below.
During our time at the symposium we attended many interesting talks and lectures about work being undertaken in Central and South America. We also undertook several day trips into the surrounding area, we went on an aerial tram ride which was very cool. It took you up into the canopy and very slowly took you through, it was amazing to be that high up and see all the bromeliads and animals that live in the canopy. Another trip involved traveling down to Puerto Viejo located on the Caribbean coast, this place is very well know as a surf destination and had many a surf bum wondering around ;)… So while here we visited a botanical garden which was beautiful, they were cultivating bromeliads and had hundreds of small strawberry dart frogs. This is a very interesting species, with many different colour morphs which can be seen in the photos below. Many of these were taken in Panama in Boca del Toro, these islands are very unique each one has a different colour morph, although they are all the same species.
After this we both decided that we wanted some relaxation time and what better place to go than a Caribbean island. So we headed to Bocas del Toro just off the coast of Panama and we stayed on two picturesque islands. Firstly we stayed on Isla Colon for five days where we rented a couple of bikes and explored the islands beaches. On one day we cycled from Bocas del Toro to Boca del Drago and walked up to Starfish beach, where we spent the day snorkeling. It was amazing to see so many starfish in once place and we also got to see some really cool fish around the mangrove forests. I have always wanted to swim in mangroves and see coral reefs and this day I got to make that a reality. Coral reefs are a real love of mine and I think if I was not working in rainforest studying frogs I would be working with coral reefs!
Then we moved to Isla Bastimentos for a further five days, this island was more remote and off the tourist trail. We went to the famous Red Frog Beach and took many photos of the strawberry dart frogs discussed above. We took a trip to one of the tiny off shore beach islands and went snorkeling, the coral reefs and the fish were amazing. We took a Go Pro with us and both of us had a go filming and photographing the fish and coral reefs. We also found an amazing Café called Up on the Hill which served the best brownies and proper coffee (grown on the hill!). It was also surrounded in different colour morphs of pumilio and we spent a whole day walking around taking photos of the different morphs.
We are now back in Iquitos and I am currently doing some work trying to catch up with everything but failing due to the very slow internet access (if I get this blog updated it will be a miracle in itself!). We are leaving to go back into the jungle on Sunday 25th August and will be back around the 5th October. I am looking forward to returning to the reserve and collecting some interested data in the low water. The current plan is to return with an Earthwatch group and spend two weeks at the mouth of the reserve, followed by one week at PV3 (which I have not visited since I first came to Pacaya-Samiria in 2009). Finally we plan to spend our final two weeks at PV2 to collect some data which will be compared with the high water data I have from earlier this year.