Day 3 (Wed., 4/22/09) – Howler monkey hike, homemade ice cream, and turtle tagging

We awoke this morning to the chickens as usual, and ate our breakfast in groggy, appreciative silence.

Our menu consisted of cheesy and buttered bread triangles, papaya slices, bacon, ham, and a pink-speckled fruity bread.

This morning’s adventure: hiking the red howler monkey forest trail near Matura Beach. Our guide for the hike was Francis, who was full of knowledge of the plants, trees and animals in the forest. We walked along the road first, passing homes and sleeping dogs, then cut left up a wide, steep dirt road, which ran past a two-story, cream-colored building before meeting pavement once again.

            Entering the forest, it felt as though we had stepped into an episode of National Geographic. We were surrounded by vibrant green, and the light that penetrated the canopy shone in patches on the ground and made the leaves glow. Francis led us over log bridges and fallen logs, through small streams, and up and down leaf-strewn slopes in search of the as-it-would-turn-out elusive howler monkeys. Our next brief stop was by one of the many large Mora trees to gawk and snap photos. We saw numerous flowers, an iguana, a hummingbird, and a couple blue emperor butterflies. Unfortunately, however, we never spotted a howler. Francis told us that poaching of howler monkeys has increased in recent years.   

In the afternoon, Scott drove us for a treat in his green pickup truck to the much-mentioned homemade ice cream shop down the road. This quaint local shop makes a few flavors a day. When we arrived, a tiny black puppy greeted us and continued to amuse us as we enjoyed delicious coconut and passion fruit ice cream.

We returned to Suzan’s guesthouse to rest before setting out for the beach at night.  Getting to know the staff at Nature Seekers has been really amazing.  One of us has been conducting interviews with them to better understand the organization’s history.  Since its creation in 1990, Nature Seekers has been driven by passionate individuals who have remained committed to conservation despite obstacles.  Many have spent hours volunteering on the beach throughout many nights despite having other jobs during the day. 

At night, while we were preparing to measure and tag a turtle, a group of tourists joined us. As we were answering questions and explaining the nesting process to the tourists, we were amazed as we realized how much we knew about leatherbacks. If it weren’t for this class and this trip, we would have been the tourists.