So this is where things truly begin. I can’t really describe the feeling that we all felt packing onto that bus, looking out the window at the passing mountainsides, and knowing that what we were getting into would change almost all of our lives. We’ve all been super excited since we arrived in the country, but it just keeps building.
I don’t think I could have asked for a better first day at Palo Verde. Although the park consists almost entirely of tropical dry forest (characterized by low humidity and precipitation only 3 months of the year), it was clearly teeming with life. As we arrived to the park gates, ctenosaurs basked on fence posts and scurried across the road, while cattle egrets stalked fish in the marshes.
We pulled up to the campgrounds and took in the morning sun for a hot minute before heading to the station’s classroom. A short lecture from one of the park’s guides included a visit from a friend who had been collected from the marsh:
Then Ryan took us on our first orientation hike. At first, we were a bit preoccupied with being bugged by the many masses of mosquitos who eagerly awaited us, but it was easy to get distracted by all the amazing things surrounding us. A few pointers on local ecology by Ryan, such as highlighting prominent flora: lleanas, thick vines that dangle from the canopy, and acacia trees, guarded by fearsome and loyal ants. Then what followed was a massive array of amazing wildlife in the span of a few hours. Highlights included:
A laughing falcon,
a pack of 15 or so coatis,
and three out of the four species of monkey found in the park: capuchins, mantled howler monkeys, and even a spider monkey!
We ended the hike with a summit of La Roca, a rocky hill about a half-mile from the campground. The view over the marshland wasn’t too shabby.
That night, a few of us took a walk down the road to see what we could catch a glimpse of in the darkness. Once the sun sets, the forest around you explodes with all sorts of noises. Cicadas, nocturnal birds, and bats fill the air with their calls, mixing into an indecipherable din. And you see a lot of neat life that isn’t around during the day:
All in all, a successful first day. Honestly just an insane first day. When you think of the tropics, you might be tempted to think that you’re going to see cool stuff with every corner you turn. But there was no way I was going into this trip with those types of expectations. This first day, however, proved otherwise.
Other wildlife seen not mentioned:
– house geckos
– yellow-headed parakeets
And the list will just keep going on.