Ode to Jalova: Reminiscing the Surveys
One of the hardest surveys is the Jag Walk. 14.5miles (23.3km) to walk, this long (5 – 12 hours) survey along the beach involves taking record of jaguar tracks, predated turtles and turtle tracks. As turtle season has just finished, finding a predated turtle is highly unlikely. Though the amount of jaguar tracks we still find is astonishing. To think that this powerful predator had been walking on the beach just a few hours before us. Phenomenal. Though seeing one of these jaguars in person is extremely rare, the tracks on the beach, as well as several trap cameras, reveal that these carnivores are more common to the area than what you’d initially expect.These ‘jags’ are very skilled when it comes to avoiding humans.
From the beach to dense and even swamp forest, monkey surveys are more adventurous. Going off-trail, you truly become surrounded by dense rainforest. Off-trail guarantees getting a little dirty. Treading through some sections in waist-deep water seems to be the norm. At the start, most try to avoid getting water in the gumboots. As soon as breach has occurred, you no longer care how deep the puddle is, the socks are already wet. Getting a bit muddy is part of the fun and is essential to explore some of the more untouched parts of the national park.
When not on survey, and one does not feel like taking a nap, downtime is great for socialising, playing games and special events. Bananagrams is a crowd favourite to relieve boredom. Birthdays allow for a good excuse to make popcorn, turn the kitchen into a cinema and watch a movie (with jungle cake, of course). Sometimes a visit to Tres, the jungle bar, is made to have an evening off base. With great food, drinks and dancing, it’s always great night for all volunteers and staff. Currently, we’re all anticipating the “Jalova Olympics” to be a fantastic Friday afternoon. Who will win? The Tyranasaur Turtles or the Jade Jaguars?
This week we say goodbye to four volunteers (including myself). Upon reflection, I’ve noticed that Tortugero National Park has done a brilliant job of presenting the diverse biodiversity that Costa Rica is known for. From the common small reptiles and amphibians, to the larger, more iconic animals such as the three-toed sloth, spider monkeys and keel-billed toucan. On one occasion, a group of us were able to get quite close to 30 or so white-lipped peccaries! That really gets the adrenaline pumping.
Although not all surveys were as fruitful, the scenery never let us down. Walking through entanglement to suddenly arrive in a clearing, causing heads to simultaneously look to the skies. Wide canals with waters so calm it never failed to reflect the amazing greenery surroundings. Standing in one of the wildest parts of the forest, with giant trees whose roots are thicker than my waist. Clear nights which featured hundreds and thousands of stars due to the minimal light pollution. All these areas were enjoyed in mutual silence with the gentle humming of bird calls in the background. The tranquility was unbelievably relaxing in contrast to busy city life. A real eye opener to the other, often unseen, side of the world. Thank you Tortugero National Park and GVI Jalova for this amazing, unforgettable experience.
Aline Gibson Vega
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