We spent two nights at Veragua Rainforest after Estacion las Tortugas. During our stay, we learned about a variety of research projects currently under way at the center including a conservation project focused on critically endangered tiger leaf frogs.
Tiger leaf frogs are rare in most of their range (Costa Rica and Panama), but a healthy population inhabits Veragua. Conservation efforts focus on creating reproductive sites, i.e. small ponds surrounded by plants of varying heights, for resident tiger leaf frogs. Our group helped the project by cleaning some of the ponds, counting tadpoles and egg masses, and redistributing plants around the ponds.
Tiger leaf frog egg mass.
Tiger leaf frog tadpoles.
Juvenile tiger leaf frog found close to one of the artificial ponds.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged American Academy, conservation, Costa Rica, ecotourism, endangered species, Reefs to Rockies, tiger leaf frog, Veragua Rainforest, voluntourism | Leave a Comment »
It doesn’t take long for us to find evidence of leatherback sea turtles, the ancient mariners we’ve come looking for, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Large areas of disturbed sand are telltale signs of nesting activity on this beach. Female leatherbacks can weigh 1000 lbs and span 6-7 ft in length, making them the largest of the world’s seven species of marine turtles by far.
Working with a nesting leatherback sea turtle on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.
These photos are from the three nights we spent at Estacion Las Tortugas in early May, a great month to see nesting leatherback females and hatchlings in Costa Rica.
Leatherback hatchling release.
Leatherback hatchling release.
Leatherback hatchling release.
Sunset on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.
Lights from the city of Limon in the distance.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged American Academy, conservation, Costa Rica, ecotourism, Estacion las tortugas, hatchling, leatherback sea turtle, nesting, Reefs to Rockies | Leave a Comment »
1. Explore the underwater world nearby.
Isla Mujeres provides an ideal starting point for snorkeling and scuba diving. Manchones Reef is one of the best sites for snorkelers and divers of all levels. Sea turtles, brain coral, colorful tropical fish, and even nurse sharks are common sights in the area. Cruz de la Bahia (Cross of the Bay) and the Underwater Sculpture Museum (MUSA – Museo Subacuatico de Arte) are also close to the reef. During the summer months, large groups of whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, congregate in deep water off Isla Mujeres.
Check out “Swimming with Whale Sharks – Isla Mujeres, Mexico“.
Snorkeling at Manchones Reef.
Swimming with a whale shark near Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
2. Take a seaside walk.
On the east side of the island, there’s a malecon north of the airstrip that provides an interesting vantage point that many visitors miss.
Isla Mujeres Malecon
Sculptures along Isla Mujeres Malecon.
3. Rent a golf cart and explore the southern end of the island.
Isla is more than 4 miles long, so if you want to check out the southern end, rent a golf cart in town (approx $50 USD for 24 hrs). At Punta Sur (South Point), a walkway leads to a small Mayan Temple and a sculpture garden before ending at the rocky southern tip of the island. If you’re an early riser, head here before sunrise. This is the first place in Mexico that sunlight touches each morning. Entrance fee approx. $5.
Driving to Isla Mujeres’ south side.
Sculpture Garden – Punta Sur, Isla Mujeres
4. Learn about sea turtles.
Sea turtles breed in the waters surrounding Isla and some lay eggs on the island from May to September. Increased conservation measures in place to protect sea turtles have led to the development of a Turtle Farm on the island. Entrance fee approx. $5.
Hatchlings at Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm.
Green sea turtle.
5. Eat and drink.
For such a small island, Isla Mujeres offers a wide range of excellent culinary experiences. Visitors can start their day with crepes at Cafe Hidalgo or cinnamon rolls at Barlito, then lunch at a beachfront Minino’s Cocteleria for local seafood and then end at a Mediterranean dinner at Olivia’s. Throw a sunset cocktail into the mix, and it’s been a perfect day of gastronomy.
Check out our blog “Eating our Way Across Isla” for more suggestions.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged isla mujeres, Malecon, Manchones Reef, Mexico, Punta Sur, Reefs to Rockies, sea turtle, Things to do, Turtle Farm, Underwater Sculpture Museum | 1 Comment »
Ever since first hearing about the play of light and shadow on El Castillo during the spring and fall equinoxes, I’ve wanted to see it first-hand. The Mayan site of Chichen Itza, located in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, is the most visited archaeological site in the region and even more so during the equinoxes.
Equinox (“equal night”) refers to two periods in the year when the sun is positioned directly over the equator making night and day lengths equal. March 20th or 21st usually marks the spring equinox and September 23rd the fall equinox. Thousands of visitors visit Chichen Itza during the equinoxes, especially on the designated dates each year (March 21, 2013).
El Castillo (“The Castle”), Chichen Itza’s central focal point, served as a temple to Kukulkan, the feathered serpent. As the sun starts to set during the equinox, the angle of light striking the northwest side of El Castillo makes it look like a serpent is slithering along the steps. The head of Kukulkan at the bottom of the steps is lit up as well as seven triangles representing the diamond back of the snake. The effect can apparently be seen on the northeast side of El Castillo during sunrise on the same days, but Chichen Itza isn’t open at that time to visitors.
One of our goals at Reefs to Rockies is to provide unique experiences for clients away from the crowds. There are several days around the equinoxes when the sun’s position is almost identical so you don’t have to go on the day when visitation is at its highest. The following photos are from March 20, 2013.
As a side note – if you see people clapping hands repeatedly while near El Castillo, it’s because hand claps evoke chirped echoes from certain points at the base of the pyramid. The chirped echoes sound like the call of the resplendent quetzal, a bird revered by the Mayans. Click on the following link for more information on the resplendent quetzal. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/quetzal/
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged avoiding crowds, Chichen Itza, ecotourism, El Castillo, Kukulkan, Mexico, Reefs to Rockies, resplendent quetzal, spring equinox | Leave a Comment »
Ik-kil Cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is located only about 5 minutes from Chichen Itza Archaeological Site. Its proximity to Chichen Itza makes Ik-kil a popular stop on group tour itineraries in the region.
Open to the sky, Ik-kil’s water level lies approximately 85 ft below ground level. A stairway leads down to a swimming platform for easy access to the pool. More adventurous visitors can dive from various levels above the cenote.
Temperatures in the Yucatan’s interior tend to be higher than on the coast so a dip in Ik-kil is a welcome respite from the heat. The site opens at 8 am and most tour buses start arriving around 11 am. Planning to arrive before 11 am goes a long way in ensuring you won’t be sharing the experience with busloads of other people.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged avoiding crowds, Chichen Itza, ecotourism, Ik-kil Cenote, Mexico, Reefs to Rockies, Yucatan Peninsula | Leave a Comment »
Puerto Morelos Reef National Park, part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, was designated a protected area in 1998. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the second largest barrier reef in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. The reef’s proximity to Puerto Morelos’ shore and protected status provide for some of the most accessible and highest quality reef snorkeling in the region.
Waves break offshore as they meet the reef.
One of the protected species found in the marine reserve is elkhorn coral, an important reef-building species found in the Caribbean that has declined dramatically in recent years. While snorkeling in the national park, keep an eye out for elkhorn coral. You can also expect to see a kaleidoscope of fishes (parrotfish, angelfish, grunts, damselfish, etc.), brightly-colored anemones, brain coral, and sea fans swaying in the currents.
The best way to visit the reef is to hire a boat at the main pier in town. The price is $20-$25 USD per person for a 2-hour guided tour + $2 per person for the park entrance fee. Boats usually take 8-10 people out at a time unless you pay for private tour. On windy days, expect currents while swimming along the reefs. Life jackets are mandatory.
If you happen to be in Puerto Morelos or close by, it’s well worth taking a couple of hours to explore the underwater world just off shore.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged conservation, coral reef, ecotourism, Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, Mexico, Puerto Morelos, Puerto Morelos Reef National Park, Reefs to Rockies, snorkeling | Leave a Comment »
We are always on the lookout for great travel tips and ideas for pack lists. One of the best articles we’ve seen on this subject recently was published by The Independent Traveler. It lists great travel accessories you can get for free by not throwing them in the trash. Their suggestions are easy on the bank account and on the local landfill.
Here’s the list:
Sheet/ bedding casing
Plastic yogurt container
Check out the full article For suggested uses for each of the above items (http://www.independenttraveler.com/travel-tips/packing-and-accessories/top-10-travel-essentials-you-can-find-in-the-trash).
Have any tips of your own? We’d love to hear about them.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged pack list, Reefs to Rockies, travel essentials | Leave a Comment »