Our Dallas, Costa Rica and Panama Conference in late 2014 was an amazing experience for all involved.
Costa Rica is a country synonymous with ecotourism – travel that incorporates education about the environment and promotes preservation of natural resources – and has established a large number of national parks and nature preserves that boast a rich array of birds, mammals, reptiles and rain-forest plants.
Some of the hightlights of the Discover Costa Rica program included:
Poas Volcano – one of Costa Rica´s most active volcanoes and one of its most frequently visited. We got to stand on the rim and look down into a crater that contained a green acid lake – which we were told during some of its frequent eruptions ejects water much like a geyser. thankfully for us – the last major eruption was around 1954 and not during our visit even thought activity over the last decade is suggesting that the volcano is slowly building up towards a new eruption.
Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge – located near the Nicaraguan border in a marshy, jungle-like area, the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge is one of the most difficult places to independently visit in Costa Rica. A highlight of our time here was a river cruise along the Río Frío (Cold River), a slow-flowing river along whose shores we may spotted birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. We were lucky to also see howler, spider and white faced monkeys, three-toed sloth, caimans, turtles and more.
Monteverde Cloud Forest – chosen as one of Costa Rica’s Seven Wonders and one of the most important private reserves in the country, our visit to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve gave us the chance to explore a different type of forest, allowing participants to compre the biodiversity found in a rainforest against that of a cloud forest.
After an amazing week exploring Costa Rica, we boarded the m/v Tere Moana and spent 7 nights visiting the beautiful islands and remote peninsulas that make up the west coast of Costa Rica and Panama before transiting the Panama Canal and entering the Caribbean Sea.
Our cruise began with a visit to the Osa Peninsula, followed by Granita del Oro and then Panama’s Coiba Island – named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its natural riches. The Darien Province, one of the most ecologically diverse regions of Central America was next followed by a crossing from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea via the Panama Canal. After crossing we got to the beautiful San Blas Islands before ending the cruise in Colon.
Cruise highlights included:
Corcovado National Park Corcovado National Park – widely considered the crown jewel in Costa Rica’s extensive system of national parks and biological reserves. The ecological variety was quite stunning and it was obvious why National Geographic called it “the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity”. Sadly we never spotted Jaguar!
Granita del Oro – the Moana anchored off tiny Granito de Oro – which translated to “Little Grain of Gold” – for a day swimming, snorkelling or kayaking.
The highlight for most participants was the daytime transiting of the Panama Canal. The Moana entered the series of locks and was raised about 85 feet above sea level before being lowered back down again at the other side of the isthmus. With construction of a new canal crossing well underway, this was a great opportunity to marvel at this feat of construction. Our crossing also included a cruise across Gatun Lake located in the middle of the Panama Canal which was once the largest man made lake in the world.