Nothing demonstrates terror like the face, or more accurately the noise they make, of ten 17-year-old students discovering giant green spiders the size of baseballs, legs and all, swinging webs above their heads. This frightening experience occurred at the Refugio de Animales la Marina where we stopped on the way to Selva Verde. The refuge takes in hurt or illegally owned animals and is the only place in the world to have successfully breed tapirs in captivity. We spent quite a bit of time here, being fascinated by the big cats, taking pictures with the crocodiles and chilling with the monkeys. We saw beautiful specimens of the five Costa Rican felines: margays, ocelots, jaguarondis, pumas, and jaguars.
Earlier we visited the natural hot springs on the way out of Arenal. The hot springs were secluded: tucked away beside a river in a little valley in the jungle. And it was IN the jungle. Everywhere we glanced we were surrounded by the raw beauty of nature—great climbing trees with vines snaking about, bright flowers popping out from under dripping leaves, and the sounds of birds chirping colorfully, the creak of frogs, the chatter of insects, and the rush of the river bounding over rocks.
The contrast to the cities of America and even the touristy Arenal was stark. Here, it was quiet, peaceful, and carefree. And being in such an environment certainly rubbed off on us, and we all thoroughly enjoyed our time in the hot springs. Overall, Pacho’s dramatic antics and warnings about pit vipers and leeches had us all jumping, but it was great to relax in the warm waters and think about absolutely nothing—a couple of the guys swear they grew a few inches because their muscles were so relaxed, however I remain skeptical.
The solitude of the rainforest was highlighted once more when we reached rural Selva Verde. Actually rural: Selva Verde Lodge is literally in the middle of the Rainforest. It is owned by the Holbrook’s, our travel agency, and 400 acres bordering the Sarapiqui River was designed as an ecolodge for the guests to feel as though they are immersed in the rainforest. Well, they have certainly succeeded. Just from walking from building to building we saw many poison dart frogs of brilliant colors and a few too many spiders for most people’s likings (the same giant ones from before).
As soon as we arrived, we met Jasmine, the assistant coordinator of the Sapapiqui Conservation & Learning Center, with whom we will be working for the next several days. She introduced the work we will do at the school including building fences, plastering walls, and pouring concrete. We also learned about the highly anticipated homestays. Molly, Sabrina, Grant, Peter, and Taylor will be home staying tomorrow, and the rest of us on Friday night.