JBL Expedition in 2012 to Central America and Galapagos

Costa Rica, our first visit

Among lovers of nature, Costa Rica is known as a safe travel destination with a high density of wildlife. In line with our interests, we selected regions with streams with clear water and rain forests that were known for an especially large population of reptiles and amphibians.

The night in the jungle

After our short flight from Mexico to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, we got on a bus and headed northeast. We reached our camp that evening. We had selected a simple roof in the jungle instead of a hotel so we could be even closer to nature. After everyone set up their mosquito net, we had a quick dinner. Everyone was impatient to set off on their own in the surrounding rain forest and search for animals.

Everyone took off, armed with torches. Beetles, moulting grasshoppers, moths and spiders were easy to discover. After an hour, there was finally a reason to rejoice: We had found our first little strawberry poison-dart frog (Oophaga pumilio). 16 participants tried to catch a shot of the animal of only 3 cm hopping in the underbrush. The picture of the 16 photographers was at least as interesting as the frog itself. We were surprised to discover that, between the red leaves on the floor of the jungle, the frog was not as easy to see as one would expect considering its bright colour and pictures of the animal in books and magazines. We also spotted a nocturnal parrot snake (Leptophis) two metres above the ground in a tree. It, too, posed patiently while we took pictures. Then, when someone accidentally touched the branch it was on, it quickly slipped out of sight to greater heights. It wasn't until long after midnight that everyone finally crawled under their mosquito net to sleep. Fortunately, though, there weren't as many mosquitoes as we had feared.

For early risers

The short night was over at 5:00 AM already. We set off on foot for an early-bird bird watching tour. If I remember correctly, though, we saw NOT A SINGLE bird! But no problem: Walking around in the early-morning rain forest is always an unforgettable experience of nature that nobody would want to miss. After breakfast, we went back into the forest surrounding the camp. There, we spotted some more strawberry poison-dart frogs (Oophaga pumilio) and many other frog species. The prettiest was a glass frog that was courageous enough to hop onto our expedition doctor's, Ludwig's, camera.

Our team then divided up into two groups: One group hiked through the rain forest to a waterfall. The other group stayed below the camp at the river to go snorkelling and watch fish. The air temperature was already 27 °C with 77 % relative humidity at 9:00 AM. We were able to see cichlids taking care of their young and many live-bearing fish. The water temperature felt like in the Arctic, as it was only 21.4 °C. The water in the stream was very soft and didn't have any GH or KH. The conductivity was 35 µS/cm at a pH level of 7.68.

To the Fortuna waterfall

After a night in Catarata Lodge at the foot of the Arenal volcano, inactive for many years, we investigated a small stream below the lodge before climbing down several hundred steps to the Fortuna waterfall. As had already become routine in our team, Jens was the first one to bravely jump into the cold river flowing out of the waterfall. And then when Jens announced unknown fish, Heiko leapt into the water, too! A species of goby fish that was chewing the sandy bottom in search of something edible was especially interesting. Sebastian and Heiko checked the water parameters: 22 °C, 100 µS/cm, GH 2, KH 3, pH 7.99, Fe 0 mg/l. A few of us were demotivated by the pulse measurements our doctor took as we were climbing steps. Most pulse rates averaged between 120 and 170 were. Only that of JBL Manager, Roland Böhme led our doctor to doubt his measuring skills: a pulse of 69! What kind of sports does he do in his office all day?

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