Rich Coast of Montezuma
On the southern of Nicoya Peninsula – 30 minutes’ walk from Montezuma – the Tropical Adventures’ team has finally reached the tropical paradise with a breathtaking beach and its rough waves.
When we arrived at the national wildlife nature – refuge of Refugio Mixto de Vida Silvestre Romelia – my shoulders were glowing red, my throat was dry and I probably lost some pounds from sweating! It was a long walk on the beach and we were carrying our own luggage the whole time.
There was Fidel the project manager, Martin the field worker and perhaps one of the sweetest cooks ever, Antonia. They were all waiting for us and we were all warmly welcomed by them with a typical tico dish, Pinto (rice and beans) with salad. After the lunch, we took a walk to explore this nature refuge. Suddenly in the middle of the refuge, we found out that there was a vineyard! I have seen this types of vineyard many times in France and Switzerland, but I could never imagine seeing one of them here in Costa Rica, and especially not in Romelia!
So, overwhelmed and pretty surprised, we continued the walk down the beach. Playa Grande – probably the richest coast of Montezuma – is the travel destination for any beach lover and eco-volunteer. The beach is hemmed in by high cliffs surrounded with jungle, where rivers tumble into scenic waterfalls and natural pools. Also it is perfectly combined with white sand and transparent turquoise water where surfers can be easily spotted trying to surf on the waves.
I took a lot of pictures and enjoyed of the beautiful, tropical view. There are no roads at all and the only developments are few houses tucked back into the jungle, which were built by people who have brought the materials by boat or airplanes. It was in the past legal to land small planes on the coast, but nowadays not anymore – unfortunately!
When we arrived back at Romelia, we met Nefertiti, the daughter of Albert Ingalls and Gatti Gitza (founders of this nature refuge). Nefertiti grew up on Romelia, together with her brother Thoren and their parents. So this was a good chance to interview Nefertiti and to find out everything about this place! She told us many great stories about her childhood, the history and about the presence of this refuge.
Back in the time it was much harder to live on the land, because there were poor living conditions. The Wildife Refuge was born from the initiative of Albert Ingalls. He came with his wife by boat, overwhelmed by the biodiversity and amazed by the nature, the couple hoped to find an appropriate house for living. He met Karen Mogensen, who along with her husband were responsible for the creation of Costa Rica’s first protected nature reserve, Cabo Blanco.
Both Karen and Albert shared the same ideals about conservation and she offered him a piece of land in order to prevent the land from ending up in the wrong hands.
Later on, the family decided to donate this land to the government and from there the Refugio Mixto de Vida Silvestre Romelia was created on November 24, 1998, whose main objective was to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity in the Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT). The main goals are moreover to protect the tropical forest, the animals and beach areas of the southern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.
Within this territory there are a number of distinct ecosystems and various types of forest. The avifauna includes more than 57 species of birds, 26 species of herpetofauna including, 13 reptiles and 7 amphibians. There are also 26 species of mammals, including 11 types of bats.
The house where we were staying is the same as where our volunteers stay. It is actually very basic; it is made from wood and there is no electricity. To get to the supermarket you need to walk 3 km to reach Montezuma. (this is the only acces!)
One of the main issues we are faced with is the fact that many people are harming the turtles and turtle eggs on the beach. Protecting them right now is our main priority!
The Montezuma Sea Turtle & Conservation Program consists of various parts. The most important is the care and protection of the sea turtles which nest on the beaches of the Refuge and on adjacent beaches. As part of that goal, we are cleaning up the beaches because there is so much trash and wood which have washed ashore. Beach cleanups can help to solve this problem and helping hands are definitely needed.
Another volunteer task is helping with the hatchery, working in shifts and taking care of the relocated nests. This consists of simply being there so that predators (people who steal the eggs and sell them or eat themselves!) and tourists will stay out, as well as helping the little baby turtles get to the water when their eggs hatch. Trail Maintenance is another area where our volunteers help. Trails need constant maintenance due to the weather conditions and how quickly everything grows here in this climate.
The main part of this project is really to protect the endangered environment and its diversity. This can be accomplished by trail construction, cleaning and maintenance of facilities, supporting in research projects, collaboration with the environmental education program and the attention of the tourists. At last, if there are volunteers who love to gardening, then this is the opportunity to help in the onsite vineyard and many tropical plants.
What the volunteers need to bring: Good walking (water) shoes, light clothes for day, dark clothes for night, towel, beach towel, swimsuits, sandals, extra clothes, sun block (+30!), head lamp with red light (for sea turtles), batteries, personal first aid kit, hat, bug repellent, mosquito net, sheets and pillow, biodegradable soap, shampoo and conditioner, biodegradable detergent, shorts, t-shirts, sun glasses, English/Spanish dictionary, table games/games to play, camera, extra medicine, and possibly something from your country to share with others.
For the volunteers, there is no prior experience necessary, however one must have the ability to adapt to a tropical environment, be in excellent health, and be willing to help in the conservation or marine turtles and other natural resources. Also be aware of the fact that the weather is characterized as humid, hot and very hot! Annual precipitation is about 3,000 mm, distributed from May to December. So if your clothes are wet, it could take them a while to dry!
Overall, it was a wise and full experience for me, especially for a girl from a busy city like me. If you want to take a break from your hectic, chaotic life and want some rest and peace, I definitely would recommend you to visit and help this place! There is an opportunity to offer the environment a new beginning, to fight for the protection and future of the of sea turtles and to explore a total new ‘tropical’ adventure into the natural world.
Written by Irma Smaili, Marketing Intern