Showing posts from March, 2010

Costa Rica

Bien venido a Costa Rica! Pura Vida! This was my first experience with la selva (the jungle). When I was 20 years old, in college, I got a chance to take a month-long Tropical Ecology class right in the jungles of Costa Rica. This was through the Organization for Tropical Studies ( and Duke University. So I decided to leave a bit early for Costa Rica and spend a week or so on my own checking things out. My first destination - Manuel Antonio. I would recommend Manuel Antonio to anyone looking for a great (and cheap) beach vacation destination. It's on the Pacific coast, and has its own National Park full of capuchin monkeys. You can take your pick of hotels, as there are pricey nice ones and small cheaper ones. I stayed at Hotel Velabar, a small hotel, 25 or so bucks a night, a short walk to the beach, and with a built-in restaurant where they make the best honey pancakes I've ever tasted. The stray cats and hoppity frogs will keep you company as yo

How your food affects the rainforest

Have you ever stopped to think about how the food you're eating may be affecting the rainforest? In fact, many foods such as bananas, soy, beef, palmitos (hearts of palm), and even breakfast cereals can have a negative affect on the tropics. I'm writing this in response to an email I received this morning from Rainforest Action Network (RAN), who is campaigning against General Mills cereals. I wanted people to not only be aware of the fact that General Mills is aiding in the destruction of the tropics, but also to simply be more food-conscious in their everyday lives. Environmental organizations have warned that by eating foods that use palm oil as an ingredient, Western consumers are directly fueling the destruction of orangutan habitat and sensitive ecosystems. Today almost half of Malaysia's cultivated land consists of oil palm, and the country has become the world's largest producer and exporter of palm oil, though Indonesia is quickly gaining ground. Palm oil is

The Wings of the Butterfly

A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest One of my friends so kindly let me know that her children are following this blog, so here is an entry for them. This tale is from the Tukuna (or Tucuna, or Tikuna) tribe of South America. It is recorded in Curt Nimuendaj├║’s The Tukuna . Nimuendaj├║ spent altogether nearly a year with the Tukuna in the early 1940s, and most of what we know about the tribe comes from his excellent study. Here it is... On the banks of the Amazon River, in a clearing in the forest, there once lived a girl named Chimidyue. She dwelt with her family and relatives in a big pavilion-house called a maloca. While the boys of the maloca fished and hunted with the men, Chimidyue and the other girls helped the women with household chores or in the farm plots nearby. Like the other girls, Chimidyue never stepped far into the forest. She knew how full it was of fierce animals and harmful spirits, and how easy it was to get lost in. Still, she would listen wide-eyed when the e

Journey through the jungle

I want to take you on a trip through the jungle. If you are curious, journey with me... start off following a trail (otherwise you'd have to hack your own trail through the jungle with a machete. Well, that would take all day and you would probably run into a bushmaster or fer-da-lance [two of the most deadliest snakes in the world] and get bit and die). The first thing you notice is how quiet it is; quiet with respect to the sounds of the city. There are no cars here. Absolute solitude, except for the thousands of animals living their lives in the depths of the jungle, waiting patiently for you to pass before continuing there daily routines. It is not quiet with respect to birds. Flocks of parrots fly overhead, spitting curses at you through the treetops. They seem to play with you as you follow the sound of their squawking, stopping only long enough in each tree for you to get just a glimpse of their bright red feathers before flying ahead to the next tree. Tropical so

Getting started

GETTING THERE First thing's first, getting the best deals to your destination. You'll want to sign up for travel updates at sites like,, and These sites send email updates with weekly or monthly deals that I've often taken advantage of. As far as searching for flights goes, the cheapest flights I've found have been using for general travelling. Specific airlines for South and Central America (check these before checking general search sites) are TAM airlines, GOL, BROL, and TACA airlines. In the lowland tropics, the USA winter (Dec-Apr) is the dry season (when it's very hot) and the USA summer (May-Nov) is the wet season. It may be cheaper to visit the tropics during the wet season, as there is more rain and humidity, and less tourists. When I went to Costa Rica in June, I had the whole of Manuel Antonio (one of the greatest vacation spots on the Pacific side) to myself. WHAT TO BRI