Today it was off to our first community visit—off to Isla de Montecristo. It’s a community at the edge of the mangrove forest just before the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. The only way of getting there is by lancha and depending on the time and the tides there’s either a long way or a shortcut that only takes 15 minutes. Tricia from EcoViva had warned us that due to our timing we’ll have some difficulties in getting to Montecristo, and she was right. It took us about 45 minutes and our lancha got stuck in the shallow river twice. Luckily our strong guides Horacio and Roberto were able to pull us through the tricky parts and eventually we made it to Montecristo.
We were welcomed by the head of the community and our friend Giovanni. Our PLES team enjoyed a quick packed lunch from each of our host mom’s and then we were back to the boats. Driving through the main channel of the mangrove forests was eye-opening. Fish were jumping out of the water, frigate birds soaring high above, and swallows glided above the water guiding our boat deeper into the mangrove forest. We also saw an iguana basking in the sun all the while keeping an interested eye on our progress down the river.
Today’s goal—make observations pertaining to our PLES team and ask as many questions as possible. We were able to not only visit one, but two communities. First we stopped in Montecristo, and then we drove (by boat) to Tirana where we interviewed the president of the community and another member. On the way to Tirana, we encountered a pair of punche farmers. We felt bad, since a) they were probably illegally fishing according to PLES, and b) we continued on the same channel so they probably thought we were following them. I was surprise how young the two boys were—probably one in his early and the other in his late teens. They showed us what their traps and what a punche looks like.
We ended our trip back in Montecristo and stayed at Giovanni’s house for another hour while the ecotourism group finished off their questions. Giovanni has a beautiful house, and from what I heard he grew up there and continues to live here with a family of his own. On my way to the latrine, I suddenly heard a screeching sound right next to my ear. For a second I was confused because all I could see were the green leaves of the tree next to me, but upon double checking I realized there were three parrots perched on the branch next to me. Maybe they were pets, but I definitely like the idea of wild parrots sitting in the tree next to me much more. Before heading back to Ciudad Romero, we had one last treat!! THE OCEAN… Since we were so close to the bay, why not show us the beautiful shore. When we jumped out of the boat, we heard about the actual special event—we were about to release sea turtle hatchlings into the ocean!!! First we got a tour of the turtle hatchery, and then we all walked to the beach front and had the pleasure of releasing both Green Sea Turtles and a few Olive Ridley Turtles. It was an amazing experience!