I lie in my bed, in my beautifully crafted bungalow, peacefully listening to the sounds of the jungle. After several moments of stillness, I jump out of my bed, excited for the day, and a smile begins to form. I sink into a hammock in the gathering area, a large-thatch roof hut, and watch the EarthConnect students approach, grinning. Still laughing from our charades game the night before, we are pleasantly interrupted by the sound of the conch signaling breakfast.
El Chontal is a family-run eco-lodge, located in the small town of Rincon, in the Osa Peninsula, with only 10 local families. It appears to be quaint and charming; however, if you venture off the dirt road and into the backyards of the neighbors, you will find wild, primary forests rich with inhabitants, and in their front yards, the deep blue waters of the Gulfo Dulce. El Chontal is the optimal location for eco-immersion. We work side by side with David Herrara, a local biologist who became inspired by his surroundings, and have a first hand look into his research. His father and brother have done all of the construction of the 12-bungalow lodge, and his mom, the visionary of El Chontal, is the wonderful chef.
We make our way to breakfast. Meals are served in an open room that is attached to the family’s house. With most ingredients used from their own garden, every meal is made out of the freshest ingredients. As we enjoy our typical Tico breakfast of pinto-gallo and eggs, we chat with David about the day ahead.
The days spent at El Chontal combine intense research in both the forest and gulf. We work hard helping David track and record the behavior of dolphins and Poison Dart Frogs. The first few hours spent with David are focused on getting to know the Herraras story, the history of the Gulfo Dulce, the creatures that inhabit the vast waters and forest, and the importance of his work. This gives students a foundation to work with the rest of the week, understanding why they are participating in the activities they do.
I take my gaze from the primary forest plunging into the waters, to the EarthConnect students hunched over the gps, timer, and research board. Their excitement beams as they discuss the adorable “spy hop” of a two-day-old dolphin. Quickly we are interrupted by another set of active dolphins.
The sights on the gulf cannot be beat. But beyond spotting dolphin after dolphin, it is the understanding of each individual dolphin that David has so well described, which makes this experience eco-immersion.