Adopt a Manta Ray on Vacation

Adopt a Manta Ray on Vacation

I love those sleek rays with their impossibly cheery grins. I dream of gliding across the sea floor with such grace.

And staying in one of those dreamy overwater bungalows on a Pacific island is one of my #travelgoals.

Baros Maldives overwater bungalows

Now there’s an eco-friendly resort, Baros Maldives, that really could not have chosen a more attractive combination of features for the manta ray and bungalow lover. The five-star resort has taken a proactive approach in luring guests beyond the beach with its Manta Ray and Coral Reef Rehabilitation programs. Working alongside the resort’s Marine and Diving Center, Baros Maldives encourages its guests to not only embrace and enjoy the lush tropical paradise but to also give back to the underwater creatures that make it such a natural beauty.

divers look up at manta raymanta rays frolickingManta Ray Surveying & Adoption System: Baros Maldives has a Manta Ray program that invites guests to photograph the underwater gentle giants at the resort and then follow along on their migration even when they return home. A diver who photographs a Manta Ray not seen before is offered the opportunity to give it a name and “adopt” it, which means the diver will receive regular reports on the Manta’s whereabouts and habits. Guests who re-visit the resort have a good chance to have a reunion with a Manta Ray they have seen on their dives in previous years. The best times to visit are from May to November and from January to April, when sightings are frequent.

Coral Reef Rehabilitation Program: Guests are also able to aid in a coral conservation initiative by sponsoring a coral frame through Baros Maldives’ Reef Rehabilitation Program. In addition to sponsoring a frame, guests learn about the coral propagation process and are escorted in a swim to the house reef, where they collect broken coral fragments and reattach them to specially designed structures. These provide a stable substrate elevated from the sandy seafloor. The coral frames not only give artificial reef-structure corals a chance to grow, but also creates new homes for various marine animals. Additionally, the Baros Maldives marine biologists keep participants up-to-date by e-mail every six months about the growth of the corals as they develop on the table.

diver and colorful coral reef

If you are interested in learning more about Baros Resort, comment below or send me an email.

Adventures on the Caribbean Coast – Part I

Adventures on the Caribbean Coast – Part I

After leaving the Buena Finca in Saripiqui, R and I decided to cross from Costa Rica to Panama at the Sixaola-Guabito border crossing. We felt that this border crossing had some advantages. First, given its remote location in Costa Rica, far from the Pan-American highway, we hoped it would be quicker than crossing at one of the other two available crossings. Second, it would put us in a corner of Panama that is only accessible by one road, which we likely would not have traveled at all if we entered Panama on the Pan-American which provides a more direct route to Panama City and the Canal Zone. Finally, it would require us to travel to the Caribbean coast, which we’ve not been able to do so far in eight months of driving Mexico and Central America.

The trip through the lowlands of Costa Rica took us through banana plantations grown under the Chiquita, Dole, and Del Monte flags. Thousands of banana bunches had bags hung around them to keep off the birds and presumably to hasten the process so they can be cut and exported. Bananas are like a delicious but worthless currency and we haven’t purchased one in months because the places we’ve been have had a bunch hanging from the rafters and you can walk by and help yourself.

This wild toucan helped itself to the bananas that hung at the Buena Finca

This wild toucan helped itself to the plantains that hung at the Buena Finca

Rows and rows of banana trees for as far as the eye can see. At one point, this area of Costa Rica was all owned by the U.S. Corporation United Fruit Company.

Rows and rows of banana plants for as far as the eye can see. At one point, this area of Costa Rica was all owned by the U.S. corporation United Fruit Company.

Follow that truck!

Follow that truck!

One of the things we’ve enjoyed is the ability to scavenge from the fruit-bearing trees that grow everywhere – tamarindo, orange, guaba, lime, water apple, star fruit, coconuts, and mangoes – and often have a pile of rotting fruit underneath.

Mangoes are delicious and free mangoes are even better! Here, R gathers the sweet fruit from where it has fallen, unloved, along the road side.

Mangoes are delicious and free mangoes are even better! Here, R gathers the sweet fruit from where it has fallen, unloved, along the side of the road.

 

I got this Star Fruit before it hit the ground. These fruit get their name because when cut, the pieces resemble stars.

I got this Star Fruit before it hit the ground. These fruit get their name because when cut, the pieces resemble stars.

We set foot on the palm fringed, black sand shores of Cahuita, Costa Rica, 514 years after Columbus, but the indigenous tribes he encountered remain. Now, however, they are sprinkled liberally with descendants of the Africans and Caribbean Islanders who were brought to the mainland to work the banana plantations. Given this blend of cultures, the coast has a different look and vibe to it than the rest of Costa Rica and plays to a Bob Marley soundtrack.

After our three-hour tour, we ended up on this deserted island where we ate some watermelon.

Water droplets on the camera lens smudged this shot, but I think you get the idea.

It was here that the pre-trip contact lens fitting I had finally paid off. We snorkeled Cahuita National Park and one of the last living reefs in Costa Rica and I was actually able to see the reef sharks, sting rays, and other fish of various shapes, sizes, and colors.

J and I prepare to plunge into the icy waters of the Caribbean in search of fish.

J and I prepare to plunge into the icy waters of the Caribbean in search of fish.

J was very excited to be snorkeling. Here, he points to a major discovery.

J was very excited to be snorkeling. Here, he points to a major discovery.

R confirms it is nothing more dangerous than a reef shark

R confirms it is nothing more dangerous than a reef shark

We survived our three-hour snorkeling tour unscathed. Coconut, noticeably absent from this photo, was the only casualty.

We survived our three-hour snorkeling tour unscathed. Coconut, noticeably absent from this photo, was the only casualty.

After coming in under our daily budget for two weeks running while at the Buena Finca we had a little extra cash in our pockets so at our next stop down the coast we decided to travel like we are on vacation and Puerto Viejo is the perfect place for a gringo tourist to blow a wad of cash. We splurged for a room at a small hotel with a beautiful garden, went to a sushi buffet, and paid to have our laundry done. We also went to a jaguar rescue center where there are no jaguars, but lots of other jungle animals waiting to heal and be released to the wild. The monkeys were having a blast and I’ve got it narrowed down to coming back as either a spider monkey or Mick Jagger in my next life.

Baby sloths, even ones that have been electrocuted by hanging on wires, are cute!

Baby sloths, even ones that have been electrocuted by hanging on wires, are cute!

But monkeys are cuter! This fellow as a baby and had a crib to himself, but put them in a bunch and they were wrestling, and swinging, and having a blast.

But monkeys are cuter! This fellow was a baby and had a crib all to himself. He looks a bit frightened, but put monkeys together and they wrestle, swing, and seem to have no worries at all.

Costa Rica doesn’t have seasons (actually, it does, the dry season and the rainy season, but both are hot and humid) but it does have times of day when it is possible to be outside and not have sweat droplets form behind your ears. As I sat on the beach in Puerto Viejo center watching the day wind down while a cool ocean breeze blew the mosquitoes and worries away, I regretted our small, stuffy room and wished we were camped in Wesley at water’s edge. We haven’t done much wild camping (or any), mostly because we don’t have a toilet, but this would have been the place to squeeze our cheeks together and tempt fate.

Locals try their hand at catching dinner at the end of a hot day.

Locals try their hand at catching dinner at the end of a hot day in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

Sunken barge or fishing pier? Or both?

Sunken barge or fishing pier?

With our plan to cross to Panama the next day in mind, I reflected on the time we spent in Costa Rica. We didn’t expect to like it much, (mostly because of the cost, and it’s true we didn’t like spending $40 every time we went to the grocery for milk, eggs, and canned tuna) but we did end up having a great experience.

Yes, the natural beauty, whitewater, beaches, and other ways to spend your cash that it offers helped us make some memories, but whenever we talk about Costa Rica now it will always be defined by the time we spent with Tom and Esteban, Tom’s family, and the other good folks we met at the Buena Casa. Whether we ever see them again or not, we’ll still have that time together to remember.

But, now, Panama beckons. There are other adventures to have.

Panama! Here we come.

We won’t be the first American adventurers in Panama, or the last. But we will be adventurers in Panama!