Imagine Spending Spring Break in Costa RicaBy Catherine Lee
Do you find yourself poring over old copies of National Geographic and dreaming about a trip to an exotic place where toucans perch on tree branches, monkeys scamper along the ground and colorful butterflies fill the air?
Dream no longer. Instead, sign up for Catholic University’s Spring Break Eco Tour to Costa Rica. The one-week trip, from Saturday, Feb. 28, to Saturday, March 7, 2009, promises a hands-on experience in a Central American country known for its natural beauty, biodiversity and extensive environmental preservation.
The trip will provide opportunities to learn about sustainability — ways to preserve the natural environment “that address people, profit and the planet,” says Miguel Karian, founder and director of Earth Education International, who will be leading the CUA trip. He has been leading study-abroad programs in Costa Rica since 1996.
Karian, who holds a Doctor of Education degree in technology, environmental education and sociology from Arizona State University, had collaborated on educational programs in Costa Rica with Tanith Fowler Corsi prior to her appointment as CUA's assistant vice president for global education and director of the university's Center for Global Education.
Sponsored by the center and the university’s Office of Alumni Relations, the trip is open to CUA students, staff, faculty and alumni, as well as friends of the university. Though only a week in duration, the Costa Rica trip will allow participants to travel and learn just as students do during the university’s semester- and year-long study-abroad programs, says Fowler Corsi.
“We decided to offer this short trip because often people say that they wished they had the same opportunities as our students do, but they don’t have the time to participate in a long program,” says Fowler Corsi, who is planning to travel with the CUA group.
Marion Gosney, director of the alumni relations office, notes that a CUA-sponsored trip “goes a long way toward building community within the university. This trip also enables us to expand our menu of travel options for alums.”
About the size of West Virginia, Costa Rica is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east.
Costa Rica is home to 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity, and 25 percent of the country is preserved in national parks and protected areas. The nation is ranked fifth in the world in the 2008 Environmental Performance Index, a method of quantifying and numerically benchmarking the environmental impact of each country’s policies.
The weather can be warm and humid and the trip is informal, so travelers should pack lightweight clothing: shorts, T-shirts and bathing suits. A pair of hiking boots and a set of binoculars also will come in handy, says Fowler Corsi.
After flying out of Dulles International Airport and landing at Costa Rica's San Jose International Airport, the CUA group will travel an hour west to San Ramón, which will serve as a departure point for exploring other locations:
The Madre Verde Reserve in nearby Palmares. There participants will learn about community conservation efforts and have an opportunity to hike through the reserve, where reforestation, research and environmental education are being carried out.
Arenal National Park in La Fortuna, where travelers will see Costa Rica’s famous Arenal Volcano, which sometimes glows in the night sky. In La Fortuna, the travelers will stay three nights at the La Catarata Eco-Lodge, a community ecotourism project, and explore the surrounding area. There will also be time for an optional visit to a nearby natural hot springs.
A medicinal-plant garden run by a woman who belongs to a cooperative in the region that dries, packages and sells dried herbs. The woman, whose family owns a farm, also makes herbal shampoo out of her home, using biogas from the farm’s biodigester, a tank that breaks down organic material into a type of biofuel.
Arenal Hanging Bridges Reserve, where travelers will walk through the rain forest on trails and hanging bridges and check out the wide array of birds, plants and animals, including sloths and coatimundis (members of the raccoon family), that populate the area.
Turu Ba Ri Tropical Park, where the botanical collection includes an array of bromeliads, orchids and bamboos, and the wildlife includes toucans, white-throated capuchin monkeys and iguanas.
An optional visit to the uninhabited Tortuga Island in the Gulf of Nicoya, where visitors may watch birds, kayak, go on a tree-top canopy tour, snorkel or just relax on the pristine beach lined with palm trees. If they prefer, participants can spend the day on the beach in the Pacific port town of Puntarenas.
Fowler Corsi says that the minimum enrollment for the trip is 10 participants. Sign-up for the trip is first-come, first-served. The deadline to apply is Dec. 19. To apply, visit http://cuabroad.cua.edu/programs//CostaRica.cfm. The application includes a $50 fee. The cost of the trip is $2,330, which includes airfare, lodging and most meals.
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Last Revised 23-Oct-08 02:15 PM.