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Rare Penguin Sighting in Costa Rica

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So I went down to check the waves this morning and found much more than I was looking for. As I came through the tall sloping coconut trees at the edge of the beach I noticed an unfamiliar creature waddling out of the water in my direction. As we approached each other I could see more clearly that the creature was black and white and had something red around its neck. Getting even closer I determined that what I was looking at was none other than a penguin! But how impossible? There are no penguins in Costa Rica. It is way too hot for a penguin around here.


I scratched my head and figured I’d wait a few seconds to wake up from this silly dream, but I could smell the sea breeze and feel my fingernails on my scalp. Was this really a penguin I was seeing? And what was with the red thing on its neck? It kept waddling closer and closer in my direction (I assumed it was in search of some cool shade) and I did not wake up. I I ran back to Shaka to get my camera and tell the others. Everyone was still asleep so I ran back to the beach to take advantage of this totally Nat Geo opportunity.

Luckily, the penguin was still there and hadn’t moved much. As I got closer I saw that it was very large, like the size of a grown man, and it had a surfboard under one of its ‘wings.’ Also, the red thing on its neck was a big floppy bowtie. WTF?

Turns out it was not a REAL penguin. It was Steve (!), our cheeky Canadian guest, sporting his penguin costume he brought down for Halloween. How could I forget?

these kids were stoked to meet a Canadian

Although Steve is not a real penguin, he did say he felt like one, sweating his feathers off in that suit. And he still made a great subject for a photo shoot, regardless of the fact that I will not be sending my pics in to National Geographic now.

In more serious news, we have a new volunteer here that is not me, which means I shall be moving on soon. I have been invited to stay and help with the upcoming OHG (Ocean Healing Group) camp but I will probably have to sleep in a hammock (something I do rather often anyways). It sounds like a cool opportunity but I also wouldn’t mind getting out to see a bit more of the country in my remaining two weeks here in Costa Rica. Hmm, what to do….Any suggestions for a surfer dude on a $300 budget?

Pura Vida


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Montezuma Waterfalls

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Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to go see the waterfalls in Montezuma with our new guest Steve and Shaka family member, Jerry. Steve is a firefighter from Canada and Jerry is a yacht captain from Florida. Both pretty cool dudes. Jerry has been coming down to this area for years now so he has been more of a host than a guest since being here. He bought a clean ’91 Isuzu Trooper with 4wd so we have been able to mob around a bit like yesterday, to the waterfalls!

The sun was up and shining bright and early, perfect for a little field trip. We mobbed through fresh green landscape, up and down steep hills covered with fast-drying mud. Perfect conditions for a full on test drive of Jerry’s new Trooper.

test drive terrain

This allowed me to put my 2 dollar “tico squeek” shoes to the test. (I have some nice 80 dollar Teva sandals my mom bought for me but I feel too touristy when I where them, sorry Mom). When I first visited the waterfalls in July there was much less water and it was much more brown. Now, after all the recent rain, the agua is falling at full force and looks clean enough to drink (not tested). There was a misWe dropped into Montezuma, a cute little fisher gone tourist town just on the other side of the peninsula from here, and went straight for the falls. The waterfalls are just a stones throw up a fresh little river that drains into the ocean at the entrance of town. The trail is pretty much just the river, which you follow up from the road about half a mile.ty gust that blew off the pool at the bottom of this 100 and something foot gusher.

the trail

Above this big ‘fall is a big pool and another 40 something foot waterfall. Both upper and lower pools have ledges and ropeswings to fulfill whatever thrill seeking needs you might bring with you. Yesterday, after the warm, rock hopping hike up the river, we just chilled at the foot of the falls, absorbing the cool mist sprinkling off the pool.

On our way back we stopped in Cobano so Jerry could get his new cell phone dialed in. We had lunch at a little ‘soda’ for lunch, picked up some cheap supplies at the big grocery store (beer was like twice as cheap there than here) and mobbed back to home base.










Categories : 360s, Uncategorized
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Hamaca Vida

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SLOtown USA vs Costa De Oro vs Playa Hermosa.
The Definitive Comparison

It is hard to say I live a life of routine, so a ‘day in the life’ type post won’t suffice. Instead, I offer a flurry of things that are/were dear to me from my three most recent locations, San Luis Obisbro, CA, Costa De Oro, and Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.
The main thing I miss from SLOtown right now is sandwiches. There are heaps of them everywhere and they are delicious. Although they are expensive, there is one place called High St. Deli that offers all its sandwiches for just 4 dollars and 20 cents between 420 and 5 pm. Yep, miss that. I also miss smooth roads for biking on, and bike lanes. Any type of lanes for that matter. For about far as a crow flies in an hours time ain’t nothin but dirt roads ’round here.
What I miss from Costa De Oro, the little beach pueblo north of here that is nothing but fisherman and vacation homes, is sipping agua de pipas, young coconut water, all day err’y day. We had a plethora of stubby little cocunut trees in the backyard where you could just reach up and pluck ’em off. Could even crack ’em open on the trunk right there if really thirsty. But a word of caution, cocunuts kill 8 times more people per year than sharks do. This is on account of the high frequency of earthquakes. The quakes (terremotos) shake off the cocos onto some poor little Tico just passin by or chillin in a most dangerously situated hammock. These skull cracking fruits, which some call ‘nature’s cannonballs,’ are not always as sweet as they seem….
What I will miss frome here, Shaka, Playa Hermosa, Nicoya, Costa Rica, Mother Earth, is the proximity to good surf in warm water, duhh, and a full kitchen and fridge pretty much all to myself. I’ve been cooking all sorts of stuff. When the surf is not “up,” the temperature of the stove and/or oven most likely is. Another thing I will miss from here is the rain. Although it makes everything wet and muddy, the sound and smell of the rain is relaxing, revitalizing, reassuring thirsts will be quenched. It also keeps the crowds away. While there is plenty of room for more people here, I am kinda selfish and like having it all to myself.
In summary, Shaka is probably the best out of the last three places I have dwelled. And I don’t like using surperlatives (words like best) but everyone knows this is a subjective blog post so I am sayin it. Shaka is the best! (No, but seriously, its pretty chill.)

Categories : Uncategorized
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Rainy Season? What Rainy Season?

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So, October is supposed to be the peak of rainy season but in this first week it has only really poured down once, while light showers have sprinkled down here and there every so often. The locals are a bit worried because their wells might run a bit dry this year, but I have no complaints because I was able to surf two solid sessions today. There was a light offshore during the morning that made available some speedy low/tide barrels. The sun got hot early and my back was feeling burnt approaching my second hour in the water. The afternoon session didn’t have such a fortunate offshore but it was still clean and  the swell filled in a bit more, offering overhead peaks up and down the beach.

surf all day

My psuedo- routine is slowly taking form here, surf, eat, chill in the hammock reading, random activity (see what Carlos the maintenance dude is tooling around with and if I can help, maybe bike around, go to the store in search of produce or little Tico snacks, maybe flip through some Spanish note cards, draft blog posts, etc) surf again, eat again, and so on.  You might think it would get lonely here by myself at night but the family dog, Vida, has taken a liking to me and has been chillin with me here just about every night. She pretty much does my job for me, yapping away at anything and everything that comes near.  There are also plenty of jungle noises like cicadas, howler monkeys and off/road vehicles to keep me company at night.

Everyone says the same thing about this place, but I am part of that everyone and I will repeat it, ‘the people here are really nice.’ This place is teeming with smiles, even if you cannot hold a meaningful conversation in the native tongue (I am working on it).  I know how to communicate to get what I really need, and I look forward to maybe someday having more philosophical conversations with the Ticos (regardless of the fact that the philosophy here doesn’t need to go much deeper than two words, Pura Vida).  That being said, did you know that many nonverbal communication scholars believe that smiles were originally a sign of either submissiveness or threat? Such has been observed in several studies of the ‘higher level’ primates and is assumed to be true for our early human ancestors. This thought popped into my head today after about my 36th smile of the day and was kinda trippin me out because I am sure some of my smiles have at least a little bit of that original submissiveness in them. I am still the new kid in the village, you know. (Note, I got my bachelor degree in Communication and one of my last classes I took was Nonverbal Communication, not just completely pulling facts out of thin air. Matter of fact, the air here isn’t thin at all. It is rich with damp, beachy, rainforesty oxygen).  Pure Life, Pure Life. Pura Vida.

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surf work volunteer costa rica

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Gathering sand for the turtle hatchery, back in July

Hola a todos. My name is Matt and I will be checking in with you as Shaka’s latest volunteer.  Proudly hailing from the golden state of California (San Luis Obispo to be exact), I am here in Playa Hermosa for the warm surf and tranquilo lifestyle. I have been in Costa Rica for almost three months now, just recently returning from my first ‘visa run’ to Nicaragua. Prior to landing at Shaka, I was volunteering as a Research Assistant for PRETOMA, patrolling the beach of Costa De Oro for nesting sea turtles. Two months of long night walks on the beach, tagging and measuring turtles and collecting their eggs was unlike anything I have ever done in my life, but the surf wasn’t much to write home about. After being here in Playa Hermosa just two days, I have already caught some sick waves and am sure I have made the right move coming here.

Back in January, fresh out of college (USC)  and free to begin my own personal endless summer, I started  Google searching stuff like ‘surf work volunteer Costa Rica.’ This is how I found both PRETOMA and Shaka. So I did the whole 9 to 5 thing for a few months in Cali, to save up cash for the flight and whatnot, then hopped on a plane to Pura Vida land. I have been here since early July and not sure if I will be ready to leave when my time is up (though I always look forward to Thanksgiving with the fam when November comes around). Who knows, maybe I’ll skip the flight if I find another opportunity like the one I have here, near paradise.  Vamos a Ver  (We’ll see!)

For now, all I know is that I will be here for the whole month of October, holding down the fort as night watch while everything is closed for the rainy season. I’ve been hooked up with a bed in the ‘board room,’ access to the fully equipped kitchen and a laptop with fast internet, so, needless to say, I am stoked.

Categories : volunteers blog
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