Over February Break 2017, a group of 22 people from CCA (including students, faculty, and parents) travelled to Campanario Biological Station, a remote field science station in Costa Rica. The group had the opportunity to hike to an active volcano, see all kinds of rare and beautiful plants and trees, and view and even interact with all kinds of wildlife (including tapirs, monkeys, dolphins, jellyfish, snakes, crocodiles, sloths, bats, and birds, just to name a few.) They enjoyed the unspoiled beaches, hiked to waterfalls, ground sugar cane, and lived off-the-grid with no electricity. It was a memorable "once-in-a-lifetime" experience for all that participated. Below are Trip Leader (and Upper School Principal) Mr. David Church's reflections on the experience.
“How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.”
— Psalm 104:24
In the late 1570’s Sir Francis Drake, the English pirate and navigator, used the protected bays and coves of the Osa peninsula in Southwestern Costa Rica to raid Spanish galleons laden with gold. To this day, the town of Drake Bay, north of Corcovado National Park, bears his name. As the Rainforest adventurers from CCA traveled by boat along the Sierpe River, and then down the Pacific Coast, we were looking at scenery that would have been familiar to Sir Francis Drake — not much has changed in the past 440 years on the Osa Peninsula. The protected coves and long stretches of unspoiled beach are backed by tangles of virgin rainforest that come right down to the sand. Such was the sight that awaited us as our boat captain pulled the throttle back on his Yamaha 400 engine and eased us into the cove at Campanario — the Biological Station owed and operated by my friend and former teaching colleague, Nancy Aitken.
Campanario would be our home for the next five days as we hiked in the rainforest, swam in the 83-degree tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean, and made note of all the wondrous complexity of God’s creation from mangroves to tide pools, to intricate symbiosis between plant and animal life in the largest lowland rainforest in Central America. Our group, which included members of the DiGiulio, Harris, Kelsey, Darnell, Higgins, Porter, MacBeath, and Stevens families, as well as teachers Nalani Cushing and Kathryn Kilgore, proved to be an intrepid team of hikers, swimmers (snorkelers) and rainforest explorers. We were blessed to see the marvelous scarlet macaws (a symbol of the wild beauty of the Osa peninsula), three species of monkey (Howler, Spider, and White-faced Capuchin), tapir, three-toed sloth, coati, toucan, caiman, bats, and leaf-cutter ants. All of these animals play a key role in the complex web of interdependence that is the rainforest ecosystem.
We were blessed with beautiful weather and an amazing opportunity on the last day in Campanario to boat over to Cano Island and snorkel in crystal clear waters of those island reefs. We saw spectacular tropical fish including a large school of jacks (numbering at least 1000 fish), Ridley sea turtle and white-tip reef sharks. It reminded us that the undersea world is at least as intricate, complex, and beautiful as the one we see above the water’s surface. As we toasted marshmallows at a campfire on our last night at Campanario, we looked up at the amazing night sky, much as Francis Drake would have seen it, and thought with humility of the wonders of God’s creation. Truly, as Psalm 104 reminds us, “How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom have you made them all.” We left that very special place full of new experiences and special encounters that few Costa Ricans ever have, much less Americans. We knew we had been privileged to look inside the rich complexity of God’s creation in a way we had never done before. Nature documentaries are fine, but nothing beats the experience of meeting a tapir trotting across the beach right in front of you, or feeling the rush of 1000 bats flying into the forest right over your head, or fingering the green almond casings that seconds ago were dropped on the beach by a scarlet macaw feeding above you. These are the experiences that a documentary can never provide — you have to be there!
By Mr. David Church, Principal of the Upper School of Logic and Rhetoric