We finally had our second field trip/ lab for my Tropical Marine Biology course. After a long trip on a road full of construction, we landed in the cute little fishing town of Cuajiniquil. There was no tourism at all and it was a nice change of pace. We stayed in an absolutely gorgeous hotel, the only one in town. The whole hotel was made with beautiful, carved wood. And a five minute walk down the road was where we ate all of our meals.
Minor Lara was our snorkeling guide and instructor. His wife cooked all of our meals, and they were delicious! We ate everything from the typical gallo pinto (rice and beans) for breakfast, fresh fruits and salads, to, of course, the local fish. She and Minor have been doing this out of their home for 7 years and continue to do so for students, researchers, and tourists.
On our first day we went to a nearby beach and I noticed something was different about this compared to other beaches I have visited. On the side of the beach was a very dry forest. I’ve never seen anything like this before; it being so dry right on a beach and ocean. Then I learned that Cuajiniquil has one of the few dry forests in all of Latin America. There were actually cacti right beside the ocean! We walked around the rocky intertidal zone and lifted up rocks, looking at organisms we had learned about in class and getting a hands-on experience with them. We saw brittle stars, all types of worms, sea urchins, different types of crabs, chiton, and many others. It was interesting because we could compare this intertidal zone and the organisms on this Pacific side to our other field trip to Cahuita on the Caribbean side.
The next day we woke up early for a full day of events. After we ate a delicious breakfast we tried on wet suits and fins, then headed off towards the boat. My teacher, Sonia, and Minor took us around to show us the different types of mangroves (red and black) and birds. We were then shown an example of local aquaculture with the Spotted Rose Snapper fish. Aquaculture is a practice where they cultivate marine species in a controlled environment to sell commercially. They do this more sustainably than fish farms though. It is done in the ocean with a big net with poles to keep it in place and to keep the fish in. They feed the fish and watch over them to note their growth. What was really cool was that we were allowed, only in pairs, to jump in and swim with the fish. I went with my friend Kasey and immediately all of the fish swam to the bottom out of fear. We swam down further to get a closer look. Some of them were huge!
After that we headed to a small, nearby island, threw our wetsuits and flippers on, and jumped in. It was freeeeezing! Good thing we had those wetsuits because without them I don’t think I could have stayed in for as long as I did. We snorkeled for a good amount of time and I saw sea urchins and bigger fish like the Spottail Grunt, Parrot fish (actually eats coral), Puffer fish, Giant Damsel fish, and the Rough Trigger fish.
The field trip was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Unfortunately I just finished my final for the class and it is over. I wish it was longer and I would 100% recommend this course to anyone else who goes to Veritas University.