I can’t believe it’s been two months since I traveled with LoraKim and a small group of other people from the USA to witness first-hand, and for my first time, one of One Earth Conservation’s parrot projects in Latin America. There were seven of us who met LoraKim in early December 2017 on Ometepe Island for what turned out to be an amazing trip that we now refer to it as our Nicaraguan Journey. LoraKim’s husband, Meredith Garmon, already posted a detailed blog in December about many of the activities in which we participated. I’d like to add some additional musings to what Meredith wrote in his blog.
1. A sense of awe – from the ferry ride that took us from the coast of Nicaragua to Ometepe Island, to moving ever closer to the splendid twin volcanoes (Concepción and Maderas); from the thrill of seeing my first ever free flying, wild parrot in its native habitat, to glimpsing with delight my first ever wild monkey; and from watching the waves of Lake Nicaragua lap at the shore next to our lovely, small hotel, to watching amazing sunsets over the tropical forest, I felt a daily sense of awe, wonder, and gratitude. All these things, and more, added up to a truly unique and even spiritual experience for me.
2. Connecting with others – one of the best parts of the trip was the new relationships I formed with our Nicaraguan partners and with my fellow travelers from the USA. Despite some language barriers (and LoraKim did a yeoman’s job of translating for us all!), we connected on multiple levels, not the least of which was over our common love and concern for the gorgeous wild parrots on Ometepe Island. Delicious Nicaraguan cuisine, enjoying a traditional dance performance by local teenagers, and taking tours of nearby sustainable fincas (farms or ranches) were some of the activities in which we all engaged together and got to know one another. And the story of the parrot chick, Time Bomb, which you can read here, was icing on the already delicious cake!
3. Experiential learning – all of the visitors from the USA were given the chance to help LoraKim and the local conservationists with their work by learning how to do wild parrot counts in the field. Starting at about 4pm in the afternoon and continuing until it got dark (for about two hours), we stood in small groups in pastures, at crossroads, in a schoolyard, on docks, and on the slope of a volcano, learning how to recognize flying yellow-naped amazons and other parrots, yelling out the number and species of birds we saw and the direction in which they were flying. It was challenging to not “double count” the same birds (some of who like to fly back and forth!), to avoid attacks by fire ants (some “got” LoraKim!) and protecting ourselves from the tropical sun and heat. One evening after it got dark, LoraKim, our fellow traveler Christianna, and I were “rescued” by a dark, handsome man on a white horse (really!) when we wandered off in the wrong direction trying to reach the road. He led us to the road on his horse as we followed using the flashlights on our cell phones (technology can come in handy even in the field!). And on another day, I got my first ever ride on a motorcycle, clutching onto Emerson (one of the conservationists) with only some trepidation, to accompany him to the site where the two us counted birds one evening.
4. A fuller picture – I now have a much fuller picture of what wildlife conservation work entails and how committed our local partners are to this work. I felt a real sense of kinship with the people of Ometepe Island, as we all care about protecting the beauty of this world, one parrot, and one person, at a time.
LoraKim will be leading another journey in fall 2018, with details to come. If you are interested in having an amazing experience, I highly recommend you consider joining her.