Expedition Stories

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Murcielago Islands and Peninsula de Santa Elena
  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 18 Dec 2019

Murcielago Islands and Peninsula de Santa Elena, 12/18/2019, National Geographic Sea Lion

  • Aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion
  • Costa Rica, Panama & Colombia

Our naturalist Carlos Calvo found a baby sea turtle struggling with debris that kept it from reaching water: Thus the first mission of our day of expedition was to help this guy make its way to a new life ahead.

National Geographic Sea Lion dropped anchor at Murcielagos Islands and that was a glimpse of the wonderful day that was about to start. A hike to the summit to enjoy the breathtaking views of the cliffs and arches. The latter a product of differentiated erosion, the hike lent panoramic views of the great reefs our guests later explored, snorkeling in its turquoise waters.

Nurse reef sharks, king angel, damsel, trumpet, guineafowl and puffer among other fish species, manta rays, a starry moray, a colorful blenny, hawksbill and olive ridley turtles filled these underwater gardens with color. Even a beautiful octopus showed its capacity to camouflage as it fed on small crustaceans and mollusks.

Early afternoon we sailed up to the remote and geologically spectacular Peninsula de Santa Elena, enjoying the company of the authorities of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alejandro Masis and Maria Marta Chavarria. They shared on a lecture the amazing job done by this institution preserving the tropical dry forest and marine ecosystems. Mid-afternoon, our National Geographic specialist Birgit Buhleier shared her fascinating experiences studying animal behavior through the crittercam video system.

The journey to the north was outstanding, and we witnessed the power of nature imprinted on the rock formations, leaving clear evidence of the tectonic plate action and uplifting that formed Costa Rica. The exposed sedimentary and volcanic rocks (lucite, basalts, peridotites) register this area perhaps the oldest territory of Costa Rica, dating back in excess of 80 million years. And yet still youthful if put in the context of planetary age!

We ended the day exploring by Zodiac cruise and by kayaks this amazing region and got a great recap about life in the reefs of Murcielago Islands by our naturalist Dan Baldwin. Our expedition goes on!

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Coco Island, Coiba National Park

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At Sea, and Isla Magdalena

Wild Costa Rica Escape: Exploring Guanacaste’s Natural Wonders


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