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The Organization for Tropical Studies’ main mission is to facilitate scientific research but they also provide unique and educational experiences for tourists who are interested in Costa Rican nature. In the heart of Palo Verde National Park the OTS lodge provides rustic (very clean, comfortable and safe, but not luxurious) dormitory style accommodations that allow a lucky few visitors to experience the tropical dry forest and wetlands at their best.
Staying inside the park means you can take advantage of the prime wildlife viewing at dawn and dusk when other visitors are driving back to their hotels. After the spectacular sunset over the Río Tempisque you might even want to take advantage of one of the guided night tours when the forest transforms and comes alive with nocturnal residents.
During the day you’ll be accompanied by some of the best trained bilingual naturalist guides in the country for a walk. As you traverse one of the only remaining tropical dry forests in the world they’ll point out plants, animals and insects and describe their habits and interactions. Of course you’ll also see a wide variety of birds in this internationally renowned ornithological paradise.
If you stick around for a couple of days you’ll have time to climb on a mountain bike to explore and exhilarate while trail riding. You might also choose to board a small craft for a nature cruise through the mangroves to Isla de Pajaros (Bird Island) to get close up photos of Cattle Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, Green-backed Herons, Anhingas, Great Egrets, and Black-crowned Night-Herons that breed in safety there.
Family style meals give you a chance to meet, learn from and regale other travelers interested in natural history. If a question comes up that can’t be answered by fellow visitors and the guides you can turn to the resident scientists and visiting researchers who rank at the top of their fields. As a scientist myself, I can assure you that they’ll do whatever they can to take time out from their work to discuss it with interested guests.
If you manage to exhaust the possibilities of the wetlands and tropical dry forests of Palo Verde you can move on to one of the other two OTS stations for a similarly singular experience-in the tropical rain forest at La Selva, or the upland forests and plantings at Wilson Botanical Gardens/Las Cruces in the southern Talamanca Mountains.
If a few days aren’t enough to satisfy your curiosity maybe you’re a potential Tropical Biologist. The OTS education division offers undergraduate semesters abroad and graduate programs accredited through Duke University.