This photo was taken on the first day of my Avian Biology Maymester in Costa Rica. Although it was only 3:00 in the afternoon, I had already seen so much. We had flown in the night before and were up and ready to go at 5:30 the next morning. On our way out we drove through the town of Alajuela, and were told about the culture of Costa Rica by our local guide. Before this study abroad trip, I had never traveled outside of the U.S., so just being able to see the dramatic change in scenery was awesome.

Our first stop – Poás Volcano. A brief hike filled with wildflowers and volcano hummingbirds led to a massive crater where the volcano lies. The charcoal landscape was contrasted with bright yellow mineral deposits and a wispy column of smoke rising. It was unlike anything I had seen before. Next, we head to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a nature park and animal sanctuary. There we see a large assortment of native wildlife, from toucans to sloths to jaguars. Highlights included the butterfly and hummingbird gardens, where the former would flutter all around you, and the latter would zip within inches of your face. Connected to the sanctuary is a hike leading to the waterfall. We began our journey into the rainforest and were quickly immersed in the dense plant growth surrounding the trail. Lots of steps, a few exotic birds, and some sweating later, we arrive at the base of the waterfall. It cuts through a wall of green, sending out mist and a roaring sound that makes our heavy breathing less noticeable. The photo was taken on the way back to the sanctuary. We were taking advantage of the view behind us. Looking back on my first day in Costa Rica, I certainly enjoy the view.