Bruce in kayak.

"We specialize in small group travel, which minimizes environmental impact, increases safety standards and allows for personalized, enriching and authentic experiences."

— Bruce Smith, founder and owner, Seascape Kayak Tours Inc.

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Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

COSTA RICA’S BEST KEPT SECRETSJanuary 20th, 2011

Feliz Año Nuevo.

We thought it was time to post a new blog entry, finally! I think we have definitely transitioned to Tico (Costa Rican) time.

I am very happy to introduce you to a new member of the Seascape team. Nick Hawkins, who hails from New Brunswick, will be working on an internship / assistant guide basis in Costa Rica for the next several months. Nick is a marine biologist, keen naturalist and wildlife photographer. His enthusiasm for facilitating connections between guests and the natural world is clearly evident. Look for Nick’s photos to appear with blogs and Facebook posts in the future. Bienvenidos, Nick.

We hope that you will join us for a warm water escape in Costa Rica this winter.

Bruce

Hello friends! My name is Nick Hawkins; I am a biologist and naturalist guide from Fredericton, New Brunswick. I first heard of Seascape last summer, when I lived in St. Andrews, NB, and worked as an interpreter aboard the whale watching boat the Quoddy Link. I contacted Bruce via e-mail and expressed my interest in guiding. We then met at his place on Deer Island, where we discovered that we shared a similar outlook on ecotourism, sustainability and what it means to be a nature guide. Before I knew it I was packing my bags for Costa Rica, booking a flight for the 7th of January.

After arriving in San José, I traveled west to the Nicoya Peninsula, to Tambor, Seascape’s Southern base. I was happy to leave the busy urban areas, thick with tourists, cars and construction. I watched it all disappear as I took the Paquera Ferry across the bay of Nicoya. Bruce met me on the other side and we drove along winding roads to Tambor Tropical. The resort is made up of small luxury suites built of exotic hardwood such as teak and bloodwood. They are nestled under a tranquil grove of large palm trees, directly adjacent to the ocean. The suites are spread out over the property, which is teeming with life. I unload my gear and talk with Bruce, trying to ignore the urge to seek out the sounds of the strange animals all around me. Bruce senses my anxiety and sends me for a walk up the estuary, the Rio Panica, which empties into the ocean next to the resort. I grab my binoculars and guidebooks and set-off up the river.

By this point I am well aware of the level of biodiversity in Costa Rica, but am yet to experience it. What I find on that thirty-minute walk will forever serve as a defining moment in my life, when I am introduced to the biologic potential of a tropical forest. I am greeting by a plethora of bird life…I count and record 26 new species in this short amount of time and miss dozens more. Flocks of Snowy Egrets glide over Tri-colored and Little Blue Herons, which run and lunge after small fish. Brown Pelicans and Royal Terns plunge into the surf in pursuit of small fish. A Ringed Kingfisher gazes down from his fishing perch; this species is the largest kingfisher in the Americas, twice the size of the familiar Belted Kingfisher. Small forest birds flutter through the tropical growth, their yellows, blues, and oranges mixing with the red blossoms of flamboyant trees. Hummingbirds zip in all directions, freezing in place momentarily to grab a sip of nectar. Scissortail Flycatchers and Tropical Kingbirds perch high up on the treetops, bursting from their resting place to snag flying insects, before returning to their perch in wait for the next suspended morsel. I am absolutely floored by the abundance of life, and I haven’t even left the resort yet. What awaits me in the depths of the protected habitat soon to be explored fills me with an excitement I haven’t felt since I was a young boy.

The next morning Bruce takes me to Curú Wildlife Refuge, from which most of the kayak trips depart. A 20-minute drive from Tambor, Curú contains Costa Rica’s first private National Wildlife Refuge. When we arrive at the center of Curú ,I hop out of the truck and gaze around at the tropical paradise that surrounds me. The only way to describe Curú is that it looks and feels just like you’re in Jurassic park, a real lost world. The forest floor is littered with coconuts, which cover the ground like the leaves we rake off our lawns in the fall. Hermit Crabs are nearly as abundant as they scurry throughout the undergrowth. Something catches my eye… I look down and watch as a Spider Monkey climbs onto the back of the truck and sits on the cab. She reaches out and holds my hand in a compassionate, human-like gesture. I am completely dumbstruck. Her name is “Trina,” a rescued spider monkey who now calls Curú home. White-faced Capuchin Monkeys leap from tree to tree in the canopy overhead, which shades the forest floor from the strong sun.

We carry the kayaks through a narrow corridor of palms, which opens up to a long beach surrounded on both sides by steep hills. There is no one on the beach, except the crabs throwing sand out of their burrows and a few sunbathing iguanas. The bay is full of Brown Pelicans and magnificent Frigate birds, all diving and swooping to catch the masses of sardines that have come into the shallows. We launch our kayaks directly into this swirling mass. The Frigate birds soar within feet of my head; they remind me of pterodactyls with their huge angular wingspans and relatively small bodies. They dive down and snag fish from the surface with impressive agility, never wetting a feather. The Pelicans have a different tactic, they plunge head-first into the shallow water, dozens at a time, bobbing to the surface to snap down their catch before taking off.

We paddle our way through crystal clear water, watching as flocks of birds fly against the steep backdrop of tropical forest, which bounces the many sounds across the bay. It is like being in a giant amphitheater set in the Cretaceous period, a place forgotten by time. Bruce leads me to a small secluded beach at a point of land called Quesera; palm trees lean over powder white sand and turquoise water. This is the beach where we will be setting up our base camp for the multi-day expeditions. From here we will do day trips to the surrounding Tortuga Islands, named after the sea turtles that lay eggs upon their beaches. Stingrays, Dolphins, Moray Eels, Flying Fish and giant Manta Rays also guard these islands.

We paddle back towards the undisturbed panorama of hills, valleys and beaches. Not a man-made structure is in sight. I begin to realize that Tambor and Curú may be Costa Rica’s best-kept secrets, amazing destinations away from the masses of tourists and busy urban centers where a private adventure in pristine habitat is still possible.


Signature MomentSeptember 2nd, 2009

This time of year is spectacular for wildlife viewing in the Bay of Fundy. Butterflies are careening around the rose bushes outside my window as I write this and I can hear an osprey’s warning cry overhead. Not only are huge pods of Harbour Porpoises circling our groups daily, as if on cue, but whale sightings by paddlers not too far from our base are becoming less and less rare. I was recently assigned to write about Seascape’s “signature moment” for a new program called “Inner Journeys” that we were invited to be a part of by New Brunswick Tourism and Parks. I think wildlife lovers anywhere will enjoy the result.

The Seascape residence and paddle shop look out over Northwest Harbour on the Bay of Fundy, from which the Deer Island kayak trips begin. Twice a day, the water comes right up to the rack where stable fiberglass tandem kayaks are housed, and then several hours later, recedes 26 feet or more, revealing rock formations, seaweed and hardy intertidal invertebrates. Vacationers coming into this environment, with its dramatic tides, have the opportunity to experience a unique ecosystem that supports over 2,000 species of plants and animals.

KATINKA POSTMA WATCHED A FIN WHALE NEAR DEER ISLAND. PHOTO BY FRANK POSTMA.

KATINKA POSTMA WATCHED A FIN WHALE NEAR DEER ISLAND. PHOTO BY FRANK POSTMA.

Launching from the protection of the harbor, paddlers on Seascape’s day trips are certain to see Bald Eagles that nest on many of the Fundy islands, and groups of curious and playful Harbor Seals and Grey Seals. Most of July through September, sea kayakers also encounter vast pods of Harbor Porpoise, listed as a “species of concern” by the Canadian Government; a prime porpoise nursery is nestled at the mouth of the Head Harbour Passage area. And, during much of the summer, Seascape’s ecotourists are also graced with Finback and Minke Whale sightings; endangered Right Whales may also be seen closer to the end of the summer. All these animals are here to feed on copepods, krill and other planktonic species that comprise a complex food web that supports what scientists have identified as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.

Because this special marine environment is so diverse, it needs protection. And that’s why Seascape places a strong emphasis on interpretation of the natural and cultural history of the Quoddy Region – and on its current environmental challenges – during every tour. Seascape’s goal is for each guest to leave with an authentic understanding of the interconnectedness of the living things, both human and animal, in this unique marine ecosystem as this is the only way to engage visitors in its future protection.

SEASCAPE CUSTOMERS ARE SURE TO SEA HARBOUR SEALS LIKE THESE SUNNING ON THE ROCKS OR SWIMMING IN THE BAY. PHOTO BY BRUCE SMITH.

SEASCAPE CUSTOMERS ARE SURE TO SEE HARBOUR SEALS LIKE THESE SUNNING ON THE ROCKS OR SWIMMING IN THE BAY. PHOTO BY BRUCE SMITH.

Usually due to a combination of guide interpretation and direct wildlife encounters, at some point during their trip, each visitor has an “Aha!” moment or “Wow!” experience when he or she fully realizes the fragility and preciousness of the ecosystem they are traveling in – and their connectedness to it. This is the signature Seascape moment.

This Wow! or Aha! moment may happen at the very beginning of the trip when a customer delightedly spots a playful seal in the harbor curiously following their kayak. Or when someone notices a fluffy juvenile Bald Eagle screeching from its nest in anticipation of the food its parent is bringing. It can occur when the group of kayaks is suddenly surrounded by large pod of Harbour Porpoise, and everyone is mesmerized by the magical blowing sounds these smallest of the oceanic cetaceans make as they surface briefly to exhale and take in fresh air. It can happen on a clear, sunny day when a client is fortunate enough to see and hear a Fin, Minke or Right Whale blowing at a distance from their kayak. The realization of our human connectedness to the marine environment can also occur during a guide’s interpretive explanation of a herring weir, a traditional method of fishing traced to the ancient Passamaquoddy Tribe that involves catching herring in a trap made from poles, brush and nets. Or it might occur in foggy conditions when a paddler suddenly feels completely a part of this hushed watery world, caught up in the excitement of what might be encountered in the next few moments.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A BIRDER TO GET EXCITED BY THE VISAGE OF A YOUNG BALD EAGLE JUST OFFSHORE. PHOTO BY FRANK POSTMA.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A BIRDER TO GET EXCITED BY THE VISAGE OF A YOUNG BALD EAGLE JUST OFFSHORE. PHOTO BY FRANK POSTMA.

The enticing journey into these special places, the expectancy of unknown beautiful creatures, the trancelike state produced by one’s own rhythmic paddling – this part of the trip often intrigues and fascinates the youngest and oldest of paddlers the most. And it makes them realize that without their kayak, they could not have experienced the natural world around them in such an intimate way.

Frances