Photo Essay : Italy

This May 11-24 I’ll be leading a travel photography tour through Italy with G Adventures. We will be traveling from Venice to Rome visiting many of the highlights of Italy along the way: Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Sienna, Vatican City, Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. I’ve previously visited most of the locations on the tour and have had the pleasure to photograph them already. Here is a taste of some of the photos you will be able to come back with if you join me on the tour.

I selected Italy for the 2013 tour because it is a travel photography gold mine. Almost every village and train station has some photogenic quality about it. Not only will you walk away with great image, but I’ll also be working with you one-on-one to help improve your technique.

Sales pitch over. Enjoy the photos!
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The Fearful Traveler

Street food is great and should not be feared
Over the course of the last six years I’ve met many travelers and and communicated with many more who have expressed fears and concerns about traveling.

If the fears were just concerns which kept people on their toes while on the road it wouldn’t be so bad. However, most people let their fears prevent them from traveling and exploring the world.

The list of fears which people have about traveling is almost endless. They include:
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UNESCO World Heritage Site #192: Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park

UNESCO World Heritage Site #192: Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park
UNESCO World Heritage Site #192: Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park

From the World Heritage inscription:

The park lies in the foothills and mountains of Cordillera de Talamanca between the mountain ranges of Las Vueltas, Cartago and Echandi on the Panamanian/Costa Rican border.

The Cordillera de Talamanca is the highest and wildest non-volcanic mountain range in Central America. It was formed by the folding of the Earth’s crust and uplifting activity that created the land dividing the Pacific from the Caribbean. A long period of marine deposition in the shallow surrounding seas up until the Middle Miocene was followed by a period of marine volcanism, which included the uplifting of the whole area to some 4,000 m above sea level. Subsequent erosion due to heavy rainfall has created a rugged topography. During the Quaternary period, glaciers carved cirque lakes and steep valleys on the slopes of Chirripo National Park, the only area in Central America to show signs of glaciation.

Tropical rainforests have covered most of the area since at least the last glaciations, about 25,000 years ago. The park includes lowland tropical rainforest and cloudforest, as well as four communities not found elsewhere in Central America: subalpine paramo forests, pure oak stands, lakes of glacial origin and high-altitude bogs. The area also contains all five altitudinal zones found in the tropics. Most of the main crest lies within montane rainforest, characterized by mixed oak forest. Below 2,500 m lower montane rainforest occurs and the forest is generally more mixed. The Talamanca Mountains contain the largest tracts of virgin forest in Costa Rica. On high points along the ridge, at elevations above 2,900-3,100 m, frequent stands of paramo, swamps, cold marshes occur. The paramo located on Mount Kamuk contains the richest and most varied vegetation (after Chirripo) in the entire Talamanca Range and is the only one in Costa Rica that shows no signs of human intervention. Species diversity is perhaps unequalled in any other reserve of equivalent size in the world, due to the convergence of the floras of North and South America and varied climatic and edaphic (soil-related) factors.

This World Heritage Site comprises an enormous part of Costa Rica and comprises many separate national parks, preserves and forests:

  • La Amistad International Peace Park
  • Tapantí-Macizo de la Muerte National Park
  • Chirripó National Park
  • Barbilla National Park
  • Hitoy-Cerere Wildlife Refuge
  • Las Tablas Conservation Area
  • Río Macho Forest Preserve

Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park

Despite its size, finding a way to visit one of the parks was far more difficult than I thought it would be. The Amistad Park is all wilderness and the only way in is to backpack several days. The other parks are also not really designed for large scale tourism.

I found easiest way to visit the site was via Tapanti National Park in the Orosi Valley, which is only an hour outside of San Jose. From there you can easily arrange day trips into the park or dive there if you have a car. While the park is accessible, there are only a small number of hiking trails available.


Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park

The Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site shared between two countries: Costa Rica and Panama. This property was inscribed by UNESCO in 1983 as a natural landscape and forest area. The protected area is focused on a mountain range and its surrounding landscape. This area consists of the tallest peak in Costa Rica and Panama.

The mountain range is of global significance as it is the center for endemism on various animal and plant groups in the region. It also serves as an important habitat species of birds and mammals that are under serious threat.

About Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park

The Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park is a transboundary protected area that is co-managed by Costa Rica and Panama. This was after UNESCO included the site as one of the World Heritage Sites under the Natural category. The park was established five years after it was inscribed by UNESCO in an effort to strengthen the conservation of the park and its components. There were a few extensions to the protected area in 1990, which now means the UNESCO site spans 401,000 hectares of natural reserve with a buffer zone of 15 kilometers. This makes it the largest reserve in Central America.

Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park

The Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park is recognized by UNESCO for being a major biodiversity resource (both in the regional and global level). In fact, about 20% of the diversity in the region’s species are attributed to this natural reserve. The strategic position of the reserve within the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor is another crucial factor in its naming as a UNESCO site.

Due to the difficult terrain that one must overcome to get here, this park is relatively unexplored. Only those scientific researchers have been able to conquer most of the areas of the park from 2003 to 2008. The collaborative project by researchers has produced great baseline information with regards to the biodiversity within the park. The researchers were also able to create a map of its biodiversity. According to the research project, there are about 7,500 plant species, 17,000 beetle species, and 380 herpetological collections that are found within the park. There are also plenty of animals, insects and plant species discovered during the scientific expeditions that were not known before.

Costa Rica’s SINAC or the National System of Conservation Areas is the governing body behind the Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park.

View a complete list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Costa Rica and Panama.

View a complete list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #191: Area de Conservación Guanacaste

UNESCO World Heritage Site #191: Area de Conservación Guanacaste
UNESCO World Heritage Site #191: Area de Conservación Guanacaste

From the World Heritage inscription:

Guanacaste is located in north-western Costa Rica. It stretches 105 km from the Pacific, across the Pacific coastal lowlands, over three tall volcanoes and down into the Atlantic coastal lowlands. It includes the Guanacaste Cordillera and surrounding flatlands and coastal areas. The most notable volcano is Rincon de la Vieja, which has three craters and one lagoon. Its last eruption was observed in the 1970s, but some fumarole activity still occurs in one of the craters. At the base of the volcano are several minor craters.

At least 32 rivers and 16 intermittent streams originate in the vicinity of the volcano, and flow into the Tempisque, a river of enormous importance for irrigation of agricultural land in the Guanacaste Province. The marine area includes various near shore islands and islets (mostly uninhabited), open ocean marine zones, beaches, rocky coasts, and approximately 20 km of sea turtle nesting beaches and a high diversity of wetland ecosystems (37 wetlands). The wetland forests are considered to be among the most pristine in Central America and worldwide.

The Guanacaste Conservation Area comprises four national parks in the Northwest of Costa Rica. There are also other, smaller protected areas as well which are included in the World Heritage Site.

My visit was to Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park, which is the most popular of the group and the easiest to visit. The major city in the region is Liberia and there are daily tours to the park which can be arranged at most hotels/hostels.

The park does take some dirt road driving to get to and you can easily spend a full day there walking the trails. In addition to volcanic hot spots, there are waterfalls and ample wildlife. During my day I saw wild monkeys, tropical birds, snakes and a tapir.


Area de Conservación Guanacaste

The Area de Conservación Guanacaste is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed in Costa Rica. This property was inscribed in 1999 and was extended in 2004. The conservation area itself was established in 1989 and is currently being managed by the National System of Conservation Areas or SINAC. The site is located in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica.

Since it was extended in 2004, the protected area covered by UNESCO’s World Heritage Site is now at 1,470 square kilometers. It officially became part of the SINAC in 1994, 5 years before it was recognized by UNESCO.

About the Area de Conservación Guanacaste

Area de Conservación Guanacaste

There are four components that make up the Area de Conservación Guanacaste. These parks are recognized for their rich natural habitats, as well as to recognize the conservation efforts to preserve the biological diversity that include endangered or rare animal or plant species that inhabit the area. In addition, these four parks also exhibit the ecological processes that take place in a marine-coastal or terrestrial environment.

Santa Rosa National Park: This national park was established in 1971 in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica. The park measures 495 square kilometers and is part of the UNESCO WHS of Area de Conservación Guanacaste. This park was established to protect the natural environment that consists of ten unique natural habitats, which includes savannas, marshlands, mangrove woodlands, deciduous forests, and more. It also features a rich collection of flora and fauna species, which includes 250 bird species and 115 mammal species.

Guanacaste National Park: This national park forms a significant portion of the Area de Conservación Guanacaste. It is located on the slopes of the Cacao and Orosi volcanoes and connected close to where the Santa Rosa National Park ends. The park was established in 1989 to preserve the 140 mammal species, 300 bird species, 100 amphibian and reptile species, and more than 10,000 insect species that inhabit the area. It therefore consists of a high level of biodiversity.

Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park: This is the third component of the UNESCO site Area de Conservación Guanacaste. Like the Guanacaste National Park, this one also comprises two volcanoes: Santa Maria and Rincon de la Vieja volcanoes. A third volcano (albeit a dormant one) is also included within the park’s premises: Cerro Von Seebach. Aside from protecting these volcanoes, there are several species of animals and plants that inhabit the area of the park. The volcanic vents and geysers are also crucial as a habitat for various micro-organisms.

Area de Conservación Guanacaste

Junquillal Bay Wildlife Refuge: This is the final component of the Area de Conservación Guanacaste. The protected area consists of coastal mangroves and tropical dry forest. This wildlife refuge is the smallest component of the UNESCO site as it only measures 4.38 square kilometers. The wildlife refuge was established in 1995.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Costa Rica.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

OnTravel Radio Interview: Costa Rica

Here is my lastest interview from Costa Rica for the OnTravel radio show on the American Forces Radio Network. I am a regular contributor to the program, calling in every few weeks from different locations around the world. This week we talked about my time in Costa Rica and how I got bed bugs.