Saturday, October 25, 2014

First week at UCCC

I have completed my first week of teaching ecology at Université Chrétienne de la Communauté de Caïman (UCCC). I teach 3 classes a week to the same class of first year agronomy students so that we can get in an entire 3 credit course in the 6 weeks that I am here.  Already the students have asked me if bats come from old mice, and the topic of zombies came up.  I lecture in English with my friend Diranot translating into Creole (though maybe the students want French?).  Handouts and tests are in French thanks to a French graduate student at the Univ. of Kansas and google translate.  There’s no power at the university so I hold up my computer so the class can see pictures – can’t teach about biomes without showing what a tundra or taiga looks like!  Next week is their first quiz, and an outdoor lab to learn forestry measurements.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wharf and ecotourism school

View of wharf from Ouanga Bay Beach Hotel.
Near Ouanga Bay Beach Hotel (review at previous post) in Cote des Arcadins is the wharf for boats to Ile de la Gonave, Haiti’s largest island.  Some men involved with the ecotourism school took us there before we headed across the street and up the hill to the ecotourism school.  The wharf was busy with passengers and products being loaded onto boats.  There were large sail boats and a motorized boat.  The road down to the wharf was lined with people selling food.

The ecotourism school offers a 6 month training in the service industry.  It is sponsored by the Brazilian group Viva Rio.  There are 4 new buildings featuring a restaurant kitchen and dining room and a hotel room.  The school also does some farming projects such as methane from pig manure and tilapia.  To reach both the wharf and the school you have to walk along Natl Rt #1, so watch for vehicles.  The walk up the hill to the school is a bit steep but it is not far.  Well worth the effort to see what is going on in Haiti.

Passengers waiting to go to Ile de la Gonave.

American rice waiting to be loaded on boats.
Methane piglets at ecotourism school.
Tilapia ponds at ecotourism school.

Ecotourism school buildings to the right.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ouanga Bay Beach Hotel

 If you are looking for some easy snorkeling right outside your hotel room, try the Ouanga Bay Beach Hotel in Cote des Arcadins along Rt. Natl #1.  It is about a 2 hour drive from Port au Prince on the paved highway.  Look for the sign with the hummingbird, and the entrance has a metal seahorse on the gate post.  Ouanga occupies a long narrow strip of beach, with parking behind the hotel on the highway side.  There are two choices for rooms – regular rooms for $110 each room or bungalows with TV for $135 (Oct. 2014).  The bungalows are stand alone, while the regular rooms are in a row like regular hotel rooms.  We stayed in the regular rooms.
The room had A/C, hot water, and two beds.  There was no door on the bathroom, which might make for an awkward situation if you don’t know the people you travel with very well.  All the rooms have an ocean view.  The water is very clear!  The best snorkeling was right outside the regular rooms.  You have to go down a short flight of steps, walk to the far end of the beach and climb over come rocks to get on the beach.  This isn’t the main laying-out beach.  Wear water shoes since there are sea urchins.  We saw puffer fish, a sea snake, little colorful fish, and gobies that like to swim around your fingers.  There are also some chunks of coral to swim around.  Watch out for jelly fish the further out you go!  They were dispersed enough that you can avoid them, and looked beautiful swimming, but still gave us the willies and we went back closer to shore.  There is also a swimming pool at one end of the property.

The lounging/swimming beach is in front of the bungalows and next to the bar/restaurant that sits over the water.  It is a very relaxing place to hang out.  Except when the jetskiers decide to come to shore at the swimming beach!  We left a note of complaint about that.  Our dinner was very good, and relatively inexpensive for a beach hotel.  My friend had bbq chicken with fries ($12).  I asked for a vegetable plate of carrots, melotin (chayote squash) and avocado, with fries ($10).  We had cake for dessert ($5).  A great breakfast comes with the room price: omelet, fruit, juice, bread, and coffee.  They set the coffee out early so you can sit and enjoy the sunrise over the hills behind the hotel.

The people in the lobby were very friendly.  There is no store, but they do have little toothbrush kits if you forget yours.  There are steps to go down then up to get to the rooms.  There weren’t a lot of people there the Saturday night we stayed.  A three or four families, a couple foreigners.  More people showed up Sunday morning, perhaps to spend the day at the beach.

Over all Ouanga Bay is very enjoyable and relaxing.  See the next post about the wharf tour and ecotourism school that are within walking distance of the hotel.