Wasatch Savage: Kalu Yala is calling

(Source: Kate Stewart) After a 3 mile hike, visitors of the Kalu Yala camp are greeted by several ranchos and a sign carved by Summer 2011 interns of the program.
(Source: Kate Stewart) After a 3-mile hike, visitors of the Kalu Yala camp meet with several ranchos and a sign carved by summer 2011 interns of the program.
(Source: Kate Stewart) With the farm to table culinary program at Kalu Yala, you pick the food in the morning and eat it fresh that afternoon.
(Source: Kate Stewart) With the farm-to-table culinary program at Kalu Yala, participants pick the food in the morning and eat it fresh that afternoon.

For me, this adventure started in a cubicle.

It started when I landed a job in the mortgage industry as a 19-year-old and the promise of a comfortable commission tempted me away from my pursuit of education. I was a 9-to-5, business-casual teenager who soon met the beast of daily boredom.

After nearly a year of laughing at colleague jokes that weren’t funny, I decided it was time to head back to a life my 7-year-old self would have looked up to. I decided to recalibrate my life. I quit my job, traded in my downtown Salt Lake City apartment for a house with friends in mountainside Ogden, and enrolled in classes at Weber State University.

I had already taken some college courses, but this time around, things were different. I knew, without a doubt in my mind, I couldn’t live a life without adventure. I knew my college experience had to be a springboard for opportunities that pushed my education beyond a degree. I was the guy who decided to get involved and got way, way too involved, but in the best way. My involvement came in the form of club memberships and joining The Signpost staff mid-semester as the university newspaper’s Features editor. I joined the botany club, and through their emails about internship opportunities, I heard about Kalu Yala Entrepreneurial Internships.

I visited their website, and the first thing I read was, “A sustainable jungle settlement for entrepreneurs and jungle cowboys.” It was like that sentence was written for me. As a kid, I begged my parents to take me to the jungle. I craved the Tarzan lifestyle, but was stuck in the desert. As an adult met with the opportunity to fulfill my kid-self dreams, I knew that Kalu Yala was to be a chapter in my book of adventures. I was taking myself to the jungle.

Kalu Yala has programs based out of three different locations, the first being Panama City, which hosts the business-oriented internships. The second location, San Miguel, focuses on education and community outreach to the village of around 500 people. Lastly, we have the Kalu Yala base camp, which boasts 550 acres of undisturbed jungle. Kalu Yala Entrepreneurial Internships offers seven different programs: agriculture, business and architecture, education and community outreach, farm-to-table culinary arts, health and wellness, outdoor recreation, and one that especially caught my attention — biology. The idea of studying an area so densely populated with species I have never seen before seemed like a dream.

(Source: Kate Stewart) 550 acres of undisturbed jungle offers an opportunity for both adventure and education
(Source: Kate Stewart) The camp’s 550 acres of undisturbed jungle offers an opportunity for both adventure and education.

I applied to Kalu Yala’s biology internship program, and after a phone interview with the program director, I was notified that I’d been selected to be a part of the program for the summer of 2014. The program lasts about 11 weeks. That’s 11 weeks in the Panamanian eco-playground that will be spent collecting and cataloging the area’s flora and fauna.

Kalu Yala likes interns to come to Panama with an idea for a specific project in mind they would like to carry out. I’ve decided that my focus will be to capture footage of the area’s wildlife. I knew the jungle life wouldn’t be accompanied with USB ports to charge my GoPro, so I set out in search of a company whose product could charge my adventure, and I found SunTactics, a company focused on portable solar charger technology. After telling the company about my adventure, they decided to sponsor my trip and set me up with a solar charger to keep my gear going through the power of Panama’s sun.

Another support for my time in Panama came through a local company named Geigerrig. Due to the area I’ll be living in, all drinking water must be filtered. Geigerrig supplied me with a pressurized hydration pack that will allow for instant drinkable water through an in-line filtration system. Just as SunTactics will power my gear, Geigerrig will fuel my body.

A year ago today, I could hardly soak up a lunch break’s worth of sun without worrying about the climbing mortgage rates; 30 days from now, the only worry on my mind will be climbing through the jungle to find the perfect place to hang my hammock.

Stay savage, Wildcats. I’ll see you ’round campus come fall.