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Friday, February 7, 2014

Chilling out in Costa Rica

With a Pacific crossing looming – and the serious risk of cabin fever setting in - we felt the need to escape Bandit, so headed off to Costa Rica for a bit of land travel.  Living on a boat means you often only see the coast or a few miles inland so it’s nice to get away and explore further. Strangely enough we ended up back by the sea although we swapped coasts trading the Caribbean for the Pacific.  Our destination was the remote and rugged Osa Peninsula in the south of Costa Rica, described by the National Geographic as the “most biologically intense place on earth”.  It is home to the magnificent Parque Nacional Corcovado, considered the least crowded of Costa Rica’s many national parks.




Costa Rica was somewhere we’d always wanted to visit.  We came close during our backpacking trip through Central America last year, getting to within a few kilometres of the border in Nicaragua.  This time we made sure.  We left Bandit in a marina near Portobelo in Panama and took buses and taxis up through Panama to Sierpe in Costa Rica – a long and tiring two days.  Bus travel in Central America isn’t easy and several of our trips were less than memorable but, after a final spectacular hour long water taxi ride, we arrived at our rustic eco resort in beautiful Drake Bay.



The view from our room made it all worthwhile – we had a veranda where we could sit and look out across the Pacific Ocean and see humpback whales migrating down the coast.  The tropical climate encourages outdoor living and all meals were served in an open dining area with panoramic views over lush vegetation to the sea.  Nearby were some fantastic walks through rainforest to beautifully deserted beaches.  The nearby Corcovado National Park beckoned and we opted for a fully guided hike, leaving Drake Bay by boat well before sunrise.  Our guide Roy was incredibly knowledgeable, pointing out animals, birds and insects we would have walked right past…including these crocodiles…spot them?


Roy had a wonderful ear for birds and would frequently stop and make the call of a toucan or scarlet macaw to attract one.  We saw dozens of beautiful birds including hummingbirds and woodpeckers and loads of butterflies.  Roy carried a telescope and would often just stop and set it up.  Through the lens we’d see things we’d never imagined would be there, such as a spider spinning a web or a tiny gecko.  How on earth did he know where to look?   But the biggest surprise was when he pointed to a pond of water and told us there was a caiman (similar to a crocodile) there.  Sure enough…after lots of pointing and studying, the clear outline of the caiman’s head became obvious.   What impressed us most was Roy’s refusal to disturb any animal – we were keen to poke the caiman but he insisted we leave it and wander on.  So we did.



Everyone in our group was incredibly excited when we stumbled across the rare, elusive and endangered Baird’s tapir.  Its closest relative is the rhinoceros. We had a good look before it trotted off into the jungle leaving Roy almost speechless with excitement.  We also saw native pigs and turkeys and dozens of other interesting animals and plants but for us the best part of the day was getting close to humpback whales on the boat trip back.  A mother and her baby surfaced very close to the boat giving us a great view of them both.


We loved our brief time in beautiful, lush Costa Rica, definitely the cleanest Central American country we visited. The locals take conservation seriously and are justifiably proud of their wonderful national parks and litter free roadsides. It’s a magnificent place.

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