Latin America, Travellers' Tales

Paradise on Earth – Days 1 to 3

Paradise on Earth – days 1 – 3

Continuing from her first post, Felicity’s adventure continues …

We boarded our direct British Airways flight from Gatwick very excitedly, with cameras, hats and sun-cream packed and at the ready. On board our flight we had the ironic and unexpected greeting of an old Uni housemate serving us as an air stewardess who consequently made the flight seem like it was much shorter than it was. After being upgraded and having the pleasure of meeting the captain (once we had landed) our adventure had truly begun in style!

We reached San Jose International Airport at 11:30pm English time which was only 5:30pm in Costa Rica and as a result still light outside. My body was telling me it was time to sleep but the adrenalin had kicked in and we stepped outside the aircraft into instant heat and at that moment it all became real.

We were in Central America and the prize existed. We passed through customs and midnight came and went (British time). Our first night was spent in San Jose where all we wanted to do was freshen up and sleep. The San Radisson was ideal for this. A nice clean contemporary hotel offering perfect sanctuary for the first night. I managed to keep awake until 10pm (Costa Rican time) to stop the jet-lag settling in, especially as we were scheduled to be up and out by 6:30 am.

“After being upgraded and having the pleasure of meeting the captain (once we had landed) our adventure had truly begun in style!”

After feeling refreshed from our stay in San Jose we were up and ready. Our home for the next two nights would be the Evergreen Lodge along the river in the Tortuguero National Park. We headed from San Jose via coach to the East side – the doorstep to the Caribbean. We crossed the winding land with other guests. Up high over mountains and down low past dry rivers and areas of pasture land. Along the route we stopped for breakfast – healthy selection of fruit, omelettes and rice, true Costa Rican style.

Here we spotted our first glimpse of nature at your fingertips. Pulling into the rest-stop we were held up by a Two-Toed Sloth who fell out of the tree in front of us. Needless to say, once we had our breakfast we all went to visit the playful sloth who had climbed back into the trees with its mother. We got back on track and passed by several farms and plantations rich with crops such as pineapples and bananas. We saw men working with pulleys to take the heavy loads of ripe bananas back to base.

Already we had glimpses of the Cloud Forest (albeit with no clouds – which is rare!) and views across the valleys to the volcanoes and rivers which were only just coming into fruition with the start of the rainy season (hence the dry rivers). We reached a small port at the end of a long dirt road. Butterflies danced at the sides of the road as we went. Evergreen Lodge was an enchanting array only accessible by boat so we exchanged four wheels for none.

We travelled up the river and finally arrived at a small dock owned by the Lodge. After a beautiful welcome drink we were instructed our room numbers. Here we owned a quaint hut right in amongst the jungle, with mosquito nets for walls. Nature; it surrounds you. Howler monkeys swung through the trees above you, whilst crabs wondered beneath your feet and the jungle would be full in between with birds and bats,  lizards and caiman’s. Surrounded by nature. It was wonderful. Such an incredible experience, unlike no other.

One you have to experience for yourself to truly value. If you are a light sleeper however you may struggle! I on the other hand immersed in the spine-tingling session and stayed up to listen to the vast array of new musical notes I’d never heard before. Not before long I was joined by a bat who hung out with me on the outside of the mossy net whilst I fell asleep. However, I discovered I was not quite the Dr. DoLittle that the other guides were.

Whilst at Evergreen our expert guide Noelle took care of us instructing us on our jam packed timetable. From swinging up high in the canopy on zip wires to boat rides, to visiting the local village to see the heart of the people who live here and infrastructure of the land, to visiting the canal full of wildlife – and witnessing impeccable eyesight from the guides who had become the real Dr. Dolittle – constructing a hundred different vocal calls to speak to the wildlife we were trying to spot.

Thankfully I had a 300mm lens on the end of my Nikon camera which acted as binoculars as some of the wildlife were impossible to spot without an untrained eye! Some of the other wildlife came much closer – from a Green Basilisk Lizard to a Caiman Crocodile. The caiman being particularly close with only a metre or so off the boat edge we took our photos and swiftly left a distance behind us! Noelle was one of a kind. He had so much knowledge to share with us about the wildlife and had an unbelievable ability to spot wildlife big and small. He mentioned that we may spot a Jaguar but as the last two times he saw one with guests was in 2007 and 2012 he didn’t promise us a show.

“The Caribbean beach of Tortuguero we found the sea to be delightfully warm compared to Devonshire waters – back at home!”

Whilst visitng Tortuguero National Park we did see White Headed Capuchin, Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, Three-Toed Sloths, Great Green Macaws, Bare-Throated Heron, Brown Pelicans, Little Blue Herons, the Blue Morpho Butterfly, Northern Jacana, miniature tarantulas, Black Vultures, Kingfishers, Long Nosed Bats, Spiders, Opossums, Porcupines and more. Noelle looked after us and answered any questions we had, escorted us, kept us informed and made the whole experience uplifting and inspiring.

During our time here we were able to visit the Caribbean beach of Tortuguero where we found the sea to be delightfully warm compared to Devonshire waters – back at home! Surplus to say we had a paddle! It is here we learnt about the Turtle laying season and over the next couple of months there were be a hype of activity between the sand in our toes, but for now it was clear and stunning. We had time to mill around with the locals taking in the atmosphere of ‘urban life’ in the rainforest. We had a great chance to witness some first hand local lifestyles where we understood the game we know as Dominoes was just as epic as any top end Poker match. We studied the small crowd and intently gazed upon this highly serious and competitive game. It was really special to see. With fresh coconuts on hand and with small souvenir purchases we headed back to the small dock to ride back across the river to Evergreen.

Back at Evergreen, the food was tasty and plentiful with something new each meal with choose your own omelettes in a buffet style. We were encouraged to share tables with the other guests and we found ourselves sharing our stories from the day. They also had a lovely pool here with bar to the side and it was nice to come out and chill after the sun had gone down. Poppy made the most of the pool whilst I got distracted by Green Basilisk Lizards chilling in the trees beside us and an occasional Spider Monkey would drop in to munch on the berries in the trees.

One Morning I decided to have a tree-top adventure much like the GoApe! we have in Britain but Costa Rica style! The Canopy Tour was in the grounds of Evergreen so I signed up at Reception and off I went. Poppy not being great with heights decided to pop into the Village to sample a Costa Rican massage session instead. Back up in the trees I found two guests from a nearby lodge who were the people sitting next to us on the flight over. We chatted and the tour began. Safety talks were given in both English and Spanish and off we climbed. Thankfully the team take care of all the safety work so we felt safe until we were so high our legs just shook by themselves. We walked along rope bridges, tight ropes and went along a variety of zip lines… it was definitely adrenalin running and felt strange to be so restricted by gravity once back on the ground! When we were in the trees we also spotted miniature tarantulas and Leaf Cutter Ants, fortunately we weren’t joined by any monkeys as they would be sure to show us up!

One afternoon Poppy took advantage of the pool and made herself at home whilst I decided to have a wander through the trails around the perimeter of Evergreen. As I entered the rainforest I started following geckos along the path until I stopped and realised I couldn’t see the huts any more. All was fine, until I heard a noise. A noise which sounded like it came straight out of Jurassic Park, and that was it. All sense of bravado had gone out of the window and I quickly scuttled back, hoping a T-Rex wasn’t following me!

On my safe return I found another guest crouching with a camera so I went to see what he had found; none other than the Poison Dart Frog, so there we both sat looking daft together attempting to capture these beautiful small amphibians on our cameras. It was a real fun moment finding someone who shares a love for photography as much as I and we tried hard to see who could get the best shot. The rainforest is a tough setting for photography due to its low light levels under the canopy so it was tricky but a fun challenge! Especially as there was so many things around you that you wanted to capture. A real photographers playground!

On our second night we looked out to the skies and could see lightening in the distance from a storm somewhere inland. We weren’t sure of it’s direction of travel but sure enough from the early hours of the morning until sun up the heavens opened. Tropical rain – is one of a kind! So many different sounds, and such powerful fall rate, it was pretty incredible to witness, even if it did wake me up!

After our time at Evergreen we felt sad to leave. Noelle was such a fantastic guide who knew his job and still had passion for it after 17 knowledgable years. He escorted us on our departure morning early at 5:30am to catch a domestic flight on a small plane across the land to our next destination on the Pacific coast – the Osa Peninsula.

Read the next instalment of Felicity’s Costa Rica adventure.