Costa Rica's Natural Wonders | Craig Travel

Costa Rica's Natural Wonders

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All the stories and photos don’t do this country justice. While others were rushing around wildly taking photos, I just drank in the views with eyes wide, storing scenes on my own hard drive!

The range of scenery is breathtaking. The ease in spotting wildlife is luxurious since the animals are happy to hang around, as no one is trying to kill them!

City tours are, well, city tours, filled with historical buildings and tales important to know as a backdrop to the lives and cultures currently being lived around us. The hardship of slavery and the beginnings of corporate greed known as colonization are hard to hear and were brutal to live through, but now, here are the courageous descendants living in a partnership with all the beings which inhabit their land.

Amazing was the trip along the canals to Tortuguero, which involved sailing in unusually low waters, expertly navigated by our boat driver, who while keeping us afloat, also spotted (with the help of our national guide, Cesar) numerous turtles, birds and frogs, and told of crocs nestling on the bottom. We had an excellent boat driver; I cannot say it too often, since we maneuvered past other boats stuck on mud spits. Our accommodation in Tortuguero was set in the forest where we made our first real encounter with wildlife – the howler monkeys which woke us each morning and which we had to get out of bed to see; whole families moving from tree to tree so close to us; mothers with babies, the teenagers rousting about and being told to ‘get on with it’ and the head of the household watchful and in charge.

Lunch stops made as we travelled through the countryside during our many transfer days always ensured encounters with sloths, giant kapok trees, iguanas and always the beautifully coloured macaws noisily swooping from tree to tree.

In Arenal, we hiked through a national park and nearly came eye to eye with a pair of eyelash vipers who were skillfully coiled tightly; one resembling a leaf and the other could not be deciphered from the bark of the tree. Note to self – don’t touch trees! Our guide was always close by drawing our attention to and explaining one new specie after another. Cesar was not only a guide but also a naturalist so could talk about all the fauna and flora we encountered.

The higher climes of the Monteverde cloud forest afforded a break from the heat and spectacular views across the distance. I very much enjoyed the trek high in the cloud forest, at treetop height and then, to top it all off, we booked a zip line trip. My first time, but now I would do it again. Nothing else will take me so high and, well I loved it! We saw the shy quetzal and coatimundi rummaged about outside our rooms, which were thoughtfully booked at garden level.

Our stop in Manuel Antonio on the south west coast was a totally different experience again, with another beautiful hotel set into a hillside overlooking the Pacific ocean. More crocs – but this time saltwater ones – hawks who visited us for breakfast and an iguana-sized lizard mooching for a treat – all kept at bay with small sprays of water handled by waiters who were dab hands at such animal control.

Back in San Jose for the last two days we visited a dairy farm, which seemed like any normal farm we can imagine; they produced their own fresh cheeses and provided us with a nice open air lunch – the difference was that instead of having one family in charge who employed staff to work it, it was owned by three families who worked on different facets of the operation. One family produced the milk and cheese; another worked on the restaurant and the third were the tour guides. Three families making a living – a great concept!

Finally, our visit to the Poas Volcano National Park was spectacular with a nicely paced walk up to the summit where a spacious deck area allows a panoramic view into the still smoking depths. Our food was superb and the hotels were perfectly chosen for location – every one of which was comfortable and splendid.

The whole trip was so thoughtfully put together allowing us to experience everything that Costa Rica has to offer. A leisurely tour lead by a national guide who was full of information and enjoyed sharing his knowledge with us. I look forward to going back and reliving the experience soon. Maybe we will travel together!

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