Costa Rica becomes real

This year finds me virtually ‘full-on Costa Rica’, after spending the last four years with Worldwide as a part-timer.

Wow! What a surprise therefore to find myself landing with Geoff, my husband, in San Jose in the run up to it in November – a great opportunity to see and experience all the wonderful places I’d heard so much about.
The trip got off to a great start when Douglas, our driver, buzzed around us and organised everything – so helpful, so friendly, so informative – he couldn’t do enough for us.
Costa Rica is renowned for its wildlife and no sooner had we arrived than we were in the depths of the ‘jungle’ in Tortuguero with the added bonus that we’d reached it by a fascinating river trip that gave us a taste of what we were going to see from the enchanting Mawamba Lodge, situated on a spit of land bordering the Caribbean. Certainly it offers the best of both worlds with the sea, sand and famous Turtle nesting grounds on one side and the deep forest on the other full of birds and reptiles. Definitely full of the colour of Costa Rica!

From here we were driven to Arenal, site of one of Costa Rica’s active volcanos. The Arenal Volcano practically filled our patio windows, which with us leaving them open most of the time at the fantastic Kioro Hotel allowed us to immerse ourselves in the birdlife that flitted around us and the neatly laid out gardens. I could hardly drag Geoff and his camera away from the scenery to sample the outstanding cuisine at Kioro – but it’s well worth it, especially as its always accompanied by a smile and courtesy from the friendly staff who spoilt us every step of the way – even down to the full back massage that initially felt like punishment but left us revitalised.

Feeling adventurous we opted to rent a car for our drive to Manuel Antonio, which with the aid of an exceptional GPS made the trip easy, and contrary to reports we didn’t find the journey at all hair-raising. Although I do have to admit that we lived in India for 7 years and travelled all over the country by ourselves but that was a few years ago.
Manuel Antonio is a beautiful area with a number of uniquely styled hotels with grounds running down to their own beaches.  The National Park, although one of the smallest in Costa Rica is an absolute must and the hotel-provided guide was great; we would have missed most of the birds and reptiles without him as their camouflage is so perfect. A picnic on the beach and a dip in the sea just capped a perfect visit into the park – as long as the Racoons don’t pinch your clothes!
Nature Air’s internal air service, from Manuel Antonio to Quepos, is so personal you feel as though you and a few friends have decided to travel the country in style in their De Havilland Twin Otters whilst your pilot points out local landmarks as you cruise by! All part of the adventure!
Our next mission, having boarded boats at Sierpe with the lodge guides, was to get to Casa Corcovado – a thrilling ride – slowly at first through the mangrove swamps and along the river banks, amazed by the number of Ibis, Kingfishers, Herons… and Crocodiles – fingers inside the boat please! Speeding up and tense with anticipation for what lay ahead we popped out into the Pacific.

Look! A pod of Dolphins circled a school of fish, rounding them up into a tight ball until they were ready to feed. The fish, thinking they could escape hugged our boat’s wake but the Dolphins weren’t fooled and circled our boat as we sped along – truly magical. Thrilled, our boat followed the coast for the next hour before surfing into land at Casa Corcovado’s private beach.
The fourteen thatched cabinas all have four-poster beds, huge showers and a view of the lush tropical rain forest outside. Trails lace the property which borders the National Park and you can see almost as much from these as you can from the jungle – isn’t that an Anaconda wrapped around that tree by the bar?

The sunset cocktail and gourmet cuisine are always welcome; especially if you’ve spent the day exploring the forest, swimming in spring-fed pools, wading rivers and straining your eyes so as not to miss a single thing, whether it be a Koati rooting around in the undergrowth or brilliantly coloured Macaws painting the sky with feathered rainbows.
Reluctantly we boarded another of our ‘private’ flights to head back to San Jose. Our disappointment at the prospect of leaving the rain forest swiftly overcome as we booked into one of Fiona’s favourite hotels – the Xandari Plantation y Spa – which with its avant garde architecture and outstandingly colourful artwork everywhere provides an outstanding complement to the surrounding greenery – the bottle of wine and superb dinner also did the trick and sparked off a stream of recent happy memories of our trip!

What an experience – I’d really recommend it to anyone with a love of nature, the great outdoors and sense of adventure – just ask me if you’d like to know more…and more, and more! You can see more pictures of my fantastic Costa Rica trip on our Facebook gallery.

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