Costa Rica really is awesome, especially if you enjoy wildlife, jungles, rainforests and beaches.
A beautiful wildlife-rich rugged country in Central America, brimming with rainforest and coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific, Costa Rica is known for its beaches, volcanoes, and biodiversity. Roughly a quarter of its area is made up of protected jungle, teeming with wildlife including howler monkeys, caimans, poisonous frogs and quetzal birds. The people of Costa Rica take great pride in their country, and the low crime rate and multitude of natural diversity within such a small space makes living there an experience filled with beauty and excitement. The country offers four types of rain forests and over 60 clearly recognizable volcanoes and one of my favourite parts of the country is at the head of the Caribbean coast.
Tortuguero is known as the land of the turtles, and this remote National Park area is accessible only by plane or by boat – by boat you are only allowed one small suitcase per person. Whilst waiting for the boat to arrive, I saw 3 beautiful bright green vine snakes wrapped around the branches of a tree I sat under, hiding in the shade from the scorching sun. Also known as the Oxybelis fulgidus, these snakes stay high in trees and look down to the ground for a mouse or lizard. The vine snake has two larger upper teeth at the back of its mouth; these teeth permit the toxic saliva to penetrate the wounds and to immobilize the prey though human envenomation is quite rare!
Tortuguero National Park offer boat trips that allow you the opportunity to see a diverse range of fascinating wildlife from tropical birds, white-faced monkeys, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, caimans, sloths, crocodiles, iguanas, snakes and basilisk lizards as you tour the navigable rainforest canals by boat. Imagine being so close to a caiman, you could nearly touch it, while hearing the deafening sounds of howler monkeys above your head. This was taken with my mobile phone – it really was this close to me!
I stayed in a rainforest lodge, in Tortueguero Jungle Lodge, in the middle of the rainforest, away from civilization!! There is a tiny air strip for small planes or you can get here by boat (small ferry boat 20 people max). Arriving by boat, I was greeted by the staff who give you a full run-down on the property. You can lounge in the hammocks, chill by the pool, and mingle with the giant Iguanas that have made their home at the lodge. From your rainforest lodge, you can see monkeys and various other wildlife – all windows are free of glass and have bug screens, to let you take in all the sounds of the jungle around you! Birds, monkeys, boats cruising the water ways, rain trickling down, this place is amazing. Staff are very friendly and extremely helpful, all inclusive meals are served on the veranda, and the bar offers plenty of cocktails and mixed drinks. The closest store is a ten minute boat ride but you have what you want on site, with guides showing you round the ‘jungle gardens’ pointing out the various tiny poisonous frogs.
The tropical beaches around Tortuguero are also key nesting sites for endangered but recovering sea turtles and at night, during July to September, green sea turtles come ashore to nest on the beach.
Tortuguero is surrounded by jungles, rivers and beaches, and its incomparable biodiversity makes it the ideal place for ecotourism and research with the National Park offering an ideal alternative to past practices of turtle hunting and deforestation. The incredible natural resources of this area are well preserved and continue to attract more and more visitors, with the local villagers making a huge effort in organising eco trips and educating the public in protecting the natural resources.
Puerto Limón radiates with excitement and the sights, sounds and smells are inescapable. The culture is vastly different on this coast compared to the rest of the country with its prominent Afro-Caribbean influence. Its culture is influenced by indigenous people and West Indian immigrants, and life is more rugged and rustic on this coast, allowing wildlife to thrive. There is a strong African-American tradition with the streets lined with colourful shacks and shanties. The food reflects a Jamaican influence, with plenty of spices, and the local language resembles English Creole. There are no cars on the streets here, just small brightly coloured food and market stalls, selling various local goods from hand crafted jewellery to fresh fruits. This sun drenched zone offers a completely laid back and relaxed atmosphere.
Costa Rica is filled with unspoilt tropical rainforest, towering volcanoes and long sandy beaches, and is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. A sunrise experience through one of the national park rainforests on a boat has to be the highlight of any trip to Costa Rica. Seeing and hearing the rainforest come to life, after waking up to the sounds of the jungle insects and birds, and being absorbed in nature is truly fantastic, and leaves a mesmerising lifelong memory.
Costa Rica really is paradise.