Monday, April 26, 2010

Costa Rica

For our tenth anniversary I wanted to use my passport but not be gone too many days. We had friends that had visited Costa Rica and recommended it, so after much research we went! We left on Saturday, April 10 and returned Wednesday, April 14, 2010. A huge thank you to my mom who watched the kids!

Costa Rica is an amazing place. Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949. Costa Rica ranks first in the Happy Planet Index and is the "greenest" country in the world. The literacy rate in Costa Rica is 97% and Costa Rica also has universal health care. Ecotourism is a big business in Costa Rica and so we wanted to check out the rain forests. I was amazed at how close Costa Rica is, it was a 4 hour plane ride from Dallas to the capital San Jose. We stayed at a wonderful place, El Remanso, in the Osa Peninsula. El Remanso has a wonderful video that gives you a taste of the experience. I thought it was so cool that they produce their own electricity from the waterfalls on the property and do not use any generators.

The Osa Peninsula is in the southwest corner, you can find a map here. The Osa Peninsula has been deemed "one of the most biologically intense places on earth" by National Geographic Magazine, and is only 300,000 acres. The Osa Peninsula supports more than 50% of the animal and plant species found in Costa Rica. According to our biologist guide at El Remanso, there are few places left on earth that rival the Osa's intense biological diversity.

To get to the Osa we flew into the capital, San Jose, and then took a puddle jumper for an hour flight. The puddle jumper was bumpy and the wind and rain was really making the plane move a LOT but the pilots kept going until they could not see the runway in Puerto Jimenez, so we had to turn around and go back to San Jose. We were on the last flight of the day, so we stayed at a motel in San Jose with our fellow puddle jumper travelers and tried again the next morning. Our second puddle jumper attempt was without incident and after landing in Puerto Jimenez, we drove an hour over bumpy roads to our hotel with two fellow guests that we had met on our adventures, Marie-Claude from Quebec and Jessica from Switzerland. We hit it off with our new friends and I was in admiration of these women traveling alone through Costa Rica. When we got to El Remanso, it was fun to find that none of the other 8 guests were from America, they were all from Europe or Canada.

We had our delicious fresh squeezed lemonade and enjoyed sitting in the open air dining area. We were then shown to our cabin where we marveled at the sounds of the rain forest. Lee and I decided to make the 30 minute walk down to the beach, it was steep going, but when we got there we couldn't believe how loud the ocean was. We had been told to not swim in the water because the undertow was so strong, it really was (I had to test it out but only went about ankle deep before I nearly fell over). We walked to a lagoon and were just amazed to be the only ones on the beach. It was so peaceful. We slugged back up to our cabin (it was really steep!) and then got ready for dinner. After a delicious dinner we had a nighttime hike with Gerardo, the biologist at El Remanso. We saw a tailless scorpion but the highlight was when Gerardo pulled a baby fer-de-lance out of his belt pack (I used to call these fanny packs, but after living in England I no longer call them fanny packs because a fanny is something different in British English). He had told us not to stand too close to him, but he did not tell us why and of course I was right behind him the entire hike! The fer-de-lance is a pit viper and is one of the deadliest snakes in the world! Gerardo had it in a ziploc bag but we all stayed across a stream from the snake when Gerardo released it. Unfortunately, we missed the 8 foot boa that they found there not too long ago.

The next day we woke up early for our bird walk. Gerardo showed us so many scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, and other cool wildlife. Gerardo was just so engaging and fascinated about everything that he showed us, he made it so interesting. My favorite moment was later that day when we went for a nature walk with Gerardo and he stopped, and grabbed a snake with his two hands. It was the pink-bellied litter snake, but that memory of him reaching down with both hands grabbing that snake makes me smile.

Another highlight was the next day when we walked down to the beach again to see the tide pools that are revealed when the tide is out. Later that day when we were cleaning up for our return flight back to San Jose one of the gardeners ran to our cabin asking if we had a camera. I grabbed mine and saw a large snake in the leaves on the path from our cabin. I got close to inspect the snake and the gardener frantically started waving his arms and saying, "No!" I wasn't sure what kind of snake it was, but I figured out that I needed to not be so close to it. It was a fer-de-lance that was a meter long! The only saving grace is that I went to schools in America and I still have to think for a minute or two before I realize how many feet are in a meter.

The flight back to San Jose was so fun, it was just the two pilots, Lee and me! We sat right behind the pilots and it was amazing! We had asked for a recommendation of a good hotel in San Jose and when you are ever in the capital of San Jose we recommend the Grano de Oro. It was a wonderful dinner, a wonderful jacuzzi, a wonderful shower, cable television, it was just divine. It seemed like we had been without television for a week although it had only been 3 days. The bill from our night of luxury was so cheap compared to nice hotels we have stayed at in Dallas.

Here are some pictures and movies of our trip. There is a slideshow of pictures and then some videos.

I also wanted to capture some of the sounds of the rain forest, here are the waves off the southwest coast of Costa Rica. These are the tide pools, we had to catch them when the tide was out.

Here are the crabs on the beach.

This is the cabin where we stayed at El Remanso. Our view through the trees was of the Pacific Ocean.

Here is a video of a plant that closes up when touched, it is protecting itself!

We loved visiting Costa Rica and next time we want to go to the north to visit one of the ten most active volcanoes in the world. It is called Arenal. We had a wonderful 10th anniversary trip, met wonderful people, saw beautiful animals and plants, and ate great food!

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