Animals, Central America, Costa Rica, Nature, Photography, Travel

Nature Paradise in the Osa Peninsula

June 24, 2009

The Osa Peninsula was our favorite part of the Costa Rica trip.  You are right in the middle of the rainforest with nothing for miles around and the lodge is perched on the side of the mountain.

El Remanso
The lodge is casually elegant and rustic and consists of a large open air restaurant, seating areas, bar and pool.  Believe it or not, but from right here you could see lots of wildlife.  Remember, you’re already in the middle of the jungle.

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Here’s a rundown what’s what.  Yes, there is electricity, but it’s used sparingly as they generate their own.  Therefore, there’s no air conditioning.  Who wants to hear air running when you can hear the sounds of the forest anyway?  Also, no hairdryers.  I’m a girly-girl, so I was worried about that one, but I got my hair permed with a light body wave before we left and adopted the “Pura Vida” attitude and it was all good.  There is hot water, though ours sort of came and went.  I just waited a few minutes and it would come back.  And, the water tastes great, is safe and drinkable right from the tap.

For me, it’s like this wonderful marriage of luxury and roughing it.  (More on the luxury side though…)

Our Cabin, La Guinda
Our cabin was one of the two deluxe cabins and was very nice with a large deck with a view of the ocean.  It had large “windows” that are just screens all around.

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It had a nice bathroom with 2 sinks, a shower and a gorgeous tile soaking tub.

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Remote Location in the Rainforest
For our first night here, I have to be totally honest and admit that I was thinking “What I have gotten us into?”  I think we were a little scared after hearing about the deadly pit vipers that are all over the place,  we were realizing how deep in the forest we were and the sounds were creepy probably because it was darker here than anywhere we had been.  There are no lighted paths here – you use your flashlight to get from your cabin to the lodge.  Did I mention it’s really dark here after 5:30 p.m.?  Really dark.  Welcome to the equator!   I remember laying in bed that night thinking, “Can I survive four days here?”

Well, we had nothing to fear, because El Remanso turned out to be an incredible, magical, beautiful place and it was our favorite part of our trip.  When the end came, I DID NOT want to leave and cried on the way to the airport.  But, we still were a little wary each night before bed.  We performed thorough flashlight checks of the room every night before going to sleep. (Yes, under the sheets, too.)  Day time here is beautiful and fascinating, but nighttime is very dark and loud and your mind wonders what creatures might be in your room. But, aside from some moths, beetles and a few cockroaches, everything was fine.  Our imaginations were much worse than anything that actually occurred. Until our last night, when I revealed a scorpion in our curtain when untying it.  I didn’t even scream, thank you very much!  This is the price you pay to truly get away from it all and you have to remember that you are a guest in the wildlife’s home.  It was completely worth it to us.

El Remanso Staff
The people here made the place.  Everyone in Costa Rica is very nice and very welcoming, but the difference here was that the people were more personal.  They seemed like friends, rather than just staff.  I imagine they take their cue from you and respond accordingly as to how personal to get.  For me, I love that!  Others might prefer more formal, more removed.

Angie was so sweet and nice to talk to.  Maikol immediately introduced himself and was super nice to us and made the best drinks.  Elyer was charming and cool to talk to. He had a hard time with my name, but gave it lots of effort and finally got it, as I did his.  haha!   Charlene is a sweetheart.  Adriana, Daniel and Joel all made us feel like we were friends that were staying at their house.  And, Gerardo (the resident naturalist) was amazing.  We called him the Steve Irwin of Costa Rica.  He knows EVERYTHING!  And, his passion for what he does shines through every conversation you have with him, whether it’s about a rare bird or an ant.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Today we arrived to the Osa Peninsula…the wildest, most bio-diverse place in Costa Rica and one of the most bio-diverse in the world.  We are staying in the secondary forest outside of the Corcovado National Park at a lodge called El Remanso Rainforest Wildlife Lodge. We drove here from Uvita and had to cross some really sketchy bridges to get to Puerto Jimenez.

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At times the roads were paved, at times not and our favorite was the caution tape to block off one lane where half of the road had just fallen off the mountain.  But it wasn’t that bad, and we arrived in the town of Puerto Jimenez to drop off our Daihatsu Bego and then Alex picked us up to take us to the lodge in the forest.

The drive consists of a 45-minute to one hour drive through the forest on dirt/rock roads.  There are several creeks to drive through and several small bridges to cross.  It was a nice drive and we got to see some monkeys and tons of birds along the way.

Alex told us that June is the month when the snakes are out in droves and the deadliest of all of Central and South America is prevalent around here. It is called the Terciopelos, or Fer de Lance Pit Viper in English.  Evidently they have a fast acting hematoxic venom and they inject more venom than most snakes.  Also, they like to swim, so I decided waterfall rapelling was probably out for me, even though, one of the 2 guides’ only job is to watch for snakes.

When we arrived at El Remanso, we were tired and hungry and a little scared after hearing about the snakes.  Then, we met Angie and she was so nice and sweet and showed us around and took us to our cabin, La Guinda.

Erick spotted a family of bats hanging out on the outside of our cabin.   On our way to dinner, a coati crossed our path and that was our first time seeing one of those.  Before dinner, a conservation group called “Friends of the Osa” came to give a presentation about conserving the big cats – pumas, ocelots and jaguars- in this part of the country and in Panama.   The presentation was great and it was amazing to me how much good work they are doing.  Right now, they are running the largest camera trap project in the world.  All three of these cats have been spotted on the lodge property here!

Before dinner, Gerardo, the naturalist here, found a baby Fer de Lance Pit Viper (Terciopelos) and put it in a glass case for us to see.  I was happy to be seeing it through glass as we earlier during our trip, we saw other poisonous snakes in the wild up close and personal.

We had a nice dinner and then went back to our room and we were both a little scared.  When we arrived to our cabin, we saw a big gecko, which is good because hopefully he’s eating the bugs.

Friday, June 19, 2009 (Our 10th Anniversary)

We survived the night and slept well and woke up this morning at 4 am thanks to the howler monkeys on our tenth wedding anniversary.  As we were walking down the trail to the lodge for breakfast, we finally saw the toucan! We had been waiting for that.  We know the sound now, so we know when to look for them.  We had a wonderful breakfast and then took off to Puerto Jimenez for a dolphin tour in the bay (Golfo Dulce).  We saw a group of around 100 dolphins that were all swimming around our boat, jumping, and chasing.  It was truly amazing to see that many together.  Then, we jumped in and decided to join the fun.  The boat pulled us behind the boat so that we could swim with them.  They didn’t come within touching distance, but they swam underneath us.  It was really special.

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On the way back to the lodge in the forest, we saw the squirrel monkey and the capuchin monkeys.  The driver stopped the Land Rover on the side of the road, and we got out to take pictures.  This was our closest encounter with monkeys so far.  They were so close to us and they were eating.  Now, we have seen all 4 species in Costa Rica — 1. Howler  2. White-faced (Capuchin) 3. Spider  4. Squirrel.   Also, Erick saw a white hawk, but I missed it.

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We got back to the lodge and they had lunch ready for us and we had chosen the cheeseburger option for today.  I think I inhaled mine.  It tasted particularly good.  After lunch we went to the pool, where we ran into Gerardo where he explained the Golden Orb Weaver spider to us as we watched her hunting and rolling insects, which was cool to see.   He was like, “Oh, you like stuff like this?  I have something in my room to show you.” and came back with a scorpion.  Very cool to see and then he let it go.  After that, we saw a bunch of scarlet macaws in the trees and then Elyer called us over to see an anteater in a tree that was really close and before we could finish taking pictures of him, a coati was walking on the pool deck.  This place is absolutely incredible, literally teaming  with wildlife very close at hand.   We feel honored to have seen so many different species today.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

This morning we slept in.  We got up at 5:30 and I never even heard the howlers.  We had a lovely breakfast of eggs, bacon, homemade toast and jam.  This morning they had fresh pineapple juice.  While we were eating, we were hearing the call of the collared forest falcon.  Later Gerardo came in and said he had finally spotted it and that it’s very rare as he’s only seen them 3 times in his life.

Since we’ve arrived, we have wanted to go to the beach.  We have a small view of the ocean from our room and even though we are up on the mountain, we can hear it very loudly.  The ocean is like everything else here – wild and powerful.   So, we hiked down the beach trail this morning, which wasn’t bad, but all the while thinking it is not going to be fun going back up.  When we arrived to the beach, I knew immediately why the ocean sounds so loud – the waves are enormous.  I would say 10-15 feet.  The beach is beautiful, with dark sand and the jungle spilling out over the sand.  We first saw lots of hermit crabs and other spotted looking crabs.  Then, I decided to make an impromptu beach art piece.  We spelled out “Pura Vida” with bamboo, coconuts, shells, crabs and palm leaves.  I have to say that it turned out pretty cool.

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We walked down the beach, where we spotted a little lagoon.  It was beautiful with clear green water and so cold.  We immediately saw several Jesus Christ lizards walking across the water.  It seemed like this little oasis in the middle of the wild beach.  We continued on to see the tide pools, but it was high tide, so we could not see them.

Once we got back to where we started, I went to the water’s edge to get wet.  You can’t swim here – it’s very dangerous due to the riptides, not to mention the horrifying monstrous waves.  It’s magnificent to see, but scary to think about as well.  I stood in ankle deep water and splashed myself and at one point, I was completely knocked  off my feet.  In ankle-deep water!  I could feel the current really strong.  I have lots of respect for the ocean.

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We hiked back up the steep trail and saw a family of coatis along the way – a mom and two babies.  They are so cute.  The hike was a little taxing and hot.  When we got back, I jumped straight into the freshwater pool and water has never felt so good to me.

At 3:30, we went with Gerardo on a bird-watching tour.  Before we ever left, we saw the toucans up close beside the restaurant.

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We saw so many birds in a short time span.  We saw the Crested Caracara, Scarlet Macaw, Tiger Heron, Green Kingfisher,  Parakeets, Blue-gray Tanager, Red-lored Parrot, etc.  We also saw the Pearl Kite, which is yet to be recorded in Costa Rica.

Walking to dinner here requires a little bravado.  It gets dark at 5:30 pm – pitch black actually and there’s no trail lights.  So, you have to use your flashlights and check everything very carefully, especially looking for the deadly viper.  So on our way to the lodge at 6:30, it was already pitch black.  I saw some things moving around, first a lizard and then there was something else too.  It was a really nasty, scary looking thing and I wasn’t sure if it was a spider or scorpion.

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I took pictures and when we arrived at the lodge, Gerardo said it was the tailless whip scorpion.  I had to will myself to not think about it when we went to bed last night.   After dinner, we walked around the pool and main lodge and saw several types of frogs, a praying mantis, another green bug that looks like a leaf, and Erick found a small semi-poisonous snake that sort of looks like the Terciopelos.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

This morning I heard movement in the trees and sat up and saw squirrel monkeys swinging around our cabin.  Then, we heard the call of the collared falcon and quickly got up to go look for it.  We spotted one of them for just a second on the trail on the ground.  After lots of patience and good eyes, Erick finally saw it again and captured it just for a couple seconds on video.

We decided to hike the Carablanca trail by ourselves today.  After about 5 seconds, we saw a snake slithering around in the leaves right by the trail.  (Later, Gerardo told us it is a racer snake.)

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We didn’t hike for very long and then decided to take it easy and actually relax since it was our last day.  So, we went and hung out at the pool, got drinks and watched the macaws flying around.

We came up for dinner early tonight to just hang out and chat with Maikol and Elyer and have some drinks.  Lucky for us, because although we’ve had beautiful weather the whole time, the rainforest finally decided to make itself known.  It absolutely poured.  I have never seen and especially never heard anything like it.   It gives a new meaning to the word downpour.  For me, it was an amazing experience and I’m glad it rained.   After dinner, the downpour stopped and it was just raining normally.  Elyer and I were talking by the bar and he said now is a great time to find frogs.  He knew that I really, really wanted to see the red-eyed tree frog, so he got a flashlight and went to find one. He called to it and it would call back to him.  After a couple of tries, he actually found the little bugger and called me over, which required scaling a wall in a white dress and flip-flops and stepping onto a steep slope in the slippery clay-mud in the middle of a large plant in the dark where snakes could be.  But, what the hell, I didn’t care, so I did it without thinking about it.

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And, sure enough, there was the frog.  It probably seems silly to be so excited about a frog, but I was and it was so amazing to actually see it.  Elyer asked me to hold the flashlight and then he caught it and put it on a leaf so we could go back to the lodge with it to take pictures and show the others.  A big thank-you to Elyer for that! =)

As it turns out, he’s only seen this frog 3 times in his life and he was born in that very rainforest.  The owner, Adriana, has only seen it 1 or 2 times and couldn’t believe Elyer didn’t wake her up to see it.  =)  Very special.

Later, we went back to our cabin and listened to the rainforest symphony of noises, along with the rain this time.  A perfect ending to a magical vacation.

View all of the pictures

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