Half At­ten­bor­ough, half In­di­ana Jones...

It’s all ac­tion for RHI­AN­NON McDOWALL in Costa Rica

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

IF there’s one thing I learned from a trip to Costa Rica, it’s that it is a place for ad­ven­tur­ers, not tourists.

For­get ly­ing on the beach with the lat­est from Richard and Judy’s book club, the only thing you’ll have time to read is a guide book.

The adventure started when our plane landed in the midst of a light­ning storm, with rain bounc­ing up to our knees as we raced to our taxi.

My first thought? Great, I have trav­elled 10 hours from the wettest city in the UK to the wettest city in Cen­tral Amer­ica.

But our tour guide, Mario, was quick to re­as­sure me that rain would not be a prob­lem and ed­u­cated me on the most im­por­tant phrase I would learn all week – Pura Vida.

Span­ish for ‘pure life’, it’s Costa Rica’s un­of­fi­cial na­tional phrase, used as a greet­ing, an at­ti­tude and a life­style choice.

And so this would be our motto.

We threw our­selves into the adventure, rain or shine, with a fun-filled week of snorkelling, zip-lin­ing, hunt­ing for creepy-crawlies, trekking up to vol­ca­noes and white wa­ter raft­ing.

We were ac­tu­ally very lucky with the weather, al­though I have no doubt we would have en­joyed all of the ac­tiv­i­ties in the rain, which, of course, is much more bear­able in 30-de­gree heat.

Costa Rica has one of the most di­verse cli­mates in the world, which means that it will rain a lot dur­ing the rainy sea­son, but it also means it’s a haven for na­ture lovers, with plenty of pro­tected na­tional parks teem­ing with wildlife.

In just over a week we spot­ted macaws, hum­ming birds, dozens of croc­o­diles, taran­tu­las, scor­pi­ons, count­less mon­keys, igua­nas, hump­back whales, tou­cans, vul­tures – and, of course, the sloths, which had me en­thralled.

It took some ef­fort, with their pale hunched bod­ies and long limbs wrapped around the branches, sloths are a mas­ter of dis­guise and man­aged to evade us for most of the trip. But on our fi­nal day, as we headed out early for a fi­nal walk to Manuel An­to­nio Na­tional Park be­fore our flight home, we spot­ted a ma­jes­tic three-toed sloth laz­ing in the trees above our heads.

And just like buses, we went on to see three more, with the last one even mov­ing into po­si­tion so we could get a bet­ter pic­ture.

Our Costa Ri­can adventure was or­gan­ised by the travel com­pany Ex­plore, which planned ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion, trans­port and our tour guide Mario, who was also our driver, na­ture ex­pert and Costa Ri­can brother by the end of the trip.

The won­der­ful thing about Ex­plore is that not only is ev­ery­thing or­gan­ised for you, but you also get to spend a week with a group of like­minded peo­ple.

I first met my trav­el­ling com­pan­ions at the air­port, with our ages rang­ing from 25 to the mid 60s. But by the end of the trip we were com­rades in arms, we’d coached each other to jump off a 130-me­tre high ledge and down a zip wire, clung on to each other as we trekked across sus­pen­sion bridges in the pitch black, bat­tled white wa­ter rapids and shared the mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence of see­ing a mother and baby hump­back whale just me­tres from our boat.

One of my favourite places - and the lo­ca­tion of our sloths - was Manuel An­to­nio Na­tional park. With a track lead­ing straight through the for­est and down to the beach, it felt as if time had stood still, as if at any mo­ment a di­nosaur could ap­pear out of the shrub­bery - it’s no sur­prise that Steven Spiel­berg chose it to film Juras­sic Park.

From here we did the whale watch­ing trip and en­joyed some of the best food of the trip at Raphael’s - the tuna was the best I’ve ever had.

There are five ac­tive vol­ca­noes in Costa Rica - we made it to Poas and Are­nal.

Poas was very ac­ces­si­ble with a gen­tle walk to the sum­mit where you could see a huge crater filled with a boil­ing acid lake and the hard­ened lava flow from when it last erupted in 2011.

Get­ting to the top of Are­nal is a bit more of a mis­sion, so we sat­is­fied our­selves with a walk to the base, where you could see huge black rocks which were spewed out when it erupted in 2010.

Are­nal, which is as im­pres­sive from the ground as Poas is from the top, looms over the town of La For­tuna, which is also worth a men­tion.

It’s strongly geared towards tourism with­out be­ing of­fen­sively touristy, with good bars, res­tau­rants and, of course, cof­fee shops. It was from here that we went white wa­ter raft­ing on the Balsa River, which was to be one of the most talked about ac­tiv­i­ties of the trip.

An­other ben­e­fit of be­ing so close to the vol­cano is the hot springs, which are nat­u­rally heated by the vol­canic ac­tiv­ity.

Most have now been moulded and shaped around re­sorts, with seats carved into the side of rocks and un­der wa­ter­falls. I would rec­om­mend vis­it­ing in the evening when it’s a lit­tle cooler and you can make the most of the hot wa­ter while gazing at the stars above.

It’s also worth men­tion­ing the Doka Cof­fee es­tate, which we vis­ited en route to La For­tuna. Here we were given a tour around the enor­mous cof­fee es­tate be­fore be­ing shown how the cof­fee beans are har­vested, dried, roasted and ground to cre­ate the best cof­fee I’ve tasted.

We also headed to Mon­teverde Cloud For­est where there are dozens of jungle trails for all abil­i­ties.

I par­tic­u­larly en­joyed the night hike where, equipped with torches, we trekked through the jungle hunt­ing out spi­ders, crick­ets and creepy-crawlies. And while I was par­tic­u­larly en­tranced by the taran­tula we found holed up just off the side of our path, the mag­i­cal view of thou­sands of fire flies buzzing around our head as we crossed through the canopy will stay with me for­ever.

I don’t think you can go wrong in Costa Rica, ev­ery day is like a David At­ten­bor­ough doc­u­men­tary with a splash of In­di­ana Jones ex­cite­ment.

Rhi­an­non zip wiring in Mon­teverde Cloud For­est

Mount Are­nal

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.