Today we visited Punta Arenas, Costa Rica. We pulled into port around 6am with a few rain clouds following us but the coastline was still visible. We can see mountains, black beaches (there are volcanoes, 7 active, along the backbone of the country), and a small tourist town. After acquiring some breakfast and waiting in the theatre for our tour time we boarded a small (2 and 1 seat across) bus for a lively two hour ride up the Pan-American highway to the restaurant and home base of the river tour company.
Turns out this was not a single inner tube kind of “river float” like we had done on our last cruise, but rather a 6 person raft plus a guide, and we had to paddle at various points. As we loaded into the raft the guide asked who wanted to be the leaders and sit in the front of the boat, without hesitation the other four folks in our group, a British couple and two ladies, turned around and pointed at us, so we were volunteered to set the pace for rowing (and probably ended up doing a bit more of the work, but that was fine). There were very small rapids in a few spots but most of the time the water was quite calm. Since I had thought we would be in the water more I did not bring my camera but boy do I wish I did (and I really could have as we did not get very wet until the last bit of “rapids” where a wave came right in on my legs).
We saw so many different kinds of wildlife, I had only seen them in zoos before but on this trip we got close enough I probably could’ve touched many of them. As we were loading into the boats there was a family of howler monkeys in the trees above us, including a few tiny babies, very cute. As we floated along we saw five different crocodiles of various sizes (I made sure to keep my hands out of the water at those times). We saw iguanas big and small, in trees and bushes as well as on the rocks and one even chilling on a branch in the middle of the river. Apparently during the mating season the males change their colors from green to orange and black, we saw three of the courting males. We also saw varying sizes of the Jesus Christ lizard (they can run on the water to flee from predators). When these lizards are small they look like a typical lizard but when they are grown they have a ridge/fin along their back and another along their tail. We also saw some really cute tiny bats. They hang around the rock outcroppings over the river and blend in almost perfectly with the rock. They are probably the size of a mouse but are kind of mottled brown and gray and almost appear spiky, but they are perfectly camouflaged against the stone. We saw two larger groups of a dozen or so bats, and as we got closer they flew off so that was neat to see. We saw so many different birds: yellow-crowned night herons, little blue herons, oriole nests (they looked like black drawstring purses hanging from the trees), pretty little blue mangrove swallows, snowy and cattle egrets, osprey (this is the migration season now for a lot of the birds of prey), a gray hawk (with bright yellow beak and feet, he was royally annoying some egrets by hanging around near their nests), yellow flycatchers, boat-billed herons (Jeremy thought it was holding a leaf in its mouth at first), magnificent frigatebirds, wood storks. It was really amazing to get to see these large birds up close.
After the tour we returned to the home base restaurant for rice, beans, carrots and green beans, plantains and steak for lunch, along with lemonade. Many of us also enjoyed the Costs Rican beer Imperial, which was very good, and was served ice cold so very refreshing as well. We did a tiny bit of souvenir shopping at the restaurant and then returned to the bus. I had a bit of a headache after the rafting so I napped for part of the way, Jeremy stayed awake for the entire, apparently rather harrowing, ride back. The highway is only two lanes and our driver was quite aggressive with passing other folks (at one point reportedly he was in the process of passing someone and there was an oncoming motorcycle Jeremy heard the driver mutter “shit” and apparently we almost ran the motorcyclist off the road). The driver was going along at quite a clip and engine braking often, for me it was just kind of a fun ride 😉 We passed pineapple farms, rice patties, sugar cane fields, tilapia ponds (with lots of white egrets hovering around), as well as cattle pastures and small family farms. Our guide Jorge was very nice (he was also our raft guide) and he always had “a plan” we had to follow and would be sure to let us know when something was “only ten minutes” away.
There is a tourist area with shops just past the cruise dock but it has started raining (it is the rainy season here) so I think we will stay on the ship, we do need to start buying some souvenirs though for folks, we are running a bit behind on that.