That Monkey Is Looking At Us
It becomes pretty apparent that this is no ordinary cruise when you are walking through the jungle and you catch a monkey staring at you from high atop the trees. When that monkey is joined by four other monkeys, all hopping from branch to branch until they’re so close you could touch them, you know you’re sailing on UnCruise Adventures.
It’s Day 2 of our Uncharted Isthmus! Sloths, Monkeys and Mangroves itinerary that will whisk us through Costa Rica and Panama aboard the 62-guest Safari Voyager. This is a brand-new itinerary for UnCruise; so new that this is officially Voyage Number Two.
After sailing through the night along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, we arrived at our first port of call: Manuel Antonio National Park, located just south of the city of Quepos. Larger cruise ships have to dock at Quepos Port, but the Safari Voyager is small enough that we’ve tucked into the bay in the park, right off the main beach.
Breakfast was served at 7:30 am this morning, but many guests chose to get up just after 5:00 am to watch the sun rise and to participate in yoga up on-deck at 6:15. Yoga classes are complimentary, and there’s certainly no pressure to join; guests are free to do as they wish.
Because she’s such a small ship, the call for breakfast generally means you have to do and dine at that time. Unlike big ships, where you can wander in well past the start of breakfast, scheduling on the Safari Voyager really does depend on everyone dining at the same time.
Breakfast was a buffet affair consisting of quiche, bacon, fresh fruit and pastries. It was flavourful and filling; exactly what was needed before a morning of adventures ashore.
Guests today could participate in three touring options in Manuel Antonio National Park: a gentle walk in search of the elusive sloth; a more adventurous hike around the park’s three-kilometre Cathedral Trail; or an active hike with many inclines and steps.
I signed up for the second hike, which went ashore at 9:10 am.
In many ways, UnCruise reflects the laid-back way of life in Costa Rica. Rooms have no keys or keycards; instead, they’re kept unlocked all day, but can be locked from the inside. On other ships this would be a problem; on UnCruise, it’s just the way things are done – and the line has never had an issue.
Going ashore on excursions is likewise easy. A magnetic board at the stern of the ship has every cabin listed. Next to the cabin number is a small magnet, with two positions: “Aboard” or “Ashore.” When going ashore, just slide the magnet over to “Ashore”, and move it to “Aboard” when you return.
Ashore, we discarded our lifejackets and headed into Manuel Antonio National Park, led by our Costa Rican guide, Chris.
Located in the heart of Puntarenas province, the Park is home to 109 different species of mammals and over 330 species of birds, not to mention the abundant plant and marine life. And you learn very quickly that much of the plant life is out to get you: right on the beach is a tree so poisonous that if you drape your clothing over it, or touch it in any way, it will cause your skin to itch and burn tremendously.
My personal favorite is the tree that has spikey needles growing up its trunk. These are Serious Needles; they look like they’d go clean through you if you stuck yourself with one.
And so we set off into the jungle. The jungle and I have a love-hate relationship in that I love it, and it wants to kill me through heat, bugs, animals, or otherwise. But this jungle was different: cooled by the ocean breeze that sifted through the abundant palm trees, it felt better inside the forest than out in the sun on the beach.
The trail we took was a circular loop, meaning not only can you not get lost, but you also don’t have to retrace your steps to get back to where you started. Having said that, the trail is marked, roped off, and signs are placed strategically warning you to stay on the path. Unlike in Alaska, where UnCruise offers adventuresome “bushwhacks” that go completely off into the unknown, the company sticks to the trails here for good reason.