Costa Rica’s “Dry Forests”
UnCruise Adventures Safari Voyager dropped anchor off Isla Tortuga, a small collection of islands on the southernmost tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, just after 7:00 am this morning. I’d been up for the better part of an hour, sipping coffee in the lounge and watching our arrival out on the wraparound promenade deck.
Sunrise here is a dramatic affair, with plenty of saturated colours and left-over thunderclouds from the evening before. It all made for a dramatic backdrop as the small press group I was travelling with was lowered into the ship’s skiffs as soon as we dropped anchor, in order to get some exterior sunrise shots of the Safari Voyager.
Of course, if you don’t want to be disturbed, UnCruise has thought of that. Just put the leather tag hung on the inner side of your door on the outside, and no one will wake you up. But on this cruise, you’re going to want to get up early: Costa Rica is calling, and UnCruise is going to show you the best it has to offer.
Today, UnCruise Adventures’ Uncharted Isthmus! Sloths, Monkeys and Mangroves itinerary showcased two separate “ports of call” for us. This isn’t so uncommon; most UnCruise itineraries feature one expedition stop in the morning, followed by a second expedition stop in the afternoon. This maximizes your time ashore and gives you the ability to choose any number of different activities in a single day.
This morning, guests could choose to snorkel in the crystal-clear waters off Isla Tortuga, which is actually just across the ocean from Puerto Caldera, where we embarked on Saturday. A beginner’s class was offered for those who are new to snorkeling, while a “deep-sea” snorkel was offered further out for guests who are more confident in their abilities.
The other option on offer: kayaking. These are two-person kayaks, so it’s best if you buddy-up first. But they’re designed for the ocean, and are stable enough that you shouldn’t fall out. And if you do, the water is warm enough that it doesn’t really matter, making this stop a great place to try your hand at the kayaks if you’ve never done so before.
I chose to do a third option: a skiff tour of the surrounding shoreline. Led by Expedition Team member Ray and skiff driver Eamon, we covered more ground than any other group, checking out caves, arch formations, and wildlife in the process.
I love skiff tours for their excellent photographic opportunities, and I’d heartily recommend them to photographers looking for a great shot of the geological formations, their ship, or their fellow guests as they participate in the other activities on offer.
During lunch, the Safari Voyager repositioned to the Curu National Wildlife Refuge. It’s only 15 minutes sailing time away, but it proved to be a world apart of what we enjoyed this morning.
Three separate hikes were offered this afternoon: an easy trail meander; an intermediary hike, and an advanced hike. UnCruise calls its advanced hikes are proving to be increasingly popular, and don’t relate so much to distance or time as they do to difficult conditions – like loose branches, steps, inclines and the like.
Because I did the intermediary hike yesterday, I chose the easy hike to see what it would be like. It was about 1.6 kilometres roundtrip, which took us two hours to complete at a very leisurely pace.
Even if you don’t have mobility issues, there are plenty of reasons to want to take these gentle strolls. Birders and plant-lovers will relish the slower pace and stops along the way, while shutterbugs will love the photographic opportunities. And those who find the more physical hikes to be too demanding can still participate in experiences that showcase the hidden wonders of Costa Rica.
The Curu National Wildlife Refuge is an interesting thing. Located in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, it is essentially a tropical dry forest; the southern terminus of a hot, dry stretch that runs from California down to Costa Rica.
At first glance, the Wildlife Refuge looks as lush as any other Costa Rican jungle. But look closer and you’ll notice that termite nests cover nearly every tree, and old decaying branches, bark and coconuts sit gathering dust on the earth below.
Water here is scarce, but not to the degree of, say, Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Instead, it has the appearance of a lush jungle forest canopy that someone forgot to water for a week or two. Because it’s dry, the humidity is lower – though let’s not mince words: it’s still plenty hot out.