So today was my last rain forest tour day and I was ending it with a safari float down the Peñas Blancas with Canoa Aventura, the same company I had done the boat trip a couple days ago, and again they did not disappoint.
I was picked up at 8:15 by Luis, my guide for the morning, and greeted by 2 couples from the U.S. and a guy from England. We reached the entry point to the river around 9:00 a.m., were joined by another van of people, were given a life jacket, a paddle and some safety instructions before the guides started putting the rafts into the river.
Now one of the couples and the guy from England were going to kayak while the rest of us were going to be in the inflatable rafts. (I have no idea how I missed the kayak option, but I somehow did and ended up in the inflatable raft.)
Anyway, I was paired with another couple from my van (who turned out to be from Seattle) as well as a couple from Tampa, Florida. Luis was going to be with us in our raft and before we knew it, we were wading into the river, climbing aboard the inflatable raft and pushing off for the 10 km float down the river.
Now we had no idea what we were going to see, but it started out well with a tree full of capuchin monkeys. And I quickly learned that taking pictures from a moving inflatable was VERY challenging. Just when I had the camera focused on a monkey, the moving inflatable caused it to go out of focus. I ended up just snapping away and hoping for the best.
As we passed by the capuchin monkeys, we spotted howler monkeys in an adjacent tree. These were just lazing on the branches making it hard to get a good look at them, but it is always a good day when you know howlers are in the area.
We continued to float down the river past little water falls and tropical vegetation before spotting a tiger heron on the banks of the river. This was followed by some kind of heron (did not get the name), which had a long body with squatty legs, a blue heron and a mangrove swallow.
Periodically, Luis would ask us to paddle as we encountered fallen tree branches or the occasional pile of rocks and trees from a landslide from the winter rains.
And the other cool part of the float was seeing all the gorgeous vegetation, including beautiful orchids and bromeliads clinging to the trees. (And try as a I might, I could not capture any good shots of the orchids, but trust me, they were beautiful.)
We continued to scan the trees for monkeys and soon spotted two baby howler monkeys in the trees to our left. Fortunately, they were not too far up the tree and we had come in at a great angle to the grove of trees they were in. I managed to get some really good pictures before momma showed up and the three of them took off into the banana grove for some snacks.
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, a very rare river otter jumped up on the rocks in front of us. Unfortunately, the river was a little rough as we passed so the pictures I got were blurry, but I guess better than nothing. (I need to find one of those picture programs that fixes blurry photos.) Anyway, I shouldn’t complain as we were the only float to see the otter because just as quickly as it jumped up on the rocks, it jumped back in the river and was gone.
As we continued down river we passed a dreaded crocodile on the shore, which so blended in with the background, I didn’t see it and it was almost too late. Quite frankly I was too busy looking at a bird across the river, which Luis said was an anhinga. I had not seen one before and it was quite striking.
Our raft took us around a series of S shaped curves and in the distance we could hear howler monkeys bellowing. YAY! And as we moved towards them, we spotted another croc. This time, I actually saw it in time for a picture, but man they are well camouflaged.
We also passed a tree with a sloth high up in the tree. While we passed directly under the sloth, the raft was moving far took quickly to get any kind of decent picture. Quite frankly, even with time the shot would not have been that good as the sloth, like so many others I had seen on this trip, was curled up on a branch sleeping.
So it was back to hunting for the howler monkeys. We finally spotted the howlers up in a tree with few leaves making it easy to see them, including what appeared to be the dominant male, who is the howler who lets out the namesake roars. And hearing the howlers really is one of my favourite parts of being in a tropical rain forest. It is just such a unique sound.
As we neared the end of the trip, we spotted a green iguana on a log and as we pulled into our landing area another orange coloured iguana was there to greet us.
We climbed out of the raft and were soon being fed tortillas, plantains and queso. After the snack, I ended up getting locked in the bathroom (seriously) and had to be rescued by one of the staff who had to yank on the handle while I wrenched open the lock. That was fun.
Anyway, the trip ended with a chocolate demonstration, but this one was slightly different than the previous two I have seen on this trip. While they told us about the cacao harvesting and fermentation, they taught us how to make a chocolate sauce from cacao beans and damn was that sauce ever good. I could have taken the whole pot with me. YUM!
So with our morning float finished, we made the 45 minute trek back to La Fortuna and by 1:00, I was back at my hotel. I ended up going to an artisan shop for a little souvenir hunting, walked about a mile back to the center of La Fortuna, grabbed a late lunch and then got back to the hotel just in time to catch a toucan show in the trees near the lobby of my hotel.
So my hotel is in a forested area (hence the name Noah’s Forest by Tifikara) and there are sloths, toucans, the occasional monkey and lots of lizards and birds. However, this was the first time I caught the toucans squawking at sundown. It was hysterical as the video depicts.
Anyway, I ended the day by taking a trip to Eco Termales Fortuna, one of the many hot springs in the area. The place was moderately busy and featured multiple pools. There was a bar and a restaurant, but I was more interested in simply soaking in the hot springs, lazing on the lava chairs in the water and generally doing nothing. I ended up spending a couple hours at the hot springs before heading back to my hotel.
Sadly, tomorrow I have a driver taking me three hours south to San Jose, where I will be spending a couple days before flying back to Seattle on Monday night. Ugh. Not looking forward to cold weather and work. A really lousy combination.