Monday, 17 December 2012

Drake Bay - Osa Penisula

I think it was just the density of tourist infrastructure that softened the impact of travel adventure and the natural beauty that I mentioned in my last blog.  Our trip to Drake Bay  re-ignited our travel spirit and appreciation of the natural beauty of this country.  It was just so much fun exploring the natural coast line and walking through the uninterrupted expanses of jungle in the Osa Peninsula.  We loved the experience of getting on a boat, going down a river through coastal jungle and mangrove and out onto the open sea as we flanked the coast line.   Our introduction to Drake Bay included a "wet" landing at the beach with our gear on our backs.  From there we took a "taxi" ride in a 4X4 truck to our hotel with all of us in the open back with our backpacks and no seat belts (the kids were a little confused why this was okay when we are adamant about seat belts and car seats back home… yes... it is confusing).  

We had a great hotel room right in the little town of Agujitas in Drake Bay and settled in and booked ourselves for a full day tour to Corcovado National Park the next day (National Geographic is quoted as saying it is the most bio-diverse regions in the world... I've seen the quote used over and over.. haven't explored the original source).  The next three days at Drake Bay and Corcovado were pure enjoyment as we explored and immersed ourselves in the outer reaches of human inhabitation surrounded by the jungle, the wildlife and the wild central Pacific coast.  We were fortunate to meet up with a family from Victoria BC on our tour to Corcovado and they were loads of fun (love the relaxed West Coasters!) and the kids were similar ages and got along great.  Liam and Angus were like two peas in a pod and were frequently seen shoulder to shoulder on our walks in deep conversation about who knows what.  The tour to Corcovado started with a 5 am wake up call with breakfast, a walk down to the skiff and a 1 1/2 hour boat ride along the coast to reach the "Sirena" entrance to the park (right in the middle). Our guide Estaven was very patient considering we had 4 kids whose noise level was not that conducive to seeing wildlife and the adults weren't that much better as we were all immersed in conversation, hungry for adult chit chat as much as the kids were hungry for kid time.  But the National Park is so rich in wildlife despite the relative inattentiveness of our group (the tour operators were astute enough to put the two families together and no one else), we did see lots of wildlife; three species of monkeys (howler, spider and the little squirrel monkey), American crocodiles, a sloth that was on the move (very cool seeing him in slow motion... Tai Chi like), and to add a little excitement to the tour... a fer-de-lance snake which is very deadly and was hanging out right in the middle of the trail... there was a little "scrum" for that one... a good find.  We didn't see the Tapir or the Peccaries but I guess those are common to see in the park as well.  There were lots of birds including Toucans and large bird called a Guan.  Seeing the coast line by boat on the way there and back was just as spectacular as the trail (the trail was actually in second growth forest which turns out to be better for seeing wildlife because the younger trees produce fruit on a regular basis and attract wildlife - where as the mature trees in the old growth, which is deeper in the park, don't' bear fruit as often). 

We had so much fun with the family from Victoria that we all decided to hang out the next day as well.   We met up and had a great time walking along the coast trail that starts right in Agujitas and travel west along the shore of Drake Bay passing some of the more exclusive lodges  and several beautiful secluded beaches.  The plan was to go to one of the beaches for some snorkelling - not great for coral but the reefs have lots of fish life.  The hike crossed a beautiful river, then hugging the coast, traversed beach then coastal trail over the headlands, then beach, then coastal trail until we reached the beach we wanted.  But just as we got there the rain had caught up to us and we got soaked and ran for shelter to this amazing upscale "rainforest lodge".  We could  have just waited out the rain under the eaves, but decided to indulge in the high life and had drinks and nachos.  A  troop of capuchin monkeys followed us there too and created great fun for the kids as the monkeys tried to get into the open air restaurant.  There was much commotion and noise and I think we stirred up things pretty well at this otherwise tranquil local!  But the owner and the staff were super relaxed and nice and after we had a refreshment and a snack they let us use their amazing three tiered tropical oasis pool!!!  What pure luxury!  We ordered more drinks and soaked in the upper pool which was a hot tub while the kids had fun jumping from one level of the pool to the next.  We actually saw toucans in the trees while we gazed out to the tropical beach and blue ocean!  So instead of a snorkeling outing, we ended up with a upscale lodge experience. 

 That night we were invited to the family's lodge that they were staying at which was further into the jungle from town and we had to cross a river to get to it.  The owner is a chef by trade so we lounged in the jungle with cocktails made with fresh fruit as he made a meal for us by candlelight.  We left well after sunset with two tired kids crossing the river by foot (deep and cool) with our little flashlight in hand so we could watch for snakes!  The "taxi" (the same 4x4 truck - possibly the only "taxi" in the village) picked us up at the top of the hill and safely took us back to our hotel.  Another amazing and fun filled day. 

The third day, with the Victorian's again, we hired the taxi to take the eight of us to another beach further down the coast and after an exciting open air ride the road ended at an incredible coastline.  The beach we wanted for snorkelling however was 4 km down so day three was another adventure of hikes and beach walks and playing in the surf and a fun taxi ride which included a several river crossing and imagining what it would be like to live so far from civilization.  The snorkelling was a bust because by the time we got to the spot the tide was coming in and it was too silty, but we had fun and what a work out walking back along the beach at high tide with the soft sand (my legs were sore), and carrying the kids shoes, wet towels, bag etc (ie. just carrying too much!) to meet the taxi on time.  As much as there were more things we would still have liked to explore at Drake Bay (like a kayak paddle up a beautiful river and a tour to Cano Island, and and and...), it was time to move on and so we left the next day. The boat ride back seemed normal and part of the norm of living on the outer reaches. 

And now back in Quepos, staying at the Wide Mouth Frog Pension again, the kids are happy playing in the pool with the daughters of the owners and we are re-grouping to start the next mini-phase of our trip.  As for Drake Bay and the Osa peninsula... we'll be back!  What a magical, remote and wild immersion experience.

Sorry for the long post.. the pictures will make up for it!

I had so many pictures and it seemed like such a daunting task to try to edit it out, that I decided I'd try to put them all together in a slide show format (don't worry, I did do some editing) on Picasa.. so just need to click on the link and it should open up to a new window with the pictures. If it doesn't work, please let me know!


  1. I just looked at the last set of photos for the 10th time, or something close to that. Each time I go through them I see something new. Some great photos of Monkeys there! Everyone looks very happy, we are glad to see that! I imagine Christmas Eve is celebrated there in the same way it is in Brazil so you should have a great time. I hope Santa knows where the boys are! I am curious, how are you getting to Peru? Will you be flying?


  2. Hi Dave - we decided not to go to Peru.. but we might adjust that again.. who knows.. we have two extra months at the end of our trip (May & June) that are open for now but we think we might need to lay low by then.. budget wise and to catch up on homeschooling.. or maybe something new and interesting might come along! We had thought flights from Costa Rica to Peru would be not so bad, but it turns out that it's actually cheaper to fly from Toronto!

    Merry Christmas to you and your Family!