A Travellerspoint blog

November 2016

A secret worth sharing

The lodge earning its "eco" argument

semi-overcast 29 °C
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Ecolodge San Luis - gotta love it!

A fair warning: if you crave for Caribbean rythms, disco lights and rum, Ecolodge San Luis is not for you. You'll find other places in Costa Rica that will offer just that: one good place to look for a chill-out beach party with reggae, ganja and guaro flowing freely is Puerto Viejo de Limon. Or that's what I've been told - I only had a lunch there. Also, if you expect valet parking, a la carte restaurants, and chocolate on your pillow, you'll be better off elsewhere.

If you instead appreciate a unique nature experience in nice, rustic housing perfect for their settings, and being amongst some warm, friendly, and knowledgeable people - you just gotta love UGA Ecolodge San Luis. UGA stands for University of Georgia. The ecolodge is administered by UGA and located within the campus. To me, it was a perfect combination of science, education, and ecotourism. You find lots of accommodation in Costa Rica calling themselves "ecolodges". Mostly, I think, it only means that the place is cut into the forest, rustic, small or just greenwashed. This one, though, is the real thing. An eco-gem.

Keel-billed toucan

Keel-billed toucan

You are free to explore the entire 70 hectares area with many trails, gardens and an operating farm on the campus grounds. You also get to enjoy typical Costa Rican meals - it's full board - with the campus staff, resident naturalists, and other visitors in the campus cafeteria. The list of on-campus activities is astounding, and they are all included with your stay. You get to do as much hiking and birding - at least 230 different species recorded on campus grounds, as you wish, or just enjoy the view while snoozing in one of the rocking chairs on the porch. But you can also arrange to visit local farmers and homes with a translator provided by UGA, or one the reserves, such as the neighbouring Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

This blog article goes against my original idea of just writing about my own experiences and not offering travel advice or reviews. This one just had to written. If you are looking for Costa Rica travel advice, there are other, more substancial blogs I found very helpful when planning for my trip, such as

* Costa Rica Guide by Ray and Suzanne Krueger Koplin
* Two weeks in Costa Rica by Jennifer Turnbull-Houde and Matthew Houde

There's more good info on the web, so keep googling. And of course, there are several Costa Rica guidebooks published. Mine is the ebook by Lonely Planet.

Posted by sussesimis 11:10 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged birds rainforest travel_plans Comments (0)

Hurricane Otto - a historical first? - Updated 2016-11-24

"No, there are no hurricanes in Costa Rica". - Right.

storm 21 °C
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Otto NOAA Nov 22 2016

Otto NOAA Nov 22 2016

Now, first of all, let's make it clear that I'm not in imminent danger here. Not in the evacuation zone, not even close. I'm up in the mountains of Monteverde, at heights of 1100 meters or more. So the winds will slow down before the storm reaches us here. (Would someone call mom and tell her to calm down, please...)

That said, I'm probably going to get more rain than I bargained for. A lot more. There may be mudslides and floods, too. I'll do my best to avoid them, I promise. No reckless moves.

I'd already planned to blog about the weather: about how I thought it couldn't get cold in Costa Rica, and how I ended up putting on three layers of clothes and three blankets on last night. So I was wrong. It certainly can get cold up here in the mountains.

The night was really windy. I've been told that now is when the season here changes from rainy to windy. As there is no insulation and there are little see-though holes in the walls of my bungalow, the wind really got right though and it was freezing in there despite all the covers.

So I thought the winds yesterday and during the night were strong. Huh. Little do I know.

Today was a beautiful, sunny and carefree day. And tomorrow I'll get to visit Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Hoping for another stormless day!

2016-11-23 - Otto just got graded as a category 1 hurricane. It's forecasted to land either in Nigaragua or Cost Rica on Thursday. According to NOAA, a hurricane never landed in Costa Rica since they started to keep record around 1850. Otto may be a historic first. How lucky I am!

2016-11-24 - Otto made landfall in northern Nicaragua this afternoon as a dangerous category 2 hurricane. It's now weakened back to cat. 1. and is expected to weaken rapidly into a tropical storm. All is well here in Monteverde. We've had lots of rain throughout the Thanksgiving day, but hardly any wind yet. The forecast at the moment is that we will get some tropical storm scale winds during the night. Anyway, we are quietly confident here, or at least hopeful, that Otto will take a path slightly up north from us and will blow off its worst energy before it reaches us here in the mountains.
Otto winds 24h NOAA Nov 24 2016

Otto winds 24h NOAA Nov 24 2016

Posted by sussesimis 13:50 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged weather hurricane Comments (0)

Jaguar Rescue Center

Baby sloths and other rescue animals

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Young three-toed sloth

Young three-toed sloth


I've been taking photos of the incredibly rich nature whenever possible. Just, it's not always easy: these things can hide well, and they move fast. My photos tend to be either out of focus or the focal range of the lense just wasn't enough to bring those elusive little things out of the woods. I'll be adding the few better shots to my gallery as I get them sorted out. Next time you visit the blog, if exotic animals and plants are your thing at all, check out the gallery too.

On my next-to-last day on the Caribbean coast I paid a quick visit to Jaguar Rescue Center located just short bike ride away from the lodge. Taking a guided tour there is one way to support their wonderful work with the rescue animals. Those cute baby sloths and funny little monkeys are everybody's favorites but there are all sorts of animals at the center, such as toucans, owls, and other birds, iguanas, and other reptiles, kinkajous, anteaters, and other mammals, even some wild cats like margays and ocelots.

JRC is not a zoo. The animals were all brought to the center because they were orphaned or injured, often after getting hit by a car or electrocuted on power lines, or bitten by a dag, and sometimes the animals were rescued from illegal trafficing. The animals will be released back to nature, if possible. The rehabilitation process can be painstakingly slow, and you've just got to admire the patience and commitment of the staff professionals and dozens of volunteers working with the animals.

Posted by sussesimis 15:57 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged animals Comments (0)

Volcanic tourism

To erupt or not to erupt?

overcast 25 °C
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Costa Rica is on the Pacific Ring of Fire which is where most of the world's earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have occurred during the last ten millenniums. In Costa Rica alone there are more than sixty volcanoes. Only few are active, though. Arenal volcano erupted massively in 1968 and was active until 2010. The lava flowing down its sides and the plumes of ash rising from its top had tourists flocking to the area.

Arenal has been resting the last few years but it remains as one of Costa Rica's tourist attractions. If you had only a week and wanted to visit all the "must-visit" places in Costa Rica, most travel agents would include Arenal or the close-by town of La Fortuna to your travel plan. This is also where I'm headed for the weekend.

Arenal is a stratovolcano, meaning it's one of those cone-shaped, high and symmetrical volcanoes that have eruptions from the top. You know, the kind of volcano you'd have drawn as a kid. Keep your fingers crossed for clear skies and I might get a nice view of the volcano. I'll be sure to share a photo with you here if that happens. If the weather does not favor volcano sightings, you'll just have to visualize the natural hot springs I'll be floating in instead.

Rainforest bliss

Rainforest bliss

While Arenal may have gone to rest, another volcano called Turrialba, just 30 km from the capital San Jose on Costa Rica's central highlands, has been active since 2010. It has erupted several times in 2016 and has often made international news.

As recently as on Nov 10th, 2016 - just a day before my flight from Miami to San Jose - Turrialba spew gas and vulcan ash to the height of more than one kilometer. It wasn't severe enough to make the news but caused several international flights to be cancelled. I only learned this from a fellow traveller who had been stuck in Miami and was reassigned to the same fully packed San Jose flight I took.

Oh, and the writing: one page since last report. The rainforest took over.

Posted by sussesimis 13:12 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged planes volcanoes travel_plans Comments (0)

Rainforest 24/7

This forest does not whisper

all seasons in one day 27 °C
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I'm on the Caribbean coast now, in the southwesternmost corner of Costa Rica, just a few kilometers from the Panama border. I'm staying in a small village called Punta Uva. Punta Uva means "Grape Point" and gets the name from the sea grapes (Coccoloba uvifera) growing on the rocky point sticking to the sea in front of the village. The village is made up of a few dirt roads, a pulperia (a small grocery store), a handful of local residents, a couple of restaurants, and a few small lodges.

The beaches are spectacular. You may want to check out the gallery for some photos I just uploaded.

On arrival I was blown away by the sounds of the rainforest. You hear a squeak here, a squawk there, whistles and howls, screeching, chatter, croaks and grunts, shrieks, chant, buzz, and shrils. And then some. The forest snaps, taps, clicks, and rumbles. It certainly does not whisper.

Howler monkey

Howler monkey

The forest sounds are just so intense that they overload your senses. It actually took a couple of days to really notice the beautiful butterflies and colorful birds, monkeys up in the trees, or even the tropical plants and flowers just there along the pathway.

Last night there where howler monkeys (Alouetta palliata ) just above my cabin making ungodly howling noises at 2:30 am. Maybe it was the supermoon affecting them, but they usually move around at dawn, that's just after 5 am.

We are so close to the equator here that day and night are almost as long, so it gets dark at around 5 pm. I'm usually up with the monkeys, then ready for bed by 9 pm, unless there was time in the afternoon for a little nap in the cosy hammock on the porch...

The weather here is constantly changing. On my arrival day it was raining all the way from the San Jose intl airport to Punta Uva, a journey that took over six hours due to the weather and crazy traffic. Since then we've had daily tropical showers of rain, but mostly it's been a mix of clouds and sunshine. The temperature easily reaches 30 °C but never drops below 20 °C, and due to the high humidity, the temperature feels higher too.

You'd think that being surrounded with this tropical wonderland, there'd be not much writing done. But there's a screened window with a jungle view above my desk. I'm inspired. Up to 10 pages.

Posted by sussesimis 14:34 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged beaches rainforest weather Comments (0)

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