Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Costa Rica - A Land of Contradictions - Part 2

In my last entry on Costa Rica, I gave it the title “Land of Contradictions,” the reason for which will become apparent over the next few posts. Today I would like to focus on the positive learning opportunities our January trip afforded us, both through the tours taken and the resort we stayed at.

The first thing we noticed at our resort, Sol Papagayo, was the harmony existing between the reception building, which also housed the restaurant, and the surrounding environment. Open on three sides, the architecture blurred the distinction between the inside and the outside, allowing the sounds of nature and the tropical breezes, and yes, the occasional gecko and even bat, ready access. That co-operation with nature, and the fact that we were just feet from the beach and inlet, seemed to set a tone for our visit, one present in all three of our tours.

Additionally, we were captivated by the howler monkeys that made the trees near the pool their home. There is something particularly enthralling for me to watch primate behaviour, and they provided hours of fascinating observation and photographic opportunities. Significantly, they were not regarded as pests, but rather as simply part of the natural environment and landscape. Here are a couple of the pictures that I took:

Our first tour, to a cloud forest, was a tame one as we opted for a canopy experience (a series of bridges above the trees) as opposed to a zip line adventure. Choosing this route allowed us to appreciate the myriad flora that our guide pointed out,and the fact that there were only four on the tour meant we got pretty individualized attention from him as he pointed out that going through such a cloud forest requires a guide so that people will not damage the plants and trails. As well, he informed us that Costa Rica has set aside 25% of its land for conservation, a move designed to slow down the deforestation that has taken place over the decades for coffee plantations, etc. What especially impressed us was the seeming reverence of our guide for his environment, something that I think we all need a little more of. The only disappointment of the tour, and indeed, of the entire January visit, was the absence of exotic birds. Apparently early morning is the best time to spot them.

Our visit to the cloud forest was followed a couple of days later by the river cruise and the coffee co-operative tour, which I will write about in my next post.

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