Looking through the voyage’s sail plan in Australia, the two highlights for me were Cartagena and Costa Rica. After a lot of deliberation, I picked a tour that involved a long drive to the top of the country’s main mountain ridge to go for a walk in the Monteverde Cloud Forest.
As we packed into a minibus at the port of Puntarenas it looked like only about 12 of us had made the same decision. As we bumped our way along tar then dirt roads I think all of us had our unspoken doubts. That was until the guide outlined the day’s program and one person asked, “When is the zip-lining in that program?” and we learned that five had been sold the wrong tour.
Too far along to turn back, the group said they would make the best of it. But the guide says that the zip-lining the ship offered is in a lowland forest, for an extra fee of about $45 the group can zip up here – with much greater drops, exceeding 150 metres, to the valley floor below. They elect to do that and so only seven of us set off on the walk.
The first stop is only about 50 metres down the track. A feeder area has been set up to attract hummingbirds and we see flashes of bright blue and green wherever we look. The whole trip is instantly worthwhile though the speedy birds are an extreme photographic challenge.
At the start of the walk proper we get a glimpse of a quetzal, the national bird of neighbouring Guatemala, recognised by a ludicrously long tail. Then we alternate between walking through dense rainforest and crossing wobbly footbridges suspended high above the canopy. It’s bushwalking at its best and each clearing reveals that “Cloud Forest” is a good name as we see the clouds coming down from the peaks above to meet the forest. Soon it’s raining softly and the shades of green appear even more intense.
At the end of the walk we are taken to see an insect museum set up some 25 years ago by an American ex-pat and continually improved. The bugs are impressive in their size and scope and the butterflies are arranged in beautiful patterns.
At the end of a long day we return to the ship to find everyone was equally happy with their Costa Rica day. No wonder tourism to this naturally abundant country is booming.
Words: David McGonigal.
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