Apologies this is more of an article than, a post, but just wanted to set down a few observations after our Costa Rica trip.
I started planning our trip to southern Costa Rica in January and booked in early Feb for our trip at the end of April. I made what I hoped were informed decisions based on reading TA forums, the Lonely Planet Discovering Costa Rica book and information from the Parque Corcovada website and Sirena Ranger Station Booking.
I am almost 62, my husband a fit and active 73, and we are fortunate to be travelling slowly around the world over the last six months staying in an amazing variety of places via friends, Trip Adviser or Airbnb largely. The week in Costa Rica was pretty special as we were meeting my youngest son a fit and active 27 year old.
I chose this part of Costa Rica, because of the richness of wildlife.
We chose to fly to Drakes Bay by Sansa.
GOOD CHOICE - high tides at this time of year, mean we have seen passengers disembarking from the water taxis and wading, sometimes up to their waists, with some baggage getting very wet despite lots of help from the guys in the water taxis.
We used water taxis for several journeys as we
like boats, there is NO OTHER CHOICE and Lonely Planet recommended it. - not fun the boats are fast and furious, and pound against the waves. Some have life jackets, some do not. Wooden plank seating only across the boat, some have boat cushions, I.e not very comfortable for trips, which are often over an hour.
We chose to use Drakes Bay as our base for the week. REASONABLE CHOICE - we wanted a mixture of adventure and r and r. But we had conflicting advice about, the quality of the water in the Bay and so swam round the corner. For non fish eaters the eating places all offer much the same menu, and we didn't find many good cooks apart from Drakes Kitchen, and the guys just next to the beach.
The Ticos in the village, are very smiley and helpful, they all seem to work together, and which ever tour operator you book with e.g for snorkeling off Cano Island, they collude on price and work together so you all end up on this same trip. Good for them as long as the trip income gets shared fairly?
We chose to rent Binya House for six nights.
NOT THE BEST CHOICE, with hindsight I wish we had gone upmarket to one of the 3 or 4 posher Eco lodges, accessed by water largely, but they were expensive x 3. What Lonely Planet fails to tell you, is how easy, and worry free the more expensive places make it to do all the trips to the Parque etc.
plus better quality and variety of food.
Binya House does offer great views across the Bay and privacy, there is also plenty of space, and as the web site pictures show, a small back garden and hammocks to lie in. There are ceiling fans in both bedrooms. It is relatively clean. But.... In terms of fit out it is basic. It would be easy and cheap to make it more comfortable with a little thought and care. No hot water. We wanted to do a little self catering. ( I think it is just unreasonable not to even leave matches to light the gas.) We soon found the small supermarkets but choice is limited, and fresh produce does not arrive every day, most of the fresh food is delivered to the hotels.
Surcos tours for overnight trip to Corcovada staying at Sirena Ranger Station.
GOOD CHOICE I think chosen after much deliberation from recommendation in Lonely Planet, and from very favorable forum posts. But there are not 3 of them, as Lonely Planet states, they also pull in free lance guides, and they are not based in Drakes Bay. This meant we couldn't meet our guide before we started the tour at 6.00 a.m. This would have been really useful to clear up a number of details, which I had tried to cover via email with Estela, Nito's sister. She answered every email, but sometimes we were at cross purposes, as I had no Spanish, her English is OK but not perfect. She allotted Bolivar to us, who was great, very experienced, not too talkative, and terrific at spotting wild life.
WHAT we wished we had known about the Parque and the Ranger Station. - Basically its 'easy peasy'
1. The boat drops you 20 mins walk from Sirena Ranger's station. (You will get at least your fee wet, so don't have your walking boots on.) Tents are awarded on a first come first served basis so a speedy walk from the boat is advised.
2. Once you have signed in your guide will take you to the sleeping platformThis means that you can leave any gear you don't want during the day in your tent. Much nicer to walk without a heavy back pack.
3. The walking is flat, and even after heavy rain, not difficult. The primary and secondary rainforest is not too dense to walk through. The trails are confined to those close to the two river mouths, sea and the ranger station. You will walk for several hours, but have a break on day one for lunch, and day two for breakfast and you are walking slowly and quietly so you don't disturb the animals.
4. Don't bother to self cater and lug food with you apart from nibbles. Meals at the ranger station need to be booked, with the guide. My son said it was some of the best food he had eaten in Costa Rica
5. Stop worrying about binoculars. The guides have access to spotter scopes, which they are brilliant at setting up on tripods and taking photographs via the scopes works well.
6. Rules at the Ranger Station are strict, lights out at 8.00 p.m. I was tired by them, like all camping there are always some annoying people who don't realise their voices carry, just as the snorers don't know the racket they make, take some ear plugs and get your head down. You will need all your energy for your 4.30 a.m start the next morning. The howler monkeys will wake you up anyway.
7. Most of the tents and mosquito nets, are covering decent blow up beds. At this time of year you just need a cotton sheet or two.
8. You will need strong insect repellant, and to carry the water you need for individual hikes.
9. Clothing despite all the advice about wearing long sleeved tops and trousers, few do. However most people were sensible enough to have reasonable footwear.
10. However you organize things; 2 nights, long walk to Leone etc, although you are in a remote area you will see other visitors when you are in the forests.
If we had known all this my husband would have joined us on the Corcovado trip. He would have been much the oldest, I was, but so what.
He could have flown in too in the little five seater, making it even easier.
It was a great trip, no we didn't see any pumas, but we did see a puma track plus, 4 sorts of monkey, huge sleeping tapirs, ant eaters, scarlet macaws, green mille parrots, a sloth, crested owls, peccaries, possums, coati, deer and Bolivar was really excited that Kit (son) videoed, a laughing kestrel slowly eating a green viper, head first. Several other hawks, falcons and hummingbirds and those lovely large butterflies that when open are a beautiful blue/mauve. The very last thing we saw to counter the falcon eating the snake was a bird eating snake.
Lovely time snorkeling, but hairy boat ride to Cano. First dive saw loads of beautiful highly coloured fish and a school of jacks to swim through. Luckily I missed seeing the white tipped shark, the deadliest of all sharks. Its a guided snorkel, so you do need to swim hard, but you have flippers to help. Second dive saw just three fish.
Tracie's night bug tour absolutely terrific and very professionally run by Tracie and John. We learnt and saw such amazing things; mating walking stick insects, the deadliest spider, net spiders, trap door spiders, sleeping birds, iguanas and tree frogs and worst an evil spaw, whose name I can't spell, who takes over the mind and body of its host before finally killing them.
This was my experience, despite a fair amount of research, I still didn't get the whole picture, and the research I did made me worry, about dangers and difficulties unnecessarily.
I hope future visitors to the Osa Peninsular find some if this useful.