Costa Rica is a small landmass located in Central America between Panama and Nicaragua. It borders on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. It is on the Caribbean side that one of earth’s most magnificent rain forests lies.
There are two ways to get from the capital, San Jose, to the rain forest: a five hour bus journey or a thirty minute plane ride. Well I’m not one for sitting on buses so off to the airport I went.
I was surprised when we bypassed the main terminal and headed for a field where a Twin Otter, built in 1964, had propellers slowly turning and seemed ready to go.
I ventured forth and climbed into the tiny cabin. There was room for about nineteen people and no door between the pilot and the passengers. I sat up front and had a clear view of the instruments – not necessarily a good thing. Questions like “Why is he [the pilot] touching those knobs?”, or “How come he looks so nervous?” raced through my mind.
We flew at 7,500 feet (I constantly watched the altimeter) and had spectacular views of Arenal Volcano, 1,000 feet higher. Below us were coffee plantations, pineapple fields and of course, the rain forest.
We landed along side the Caribbean and were greeted by 40+ temperatures and a humidity that was stifling. The rain forest is made up of dozens of narrow waterways, many of which were carved over a hundred years ago by loggers to ship felled trees out to the sea. A long canal runs parallel to the Caribbean and is the main highway through the forest.
I did not waste any time and began exploring the region as soon as possible. My guide was very knowledgeable and pointed out things that a tourist would have missed. I saw spiders the size of pancakes and iguanas spying at me from behind branches. The waters were riddled with caymans (small crocodiles) and magnificent birds were everywhere.
Toucans and parrots flew overhead and egrets and vultures sat on tree limbs. I travelled mostly by boat and leisurely floated through the winding waterways. Every turn was a photographer’s paradise.
After a few days of experiencing the natural wonders of the rain forest I decided to approach the area from a different perspective: a canopy tour. This was an adventure for which I was not prepared.
A one hour horse ride took me up a mountainside to a small platform where I was outfitted with a harness. I then had to walk to a cliff about fifty meters above the ground. Once there a guide fastened my safety line to a cable, which stretched high above the trees and disappeared into the distance.
“You’ve got to be kidding!” It was the last words I remember screaming and suddenly I found myself gliding along the cable 50 metres above the trees.
After what seemed an eternity I landed on a small platform about 8 metres square. There I had to climb two or three ladders to another small platform, only to be fastened to a new ‘zip’ line so I could soar again This one was five hundred metres long and quite a thrill. All my effort was spent on avoiding spinning as I flew through the air time and time again (nine times altogether).
All in all the entire experience was fascinating. Costa Rica’s Caribbean jungle is a paradise filled with wonders, rapidly disappearing from our planet. If you have the opportunity, seize it and experience the secrets of the rain forest.
Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit photosNtravel.com