Our Mission: To boldly go until we are no more!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Go Golfito

We have been power touring the Golfo Dulce area of Costa Rica for a week now and can say that the flora and fauna viewing is spectacular. Our three day two night excursion to the Oso Peninsula was well worthwhile and the Bosque del Cabo ‘eco lodge’ was a fantastic place to stay. Leaving Interlude at anchor in Golfito, we took a 0730 ‘local’ ferry ride across the Golfo Dulce and were greeted by the lodge driver for a bumpy one hour jeep ride along a rough gravel road that crossed three rivers. We saw and learned much more on guided walks that we did on our own and the accommodations and meals were very nice. We saw all four species of monkeys found in Costa Rica (spider, howler, white faced, and squirrel) right on the lodge property as well as three toed sloths and dozens of bird species including scarlet macaws and toucans. Insects, spiders, bats, snakes, lizards, frogs and toads were all identified and their importance to the local ecosystem explained. A canopy tour by zip line with 100 foot rappel to the forest floor was quite an exciting way to view the area. Started from humble beginnings as a surf camp by Phil, a young American surfer 23 years ago, the lodge is now an amazing property on over 750 acres of rainforest reserve.

A day excursion by hired boat took us to the Santuario Silvestre de Osa wildlife sanctuary (8d40.56’N, 83d19.48’W) and the Casa Orchidea botanical garden (8d39.45’N, 83d16.01’W). Although we could have taken Interlude and anchored off these locations it was faster and easier by panga.

The refuge was started in 1996 by Americans when injured wildlife and abandoned exotic pets began to outnumber the guests at their eco lodge. The foundation has around 90 animals is various stages of rehabilitation and has release over 300 back into the wild (adjacent Piedras Blancas National Park). Carol, our tour guide and founder of the sanctuary showed us the animals unable to be released including sloths, kinkajous (raccoon family), collared peccaries (similar to pigs), white faced capuchin monkeys, toucans, a tayra (weasel family), and a scarlet macaw. Carol greeted us with Sweetie, a female spider monkey who demanded the guests groom her in more of a dominance behavior than a physical necessity. She was the lowest in her troop’s pecking order and enjoyed being queen of the humans.

The Casa Orchidea, began when Ron and Trudy (+506-8829-1247) moved to Costa Rica in 1974. While trying to grow fruits for the local market they discovered their unique beach location was conducive to growing numerous indigenous coastal orchids and they started what is now a well established and maintained botanical garden. In addition to the unique plants we also saw two toucans about 6 feet above our heads resting in a palm tree.

Hiring a Land Rover and driver (chris.castellanos@gmail.com +506-8348-5158) for a day our first stop was a visit with Robert Beatham to tour his botanical gardens. Robert came down to Costa Rica in the 1950’s working for what is now Chiquita Banana and for the last 20 years has been growing palm oil that is processed and exported. He had quite an in depth knowledge of the medicinal properties of tropical plants and although in his 80’s looked and had the retention of someone 30 years younger. He is a bit of a free spirit having adopted and raised many local children that refer to him as ‘grandfather’. At the time of our visit he had about five rescue dogs and a pregnant German woman with her 7 month old baby living with him.

An hour further up the hills into coffee country we stopped for a self guided tour at the Wilson Botanical Gardens. Located at 3,900 feet the cool mountain air in the 70’s was a nice change from the 90 degree temperatures in Golfito. After a further 15 minute drive we had lunch at Lillianas, an Italian restaurant in the town of San Vito. Our diver explained that many Europeans resettled in Costa Rica after WWII paving the way for the current wave of expats in the 1970’s-present. However, this influx has pushed up property prices and a typical 1,500 square foot house now costs $80,000 in the Golfito region with mortgage rates in the upper teens making housing affordability difficult for the locals. With the cost of diesel at $4.60 a gallon the only real bargain left is the locally grown fruits and vegetables that taste organic and cost about one fifth of what we pay in the States. The latest big wave of foreign money coincided with Golfito being a stop for yacht carriers, including Dockwise, that can transport dozens of sport fishing boats here that previously would have had difficulty making it here on their own bottom. Currently there are fifteen million dollar sport fishing boats paying $200 to $300 a night for a berth ashore and burn up to 200 gallons of diesel an hour. With locals that make only a few hundred dollars a month completing for resources with owners of unlimited budgets we have been told that opportunistic theft is not uncommon and we keep Interlude’s decks free of loose gear and lock ourselves in every night. Additionally we hired a ‘boat sitter’ (Chama, +506-8834-8422) to stay aboard at night when we visited Bosque Del Cabo. However, we have found most of the locals to be friendly, happy and industrious.

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