Thursday, March 05, 2009

Feb 28-Mar 5, 2009 - Tamarindo, Costa Rica

February 28, 2009 – Saturday – San Jose to Tamarindo

This morning I share breakfast with several of the Southern Skies tour group before they leave for home. I also hook up with a couple who I will share a ride with to Pavas airport, where we will catch a flight to Tamarindo. My friends are also at breakfast, however they have arranged for a private driver and van to drive them to Hotel Las Tortugas in Tamarindo. I'm glad to be flying, since it takes about an hour instead of about six hours of driving time from San Jose.

Nature Air charges me US$25 for my overweight bag, which I expected since they have a strict 35lb limit for baggage. They use Twin Otter aircraft, so they also weigh each passenger (including carry-ons) at check-in. Obviously they are pretty careful about overloading their aircraft. Pavas Airport is a nice airport – small enough to make it easy to find the airline counter you are looking for. The staff is casual, friendly, and helpful.

Our flight leaves at 11:45am, which is a bit later than the 11:15am departure time printed on my e-ticket, but who cares since we don't have to make any connections. I get some really nice aerial photos as we fly to Liberia, and then onward to Tamarindo. Liberia is an international airport, with flights from American Airlines, Continental, and Air Canada landing here. If I had known that, I could have returned home from Liberia instead of taking an extra day to fly to San Jose and staying overnight there.

The taxi ride from Tamarindo airport to the hotel costs me US$30. I was expecting to pay $20, however the hotel staff tell me that is the fare for the 20 minute ride.  I think that's excessive, even for a tourist area. 

The staff at Hotel Las Tortugas are very friendly. Although not all speak English, they all understand some of what I say. I am quickly booked into my room as previously arranged, and have some time to settle in and have a shower before my friends arrive mid-afternoon from their drive from San Jose. We have a beer and a chat before they go to their room to have a siesta before dinner.

March 1-5, 2009

I like Hotel Las Tortugas – it is casual, unpretentious, located right on the beach beside the turtle preserve, the staff are all very friendly, and the meals are excellent. I'm trying to stick to the Costa Rican selections on the menu, so that inevitably means eating some beans and rice, but it's "good for me". As at La Ensenada, the food quality here is excellent. I'm particularly enjoying the chicken and seafood (very flavourful and nicely spiced) and the fresh fruit (juicy and full-flavoured). It makes the fruit we get in Canada seem so anaemic.

We met Louis Wilson, the owner of Hotel Las Tortugas yesterday. He described some of the environmental battles that have been waged in the Tamarindo area – turtles versus development. As is the case in every part of the world, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and there is always environmental impact when humans are involved. We go for early morning walks and on two occasions saw turtle tracks – one morning big turtle tracks (the size of an ATV), and another time we saw baby turtle tracks. We also discovered some broken and damaged eggs, but we never spot the turtles themselves. Turtle Season ended on February 15th, so we obviously missed the best time to see turtles.

Each evening we join the dozens of people who gather on the beach just before sunset. As at Long Beach on Vancouver Island, sunset is a special time. We see lots of colours ranging from yellow, pink, red, and some sculpted clouds. As with elsewhere in the tropics, the Sun sets in about twenty minutes, so by 6:15pm each evening the show is over and everyone moves to the bar and restaurant. I take some good photos of the sunsets over the last few days. Getting some subject matter in the foreground is always a challenge.

March 3, 2009 – Tuesday – Estuary Boat Trip – My friends and I are up at 6am in order to be picked up at 7am for a taxi ride to Hotel Bula Bula, where we will be taken on a two hour motorboat trip up the estuary. We have time for a very nice breakfast in The Great Waltini's restaurant, where they have a tame parrot who entertains everyone with his antics. After breakfast the three of us board the little 8-seater boat and wind our way through the narrow channels of Estero Tamarindo, a national wildlife refuge. Since we depart at 8am, the temperature is pleasantly cool. We see lots of birds, go ashore to see a group of Howler monkeys, and also spot a couple of crocodiles from the boat. We return to our launch point by 10am and our taxi is waiting to take us back to the hotel. Cost of the boat trip is US$25 each, plus US$10 each way for the taxi – breakfast extra of course.

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