Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa RicaMarch 25, 2017 in Costa Rica ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C
Caribbean vibes, a change in weather, beach time and one last dose of animals.
Puerto Viejo is a small beachside town on the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and it also happens to be our last stop in this country. There's a few different beaches either side of the town, a couple of which have some decent surf so it's a popular place for surfers here. Otherwise there's not a heck of a lot going on but the Rastafarian culture is definitely apparent in this neck of the woods.
Given we had the flexibility of a car and the hostel options weren't looking great, the four of us opted to stay in an Airbnb house about 4-5km south of the actual town for just a few extra bucks a night each. It was a wise decision and we ended up with a wee two bedroom place nestled in amongst the jungle with the best kitchen I've seen in a long while, (which we made some good use of) and essentially an outdoor living room. The perks of having an all year round warm climate I guess! We did have our fair share of insect visitors though, can't have it all. We spent much of our time here just relaxing as the previous week had been jam-packed with walks, activities and clocking up the driving hours.
The first night rendered us some torrential rain which seems to have been a common theme in this country, a bit of a novelty considering we've seen next to none for the rest of the trip. The novelty soon wore off when we wanted to go and make the most of the beach, but instead we ventured to the nearby Cahuita National Park for a walk in the jungle by the beaches in the drizzling rain. In the beginning it was almost as if the sky and sea had merged into the same dull grey, but by the end of our leisurely stroll the day was trying to clear and the horizon became obvious again. Hooray!
We were blessed with much better weather the following day so we kicked off the morning with a visit to the Jaguar Rescue Centre. This non-profit animal sanctuary and rescue centre was started by two vets who looked after a sick baby jaguar after its mother was murdered. Unfortunately the baby also died in the end, hence why they named the rescue centre after her. Nowadays they rehabilitate all sorts of different animals from birds, monkeys and sloths to crocodiles, wild cats and deer, with the view of reintroducing them back into the wild where possible. Any animal that couldn't go back to the wild for whatever reason, is given a permanent home at the centre. It is a slick run operation and it was great to visit a place that genuinely cared for the animals. You hear far too many stories of places that pose as rescue centres or sanctuaries but still treat the animals badly or don't try hard enough to get them back out there.
The only way the centre makes money to care for the animals is from people like us visiting or just generally giving donations. The only way to visit involves doing a which allows you to meet all the animals and hear their stories of how they got there and their progress. Even though many of the species we had already seen in the wild, it was amazing to see these ones up close and to see each of their different personalities. One that was particularly cute was Rollo, a baby white-faced monkey who kept doing a little growl. The other was a peccary (similar to a pig) called Conchita who roams free in the centre and kept making cameo appearances as we made our way around, too funny. She was found alone when normally this type of pig travel in groups, so she was bought to the centre a couple of weeks prior. The other animals to mention are the sloths, of which they have many. Unfortunately a lot of animals in Costa Rica are either hurt or killed by the power lines as they're poorly insulated, so many sloth babies are often left without mothers which is how they end up at the centre. While it's obviously not great the reason they're at the centre in the first place, at least they're getting the help they need to get back into the wild when they're old enough and oh my goodness they make for cute viewing! The centre has many of the two-toed sloths which we haven't really seen and they are adorable so we were very happy to see them.
While the centre doesn't currently have jaguars, they did have a few other types of wild cats, none of which we'd managed to see thus far as many of them are endangered, nocturnal or just much deeper in the forest. The margay was by far the cutest but also supposedly the most feral of the ones we saw. They're probably smaller than a medium sized dog but they can do some serious damage. The one currently there supposedly tried to take down a deer in the centre at one point before the staff came to the rescue, so you definitely wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of it. They also had an ocelot and a jaguarundi which had an abnormality in its spine which is currently awaiting surgery for.
The Jaguar Rescue Centre was definitely a highlight and it was nice to know that the money was going somewhere useful. Who knows, maybe I'll come back to Puerto Viejo someday and help to volunteer here too. Playing with baby monkeys and sloths all day doesn't seem like too much of a tough gig!
With the sun well and truly shining, the rest of our afternoon was spent at one of the best beaches in the area, Playa Cocles. There happened to be a surf competition on the same weekend so it was quite busy but made for some good entertainment in between body surfing the waves ourselves. Finally some sea water that was a refreshing temperature! Win.
Puerto Viejo also marked our final destination with Shorty and Em as they head north to Tortuguero for a few days before flying back to London and we head south to Panamá. They've been some great travel buds and it's been awesome to catch up after a few months apart. We had a few overpriced beers (compared to the rest of Central America) at the beach to commemorate the occasion and bid farewell to them, Terry and Costa Rica the following morning.
Costa Rica has been a completely different ball game to all the other Central American countries to date. It almost doesn't fit the mould. The prices for everything are much higher for a start, it's much cleaner in terms lack of rubbish, everything is lush and green - there are 35 national parks covering 11% of the country. There's animals to be seen everywhere and we saw more than our fair share of them. Some things here are more forward, some things are backwards. It's interesting. All in all we've had a great time getting amongst nature and having some freedom with a car for a couple of weeks was definitely a plus too.
Pura Vida Costa Rica. Back to the bus game for us. Panamá here we come.Read more