Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
As the dark orange sun peeked through the horizon, we were awoken by the soothing waves of the open Central Pacific coast just off of Espadilla Sur, the first beach on Manuel Antonio National Park. This site is the northernmost point of our trip before our final disembarkation. One of the country’s natural jewels, this park harbors a unique type of rain forest – transitional forest – where the wet of the southwest meets the seasonally dry of the northwest. Costa Rica is blessed with extreme topography, from sea level to almost 14,000 feet above sea level, from the Caribbean to the Pacific; this characteristic gives way to many biomes or life zones and creates great diversity. To the trained eye this is an amazing experience, and today, through the expert eyes of the naturalists, we got to understand its beauty.
As soon as we got the okay from the park ranger’s station, we disembarked on to the white sand beach, where our infallible station awaited, with foot towels, water, sodas, floaters, and blue beach chairs. Two intrepid guests took the strenuous Cathedral Point trail, which offers a beautiful view of several of the small islets that belong to the park, along with the last opportunity of taking a long hike. The rest of us decided to test our luck for the last wildlife-spotting chance; and were we well rewarded!!! Sloths (both two and three-toed), ctenosaurs, yellow-crowned night herons, white-throated capuchin monkeys, casque-headed lizard, charming and rufous-tailed hummingbirds, heliconius butterflies, crab-eating raccoons, and many more came to welcome us into their domain.
Later, after we had taken advantage of the time on our own on the trails, we went back to the calm beach to enjoy a dip in the warm water and the subtle ocean waves. Very tired, worn out by the sun, the walks, and the waves, we returned to our vessel for a well-deserved lunch, our last on board the National Geographic Sea Lion. Nonetheless, our last day was not over yet. Directly after lunch, we were ready to go out again and enjoy Biesanz Beach on a small secluded cove where locals and Muscovy ducks enjoyed a tranquil afternoon. This was our last chance to use the kayaks, and many of us took the opportunity. Out we went again and swam one final time in the Pacific Ocean.
Back on board, we were all ready to take a long shower, start packing, download our pictures into the computer and to begin generating special moments from our Panama – Costa Rica trip, 2013. For some, this will be the first trip of the year, the first trip to Central America, or both, and if we are lucky enough, we will go home with good memories and maybe a new friend.