Whether you call it Spring Break, Holy Week or Semana Santa, the week when the world takes a spring holiday is here. In Costa Rica this vacation time falls on the week leading up to Easter, also known as Semana Santa. It is a very popular time to travel, particularly to the beaches. In mid-February I did some research and decided I wanted to take a yoga vacation. After contacting countless places I realized, that I simply couldn’t afford the kind of “yoga vacation” I wanted. Which is when I remembered about Drake Bay. Somewhere I had read about Drake Bay and the amazingly clean and empty beaches and the lush marine and land animal life. I got in touch with a couple of lodges and found a place that had availability and was within my price range. I love planning vacations, I think I might actually enjoy that aspect a little too much! Anyway, this past Sunday I boarded another Nature Air Flight ($75 each way–15lbs of checked luggage and up to 10lbs carry-on) and headed to Drake Bay (Bahía Drake en Español).
Just landed in Drake Bay, next passengers headed out to the plane.
I was staying at Las Caletas Lodge, which required a land and boat transfer from the airport. At the airport I met my taxi driver, who was very friendly. He was so friendly, in fact, that when we got to this little creek that was covering the “road”, there were some tourists stuck trying to figure out how to cross in their Honda Civic. He said (to them): “Don’t worry it isn’t too deep, just follow me”. Off we went across the creek, to my surprise (and theirs too, I think) the Honda made it across with no problems. The driver dropped me at the beach with instructions to wait for the boat from Las Caletas, which was blue (he showed me another that looked like it, so I would know the color). I had been told by the lodge to wear shorts and sandals because they did “beach landings”. As I sat waiting for my blue boat to arrive, I watched the daily happenings on the beach.
Loading up some fruit and veg to take to a lodge.
After a few minutes my boat arrived and I watched as the captain backed the boat onto the shore (without actually beaching it) and then beckoned for me to get on. You’ll notice in the above picture that this wasn’t exactly calm water. But, doing this multiple times a day I guess you get the hang of it. I was on the boat and we were off before I could even sit down. My accommodation for this vacation was a deluxe tent (colloquially known as “glamping”). It was clean, nicely appointed and cozy, with electricity, a big bed and an amazing view.
That first afternoon I sat and talked for a while with some lovely American ladies who were staying there and then I did a little walk to see what was around. The meals (the room rate is full board) are served on a strict schedule at Las Caletas with everyone eating together, which I really, really like. At dinner I was able to meet the other guests, and get to know what was around to see and do. I spoke with the guide about where to see the best wildlife and made a plan to go for a walk in the morning.
The lodge is located along a beach path so there is easy access to great walking, where the rainforest meets the beach, for all the guests in the lodges as well as for the locals who are going to and from work and home. The first thing I noticed about the path and beaches was how clean they were. I saw very little garbage, which in my small amount of experience is unusual for Costa Rica. I asked the bartender/server/busiest guy at Las Caletas, Jhon, about this later in the day and he said that the people clean the path as they go. He said they have a Foundation that works to keep the area clean.
My morning walk was very important to me as I was in search of a very special bird, but I also found many other animals, special migrating butterflies and a quaint school, where “Here we study to improve”. (Apparently these butterflies come from South America and only do this migration every four years! It was special indeed!
A black hawk.
Cute little woodpecker.
A school along the route.
The migrating butterflies take a rest.
I set out searching for the Scarlet Macaw, and I found two trees with at least 10 different birds. Absolutely stunning, though very difficult to photograph. They are constantly moving and despite their bright colors can hide very well. I had such fun watching them eat, fight and just enjoy their day.
How many do you see? (I count four.)
I spent the afternoon after my walk reading and relaxing. At one point in the afternoon I was texting with my Mom and I was talking pictures of the “view” from my tent, when something caught my eye:
Can you see it?
Can you make it out? Right there in the center of the picture? That’s right, you got it, a little white face! That little white face belonged to the look-out for a troop of White-faced Capuchin monkeys. When I got up to get a better look, I found them munching away on a tree, including a momma with her baby! The following day (Tuesday), I went on a half day snorkeling excursion at Isla Caño. I don’t have any pictures from that, but we did see quite a lot. The first thing that I saw (besides fish) was many, many jellyfish. They were everywhere and they were stinging. I had on a long sleeve shirt, which helped, but I did get about four good stings on my legs. They are quite painful for about 30 seconds, but then they just sort of tingle. Anyway, I was not going let the jellyfish or my leaking mask keep me from checking out the sea life. We saw amazing things, a massive school of big-eyed jacks, puffer fish, two hawksbill sea turtles and one sleeping white-tipped reef shark. It was a pretty successful day. We then headed back toward the mainland and en-route got an amazing show from a pod of Spotted Dolphins. The water was rough and they were jumping and swimming in the added roughness made by our wake. It was so beautiful. I spent the remainder of the day reading on the beach, swimming, reading in the hammock and simply just taking in the views.
Pretty awesome location for some afternoon reading.
On Wednesday, I walked the opposite direction on the path. Here are some views from the walk.
The sign above the bridge says “clean as you go” and the bridge had a sign on it for the Corcovado Foundation, the group that works to keep this area amazing.
This is the start of the path from the town of Agujitas (where I got on the boat). Glad I didn’t have to carry my 24.5lbs of luggage for 35min…
I had been told about a “scary” hanging bridge that I had to check out for myself. It was starting to get really hot, and I was moving away from the nice ocean breeze and I really wanted to turn around, put on my swim suit and hit the beach. I am so glad I didn’t, for when I finally made it out of the heat and down the hill toward the hanging bridge, I was met with an awesome sight. This was so wonderful, I barely had to zoom at all! This male sloth appeared to be searching for a mate as he was clearly following a scent as he moved around the trees. The river was a really lovely color as well.
The “scary” (not at all!) hanging bridge.
The final night while waiting for dinner (on the patio where no shoes are allowed) a nice guest showed the bartender something he had seen in the bar. It was quite the sight, a scorpion eating a cockroach! This got me excited for the night walk we had planned that evening, but we didn’t see much, unfortunately. We did luck out and see a basilisk lizard (like the one I found on Monday, pictured below) run across the surface of the pond. That’s right, those large back legs allow these little guys to run standing upright and to do so on top of water, they are also referred to as Jesus Christ lizards.
We saw a couple of frogs, neon blue crayfish (which also have reflective eyes!), snakes and more scorpions–which I honestly didn’t need to see. But this tiny frog, still with its tadpole tail, was worth it! Today I flew back to San Jose, and I got some spectacular views on the way. It was such an amazing trip, I feel very relaxed and blessed to have met some nice people and seen some wonderful wildlife!
The Nature Air office, check-in/waiting area. No security.
Getting ready to take off.
Do you see how the land makes a whale’s tail? This is Ballena Bay.