Arriving in Limon, Costa Rica
As we had found earlier on this 26 day cruise in Guatemala, we were again docked at the commercial port in Limon on the less developed coast of Costa Rica. Costa Rica had for a long time been on our list for places to visit but we had debated a visit to the rain forests to see the exotic species to be found or to head to the coast for a scuba diving trip. But who could pass up on the Costa Rica eco diversity and the infamous Red Eyed Tree Frog?
We were hoping this visit to the rainforest would give us a little bit more information to help us to decide where we might want to come back. Puerto Limon was a small, relatively undeveloped town. The vast majority of Costa Rican’s live in the central part of the country where it was a bit cooler than on either the Caribbean or Pacific coasts.
The story was told that Christopher Columbus first came to Costa Rica in 1502. He landed at the small island just off the port of Limon and the locals came to greet him in their best finery and gold. This resulted in his naming the country “Rich Coast” or “Costa Rica”. As we toured the Caribbean over our 26 day trip, we would find most countries claiming some kind of visit from Columbus.
We boarded our bus and it was a quick trip through the actual town of Limon. We saw a lot of houses built up on stilts. Even water that looked like small creeks could rise dramatically in the rainy season. Cemeteries on both sides of the road were a dominant feature. One was for locals and the other was for the large population of Chinese that came to Costa Rica to finish the railroad. There was also a large population of Jamaicans who had come to work on the railroad.
Creating the railroads was a major endeavour in Costa Rica – rivers were wide and forests were dense. Exploring was so hard on the Caribbean side that most of the early exploration was done on the Pacific side first. Rainfall on the Pacific coast is less than 40” per year, with 40-70” per year in the middle transitional area and increasing to 118-200” per year on the Caribbean more southerly coast.
It was a long ride to cover a relatively short distance on roads which quickly turned rough and rutted. He joked about us having to get out to push the bus but it was clear that these roads would be close to impassable once the rainy season begins. Costa Rica eco diversity was evident everywhere we looked.
We were lucky to be visiting in April. It is dry and hot from January to April but then the rains begin. The bus driver joked about there being rain for 13 months a year! Great to create the lush green tropical rain forests we were travelling through but not so great for tourists moving about and hoping not to be carried away by insect swarms. We had forgotten our insect repellant but other than one nasty bite, we returned to the ship unmolested.
We again got a good education about Costa Rica on the bus ride. Both the bus driver and the guide kept a sharp look out the passing scenery for things to show us. At one point they stopped the bus for us to see a two toed sloth awake and looking at us. They normally sleep 15 to 20 hrs per day curled in a ball, so we got a bit of a treat. They only come down about once a week and they even bury their excrement to stop predators from knowing they are close.
Costa Rica Eco Diversity at Veragua Rainforest
We finally bounced into the Veragua Rainforest. In season this facility is used for tourism and education of the tourists and is then used for research and education for the rest of the year. During our tour we talked to one researcher about the work he was doing related to the DNA of butterflies to determine how many distinct species there were in that spot.
As we walked about, we entered buildings with prominent educational displays and viewing areas – frogs, butterflies, reptiles and snakes. It was quite amazing to see the broad variety of species. We were reminded over and over again of their pride in the bio diversity of Costa Rica – they have 5% of the world’s bio diversity!
We took the gondola on a ride down to the lower level – sorta along the canopy line but not really a true canopy tour as advertised. While we heard howler monkeys a few times, we never saw any. One sloth was asleep in a ball but we were very disappointed to see no other animals or birds.
Arriving at the lower level of the park, we did our 350 steps up and then down and back up again to get to a small waterfall in the forest. It reminded us of the waterfalls you see all over British Columbia when you hike through the Canadian woods.
We found this trip to be interesting to see Costa Rica eco diversity but would have liked to see more species (especially monkeys and toucan birds). Maybe we would see more when we visited Panama next!
The things we learned along the way from the guide:
- There were skinny cows grazing in many of the fields but we were assured that they produced good lean meat
- Horse breeding was a relatively new export business for Paso types of horses
- The dense rainforest is heavily protected. It had been logged but this was cut back. Currently only 1% used for tourism
- In early times, the natives existed purely with barter and by growing what they needed
- At one time, cacao seeds were used as currency – 80 seeds equally one Spanish coin
- Today the currency is “colón” – named to honour Christopher Columbus
- In 1776, coffee was introduced to Costa Rica and in the 1920’s the first coffee exports were done. But that was expensive, slow and difficult at the time as transportation was all done by ox carts from the central part of the country to the Pacific coast. And then once at the Pacific coast, the coffee needed to be transported by water to Europe (6 months travel by boat). This was the major driver for the creation of the railroad from the central part to the Caribbean coast (for a much shorter ship transport to Europe).
- It took 19 years to complete the railroad and is often considered to be one of the most expensive railroads in the world
- There is no army in Costa Rica – more money available to education and healthcare
Where should we go when we go back to Costa Rica? Did you see a more varied collection of animals and birds?