As its muscular tail tightly squeezed around my arm, I could feel its head lightly slipping away from between my index finger and thumb, I began to feel a little nervous and confused as to why I had jumped at the chance to hold a wild boa constrictor; this heavily bodied snake well known for being a true killer. Luckily I had the assistance of Heraldo, our guide who had found the snake slithering around the gardens of our lodge.
We had literally just arrived and Heraldo, excitedly came running in to tell us what he had discovered and asked if we wanted to come and see!! He made quite the entrance and his excitable nature was incredibly infectious setting us up for an unforgettable stay at Playa Cativo eco-lodge.
The only way to find this rustic-luxury lodge is exclusively by boat and passing through the tranquil waters of Golfo Dulce I was wowed immediately. The landscape is like a setting from Jurassic Park: completely raw, remote, thick green wilderness and completely untainted by human influence. Simply put, it is nature at its best. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Piedras Blancas National Park, the area provides the ultimate and most unimaginable wildlife adventures, and is home to 2.5% of the entire worlds biodiversity. Playa Cativo lodge is isolated from the outside world, hidden amongst beautiful gardens and swaying coconut trees, it was to be my home for the next two nights and I felt like I was in paradise.
Following my heroic moment of holding a mighty two-meter long snake, we were off to explore the surrounding rainforest and pay a visit to the onsite organic farm. Within seconds, Heraldo was enthusiastically pointing out creatures here, there and everywhere; tarantulas, crabs, lizards, a variety of birds, howler monkeys, agoutis and the most mesmerizing Morpho blue butterflies fluttering across mangrove areas creating the perfect setting for an enchanted fairytale.
What’s most magical about Heraldo is how every creature is just as exciting as the last and his ability to explain the interaction between all of them and how each plays a significant part in keeping the rainforest alive is fascinating. We walked for around 40 minutes before reaching an open area of grassland, where the organic farm is located. On arrival, we were greeted by twenty something capuchin monkeys diving from one branch to the next and filling the air with high pitched whistles complimented by the growls of the howler monkeys somewhere off in the distance. The organic farm is full of freshly grown vegetables and herbs all of which are used in the restaurant to make the most divine freshly made meals. The food at Playa Cativo is completely Costa Rican and sourced from the area, it was outstanding and some of the best I had throughout my entire two-week stint in Costa Rica.
The following day at 5am, nature’s alarm clock sounded as the jungle became alive with a mix of bird song and the roaring vocal chords of the Howler monkeys marking their territory. It was the perfect way to wake up and certainly tops sounds of the chugging of trains I’m used to back home in London. At around 6am, I met with Heraldo and a few other early risers to enjoy a morning bird watch before breakfast. Walking around the gardens of the property, we were truly spoilt with what we saw, with over 350 species being sited in the area, we made a good dent to the list spotting toucans, barbets, trogons, mot-mots, woodpeckers and more. My jaw dropped at seeing seven Scarlet Macaws gliding to and from treetops in a circular pattern around the property. Watching them fly past as the sun glinted off of their bright feathers was spectacular. To see these majestic birds in the wild was breathtaking and to think the day had only just began and I hadn’t even left the garden.
After a freshly made breakfast of scrambled eggs and avocado, I was set for the days adventure ahead, mangrove-ocean kayaking in Rio Esquinas. To get to the mouth of the Esquinas River, we were taken on a boat which had a large wooden platform offering 360° views of the surrounding landscape. I could have stayed on the boat all day just getting lost in the views and the beauty of the jungle and the pristine waters that surrounded us. There is something all absorbing about this remote area of Costa Rica, with its dense green jungle, the mystery of what lies within is captivating. Along the way we were greeted with more Scarlet Macaws floating in the bright blue sky as well as a wide array of other birdlife. On many occasions Heraldo has also seen dolphins and whales frolicking in the ocean, which I’m sure would be an incredible experience!
On arrival at the estuary Heraldo whipped out a bunch of coconuts he had cut down before we departed and began hacking them open for us to all enjoy a refreshing drink before we hit the kayaks. Eager to explore I jumped straight in to my kayak and was off down the channel absorbing the picturesque views of the forest and remote farms. As I let the current take me down stream, I glided my paddle in and out of the calm waters admiring the sounds of the jungle; the snapping of branches and squeaks and squawks from all directions added to the mystery of what was within the deep green jungle. Once we had mastered maneuvering we kayaked deep in to the swampy mangroves exploring the narrow channels navigating around the looming roots of the trees that intertwined and overlapped one another forming an obstacle course. Shaded by towering trees we were completely enclosed by nature in its purest form. As we meandered through, Heraldo pointed out numerous bird species, which would have been completely missed without his eagle eyes. To get up so close to wildlife in a kayak was thrilling and the perfect way to explore the beauty of the National Park.
Once back at the lodge, we were left with an afternoon at leisure and here came the hardest decision I had to make during this trip: do I go snorkeling or try my luck at stand-up paddle boarding within the crystal clear waters of Cativo bay? I choose the latter and with the loud crashing of thunder and lightening strikes in the distance as I paddled along the eerily calm coastline in search of fish, manta rays and turtles it served as the perfect end to the day and my overall experience at Playa Cativo eco-lodge.