Zip lining through the trees at 6am in the morning. Ok so not something that you do every day at home but it is something that we did today. I have to say I was a bit apprehensive about this activity but the Trees Adventure leadership days that we have at school have paid off and I didn’t do too bad a job at all.
To get to the zip line you follow a dirt path through the rainforest and across two very large suspension bridges that have been made to traverse across a ravine. The bridges are great in that they put you closer to top of the forest and allow you to pick out creatures a little easier amongst the dense foliage. Mostly though at this time of the morning you hear things before you see them. It’s kinda cool how your senses tune into their surroundings. At home, sight is the dominant sense and then you listen; in an environment such as this what you hear takes place long before what you see; your eyes just do their best to catch up. It’s incredible how your body is able to switch so quickly and the longer we are here the more our body is able to listen and then locate. The guides on the other hand are amazing not only locating but identifying just by the sound what kind of creature or bird it is.
The zip line has not long been completed so the towers that you climb up are all new. There are two lines spanning across the large portion of the forest, each person goes one at a time making sure that they are aligned so as not to hit any of the nearby canopy trees that span the course. The aim of this activity is to have a bit of fun whilst seeing nature from a different viewpoint; higher than you can get any other way.
This morning was a slow start for the animals. Whilst the sun had risen, it was yet to get to this part of the forest and so the animals weren’t as active as they could have been. Whilst this was a little disappointing, one of the platforms that we sat on happened to be home to a pair of toucans (Claire’s favourite bird) and so were able to stand and watch them tend to their nest. The toucan is a beautiful bird; yellow and black with red underneath his tail. Nothing like a bird that you would see at home.
Whilst in the platform we were also given fruit and juice and therefore time just to look. Going out in places like this early in the morning is the best thing (even though it’s early in the morning). The day is full of possibilities, it’s not yet really hit and the animals and birds are scampering around looking for food and aligning themselves to certain spaces within the forest for the day. Nothing does this better than the howler monkey who starts at around 4am, alerting other groups to where he is going to be and ensuring that they stay out of his way. For the people who live here, it’s their alarm clock, for us it’s just plain cool.
The zip line activity went for around two hours by the time that we left and returned to the lodge. Then it was time for breakfast and a chance to work out what to do with the rest of the day. This was pretty much our first day with no activities planned for the morning or afternoon so we decided that the pool and a massage might be the go, Philip perched himself on the cabin deck, complete with two cameras, tripod, and a bucket of ice thanks to our friendly bar tender Yohan.
The great thing about El Romansa is that even when full there are only 30 guests so, whilst you see them and may even do an activity with them you are not on top of one another. It also means that if a few are on a tour you may have areas to yourself, feeling like you own the entire lodge. This is what happened as Claire and I sat by the pool, not a soul in sight except for the bar staff who bought us drinks when we wanted them but stayed out of our way otherwise. From the pool we could see monkeys in the distance, the ocean and the birds flying past. We could smell the Ylang Ylang from the tree nearby and the kitchen staff preparing for lunch. Ok so yeah it was very nice!
On top of this our massage added to the serenity and relaxation of the day. We had been told by some other guests that this was the massage to end all massages and would leave us completely spoilt for any future massage experiences. They weren’t all that wrong. Laura was a small girl who lived in Puerto Jimanez. Her work space at El Romanza was a little bamboo structure, open to the breeze except when closed the light curtains which still allowed for a waft to come in. From there you could hear the ocean, the monkeys, the birds – no need for a relaxation tape here, it was all live. Laura was a masseuse who liked to ‘get in’ without leaving you feel bruised. She went from top to bottom, not talking, just allowing you take it all in. For the $80US that we paid for the complete hour it was absolutely worth it and left you with that content, relaxed feeling that only a good massage can do.
Rested up from a day of relaxation, our last activity was a night hike with Renaldo, our Zip line man (Alvero was also our safety guide on the zip line). Night hikes here start at 5:30 and finish around 7:15pm, returning you back to the dining room for dinner. It gets dark not long after you start. The forest changes its intensity when it’s dark. By day, it’s a green, interesting and welcoming kind of space. At night it’s dark and full of unknowns making for a more eerier and threatening space, one that doesn’t seem quite so welcoming to intruders. Hence the need for a guide-one who reinforces that he is going first so that he can keep a look out for snakes and other beasts that we don’t want to have direct contact with. Here the Fer Der Land snake is common and a creature that people worry about. The main issue is that if bitten it’s quite some distance before any medical help can be provided so the upshot is to avoid this happening at all costs. No problems – stay behind, got it!
There is a distinct change though in what you see from day to night. During the day, birds and mammals dominate. At night it’s the reptiles, insects and amphibians. It’s like a changing of the guard happens between 5pm and 6pm and a whole new adventure opens up. The key though is to tune your eyes and ears in and look to the forest floor a lot more than what you do during the day.
We were able to see all manner of frogs from the giant to the tiny, lizards that hung to leaves almost invisible, shrimp in the river ways, giant tarantulas and yes two kinds of snakes including the Fer Der Land. We learnt that by holding the light at eye height different colours reflect back indicating the presence of millions of spiders (which freaked Philip out) or other critters depending upon the colour of the light reflection. Lots of information was delivered by a very knowledgeable guide during this time and his capacity to spot the smallest thing or even those hidden (like a frog that hides in the holes created by crabs and then covers himself with leaves to fool oncoming food opportunities) was amazing. In terms of time it was only short but we saw and learnt a lot and it was another really interesting opportunity to experience a different side of the forest one that we wouldn’t have got if we hadn’t gone out with a guide.
So another terrific day on the Osa Peninsula. Zipping high in the trees, looking low in the forest and chilling out on pool chairs and massage tables. Memorable!