Our friend Jessica recently visited us in Costa Rica, all the way from Oregon. Through Osa Mountain Village we were able to get a great deal on a boat rental for the day. (Thanks John Magee!) Gathering a special group of friends, we began our day boating down the Sierpe river, or Rio Sierpe, through the lush mangroves, to meet up with the Pacific Ocean, on the Lobo Del Mar.
The sleepy town of Sierpe, tucked into the picturesque Diquis Valley, is the main access point for people wanting to explore the Corcovado National Park, Drake Bay, or Cano Island. The mouths of the Sierpe and Terraba rivers join together, forming the Terraba-Sierpe National Wetlands, which are some of the largest mangroves on Earth.
Overflowing with diverse wildlife, our boat tour along the winding Sierpe river, through the rugged mangroves, was thrilling. Within seconds our captain spots a mammoth-sized crocodile sunning himself on the muddy shore and pulls up so we can admire his striking beauty.
Around every bend, more wildlife awaits. The eyes of our Tico captain and deckhand are impressive as they spot a troop of squirrel monkeys from across the river and navigate us over to watch them pluck ripe berries from a tree, while chirping excitedly amongst each other.
The riverbed is brimming with elegant, colorful birds, and as we float by a sand bar I manage to snap a photo of a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron standing near a Little Blue Heron.
Our goal was to spend the day at Cano Island, but our captain is cautious due to the powerful waves that are breaking between us and the Pacific Ocean. He decides to pull up to a deserted beach to wait out the weather.
Walking the untouched shore we explore the pristine beauty, as a pack of howler monkeys howl at us from a tree on the beach and a family of 6 vibrant Scarlet Macaws noisily fly overhead. The deserted shore takes our breath away with its perfection.
The sand is a mix of sparkling black and deep tan. A bubbling creek, trickling down from the jungle and meeting with the ocean, mixes the two colors into a brilliant pattern. A painting by Mother Nature herself.
Back at the boat our captain expresses hesitation about crossing the wave breakers to get closer to Cano Island. Recently a boat similar in size to ours had capsized in these waves, so he wants to make sure the conditions are safe for us.
He pulls up in front of the breakers, observing the patterns, reading the ocean like a book, waiting for the perfect, friendly lull. As the waves build and come at us in all directions, he expertly navigates the boat into and around each one. It is clear he is a skilled captain, as he circles around several times, awaiting the right moment.
The deckhand discreetly begins to grab life jackets and hands them out to all aboard. He places the last one at his feet, which is when I realize how serious this situation is. I quickly pull my lifejacket over my head, secure it, grab onto the sides of the boat and start praying.
Jessica tells me that we are not too far from shore, so if we do capsize it will be a short swim and at least we won't be stuck out at sea for days…somehow this observation does not make me feel any better. I have had a few near-drowning experiences in my life and I have a lot of respect for the ocean. As these devastating waves crash around us, I do not want to picture myself outside the boat, in these waves, struggling to survive.
As a travel blogger, my last thought before we plow forward at full speed, directly into the waves, is that if we do capsize and I survive, at least it will make for an interesting blog post….as all my near-death experiences in Costa Rica usually do.
The captain seizes the moment, guns the gas and carves his path into the water. He sees what others cannot, using years of instinct and expert navigational skills, maneuvering around one wave, and into another. He uses our momentum, bobs and weaves, dodges and ducks each wave until the clearing opens in front of us that he was waiting for, and we finally speed to safety, leaving all the deadly breakers in our dust.
The boat erupts with applause, the Ticos cheer and high-five each other, smiling gleefully at their success. "Pura Vidas!" are shared amongst us all, the chilling silence is replaced by excited chatter and shouts as we marvel over our terrifying encounter with the angry sea.
Continuing on our route we eventually see Cano Island in the distance, and notice an intense storm quickly approaching the shore.
So instead we pull into Playa San Josecito, located along the edge of the Corcovado National Park, to spend some time snorkeling and lounging on the beach, happy to be alive and not wanting to gamble with the sea again.
Due to a wet landing and having to swim to shore I was not able to bring my camera with us, so of course we had the most epic monkey encounter of our lives once on land. Sneaking up on a pack of white-faced capucin monkeys we observed them for what felt like hours, as they foraged on the ground for snacks.
Andy and I laughed as one of the monkeys lifted up a heavy coconut, nearly his size, and walks off, upright, like a human, carrying it above his head. He gingerly walks up a bending tree trunk, finding the perfect spot. He dramatically lifts the coconut high in the air and slams it onto the tree branch, trying to get to the sweet water inside.
We eventually have to pull ourselves away from our monkey meeting, and pile back onto the boat to head back before dark. The waves have calmed down and the return trip is peaceful and calm. The scenery in the late afternoon light leaves us speechless once again.
The animals are not done putting on a show for us just yet. From the front of the boat Andy spots a sloth hanging from a tree over the riverbed, munching on leaves. The captain pulls up beneath him so we can snap photos, and notices two other sloths lounging in the trees nearby.
The evening sun starts to fade and night descends. We are happy to be alive. The sunset-colored sky is mirrored in the water below, and our magical boat day of exploring the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica ties itself up into a perfect, pink package.
Pura Vida to all, and to all a good night...
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.