A private jungle tour in Costa Rica

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by Nikki Mantell on May 12, 2010

Costa Rica is just plain gorgeous. If I didn’t write that in last week’s piece on the beaches of Nosara, let me gush about this country’s rainforests this week.

This small Central American country realized some 50 years back ecotourism was the way to go: and as a result a whopping 27 per cent of its landmass is under environmental protection. Which is why every year hundreds of thousands of visitors descend on places like Monte Verde, a hugely popular cloudforest destination.

We were going to join the herd, but as luck would have it, my boyfriend Mike and I ended up instead in the little-known rural town of neighbouring Miramar. The misfortune of gambling on Costa Rica’s (we discovered) non-existent bus system meant we had to beg a ride off an American couple we met on the beach – to wherever they were headed in their rented car. As our good luck would have it, this meant tucking in to a gorgeous little mountaintop bungalow whose poolside view offered a breathtaking panorama of the Nicoya peninsula.

Despite the fact that tourism was just taking root in the region, our lovely and eccentric German B&B owner promised we could fulfill our goals of flying through the trees on an exhilarating jungle canopy zip line (which we did) and go for a slow paced hike through the country’s famous rainforest. That’s about all she said, and since the guidebook had nothing to say about our current location, that’s how we ended up at Colinas Verdes.

Jesus and his wife Alejandra run this “complejo ecoturistico”, having given up on cattle ranching three years ago. Seeing as their 18 some hectares border on an officially recognized nature reserve, their son convinced the them to develop the family farm into a tourist centre.

This I learned half way through our private two-person tour. No one else was at their still-under-construction centre that day. Still, Jesus beamed with pride as he showed us around the lodge, sleeping chalets, organic gardens and his collection of local animals. We fed the Costa Rican turkeys, shook hands with the Costa Rican raccoon, and as were told to pet the creature that looked like a Costa Rican hedgehog, I slipped Mike a quizzical look: had we just spent $50 on a cab to visit a Cost Rican petting zoo?

Fortunately, Jesus gave us our jungle tour. For anyone who has not visited a rainforest – do it at least once in your life, you’ll understand what all the fuss is about.

“Green” and “lush” don’t describe the way flora and fauna grow amongst and on top of each other. Grass grows on trees that grow on other trees. Moss grows on everything, including that strange spiky plant that looks like an overgrown fiddlehead. When a large bright blue butterfly (the kind I have pinned behind glass at home) flitted by I thought, “this is better than Avatar even in 3D”.

I can’t tell you the name of the plants we saw, since Jesus didn’t know either, but what Jesus did know what how to build a tree house. We climbed 14 metres up a ladder system built by Jesus and his brother, some steps already loose, all covered in slippery moss. We also ventured into his prized water-tank-turned-rope swing, which he then pushed to send us flying over a steep ravine. I was relieved when he admitted he had not yet received official permit and so he didn’t recommend we take his 500 metre zip line.

But his wife made up for it by serving a delicious lunch of fresh fruit and squeezed juice back at the lodge.

I’m not sure what the famous Monte Verde is like, but I highly recommend Jesus and Colinas Verdes: http://colinasverdescr.com/