“May the sun bring you energy by day, may the moon softly restore you at night, may the rain wash away your worries, may the breeze blow new strength onto your being, may you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.” – Apache Blessing
Gently pushing off the southern tip of Costa Rica lies the beautifully pristine Osa Peninsula, a magical paradise of untouched virgin rain forests, deserted beaches and rural communities relatively hidden from mainstream tourism. Named by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place on earth,” the Osa Peninsula is a treasure trove of land, water, and life hosting 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity within an area of just 700 square miles.
It is here where conservationist and filmmaker Eytan Elterman and his good friend photographer Marco Bollinger lived for five months to produce the award-winning documentary “2.5 % – The Osa Peninsula”. This experience changed the course of their lives and inspired them to create Lokal, an online booking platform and marketplace for community-based rural tourism in remote places around the world.
It was my interview with Lokal’s co-founder Eytan Elterman that would inspire me to join Lokal on their first ever week-long adventure in the Osa Peninsula, rewarding me with the unique opportunity to immerse myself in local life, culture and nature in one of the most magical places on the planet. I would travel to places few tourists have ever seen, and spend a week bathing in waterfalls, swimming in the sea and hiking in the deepest parts of the rainforest. I confess it would be even an adventure for an adventurous girl. Yet I was ready.
Reaching the Osa Peninsula is not for the faint of heart. First, you have to get to Costa Rica which for me required two three-and-a-half hour flights. Once there, the fastest and easiest way to reach the Osa Peninsula is via small propeller airline. The Osa can also be reached by small boat or during a long, arduous car ride on bumpy, unpaved roads. Given the short amount of time I’d have in Costa Rica, I opted to fly from San Jose however it didn’t come without its own set of concerns. Despite having an excellent safety record, I tend to be a little apprehensive flying on small planes especially after my absolutely terrifying flight over the Himalayas in Nepal six years ago on an old Russian plane.
Yet, I tossed my concerns aside just like I did with this entire trip. I was stepping out of my comfort zone and flying in a small plane was going to be the very first baby step to what would be a truly amazing adventure. I wasn’t going to get to one of the most biologically diverse places on earth without taking a few risks.
I rose at 3 am to the darkness of another cold winter’s day. I didn’t have time to think about the adventure I was about to partake as the cab bringing me to the airport would be arriving soon. I blew a kiss goodbye to my husband and kids, hugged the dog and was out the door feeling half awake after a restless night’s sleep.
I had spent the last couple of days feeling a mixture of utter excitement, joy and trepidation. The past two months leading up to this adventure have been a rollercoaster of emotions that seemed to directly parallel my feelings about the trip. From the highs of six weeks of family birthdays and holidays to the lows of anxiety and despair over the ugly presidential election, I was feeling like my head was going to explode. I couldn’t concentrate and felt truly overwhelmed. My type-A worrywart personality was sneaking into me and filling my mind with doubt. I had hardly even read the itinerary before deciding to go. Would it be alright?
It was obvious that I desperately needed this trip. I needed an escape to revitalize my weary soul and give me hope once again in the beauty of the world and in humanity. If all went according to plan, this trip would give me everything and more than I had ever hoped to achieve.
Ten hours after I left my house in bone-chilling cold Minnesota, I landed to sunny, blue skies and exorbitant greenery in San Jose. I grabbed my luggage, proceeded through customs and walked the short two blocks outside of the airport to Sansa Airlines, one of Costa Rica’s two domestic airlines. Immediately I felt welcomed by Tica hospitality. Countless people smiled and waved, and informed me that Sansa Airlines was around the corner. The warm sun prickled my pale skin and brought a smile to my face. After weeks in sub-zero temperatures I finally was hot and sweaty and it sure felt great, Pura Vida.
Everything I needed for the trip was carefully planned out and packed within my 20 pound duffel bag. Portable solar phone charger and lantern, breathable quick dry t-shirts and shorts. Bathing suit. Rain jacket. Sunscreen and bug spray, camera, notepad and pens. I carried a small day pack for when I’d leave my duffel bag behind and stay up in the jungle. Inside was a sun hat, one small quick dry towel, my toiletries, my iPhone and a book that I never read. Not inside was my beloved laptop which made me feel somewhat naked.
I sighed with relief when my bag was within the weight limits for Sansa Air. I didn’t want to be charged per pound extra for over the weight limit. They even weighed me which was reassuring but they did not take my bottled water or check my luggage through security on the flight back.
I waited patiently in the tiny 40-person lounge of Sansa Airlines for my final flight to the Osa. The waiting room was filled with a mix of tourists and locals coming and going to one of the handful of destinations throughout Costa Rica. I used my time to access the internet for one of the last times. WiFi is hard to come by in most of the Osa Peninsula and when you do find it, it is very slow. I would use this week to truly disconnect from the world, and little did I know it would be a beautiful thing.
The Sansa Airlines boarding process was unlike any I’ve ever experienced. Right after the plane landed and the passengers disembarked, the captain entered the waiting area with a clipboard in hand reading off the last names of all ten passengers to board the plane. We lined up single file, walked out to the plane and boarded choosing whatever seat we desired. I chose to sit up front next to the pilot. For some reason, it made me feel more safe. I’m glad I did as the view was tremendous and it was a rare treat to be able to almost touch the pilot’s head if I wanted to (of course didn’t!).
As the pilot slowly steered the plane out to the runway, I held my breath. To say I wasn’t nervous was an understatement. Yet, as soon as we lifted off into the sky I felt at ease. It was absolutely amazing flying right up front with a bird’s-eye view.
I took advantage of my seat by capturing this video of the plane descending into the Osa Peninsula. As the sun began to dip below the horizon, the entire peninsula gave off a warm glossy mystical glow. My heart fluttered at the surreal beauty of the place. I instantly knew that everything was going to be alright. In fact, it was going to be amazing.
Thankfully the flight was as smooth as can be and we landed without me loosing my lunch. My heart raced with excitement of the adventure that would begin the moment I stepped off the plane. Would the trip be everything I had hoped for and more? You will have to wait and see.
Landing in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula at Puerto Jimenez was truly an exhilarating experience! Children greeted us with waving hands along the narrow little land strip. And so the adventure began.
This video was filmed by Eytan Elterman of Lokal Travel.
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the post.
looks absolutely incredible
Thank you so much! It was a wonderful trip!
Stunning place Nicole!
Thanks Arv. It was a magical week.
Wow. ¡Qué bueno! I knew there would be a good reason to speak Spanish, this place might just be it!
Si! This is my second time to Costa Rica and out of all of Latin America it is one of my most favorite countries. It is gorgeous, full of life and the people have a way of living that just makes you feel amazing. I would definitely plan a trip there! There were a lot of Europeans there when I visited. I know there are so good flights. 🙂
Costa Rica has actually been on my radar for a while as my next volunteering project, although it will be a couple years I think before I get there. Hadn’t considered travelling around though and no idea where the project is in relation to that peninsula. Will definitely keep this in mind when the time comes!
Sounds amazing. What kind of volunteer work do you want to do in CR? I volunteered there about six years ago at an old people’s home. That is when I fell in love with CR. The people are amazing!
I’m a vet so I usually volunteer at charity-run veterinary clinics, or failing that an animal rescue charity. I’ve had my eye on a sloth orphanage for a while, or World Vets, which runs worldwide projects to offer free veterinary care in impoverished places may run a project there at some point that I’ll join.
Oh that is so cool! There are many opportunities to help out I’m sure and actually there is an animal rescue sanctuary in the heart of the Osa, in Puerto Jimenez! My friend visited it and they work on rehabilitating animals like sloths, monkeys and so forth. Now that would be a really cool place to help out at! I’m sure you can find it if you google it. If not let me know.
Thank you so much!
it has always been a dream of mind to travel your photo’s and description is motivation for me to say hey single mother of two heck so what i should still be able to see the world heck i will take my children with me let them see the world too.
Go for it! And if you can bring the kids even better!
The beginning of an amazing adventure – can’t wait to hear the rest!
Thanks Alison! This post took some time as it is hard to put the trip into words. I’m hoping from now on it flows better and this time I brought a journal and wrote every day to help me remember details. Got that trick from you!
It’s a good trick that I should stick to! We’re at a festival in Chiapas and it’s day five and finally today I’ll make some notes!
I know what you mean about some posts taking time to come out, and other just about write themselves.
Can’t wait to read about it Alison!
It sounds like your trip and mine to Cuba both came at a time when we desperately needed them but had done little to really prepare and think about them! I’ve never felt so unready for a trip as I did this one; we totally winged it and of course everything turned out just fine. I almost didn’t go. The stress of the holidays and packing up our 20+-year home with the kids, plus the apartment moves, job changes, etc. really made me just want to curl up in a ball. You are right that I would LOVE the adventure you just had! I am going to look at the company’s offerings, and I can’t wait to read more about your trip.
Wow, that sounds like you had a ton going on Lexi. I felt pretty overwhelmed too and literally just packed my stuff with no idea what I was doing and went. It was the most freeing thing I’ve done in a long time. And yes, I know you would LOVE LOVE LOVE this trip. Lokal is running a few more this summer, a couple to Costa Rica and a new one to Guatemala. I don’t know if it is up on the web but if you are interested let me know as I can maybe get you a discount. You would truly enjoy this trip! I thought of you while I was on it. 🙂
Good for you that you tossed your concerns aside and got yourself to Osa Peninsula. Even just getting there seems like a lovely experience. And as always you captured some beautiful images.
Thanks Otto! It was my first time really experiencing the jungle too and I was amazed by how incredibly spiritual it was. The sounds, the animals, the flowers, the birds. Everything.
Pura Vida, indeed! Looking forward to the next installments!
Thank you so much! Next one coming soon!
Beautiful images. You made quite a few trips last year, how wonderful!
Thanks Amy! Yes it ended up being a very busy year. I decided I have to slow down a bit for awhile. 🙂
Nicole the shot of the lagoon is gorgeous. I look forward to reading about what already seems like an island paradise. Louise
Thanks Louise! The lagoon was pretty amazing. There were so many birds and hearing the howler monkeys in the distance was pretty surreal. They truly roar. I am amazed by how spiritual the jungle felt to me.
Another great experience to be shared…
Thanks Sally! You would have been enamored by the nature there. I can just imagine the photos and words you would have come up with from Costa Rica. I also was happy to learn that they are doing so much with conservation and preservation there. It made me feel really happy. Now to get the same to happen here in the US!
What an adventure Nicole. Good for you to overcome any uncertainty and jump right in. The waterfalls look astounding and I really enjoyed the little video clips too.
Thanks Sue! This was by far one of the best trips I’ve done in a long time. It was so adventurous and made me feel so incredibly alive. I loved it. We are taking our kids to CR this April for spring break. It will be their first real out of country adventure. I am so excited. We are doing mostly the north and have picked out lots of fun activities to whet their appetite for travel!
Oh Nicole – you make the rest of us feel like bumps on a log!!! I often wonder about your husband and children as you fly off to save the world but knowing you they are content and busy as they await your return! Hope the adventure is/was wonderful!
It was really amazing Tina. I’m back now and working on writing up all the content. I am so fortunate to have such a supportive husband. It is not easy leaving. I get pretty stressed out but the good news is I come back reenergized and ready to go. 🙂
I felt myself decompressing just reading your post Nicole. I should have taken the time to read this a couple of weeks ago to help relieve my stress. Can’t wait to read more.
Thanks LuAnn! I did an entire day of advocacy yesterday and am feeling stronger and better. Hope you are well. Would love to know what you are up to!
Glad to hear that Nicole. I have a meeting that I am attending Wed night. If anything substantive comes out of that meeting regarding next steps, I will send you our thoughts. I am trying not to let this consume me but trying to stay informed…a very difficult balance. On a lighter subject, hubby and I are hoping to spend the summer as program assistants for field seminars in Yellowstone. We are going through the interview process now.
Yes I would love to connect and hear. AS for your summer program, that is AMAZING!!! How fun! What will be your duties? How awesome!