“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.