“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order”. – John Burroughs
By my fifth day in the Osa Peninsula, I was finally beginning to fall into a rhythm. My rusty Spanish was improving and I could comprehend more. My body had adjusted to the high humidity and heat of the jungle, and I naturally began rising at dawn with the morning sun and singing of the birds. My soul was relaxed, and I finally felt peaceful and free. Sadly I only had three more days left of my epic adventure yet I was determined to make these three days as fantastic as possible.
There is something about a Costa Rican breakfast that makes me smile. It is almost always the same: Gallo Pinto. Black beans and rice from the meal the evening before, stir-fried with the magic Costa Rican sauce Lizano and then topped with queso crema, a homemade sour cream that has a tangy taste to it and complements the dish well. There may be a slight variation to the morning meal that includes scrambled eggs, freshly made tortillas, fruit or fried plantains. But the gallo pinto are always available and after my week in Costa Rica I grew to love it.
For today’s tour, we would meet Carlos Villalobos at his family property in Rancho Quemado for a birdwatching canoe ride on “Laguna Chocuaco” their private rainforest lagoon. We said our goodbyes to our friends Alice and Enrique at Rancho Verde and were on our way.
Carlos and his family have owned the property for decades and opened up for rural tourism back in 2010. Their property includes a farm with livestock (pigs, chickens, cows and horses), a vast pasture and field for growing trees and produce, a dormitory for tourists to stay in, and a large open-air eating area for home-cooked Costa Rican meals.
When we arrived at the ranch, Carlos’ brother was milking the cows and getting ready to lead them out to the pasture. We had a brief tour of the farm and then headed out to the pasture where Carlos showed us some of the trees that they raise at the family farm.
While many farmers cut down all the trees so there is more pasture for the livestock to graze on, Carlos and his family believe it is important to keep the trees for various reasons. The trees provide shade for the animals on the hot, humid days and fruit for the birds and to sell at the market. Lots of birds like toucans rely on the seeds and flowers off the tops of the trees for their diets. The trees also provide a lot of natural beauty to the landscape and a place for birds to nest in. The property has over 40 species of birds in which 20 species live along the low growing trees and bushes along the lagoon.
We spent about half an hour exploring the trees and then headed along a wooded pathway to the lagoon for our canoe ride. The lagoon is named after the Chocuaco bird which is native to this part of Costa Rica. There are over two dozen birds that reside along the jungle sanctuary of the lagoon and make it their home.
We reached the lagoon a little before noon, and it was so peaceful. There were birds singing and off in the distance at the edge of the jungle I could hear the infamous roar of the howler monkeys. It was quite an extraordinary place. I couldn’t stop taking photos as it was so immensely beautiful.
We were extremely fortunate to see a ton of Chocuacos. Carlos had never seen so many on a tour before and was a bit surprised at our luck especially since we had initially planned on getting out much earlier in the morning.
As we slowly glided across the calm waters of the lagoon, the clouds began to come in threatening rain. It was time to turn back. It would be hard to forget such a beautiful, mystical place.
What a day it had been. Now I wish so much I could jump back into this picture, into this one moment in time and be there. To feel so utterly relaxed and at peace with nature is a truly beautiful gift.