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Day three in Costa Rica

How cool is that toucan?

Okay, so this was our final day in Costa Rica, and we were doing a big tour to “Tortuga Island” (tortuga = turtle). Sounds fun, but involved being AT A DIFFERENT HOTEL AT 6AM. Fun factor rapidly declining.

Anyway, we struggled up to the Holiday Inn (which thankfully was nearby) to sit with a range of other tired-looking people out the front and wait for the tour bus. Our guide’s name was Oscar, and he was very officious and dressed snappily in white. It was one of those big tour buses, and we were the first on so we spent the first hour on the bus collecting other people from other hotels. There was a large group of French tourists, and it turned out our guide was tri-lingual. He was just amazing, flicking from French to English to Spanish for each sentence, wandering down the bus isle conversing in three languages. (He did say he was glad there were no Germans just because he finds it hard switching to a fourth language.) We finally got everybody in the bus and headed over the hills towards the Pacific, a drive that takes about three hours. We stopped for breakfast on the way (rice and beans, baby!) at a cute little place which had the added bonus of a butterfly enclosure out the back and a tame toucan in a separate space, which we could go into and look at up close. The toucan was so cool and was completely unfazed by all the attention it was getting. The butterflies were electric blue and also unconcerned about the people.

Say, that piña colada looks pleasant...

We arrived at the port to board the luxury catamaran (named the “Mantarraya” (mantarraya = manta ray) to the island (hehehehe!). There were lots and lots of people going, and this was during “low season” on a tour that’s run every day, so I would imagine high season is something else again. The boat had four sections where you could sit, the front, the back, the bottom, and up the top with the captain. The staff spent the trip carrying around trays of tropical fruit, and Dave and I invested in some massive $5 cocktails because it seemed like the thing to do. We also got given natty little wrist bands to show we were part of the tour, that made us feel a little like under-age reprobates at a concert. The trip took an hour, and it was beautiful. We saw tuna skipping out of the water, and as the mainland disappeared all the islands came into view. There were hundreds of them, in all different shapes and sizes, some covered in dry tropical forest, some with white sandy beaches, and some with high cliffs. Apparently, Tortuga Island is named such because it it is the shape of a turtle, and is just next to another turtle shaped island also. There was a long white sandy beach, palm trees, and a couple of “camps” for various tour companies (consisting of tables and chairs and a bar area). The catamaran pulled up onto the beach, we all got off, and headed for camp.

Luxurious tropical island? Check.

We decided to do the pre-lunch snorkeling tour which was leaving immediately, so we signed up and hopped in the little boat that was taking off to Octopus Rock, which was a couple of hundred metres from the island. We were given a whistle, flippers, mask and snorkel, and a life jacket if we so desired, and were told to keep a safe distance from Octopus Rock itself, because the currents tended to pull you towards it and being tossed against it was no fun. Then the guys from the boat chucked some fish food in the water, and lo and behold it was a tropical fish fest! The fish had no fear; probably because they knew that twice a day a whole load of humans and food fell in the water and the humans left them alone. We saw about ten different types, some brightly coloured, some spiky, and a couple of tiny electric blue ones that glowed in the water. They were completely unconcerned about us, swimming so close that they were brushing up against us and we were sometimes in the middle of whole schools of fish. And when they started thinning out, the guys would chuck more food in the water and they would all come racing back. We stayed at the rock for half an hour and then hopped back into the boat and headed for the shore.

Palm trees on beach? Check.

As we were arriving back on the beach, one of the snazzy uniformed staff from the Mantarraya was blowing the lunch conch. Yes, that’s the type of establishment we’re talking about here. So we headed back to “camp” to the white table-clothed benches where we found ourselves sharing a table with some very nice Americans who casually dropped the phrases “missionary” and “Utah” into the conversation a little too many times for comfort but aside from that were very pleasant. Lunch was cerviche, which is raw fish that has been prepared in lemon juice, which “cooks” it, which is considered a delicacy and is very nice. We skipped the chicken and got stuck into the pasta salad and complimentary wine... as you do. The Mormons didn’t take advantage of the wine. Oh well, more for us. Our lunch was accompanied by a couple of gentlemen playing Caribbean style tunes on some marimbas (xylophone-type-things). It was kind of amusing because there we were, in the Pacific, and the whole vibe they were trying to create was Caribbean. Also accompanying our ambient dining experience were some vultures, which looked a bit like turkeys, and some cute little black pigs. Which thankfully no-one was eating.

We sailed around the storms...

After lunch we hired out some kayaks, swam around the beach, and generally enjoyed the sun and the beach vibe until the Mantarraya pulled up on the beach for our return. On the way home the boat detoured around several impressive rain storms and took us on a little tour of the islands, three of which are joined by massive electrical cables and I’m assuming some kind of big generator. Dave and I indulged in a couple of wind-down piña coladas. It was that kind of cruise, you know? As we got closer to shore, the captain of the boat started behaving oddly, as though he too had been indulging in one too many piña coladas. However, we soon discovered that he was circling round a very playful four or five dolphins, who were very interested in saying hello to everyone on the boat and gave us all a jumping performance. I’ve never seen dolphins up that close before. It was really cool. And just after we saw the dolphins, there were two giant turtles (having too much fun together for young eyes) hanging out next to the boat! So it was a pretty good day all up (especially for the turtles).

Everybody loves a cruise!

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