I am motoring through a jungle river on my way to the Mawamba Lodge. Suddenly, the guide points to a green lizard on a lily pad. “That’s a Jesus Christ Lizard”, she says. We soon see why.
The small reptile, alarmed at our presence, gets up on his hind legs and runs. Across the water.
You get the feeling as your boat takes you further upriver that you are entering some kind of lost world, or on the Jungle Adventure Cruise at Disney, depending on your predilection. It’s easy to imagine, for a moment, that Joseph Conrad is in the boat with you as you are inexorably drawn into the Heart of Darkness of deepest Africa. The reality is far lass dangerous but just as mysterious. We are heading through the Limon region of Costa Rica, to a part only accessible by boat after a 3-hour bus ride on bumpy back roads from the capital, San Jose’. Our final destination is Tortuguero and the Mawamba Lodge on Costa Rica’s remote northern Caribbean coast, and that will be our home for the next couple of days.
I am at the Mawamba Lodge, which sits near the confluence of 4 major rivers that drain ultimately into the Caribbean. It consists of a few dozen rooms separated by canopied walkways. There is a very nice wading pool, which is a good thing since you can’t swim in the ocean due to rip currents and bull sharks (this means, of course, that the area will remain blissfully undeveloped for the foreseeable future).
My room is nicely decorated within, as a lodge should be, with lots of natural wood, minimal furniture, and a ceiling fan. The room is large and clean. No TV, of course. There’s also no A/C, but you don’t need it at night, because there’s good cross ventilation through the screened windows. During the day I’d use the hammock on the porch and enjoy the view of the iguanas. Yep, Three iguanas are eating leaves from the tree in front of my cabana. One lazily flops to the ground with a small thud. The creatures have no fear of the human residents here, so the big lizard casually strolls in front of my path close enough for me to touch it.
In the treetops this morning, while on a boat tour, we see toucans, spider and howler monkeys, and some of the 1000-plus species of birds that live here. A rare siting of the weasel-like Tayra frolicking through the arboreal canopy of the rain forest is a trip highlight. Later, on a nature walk, our expert tour guide explains how cacao is extracted from the tree pods and processed into candy. She also points out to us some of the tree frogs, one poisonous, that hide during the daylight hours amongst the bamboo stalks and palm fronds.
We walk down the beach in the cool of dusk to the Oceanside village of Tortuguero. It’s a nice stroll on the black sand beach, but the town is a bit of a disappointment. It’s a typical Caribbean beach town with brightly colored houses lining a one-lane street parallel to the sea, but other than a photo op there’s nothing really to do here.
All of the meals are included, and the food is quite good for most meals. Everything is made fresh, and the service comes with a smile.
At night, you go to sleep to the sounds of birdcalls and frog grunts and wake up to the strange cries of the howler monkey. Well worth the trip.