Animals & Adventure in Costa Rica

We finished up our time in Panama with a few days on the beautiful Caribbean islands of Bocas del Toro.

We’d heard plenty about the islands and they didn’t disappoint. After the mania in Panama City and countless hiking in Boquete, it was nice to put the feet up.

Bets of all, our hostel had a boat ramp where you could flag down a passing water taxi – pretty much a 13 year old kid in a bathtub with a motor – and they would take you to your destination of choice.

There are numerous islands to visit and each contains their own beautiful yellow sand, palm trees and bars & restaurants.

The highlight of our time here was a trip to Wizard’s beach. We grabbed ourselves a water taxi and headed across to the island, and from there you hike 30 minutes through the jungle to some of the best beach you’re likely to find.

Not only that, we had the whole beach completely to ourselves. We figured that because all the others were so accessible, none of the other travellers could be bothered finding the trail and hiking to Wizard’s.

Their laziness was our gain, and we spent the day in glorious sunshine swimming in warm Caribbean water and throwing a frisbee until our shoulders were rendered useless.

A video posted by Chris C (@lecoskc) on

But we couldn’t spend too much time on the beach as Costa Rica called.

A short hop over the border to Puerto Viejo and things feel instantly different.

Puerto Viejo could easily be a small town in Jamaica, with a laid back approach and every restaurant serving something with a Caribbean sauce.

We picked up a couple of bikes to ride along the peninsula until we were almost back at the Panamanian border.

Along the way we were introduced to some of the local wildlife, spotting sloths hanging from trees and no less than 10 toucans on one stretch of road.

On the way back we stopped at Puerto Viejo’s famed Jaguar Rescue Sanctuary. As an early birthday present to me, Chris had booked us a private tour which meant that, aside from the volunteers at the sanctuary, we were the only other people there.

In short, it was one of the better birthday gifts I’ve received.

We were guided round the sanctuary by a woman that had been there for 5 years but was originally from the Isle of Man. She told us the stories of how each of the animals had arrived at the sanctuary which was, more often than not, pets being mistreated or accidents with vehicles.

Apparently some people think it’s cool to keep monkeys chained up as pets. Go figure.

The sanctuary’s main objective is to rehabilitate the animals and get them back out into the wild as soon as possible. Some animals, for various reasons, can never be released for their own safety and so will see out their days in the rescue centre.

We were allowed up close with baby sloths and an ocelot, we fed howler and capuchin monkeys in their cage as they jumped all over us. We became such good friends that one decided to relieve itself down my back as it sat on my shoulder.

That warm feeling could only be one thing but I got Chris to confirm it for me, much to his amusement.

A photo posted by Matt Slater (@mattslater86) on

With 3 hours at the rescue centre, we were even more excited about the animals we were yet to encounter in Costa Rica.

The next stop was the small town of Turrialba in which myself and Chris quickly realise that we were the only foreigners around.

Turrialba is apparently not the typical stop on the Costa Rica tourist route, but of course we were here for a purpose – to go rafting on one of the world’s best rivers, the Pacuare.

And the river didn’t let us down.

We joined up with a group that made up 3 rafts. Our boat contained a couple of Russians and a Dutch girl along with our local skipper who gave out the orders and was the main man steering us out of trouble if truth be told.

Me and Chris occupied the front seats – partly through our own bravado (see foolishness) and partly because we were nominated by the rest of the group.

Either way, we soon realised we had the best seats in the house. The first rapid that we hit threw everyone around a bit while the captain sat back and laughed.

He muttered something along the lines of “Welcome to the Pacuare” and the things we had previously heard about the water held true – it was one of the most active and dramatic rivers you’ll find.

A photo posted by Matt Slater (@mattslater86) on

We spent the rest of the day being thrown around, stopping once to swim at a waterfall, again to have lunch and other points to throw ourselves into the water to cool off.

The rapids were immense. There was such little time between each one that by the time we’d recovered our balance there was another already upon us.

At one point, I was thrown across the boat where I knocked into Chris. Chris’ full concentration being on paddling through one of the biggest rapids we’ve ever seen, was thrown backwards and seemingly over the edge.

I somehow managed to throw out a hand and grab his life jacket keeping him in the boat. Our skipper was probably shaking his head at the drama as his two front paddlers was temporarily sprawled across the floor of the inflatable raft.

For us the river completely outdid itself. It’s probably the best river I’ve ever rafted on and reignited the excitement I get whenever I get into some sort of flotation device and try to make my way down to a point further down the river.

The day completely took it out of us. We boarded the bus to San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, and fell asleep immediately waking up when we were only a few miles away.