Sloths and Scuba

Trip Start Dec 26, 2013
Trip End Aug 05, 2014

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Where I stayed
Villa LunaTica

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy New Year!

First things first: I've decided to keep a running tally of the number of cats spotted on this trip. So far, I have seen two. Meanwhile, I have also seen two sloths in the wild (!!). I expect I will see many more cats than sloths moving forward, but no complaints about the cat to sloth ratio right now.

More on the sloths later. For now, an update of what we've been up to over the past five days in and around Manuel Antonio National Park. This will probably be a long post, since we've been here for so long. This is the longest we'll stay in one place until we get to Moldova at the beginning of April (shout-out to Steph and Michael Ball who are welcoming us into their home in Chisinau!).

We drove seven hours to our beach house on the edge of Manuel Antonio on December 28. It was a long drive, but well worth it once we arrived. The house is astonishingly cool with breathtaking views of both jungle and ocean. It is all open concept (see pictures) on four terraced levels, with a deck on each level, plus a pool and several hammocks. Each bathroom has a unique design, and the best part is the husband-and-wife chef team that make us unbelievably delicious dinners each night. I am enjoying a ceviche appetizer they prepared as I write this out on one of the decks with the family. This is the life...

All ten of us went into Manuel Antonio National Park on the morning of December 29. It took about 40 minutes of standing in long, hot lines before we got in. The park allegedly keeps attendance limited to 600 visitors on weekdays and 800 on weekends, but it seemed more like they just hold people for a while, then somewhat arbitrarily let a bunch in, rinse and repeat. It was frustrating not to understand the system, and the line wouldn't move for long periods of time, which always caused some concern since we didn't know how long we would have to wait before we got in. (They make you buy tickets before you get in line to sign in, so at that point it was a question of when, not if, we would get in, since we were not willing to turn back at that point.) We finally got in and walked for about 30 minutes to the closest open beach. It was beautiful. The jungle comes right down to the water, so you can swim or read in the shade. We stayed there for much of the day, swimming, walking and hanging out.

Monday (December 30), I did my first two open water scuba dives. I completed the classroom and pool requirements back at home in August. I wasn't crazy about scuba diving after the weeked in the pool, but I absolutely loved it in the open water. We saw so many fish, and it was really special to get to dive with my mother-in-law and father-in-law, as well as my husband (all of whom are already certified). I had to perform various skills underwater and at the surface during my dives. It was a very full day of scuba. We started with a pool refresher course at 8 a.m., and didn't get back from our dives until after 5 p.m. My brother-in-law Scott, his wife Andrea and their son Julius joined us in the afternoon for the boat trip to the dives. They went snorkling while we dove. The seven of us had the boat to ourselves (plus our guides and boat captain), so it was a special family boat trip.

Six of us went back to Manuel Antonio on New Year's Eve morning for a guided wildlife hike. The park is known for its abundance of jungle wildlife, and we got to see many cool animals that we would never have noticed if we just wandered through the park without a guide. My personal favorites were of course the sloths (I'm really into sloths). I was really, really hoping to get to see a sloth while in Costa Rica, but I know that you don't always get to on these guided hikes. Our guide found TWO three-toed sloths for me, though. You could see both of them with the naked eye way up in the trees if you knew just where to look, but the guide also had a telescope that allowed you to feel like you were right there next to them. I uploaded a video of one of the sloths seen through the scope to this post, and you can see my adorable sloth friend in the photo at right. We also saw a troop of howler monkeys jumping from tree to tree right above us. We stopped and watched them for a long while. There were so many baby howler monkeys! It made me so happy (I'm a bit obsessed with baby animals). We also saw a porcupine sleeping up in the trees, white-faced capuchins, a golden orb spider, a land crab, several lizards, a hummingbird in her nest, butterflies and a fawn. Dennis and I are huge animal lovers, so it was a perfect morning for us--plus the tour ended on the beach where freshly-cut pineapple awaited us. We enjoyed some pineapple and then jumped in the water to cool off, spending the next two hours hanging out at the beach.

There is a really cool bar/restaurant built in and around an airplane at the top of the hill above our house. Dennis and I checked it out on our walk back home from the beach, and the views were spectacular so several of us decided to go back for sunset drinks that night. We watched the last sunset of 2013 while sipping tropical drinks and reminiscing, then went back to our house for another delicious dinner prepared by the chefs. After dinner, the family had a dance party on the Crow's Nest deck of our house (one of Costa Rica's hottest clubs, you heard it here first), and rang in the New Year with champagne toasts.

We had to bid adieu to Peter, Margaret and Jesus on New Year's morning, as they headed off to the airport to return to the real world. After spending so much time together over the past week, it's weird and sad to think about not seeing them again for several months. Dennis and I leave in the middle of the night tonight, and the goodbyes are going to be hard. But it would be the same way even if we just lived in distant states and didn't get to see each other often. Dennis and I are spoiled because most of our immediate family lives in and around Arlington, VA, where we both grew up, so we see them often.

Dennis and I went back out for two more dives on the afternoon of January 1, and I successfully completed by open water scuba certification! We have other dives we hope to do on this trip, so I'm very happy to have gotten certified. Now we are watching the Rose Bowl with the family back at the house (Go Stanford!), though in spirit we are in Pasadena with our many friends who are cheering the Cardinal on in person.

We strike off on our own in just a few hours, leaving our only North American destination behind. We are not looking forward to the scheduled 38 straight hours of travel, but are very excited for our next adventures in Australia!
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Sarah Carroll on

This is so great! I've been thinking about you guys all the time since you left, and I'm glad to hear that your trip is off to a good start. I can't wait for the next entry!

Aida on

I'm obsessed with the house! So glad to see your trip off to such a stellar start :) Happy New Year!

Rachel Scheer on

Happy New Year! So excited to hear about Australia!

MargaretBakke on

Since I can't ask you in person and I haven't subscribed, I've checked for the latest blog post every hour since I left Costa Rica

bakkepackers on

Margaret, you should probably just sign up for updates =) But the Sydney post is hot off the presses... Rachel, wish you'd been here to hang out with Nick, too!

Michael Ball on

This looks awesome! I recognize most of these places. Also, Dennis, I like the Barcelona jersey.

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