Understanding La Pura Vida

Trip Start Jan 21, 2013
Trip End May 07, 2013

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Limon,
Sunday, February 10, 2013

Yesterday I returned from the most amazing trip of my life.  Before coming to Costa Rica I promised myself I would go to lots of beaches and visit the sloth sanctuary.  While other people in my group ventured to other places in Costa Rica, I was determined to go to the Caribbean.

Immediately after five hours of language class on Friday, we departed for Cahuita.  The bus ride was long and slow, per usual.  Our travelling companions consisted of high school international students who were far too eager to live a weekend of regrets in Puerto Viejo.  When we arrived the owners of our hostel showed us our accommodations.  I was blown away by all that was offered for $9 a night!  Since it was already pretty late we just went out to eat.  I enjoyed the traditional Caribbean dish of rice with coconut milk.  It was very rich but I found myself wishing I had stuck with the classic casado of Costa Rica.

The next morning we woke up early to go on a snorkeling tour.  We didn't really know what to expect, but we discovered no one else in the group did either.  We rode out into the Caribbean sea and I was in awe of the bright blue water.  I thought about how lucky I was to be in that exact place at that time, and to be having such incredible experiences.  I also remembered all of my friends huddled up in their dorms snowed in with two feet of chaos. 

When we jumped in, I realized this snorkeling was much different than the tourist traps I've experienced in Hawaii.  I was in the open sea, and animal life was abundant.  On the coral reef I saw countless neon and bright-colored fish that I unfortunately can't name.  I saw a zebra fish hiding in its cove.  Thanks to my friend I saw two octopuses!  Unfortunately I didn't see the shark she spotted, but I saw a stingray!  I was honestly amazed with how many different animals I was able to see.  

After two hours of exploring the warm waters we pulled up to shore for breakfast.  I can't describe how great it felt to stand knee deep in the clear water with the jungle a foot away and enjoy fresh pineapple.  We were overwhelmed with calmness.  

It was only 11AM and my day had already made the record books.  However, we were determined to visit the sloth sanctuary we heard so much about.  On the two hour tour I learned a lot and my animal count increased dramatically for the second time that day.  As we watched the orientation video I found myself laughing at the same parts as the 6-year-old next to me.  Normally I'd be embarrassed, but sloths are clearly endeared by all. 

The tour guide walked us around and introduced us to many sloths that must permanently reside in the sanctuary.  He told us they currently have 150 sloths.  They return 80% of the newcomers back into the wild, but there are always some that will never be able to survive on their own.  He told us the sad stories of various sloths and I learned a lot about their lives in the tropics.  I was surprised to learn they are able to swim despite their awkward body proportions. I also decided if I were reincarnated as an animal it would definitely be a sloth.  They sleep 18 hours a day and are the only animals besides dolphins that are almost always smiling.  

We moved on to the sloth nursery which was obviously the best part.  He took one named Tigger out of its cage and I was amazed at how much they love to cuddle with humans.  Tigger clung to the tour guide like he was its mother.  Of course I was incredibly envious but I was not about to pay $125 to be able to hold a baby sloth.  He also let Snickers out of his cage so he could climb and play.  I took a lot of pictures of him.  

After the tour, we were taken on a beautiful boat ride through the grounds of the sanctuary.  It was incredibly soothing to be surrounded by such lush wildlife.  We were also able to see several more animals!  During the boat ride, we saw a caiman which looks like a really small alligator.  In addition to discovering bats hidden under a log, we caught a glimpse of howler monkeys and a sloth inhabiting the canopy.        

That night we did some more exploring in the small town of Cahuita.  During dinner we enjoyed listening to a local reggae band and decided we would be fine living in Cahuita forever.  Everyone there knows each other and the pace of life is so slow and relaxed.  Why would anyone choose a different life?

On Sunday we spent the morning and early afternoon at the national park.  After so much intensive Spanish it was great to lay out on the beautiful beach and relax.  I relished my last moments in the Caribbean sun before having to head back to the busy city of San Jose.
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