Costa Rica · My Thoughts

Extreme Costa Rica: Mawamba and Our Animal Adventure

Welcome to Mawamba Lodge, Torteguero, Costa Rica

We headed towards Mawamba to enjoy three days of animal adventures. That sounded so African—what did it mean? Dennis, our guide, told us its meaning but I forgot (and didn’t jot it done in my journal) It didn’t matter! What a tropical paradise!

Day 5 – January 11, 2020

Excited about this mysterious place, we got up at 6:00 a.m. We checked out and had breakfast, then it became a waiting game. The large greyhound-type bus finally arrived at 9:30 to take us from Guapiles to the canal to catch a boat to travel the canal to Torteguero, the quaint little town and home of the Mawamba Lodge.

We wove our way through the countryside—only two ways into Torteguero: boat on the canal or plane! A youngster in the seat in front of Lin and me serenaded me the whole drive. His name was Mati, and we ran into him and his dad often during our stay.

On the bus ride, Dennis explained the different excursion packages offered to the lodge guests.  Our package included all meals, a boat ride to the Torteguerro National Park that afternoon and a walk around the luscious grounds of Mawamba Lodge the next morning. Lin and I both wanted to do the two optional excursions: the early morning wildlife boat ride and the evening jungle walk.

Arriving at the muddy bank of the canal at La Pavona, we gathered our backpacks, and now I realized the brilliance of Victoria’s suggestion to downsize to a backpack. The mud made roller bags useless!

When we got seated in our boats, we all donned life preservers for the ride on the canal to Torteguerro and Mawamba. Dennis, our guide, pointed out any animals he sighted a long the way: crocodiles on the banks, cranes, and blue herons. I didn’t have my zoom lens on my camera, so I missed the chance to get close up shots of these animals. We had our first sighting of a JC lizard, a Jesus Christ lizard, but I got a better picture later!

“Thanks to super speed and specially-designed feet, the basilisk lizard can run on water. . .an ability that makes it deadly to insects, and has led people to call it the “Jesus Christ Lizard.”

ttps://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/00000144-0a2a-d3cb-a96c-7b2fc1020000
Brahma Grazing

Brahma cattle grazed above us in pastures. I kept looking for more animals which would be my stance for the next three days. This amazing canal ride ended, we gathered our bags, met as a large group from the boats, got the room keys and wandering off to find them. Our group was scattered.

As we approached our room, a hammock hung on the porch, welcoming us there. We were a duplex with lovely neighbors. I loved the spacious rooms. The windows opened up wide with the loud Caribbean Ocean pounding on one side and the quiet courtyard on the other.

After settling in, I realized I had forgotten to bring any bras to change into—oh, well! I just went el natural!

We wandered through the tropical grounds at the Mawamba Lodge and found the open-air cafeteria. Our group sat at a table that became “Ours” for every meal. The buffet provided a variety of choices, and again I enjoyed the tropical fruit.

After lunch, we rode a boat to the Torteguero National Park office and purchased passes. Then Lin and I and our friends from Albuquerque walked down the mains street of the village of Torteguero and shopped. Because they don’t have any cars there, the street is really a narrow path.

The Main Street of Torteguero

Because we signed up for the evening jungle excursion, I searched for long pants because I hadn’t brought any with me in my backpack, and I found a pair. Mosquitoes love me, and I worried about getting bit. We enjoyed a coconut water drink as we walked the main street of Torteguero. We watched a group of men playing a dominoes game, and this usually docile game was loud and rambunctious!

Caribbean Sea

On our way back to Mawamba, we walked along the beach and saw the Sea Turtle Conservancy. I loved seeing the waves crashing on the North Caribbean coast—the power and magic of the sea!

When we got back to the lodge, we donned our swimming suits and met our friends at the pool. My little singing friend from the bus, Mati, joined us with his dad, and we enjoyed his enthusiasm for the water.

After a shower, our group ate dinner then sat outside at the bar talking and looking at each other pictures.  It started raining before we left, so we got wet getting to our rooms, but I welcomed the sound of the rain as I fell asleep that night.

Day 6 – January 12, 2020

The day began early with us waking up at 4:45 a. m. and out the door at 5:00. In my excitement and drowsiness, I forgot my glasses, so I had to return to our room in the dark to get them. Needless to say, I had trouble finding our room because of dark and poor lighting, so I went up the stairs to a room to see if it was ours—it wasn’t!

As I came down the stairs, the rough soles on my water shoes caught on the cement and pole vaulted me into the walk. I landed hard on my left breast and jammed the thumb on my right hand and a toe—ouch!

I did find our room and my glasses, but what a way to start the day!

Dennis was our guide, and the early morning boat excursion overflowed with animal sightings: blue herons, egrets, spider monkeys, Capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, toucans, more JC lizards, blue herons and iguanas! Whew!! Dennis told us there are so many iguanas, there comes a time he doesn’t even point them out!

We returned to the lodge in a downpour, so I was soaked! And it was only eight o’clock! The group ate delicious breakfast, then Dennis led us on a tour of the grounds, identifying all the beautiful tropical flowers, and we saw a toucan and a couple gigantic resident iguanas!

 After lunch, we had another boat excursion and this time, Lin and I sat right up front. And again, we relished the abundance of animals: egrets, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, tiger heron, and blue heron.

We’d all been anticipating seeing a sloth and we saw two: Victoria spotted one on the excursion, and there was one on the Mawamba grounds.

A Sloth Sighting–Yahoo!

 It sprinkled a little, but I didn’t want the peaceful ride down the canal to end! I marveled at the high canopy of the trees—one of the beauties of Costa Rica!

At 5:30 p.m., we struck out on the Jungle Night Walk. Again, we took a boat but this time to a specific area which had raised concrete walks above the watery jungle we walked through. How amazing! People had iPhones out taking pictures. I took my Canon Rebel, but it didn’t work well in the dark. I hesitated using my new iPhone 11 because I was afraid I would drop it. We saw spiders, some poisonous and a variety of frogs. Dennis, our great guide, had everyone turn off our flashlights to experience the sounds and darkness of the jungle—it was incredible!

The day ended with a lovely dinner. Then afterwards, several of us got into the pool and relaxed after our action packed day. They kicked us out at 9:00 p.m., so it was back to our room for a shower. I found a strong Wi-Fi signal and checked my email and posted my pre-written blog for the week.

What a delightful, animal-filled day we had!

Day 7 – January 13, 2020

I hated to see our time at Mawamba end! This was a travel day, so we were up at 7:00 a.m. We packed and had breakfast. After breakfast, Lin and I went to the miniature pineapple bush on the grounds that Dennis showed us the day before to see if we could see any baby iguanas he said live there—no luck!

We took our backpacks to the boat, loaded up and started out for La Pavona. We traveled just a short distance out and Dennis realized he forgot his phone, so we turned around quickly and retrieved it.

A Canal Sign

 The boat ride on the canal back to La Pavona proved uneventful with no anima sightings. These canals are the highways in this part of the world, and this familiar-type sign really depicted that! When we got to La Pavona, we waited awhile for our bus, so we sampled local goodies!

When the bus arrived, quickly Lin asked me to take both of our back packs. He gets car sick sitting in the back of the bus, and Dennis helped him get on the bus first. In the confusion, I grabbed the two backpacks and took off. Thank God, Victoria grabbed my water, and Lucy collected my purse!

Then the bus drove us to Rio Danta Restaurant, an affiliate of Mawamba, and Enrique and William greeted us there. We ate lunch, jumped into our familiar van and headed towards La Fortuna, a three-hour drive. It felt so good to be with Enrique and William again.

As we drove, Enrique shared some vital information: this was his 1076th trip to La Fortuna! Then he shared his knowledge about Mt. Arenal which used to be an active volcano. It was inactive when he was a child, but it had a massive eruption in 1968 and was active for about 45 years. This made the city of Fortuna a big tourist attraction. He shared that around Fortuna is the most typical rain forest.

He reminded us of the three elements of a Costa Rican town: soccer field, school and church!

 In 1974, Costa Rica built a dam for hydro-electric energy that drains into the Pacific Ocean. It not only provides 40% of the electricity for the country but helped the people on Pacific side of Costa Rica which is the driest part.

Enrique’s dialogue continued with so much information. He noted that he’s seen a lot of change in his lifetime. He also warned of a possible papaya shortage in Costa Rica because of my husband’s voracious consummation on this trip!

As we traveled, we noticed fields divided by lines of trees, so we thought farmers planted them to define their farms. Enrique corrected this assumption: the farmer puts a piece of wood into the ground with barbed wire on it, and the wood grows! So much water!

Enrique pointed out a pineapple plantation as we passed it, and said out of the top exports of the country: coffee, bananas, pineapples and sugar cane, sugar cane is the only native!

As usual, Enrique had planned a great stop where we shopped and saw lots of iguanas!

We checked in at Hotel Sierra Arenal, a small beautiful hotel, ate dinner together downtown and spent the evening shopping around the square at La Fortuna.

Another fantastic three days in Costa Rica!

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