Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
At 7 AM on January 8 Amsterdam backed into its berth by the dock in Puerto Limon, poised for a fast get-away I guess. We have been here several times, most recently on the 2016 World Cruise. On that occasion we explored the town, which you can see at:
This time we took an excursion for a treetop gondola ride in the rain forest. This is a good example of why returning to a port you have already visited is not redundant (unless you have been there a dozen times, as a number of people on board have). Our experiences on these two visits to Puerto Limon couldn’t have been more different . . . city vs jungle.
We had to get up very early to make it to our 7:15 meeting time for this excursion (we agreed that next time we will pay closer attention to the departure times of excursions). It was overcast in the morning but got increasingly sunny as the day went on. It turned out that there had been six straight days of rain here & our visit brought the turn to good weather. The bus ride to Braulio Carillo National Park took about 2 hours & our guide, Marvin, talked the whole way about Costa Rica & the flora & fauna of the area. Driving up into the mountains we passed an impressive volcano & scenic forests & rivers.
Once there, before the tram ride, we had a walking tour. We saw a mother Tapir & her offspring, who was mostly interested in eating. Tapirs are related to the rhinoceros & are delightfully ugly.
We saw a 3 toed sloth high in a tree above us, with a hairy face like Oscar the Grouch, & we walked through an orchid garden.
We toured a butterfly reserve. There are several thousand species of butterfly in this area; they built a large caged structure to ensure many of them would be here together & they feed & care for them here.
Walking back, we saw a Costa Rican Robin, the national bird, a large spider in its web & a Toucan (very cool).
From there we walked to the tram terminal. It worked a lot like a Disney World ride, in that the gondola would come to the platform, let out its passengers on one side, move around to the front and stop for us to climb in. Passengers, six to a gondola, were carefully arranged by weight to ensure the gondola was balanced. They move along a cable held up by very tall metal poles. To build the tramway, the poles were brought in by helicopter so that the ecosystem wouldn’t be disturbed unnecessarily. The gondola was built of open caging on the bottom so you could look down at the floor of the forest.
The ride through the treetops was really fascinating, but I don’t think it will really come across in pictures. A photo can’t capture the vastness or the complexity of it all. But here are a few anyway.
We could see several small rivers winding through the floor of the forest under the branches.
Tree trunks and branches were covered with mosses & lichens vines of amazing varieties.
Our guide pointed out “Broccoli Trees.” If you are familiar with broccoli you will see why.
High in the canopy were a lot of bromeliads (we think that’s the name), plants that attach themselves to tree trunks but do not attack the trees in any way. Some of them send very long tendrils, which are like roots, down to the floor of the forest to obtain nutrients.
Perhaps the best things we saw were the ferns, in great variety with sizes from small plants to large trees. They are lush & graceful in design & they stand out from the other greenery around them. The perspective from above is also somewhat different than usual.
We also saw fauna in the forest canopy, but they were too fast for my camera. There were tiny flying creatures looking like flies and bees that would hover like a hummingbird within reach right by the gondola. But they are really wasps, we were told, & if you try to grab one it will sting your hand & it will really hurt. We saw two umbrella birds, undistinguished looking to our eyes but our guide said that bird fanciers come to Costa Rica just to catch a glimpse of one. We saw hummingbirds as well & other birds I can’t really describe to you (which translates as I don’t remember). Our guide was really good at identifying birds; he had a bird book & would quickly open it to the page for the bird we had just seen & show it around.
After the ride through the treetops we had a “typical Costa Rican” lunch of chicken or beef with red beans & rice, but the meat portions were pretty poor. Then we made the long drive back to the port, where we reboarded the ship.
Dinner on the ship was, to say the least, much better than the lunch. We went to bed early because we were due to enter the Panama Canal early the next morning.