If you ever need a good dose of perspective, something to remind you of the tiny place you occupy in the world, then go to Costa Rica. Take yourself to the Osa Peninsula for a week and your humility will return, and fast. Because in the Osa, you’re just a speck. Mother nature shines a giant magnifying glass on all her makings and reminds you, in the most beautiful way possible, that you are a tiny thread in a much greater tapestry.
One of the world’s greatest playgrounds for nature adventurers and tourists, many regions in Costa Rica have been growing in popularity and development for decades. But the Osa peninsula is the Costa Rica of thirty years ago – untouched, unkempt, wild and crowned by National Geographic as one of the most biologically intense places on earth.
Touching down into Costa Rica’s Puerto Jiménez Airport is something I’ll never forget. Weaving in and out of thick clouds, our pilot – who’s chair I was firmly squeezed against – had magnificently navigated our butter-box sized plane fifty minutes from San Jose and performed a climactic landing complete with sirens, a few moments of pin-drop silence and finally, cheering. We’d arrived.
Located on the Southern Pacific Coast of the country, the Osa is home to around 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity. There’s nature and wildlife like you’ve never seen before and 80% of it is protected, mostly by the Corcovado national park. The beaches are rough, desolate, enchanting, pristine (think about a time before plastic) and flanked by jungle on one side and the wild Pacific Ocean on the other. Unless you’re close to one of the lodges, you’re unlikely to see many other people on them, mainly birds, hermit crabs, sea turtles and troops of monkeys in the trees above.
At around noon on our second day staying just outside of the Puerto Jiménez (which sits on the banks of the Golfo Dulce), we finished off our lunch of fried plantain and beans, chugged back a generous gulp of our Imperials and headed for the mangrove lagoon of Río Platanares. On our kayaks, we plaited our way through a nirvana of ringed kingfishers, Jesus Christ lizards (which walk on water), a collection of rare birds (think flocks of scarlet macaws and the odd Toucan) and maybe even the odd crocodile.
Two hours later and we moored the kayakes up onto a sand bank that led to an empty beach. Our guide sliced a pineapple and cracked open a couple of coconuts and we sat on a log on the dark grey sand sampling the sweet Costa Rican fruit and looking out at the ocean. A humble memory that will stay with me.
On the fourth day we headed south. Via rough, pot-holed roads crossing shallow rivers we made our way to Cabo Matapalo, a beach settlement at the bottom tip of the peninsula which is one of the most remote areas of Costa Rica. Known for its lush rainforest, rocky points, isolated beaches and surf breaks, this area is something special. It’s also known for its yoga retreats, and I can say without hesitation that the yoga hut at Encanta La Vida is hands-down the most beautiful place I have practiced.
If you visit this beautiful region, make sure you experience the King Louis Waterfall, located about 750 metres from Matapalo Beach. We were the only people there and it was breathtakingly beautiful spending time on the rocks and swimming beneath the running water.
And a hot tip – if you’re a person who enjoys a sleep-in, don’t expect one in this area. Howler monkeys are the kings of the rainforest here and their guttural cries start with the sun. Luckily you aren’t here to stay in bed anyway.
And one last thing: the people. We shared raw, genuine, down-to-earth and widely interesting conversations with locals who had been born there as well as expats who had moved there over twenty years ago, and the common thread they shared was their love for life; a life not driven by consumption but rather by nature and simple daily joys.
I can only describe it as a categorically refreshing experience. And to think we almost cancelled our trip to Costa Rica two days before arriving due to the severe weather – it would have been one of the greatest mistakes of my life.