Black bear eating from my apple tree, August night, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ziplining the Rain Forest in Costa Rica

Finally back in cold, dry Colorado after two weeks spent exploring some of Costa Rica. PURA VIDA! Thanks to all the wonderful people, the "ticos," who made my adventures there so enjoyable. I've never visited any foreign country with happier, friendlier locals than those I met in San Jose, La Fortuna, and Monteverde. Mucho gusto, mi amigos.

That said, I have to comment on my experience ziplining in Arenal National Park. This gorgeous setting--a tropical rainforest near the Arenal Volcano--is spectacular. I began getting to know the forest, however, in the worst way possible (my opinion)--ziplining over the canopy. When I reserved spots on a 1 PM tour with SKY trek (thru Desafio Adventures), I was terribly excited. I love speed, and rollercoasters, and all kinds of amusements like this. I am not afraid of heights. I thought it would be the perfect fit for me. But it wasn't. Standing on the first platform before my first cable, I was outright terrifed. Looking down over the tops of jungle trees that are well over 150 feet high is intense. Letting go and trusting the harness and clips holding me to the cable, so that I could fly over the treetops was not easy. In hindsight, I am glad I met the challenge, but while I was zipping along (at about 50 mph) I kept thinking "this is a fabulous view--but I am going too fast to appreciate it!"

After zipping, in the days that followed, I ended up hiking within the forest and above it again on hanging suspension bridges, and I wish I had done that first. Not that things would have been less terrifying, but for a first taste of the rainforest, for a biologist like me, the zipline was too fast, too removed, and more suited to an andrenaline-junkie.

It seemed that many of the touristos in both Arenal and Monteverde, especially the younger ones, were there just for the zipline and the rappelling. Not that it's bad. But part of me was asking myself, with no small measure of guilt, "would we let people zipline through one of our national parks?"

The guys at Desafio (one of many tour-booking groups in La Fortuna and Monteverde) cannot be beat. They arranged the zip tour for me through the park concessionaire. They also helped me find other, quieter adventures to enable me to explore the forest with trained guides to point out native species of plants, birds, bats, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. But for me, the zipline shoud've been booked for the end of my stay, as big "whoo-hoo" send-off to an intoxicating landscape before heading home.