Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Touring the Golfo Dulce with Dolphins

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The next day, Thursday the 16th, we had an earlier pick-up time (6:30am) to head back to town and to the pier for a boat tour of the Gulfo Dulce. Preston, Addie and I spent the sunrise hours back down at the beach hoping to see the big crabs again but we were too late, they were already buried in the sand. The hermit crabs were out in full force though so there was play time with them and then back to the house to eat a quick breakfast and get ready for our new adventure.
Marcos was early to pick us up (he was extremely punctual!) so we set our monkey alarm in the house and were back on the bumpy road to Puerto Jimenez, this time to the pier.
The only thing we knew was that our boat driver was named Josh so I was a little nervous when we got to the pier and he wasn't there yet. We were a little early, but still. There was another family of 3 who walked out to the pier not long after us and they ended up being on our same tour. They also were from a west-Houston suburb which was such a crazy coincidence! My initial impression when Josh arrived was that he was super nice and energetic but his boat seemed a little small for the 8 of us. Once we got going though it all worked out fine and it ended up being a really, really fun day!
Josh was super informative about the geography and history of the area and it was quite fascinating to learn about (our hotel set this tour up for us and I cannot find any information about Josh having his own company so hopefully if we return we can find him again!).
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a Nature Air flight just like ours coming in to land
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We started out going into an area with mangroves but the tide was already very low so we couldn't go very far in for fear of getting stranded. One thing he told us, that we then witnessed over the next few days, was that the tides in the area are crazy. Coming in and out very rapidly and rising/falling up to six feet in depth.
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we saw this osprey dive, catch a fish and leave with it and Josh was freaking out about how cool it was...I didn't do a very good job of capturing it unfortunately
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We continued touring around the gulf and basically had the entire place to ourselves. I think we saw one other boat during our entire day! We could not get over how few tourists there were here! It made the Dominican Republic, which we felt was fairly non-touristy, seem over-run! It was a gorgeous day and as we rode around we saw flying fish, all kinds of birds, a sea turtle and then the real highlight...a pod of dolphins.
The dolphins swam with our boat for nearly an hour. Racing us, jumping around us, and just enjoying their day as much as we were enjoying ours. Addie was DYING to jump in and swim with them :-)!!! All the kids loved sitting at the front of the boat and watching them zip back and forth, especially the little baby one. The little boy of the other family on the boat was Preston's exact age and they got along really well.
(these fruits were so good! like passion fruit but not as tart)
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We followed the coast a bit, eating yummy fresh fruit along the way, checking out some gorgeous deserted beach coastlines, and stopping to snorkel at a little reef. It wasn't the most amazing snorkeling we have done but it was still fun and we saw some pretty fish. Preston got to jump off the front of the boat a few times before we all loaded back in to head to our next stop.
(and for the record, Ella did snorkel for awhile too, but she still doesn't love it...and I have almost only pictures of Preston because as soon as Addie hits the water she is off exploring with Mike trying to keep up with her)
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this is called Tortuga point because it looks like a turtle :-) and it shows up on the very first maps created of the area
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The final stop before heading back to the pier was at a wildlife sanctuary. I also want to interject here that we experienced NO MOSQUITOES during our entire week in the jungle! It was crazy and amazing. The wildlife sanctuary is run by a kind of crazy animal lady named Carol who took us around to see the animals that will never be able to be released back into the wild. Carol runs a tight ship with strict rules but did share some good information about the animals and the kids enjoyed getting to feed and pet some of them, plus just being up close with others was a treat in itself.
At the end of the tour we got to spend some time with Sweetie the Spider Monkey and she was adorable! She would touch your hand then show you where she wanted to be scratched. She did that over and over again and the kids were happy to oblige her requests :-).
this is a super-zoom using the big lens of a scarlet macaw nest
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this cute little guy is a kinkjou and came out for a snack when we went into his cage
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a beautiful ocelot (she can hardly use her back legs :-( so won't ever be released)
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porcupine
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cute capuchins rescued from pet trade (we learned that these monkeys are extremely territorial so they cannot be reintroduced into just any area with other capuchin monkeys)
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We had a nice boat ride back to Puerto Jimenez and Josh dropped us off on the beach of the restaurant we had planned to meet Marcos at, Delfines. We were all STARVED and it tasted great, plus we spotted some iguanas and pretty birds while waiting for our food.
Before heading back to Casa Bambu we walked over to a little lagoon to look for some cayman. A man that was there called one over for us by yelling and shaking some metal pole and told us usually there a lot more but because of the low water they had gone to other areas.
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a weird bird above and iguanas below
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...and, a cat!!! ;-)
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Our day ended perfectly when just as we were approaching our house we spotted a sloth up in the trees. After seeing them up close at the rehabilitation center it was neat to then see one in the wild. This one ended up being the only one we saw which we were surprised about. When Mike and I were in a different part of Costa Rica 5 years ago we spotted quite a few of them and I know that the area we were staying in this time has a lot of them too, but we were not great at finding them. Maybe it was the taller, more dense trees? Oh well, I'm sure we will be back to look for them again :-).
We played more at our beach, ate another yummy dinner by Leda and taught the kids to play Phase 10 and it was a hit. We tried to settle down for the night even earlier than usual because we were going to be up before the sun the following morning for our big hike into the national park.
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home sweet home
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