The 24-seater Nature Air plane skipped and jiggled as we flew into cloud. The pilot in the cockpit was clearly unconcerned, so I gazed back out the window ready to clench my stomach for the next ‘hiccup.’ After a flight of 50 minutes from San Jose, we landed on the Osa Peninsula, where we were met by our driver from Bosque del Cabo, who threw our bags into the back of the truck. We climbed inside, smiling and making chit-chat with another couple of guests who had been on our flight.
Ten minutes into our pot-hole-dodging ride our driver stopped and pointed, “Owl!” In the crown of a roadside tree, we at last made him out. Our first wild animal experience and photo-op and we had only just left the township of Puerto Jimenez (population 4,000). As we resumed our bumpy transfer, a black furred, long-tailed, racoon looking animal darted across the road in front of us. “Coati!” the driver said. A good start indeed!
Bosque del Cabo’s existence began in 1987, but few Australians would’ve heard of it as not many holiday in Costa Rica, let alone on the remote Osa Peninsula on the Pacific Coast. However, Bosque del Cabo is one of those truly unique and unforgettable places that deserve ‘bucket list’ status.
I discovered Bosque through my usual holiday planning avenues – books and internet: “’4 leaves’ in the CST Sustainable Tourism program,” and “one of Costa Rica’s best eco-lodges and wilderness resorts,” and “’Top Choice’ for visiting the Osa.” Our love of wildlife in the wild and our desire to experience authentic natural environments under threat made this a very tempting prospect. The testimonials of past guests claiming to see so many of Costa Rica’s fauna on the grounds of the resort without having to venture as far as the Corcovado National Park, seemed too hyperbolic to believe, but worth testing, I thought.
We arrived just in time for lunch and while our luggage was carried off to our cabina, we were served an a la carte meal of vegetarian burrito and a hummus and vegetable sandwich (with amazingly good hummus!). This was washed down with a local beer as the yellow-billed toucans mouthed off and posed for the many photographers amongst the guests. The deck of the main lodge was never without tripods and big lenses at the ready to grab that one in a million shot that the ‘snappers’ are all after. Our visit had coincided with a photography week led by Roy Toft, a pro-photographer who has been visiting the Osa for 25 years and has published stunning photographic books on the wildlife of the peninsula. He makes an annual pilgrimage here accompanied by a group of very keen and dedicated photographers, all wanting to experience the up close and personal with any of the gems in Roy’s books. And they do.
After lunch and the usual orientation chat from the hosts, we were escorted to our Pacific Ocean facing ‘classic’ cabina – Sol. This room consisted of two double beds (rather than one king), chairs, desk, bathroom (complete with outdoor shower) and a deck with handcrafted rocking chairs, sun recliners and hammock and views almost to Sydney!
We were not to know initially when ‘moving in’ what a prime spot this was, but it didn’t take long for the realisation to hit. Within 15 minutes on the deck a black vulture flew past, only 2 metres from where we were sitting. These birds are common to many parts of Central and South America, but we were unaware of this at our first sighting. Being in such a location, we soon became old hands at recognising and naming the ubiquitous wildlife. A flock of magnificent frigatebirds swooped down and around the cliff, and a yellow-breasted, purple winged euphonia bird just fell out of the ceiling of the cabina, before shaking itself and flying off through the open door.
Next we went for a short walk on a muddy trail that led to a bouncing suspension bridge, then circled back via the tropical garden as it started to rain. Our water shoes proved ideal for the many areas of red mud. After a while, we no longer tried to dodge the clay, but just clumped our way through it, leaving the shoe clean up until it was time to depart (for which an excellent scrubbing brush and clean plastic bag to encase wet shoes were provided).
On our stroll back to the cabina we were serenaded by a howler monkey, spotted a roadside hawk who was happy to pose for photographs and our first agouti (a large tailless rodent similar to a guinea pig, but the size of a sturdy house cat). While naturally jumpy, these creatures were obviously used to having humans around. We had time for more relaxation on our deck before ‘happy hour’, when we headed to the bar with our books and sipped vodka, lime and sodas while nibbling the daily complimentary snacks – which on this day happened to be refried beans, homemade tortilla chips and spicy salsa. Nice match with our choice of aperitifs!
Dinner was a buffet with many veggie options; the fried squash, roasted zucchini, baked potatoes and garlic broccoli were all tasty and there was plenty of it! We chatted with other guests and enjoyed the house wine as the plates were cleared and before long, at 9:30pm, we were the only ones left in the lodge. As you can imagine, early rising is popular here so as to catch animal and bird sightings, so we took our cue and went to bed.
The following afternoon found us plonked in the rocking chair on our deck after a vigorous beach walk. And it wasn’t long before another gift from Mother Nature was offered – this time it was a spider monkey frolicking in the tree right alongside our cabina. Before long she was joined by some friends and they had a bit of a groom and a snack. A trio of scarlet macaws flew past, chattering. Macaws are renowned for being wonderful parents, and this was a couple with their teenager in tow. Unlike other species, these birds usually have one chick at a time, and they keep their young in the family until it is time for them to find their partner. In less than twenty-four hours at Bosque we had seen more wildlife in the wild than we had hoped to see in our entire stay, and we anticipated more delights in the coming days.
The next morning we went out on a tour with the resident scientist, Philip Davison. This was a four-hour walk through primary forest with lessons on the flora and fauna of the Osa. This man is so knowledgeable but more importantly has such an engaging way of imparting this knowledge that you hang on every word. He told the story of the astounding leafcutter ant, whose long streams we often had to step across on our walks. The culmination of this story was the realisation that a whole hillside we were looking at comprised one of their ant nests, about 20 years old. One of the most sophisticated systems in nature, they run their complex world with efficiency and order, and it’s brilliant.
Back at the lodge for lunch we heard, “There’s a three-toed sloth down there,” and several of us went to investigate. We all expected to see a bundle of fur high in the top of a soaring tree. But no, this male was only about 4m off the ground right next to the gravel driveway of the lodge. Photographer Roy Toft said that this was the first time that he had seen one this close. The sloth stayed put, reminiscent of an impassive koala, many lenses trained at him from all angles (no flash, of course).
Another delicious lunch downed and about to set out on another walk, we heard the sloth was on the move. He had descended and was slowing traversing the gravel driveway, still surrounded by silent and enthralled photographers. There was a precious moment with the sloth getting up close and personal with one photographer and his tripod and camera, looking like he was really interested in the human and his toys – in reality, he just wanted to get into the foliage and up another tree! We continued to watch as this lumbering furball with its Lurch-like arms made its way up its targeted tree and disappeared from view.
The next morning we decided to do the walk to the waterfall on the Pacific side of the peninsula. We were the first people on the beach, the only tracks besides our own being coati paw prints. A small hawk kept us company as we strolled, repeatedly posing for photos on branches that overhung the sand.
Turning inland and wading upstream in a creek bed towards the waterfall was a totally contrasting experience with the canopy giving a tunnel-like effect. The waterfall itself was about 20m high, but a fallen tree, now part of the obstacle course for the cascade of water, prevented us approaching under the torrent of water itself. We didn’t fancy trying to clamber up slippery rocks to reach it, so we explored and lingered about for a bit more and then headed back. The climb back to the top of the cliff didn’t feel quite as arduous as that of our previous hikes – maybe we were starting to get used to the exercise.
On our last day at Bosque, we managed to secure a booking with the magical masseuse, Jutta, whose outdoor massage table sat between two mighty trees, surrounded by the smells and sounds of the jungle, as well as curious wildlife. She told of once massaging a guest when a puma walked through the surrounding foliage. After she finished her pressure point work (an hour that passed in a moment), the walk back to the lodge as dusk fell was quite euphoric, complementing the overall sense of well-being and peace that our stay at Bosque evoked.
This secluded piece of land on the tip of the Osa Peninsula (at 750+ acres) provided the location for one of our most memorable nature travel stays – I very much doubt it could be beat for the proximity and abundance of wildlife observations. But owners Phil and Kim Spier must be commended for their steadfast vision to preserve and protect this crucial eco-system. Throughout the more than 27 years of Bosque’s existence their commitment to the environment’s preservation has led to many eco-initiatives that were pioneering examples to others – the solar power, the natural water supply that is filtered for extra purity, and no plastic (they even invented their own biodegradable water bottles that begin to break down after 36 months). They uphold the integrity and sustainability of this paradise by not expanding beyond their current footprint, despite the potential and demand (you really must book well in advance to secure a spot at Bosque). Costa Rica in general, and Bosque del Cabo in particular, have really got the hang of this conservation thing. If only the rest of the world would sit up and take notice.