Snorkeling in Cahuita
Rayna and I got up early this morning for the four and a half hour drive to Cahuita from her apartment in Heredia. Daylight greeted us just as we cleared the mountainous Braulio Carrillo road and, just as I have been since my plane first touched down in San Jose a week ago, I was in awe of the lush green vegetation.
Upon reaching the small, relatively undeveloped coastal village of Cahuita, Rayna and I quickly located Roberto's Tours. We were really excited about the snorkeling tour we were scheduled to go on. After picking out flippers and a mask, it was just a short walk to the beach and a small boat which took us out to the reef. The water was flat as a farm pond and the sky was bright blue as our boat motored south along the coast toward Cahuita Point (which is the southern point of Cahuita National Park). Neither Rayna nor I had ever snorkeled over a reef before; we fell in love with it right from the start!
Corals of varying color, size, texture and shape were marvelous to behold and, of course, so were all the fish! As cliche as it sounds, I felt like I was in a National Geographic special. It is difficult to believe some of the colors we saw actually exist in nature. My favorite was a small fish that was a deep neon-blue with black spots. We also saw lots of angel fish, urchins and crabs. Beside all that, we were lucky enough to spot an eel, a manta ray and even an octopus, which appeared to be dining on a large conch shell!
After exploring the reef for about two hours, we boarded the small boat again and headed for Cahuita Point. Although we did not know it before we left for the tour, Rayna and I were pleasantly surprised to learn we had the option to walk back to Cahuita through the Park. As we approached the white sandy beach at the point, we saw about seven white-faced monkeys waiting to greet us!
The walk through this park was a real treat. In many places the path is white sand and winds along the shoreline. Aside from the white-faced monkeys we also saw many different kinds of crabs, including large purple and yellow land crabs, butterflies, birds and even a basilisk lizard! Lucky for us, Rayna also spotted a sloth sitting motionless in a tree like a stuffed animal someone had left behind. I could not get over how fake it looked sitting statuesque and seemingly unaware of our presence. After walking for about an hour we stopped for a quick dip, and that is when I heard them.
I have to admit, I would have been absolutely petrified by the sound of what Rayna told me were howler monkeys had she not been there to inform me that my fear was unfounded. Their "howl" is impossible for me to describe, but I am not exaggerating when I say it made my heart race! We quickly got out of the water and headed down the path to where we could see them high above us in the trees. They were so cool to watch!
In all, our leisurely walk back to the village took about two hours, and I saw far more flora and fauna in that short amount of time than I thought I was going to see in a week! Stopping back by Roberto's to pick up our car, Rayna and I had the chance to speak with owner, Roberto Smikla. As the current President of Cahuita National Park, and life-long resident of The Bluff (as Cahuita is known to the locals), Roberto gave us a personal, enthusiastic and abridged local history. His warm personality and friendly face will not easily be forgotten and it is abundantly clear that he cares deeply for this place his family has called home for many generations. Further, there can be no doubt about his keen interest in preserving Cahuita National Park, as not only a local, but a business owner as well. Roberto's tour company specializes in fishing and snorkeling trips while also offering dolphin tours, transportation to Tortuguero as well as a Bribri Reservation tour.
After communing with nature for the better part of the day, it was time to eat! It was just our luck that Roberto's also has a beautiful restaurant with an extensive menu, so we decided to stay for a late lunch. The chef made us a meal to order which consisted of shrimp and vegetables sauteed in a garlic butter sauce served with whole grain rice, fried plantains and a salad. It was the perfect ending to our time with Roberto.
The rest of our day in Cahuita was slow and relaxing. Now that it is bedtime, Rayna and I are glad we made reservations with Brigitte's Place because the beds are so comfortable!