El Remanso, Costa Rica

A lucky sighting of a rare, breeding, gliding tree frog.

Location: El Remanso, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Famous for: Toucans, sloth, red eyed tree frogs and an abundance of other rainforest wildlife, including the elusive Puma.

When to go: As always with these places, it really depends on what you want to experience and how you want to experience it. Wildlife is abundant in the rainy season, but the bad weather than often be obstructive to both vision and travel. Dry season is easier to get around, but not all of the wildlife will be visible. So if it’s a wildlife experience you are after, go at the end of the dry season, beginning of the wet season (it’s quieter too) and just be prepared for the rainfall. Dry season: Late November to late April. Rainy or ‘tropical’ season: May through to November. But whichever season you prefer – you will be in for the experience of a lifetime.

Cost: The cost for this particular Lodge can be found on their website here…> and again you have a choice of garden or ocean view rooms, suites, or cabins. In my opinion the views are equally as gorgeous whether its garden or sea aspect, but if you want to experience this place at it’s best, go for a cabin – nestled into the rainforest foliage, they are truly worth it.

Flights/travel: You will need to get a lengthy transfer via road or a small flight to get back to the capital from here, so make sure you factor that cost in. The small local airport is easily accessible and the flight provides beautiful scenery for the 45minute transfer. If you choose to drive, you will be looking at a 5 hour trip (ish), but with scenery equally as beautiful. El Remanso will organise transfers for you to and from the lodge to the airport.

Time difference: 7 hours behind UK

White faced Capuchin monkeys joining us for breakfast

El Remanso: Where to start… well, arriving in El Remanso is something that is both exhilarating and incredibly calming. With the glorious rainforest backdrop and accompanying orchestra of birds, mammals and insects, it is difficult to focus, but the team here are adept at making you feel instantly at home and truly relaxed.

This family owned and run lodge is small (only 13 rooms) and specialises in the personal touches that make it a place you will be reluctant to leave, like calling you by your first name from the moment you arrive, remembering your likes and dislikes and tracking you down if something interesting is spotted on site.

The wooden construction cabins (made from naturally fallen timber and locally grown bamboo) are set on the valleys edge looking down through the jungle to the sea, with a private decked area in front so you can really take in the view. The rainforest is all around you, growing up around the cabins and the cabins themselves are spacious, stylish and open plan, giving you a real sense of space. A ridiculously comfy hammock is strung across it (did I mention how relaxing this place is?) and with the view down to the sea there is no better place to be than on the hammock at dawn or dusk.

Set within 185 acres of private reserve, the lodge itself makes little or no impact on its surrounding environment. Using fresh mountain spring water, solar electricity, providing eco friendly toiletries to the guests (which are lovely) and even recycling their own waste this place is not only a natural paradise, but a proactive conservation dream come true. Everyone here works hard to protect the environment and educate their visitors with a passion that is infectious. The guides share their knowledge willingly and I can honestly say that the guiding we experienced here is the best we have experienced anywhere. I was humbled by how much they do to protect the jungle and the wildlife within it and all with no loss of comfort, in fact the luxurious feel was enhanced by the truly natural surroundings.

There is a bar and restaurant, where a wonderful selection of food is produced. Meals are at set times through the day and each one provides three delicious courses, so you will not go hungry here. Hot, fresh Cost Rican coffee is available in immense flasks throughout the day something which is a real treat (the coffee is the best I have tasted) and of course the fresh spring water is deliciously cool and on tap!

Tamandua (ant eater) spotted outside the man lodge reception.

Wildlife: There is no shortage of it and you will get used to the fact that your day will start early and end early. The Howler Monkeys and the Scarlet Macaws will wake you at first light quickly followed by everything else. There are troops of Spider Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys and Capuchin Monkeys moving through the trees with regularity, but you may have to look harder to find the sloth, Coati and Puma… You have expert guides at the lodge who can take you out for any number of hikes (how far you go is up to you) but if you want to explore on your own, you can – the lodge provides guests with a map of the trails and a description of what you can find on each.

There are more than 463 species of bird and 140 different types of mammal here, so just keep your camera handy.

What to take:
• Waterproof and breathable jackets
• Quick drying walking trousers (‘zip off’ are always handy) and tops
• Lightwight walking shoes (its warm here so boots can get a little hot)
• A camera and plenty of memory cards
• Good quality torches/flashlights
• Binoculars or monoculars – invaluable when you are out walking
• Waterproof rucksack or rucksack liner, rain can fall without little warning and be very heavy
• A refillable drinks bottle
• Some Spanish language basics…

Beautiful beetles and insects if you look closely…

What to expect: Rain, after all this is a rainforest, although the amount of rain will depend on the time of year you visit. Expect friendly locals and a welcoming team to help make your visit extra special. Expert guiding, if required, after all you are allowed to walk these trails unescorted (just follow the safety rules). Expect to share this paradise with the inhabitants and yes that does mean bugs, but they are an affable lot and most of them are stunning to look at, so don’t get nervous just get a good look – you may be surprised. There are not a lot of mosquito here, due to a lack of still water and the fact that the larvae are eaten by other bugs, so don’t expect have to cover yourself with deet (a huge plus!). However, there are some about and as always I relied on my trusty Skin So Soft (from Avon) which seemed to work here.

Don’t expect to be disturbed here – there is no TV, no mobile phone signal, nor is there any internet access, expect to be completely unreachable and enjoy every minute of it in a technology free environment.

I have to say of all my wildlife trips and the jungles/rainforests I have visited, this has been the most magical and felt like the biggest adventure. Plus, and it’s a big plus, it’s nice to know that you aren’t harming the the habitat. To experience this reserve, this lodge and spend time with the people who work there was a privilege and an education in effective sustainable tourism, so go on dig out your passports and take yourself off to another world, it really is worth it.

You can find the El Remanso web page here…> and they have a facebook page where you can keep up to date with their news here…>