A monkey in the treetops

A monkey in the treetops takes his time watching us before performing (click image to enlarge)DAY 5 — Our guide, Gaston Trujillo, says he thinks Costa Rica remains a jumping off point for many venturing into eco tourism for the first time. There are so many different species and habitats to see here, he explains, without great distances.

We head off in a boat right after breakfast to tour Tortuguero National Park via boat. It’s hot and humid but after the turtle expedition the night before, we’re all in good spirits as we keep our eyes peeled for monkeys (we see howlers, spider monkeys and the smaller white-faced monkeys jumping from tree branches, swinging. “Jump monkey,” says Sarah Kate, getting impatient for some action. “We don’t have all day!”

The gymnasts in our group seem particularly entranced by the monkey’s antics, peering through binoculars to see better. We see huge iguanas and the Jesus Christ Lizard, so named because he does walk on water, which the kids find hilarious.

Can’t see monkeys? Hear the howling!

Our guide tells us the fact that spider monkeys are here is an indication of a healthy rainforest. An irridescedent blue morpho butterfly flitters past. There’s a macaw. Of course the animals don’t pop out on cue — this isn’t Disneyworld. But we don’t have to wait long to see them either. It’s nature at its finest; albeit so hot we’re dripping in sweat and buggy.

The girls in the group seem to have bonded, sharing a table at meals, hanging out at the pool. And when a storm (which they think is very cool) cuts short their pool time, they gather under the Palapa of the bar to make stamps and tattoos from local natural dyes. Shirley, along as a “mentor,” is great at organizing games during the down time, though there isn’t much on this trip.

Truth be told, I think we’re all a little glad for the respite that the rain brings — kind of like kids at camp. It’s a release from the schedule. We think the afternoon kayak will be cancelled so moms rush to book spa appointments. The girls are delighted to learn a woman is coming who will braid their hair — and that Thomson Adventures is picking up the tab.

Kayla and Eva barely speak to me, they are so busy with their new friends. I guess that’s the way it should be when traveling with young teens. I’m just glad for the company of the other adults.

Pachira Lodge, though rustic, is comfortable and the staff aims to please, serving pasta at meals for the kids, for example, and serving an endless array of smoothies. I’m looking forward to my massage — half the price as at other resorts — in the open-air spa overlooking the lagoon.