Day 3 |
Oct 30, 2011

Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Botanist

Co-ordinates: 08° 36`N, 83° 11`W
Weather: overcast
Air Temperature: 26°C

Early in the morning the Silver Explorer arrived at our first destination in Golfo Dulce on the west coast of Costa Rica. The plan for today was to drop off first two Zodiac groups at the Rescue Center then reposition the ship in front of the Orchid House about 5 miles away from the center. As the waters surrounding the Rescue Center are too deep to throw anchor, our Captain just drifted the ship and disembarkation was done very quickly.

It was planned for me to first be at the Orchid House and then, after the groups swapped around, at the Rescue Center. When we arrived at the Casa Orquideas, the local guides were already waiting for us. The beautiful Orchid House or Casa Orquideas is privately owned and what I would call a botanical garden. It lies in a small bay of Golfo Dulce and is surrounded by lush tropical forests. The owner not only has a remarkable collection of native Costa Rica plants but also some very typical tropical plants from other parts of the world. One very remarkable tree is a beautiful Calabash tree. The tour in the garden brings our guests closer to some plants of the tropical rainforest, as they are sometimes hard to see in the natural forest; either there are rare in nature or they grow far up in the canopy, like the orchids, and are hard to observe.

Our guests on the tour through the garden could not only admire beautiful orchids and heliconias, but also useful plants like the Onoto tree, which produces in the fruit capsule a red color used by the people to dye food or paint things. Then we also saw pepper shrubs, vanilla orchid and the Ilang Ilang tree that is famous for its smell and which was used in the production of the perfume Channel 5.

In addition to all these different botanical treasures, the garden is always a good place to spot birds. This time our guests were really lucky and saw Scarlet Macaws, Chestnut Mandible Toucans, and one species of an Arasari that passed through the garden. But not only birds can be sighted in the garden, tent bats can be seen sleeping under the leaves of the fan palm, and with some luck like this day a bird-eating snake.

After this exciting excursion into the Orchid House, our guests got into the Zodiacs and were transferred to next landing site – the Rescue Center, which is about a 20- to 25-minute Zodiac ride away. There we were welcomed by Carol Crews and her two babies: Sweetie and Winkie, two juvenile spider monkeys. The Rescue Center tries to rehabilitate and return to nature animals that have had an accident and got injured or that have spent part of their life as a pet. Carol explained how the center operates, the facilities and the success of the center, which greatly depends on the animal species, and the damage, physically or psychologically, the animal has endured. Walking through the Center, our guests could have a close look at a Tayra, sloths, Macaws and a Coati.

At 12.30 all guests were back on board and the Silver Explorer set sail for Golfito, for clearance purpose only, as our next destination is the Cocos Island and no clearance is possible there.

After a little break, I gave a lecture on “Tropical Forests in Latin America”, giving insight into the fascinating world of tropical rainforest and the threats it is facing.

In the Recap & Briefing our Expedition Leader Robin West talked about our activities on board tomorrow, and my colleagues Patricia, Claire, Claudia, Aiello and I gave a short recap on different topics from today’s shoreside activities.

In the evening, our guests enjoyed a delicious dinner in The Restaurant, looking out on the Pacific Ocean and experiencing, for the first time on this voyage, a heavy tropical rain.