Day 3 |
Mar 30, 2012

Golfo Dulce 

By Claire Allum, Archaeologist

Co-ordinates: 08° 39.1” N 083° 15.9” W
Weather: Warm, slightly overcast with a brief rainstorm in the early afternoon
Air Temperature: High 32C / 90F

It was a beautiful morning for our visit to the Casa Orquideas gardens in the Golfo Dulce. It was already 30C by 8:30 am, so I enjoyed the breeze as the Zodiac cut across the calm bay to land us on a grey pebble beach. One of the Casa Orquideas’ owners, Julie MacAllister, and her dog Spike, were on the beach to greet us.

Julie and her husband, Ron, came to Golfo Dulce from California decades ago as self-proclaimed hippies wanting to “live off the land.” They bought land, inaccessible by road, and during their self-imposed exile began collecting plants. Initially they transplanted exotic fruit and flowering plants brought to Costa Rica by the United Fruit Company in the early 1900s. Later, they collected seeds and seedlings from all over the world. Now, nearby tourist lodges bring their guests over by boat to walk through the lush, Gaugin world she and her husband have created.

Cycads were a highlight for me—only a few species live in the world today. In the Jurassic, 200 to 145 million years ago, this seed plant was common; dinosaurs strode through forests of their long, fan-like fronds. According to my guide, Gilbert, one species known as the “cardboard plant” (Zamia furfuracea) is difficult to kill by neglect and is, therefore, the perfect houseplant for people who cruise a lot.

Another favourite of mine was Torch Ginger (either Phaeomeria magnifica or Etlingera elatior). Tall, vertical stalks support long, green, banana-like leaves and magnificent, frothy, pink or salmon-coloured structures—I can’t call these flowers, as they are actually modified leaves, bracts, which attract the plant’s pollinators. The flower is a small, non-descript, reddish cup hidden in one of the Baroque bract layers.

In the kitchen garden, Gilbert pointed out manioc—an important domesticate in antiquity for South and Central America. But today, he said, some farmers in Costa Rica hide marijuana crops inside manioc crop because of the similarity of the plants’ leaves.

In the afternoon I manned the side-gate and saw guests off on their visit to “the Sanctuary,” a wildlife rescue center located a few kilometers along the Golfo Dulce from the Casa de Orquideas. The Sanctuary is owned by Carol Crews and among the animals she has rescued and keeps at the center are sloths, capuchin monkeys, a tyra, a great cassowary, scarlet macaws, and two spider monkeys, Sweetie and Winkie.

I gave a brief presentation on manioc in antiquity at the late afternoon Recap & Briefing. Next I attended a cocktail party to celebrate first-time travellers on a Silversea voyage. I always find it interesting to find out where guests are from and how they discovered Silversea.

The clocks are going ahead one hour tonight, so it was an early night for most.