Day 13 |
Oct 03, 2009

Casa De Orquideas, Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 08°39.173N, 083°15.921W

Weather: cloudy with rain

Again we are in Costa Rica, after leaving Panama and the Isla Coiba, we arrived at about 9:15 in the Golfo Dulce Region to pick up the Costa Rican authorities and Steven, our tour operator for this country.

The morning on the Prince Albert II was filled with a general crew drill, two lectures and a lifeboat drill for the Expedition Team. After 25 minutes, crew drill was finished and life on board started again its normal way. In The Theatre my colleague Claire Allum presented her lecture on “Tropical Forest Living”, focusing on the traditional lifestyle of native communities in the tropical rain forest. She also provided our guests with personal insights, as she spent 18 months with such a community in the pacific lowland forests of Ecuador.

The other presentation was done by my colleague Robin Aiello, on marine invertebrates and their astonishing adaptations to this environment.

On the way to our afternoon destination, Spotted Dolphins accompanied the ship. There were about 10 individuals, adults and even juvenile dolphins the guests could observe from the outer decks. At 14:00 the Prince Albert II reached her anchor position in the bay where the “Casa de Orquideas” is located. Lush tropical forests from the beach up to the ridge top surrounded the bay. From a distance we were able to hear the voices of the scarlet macaws. The beach at the landing site was more gravel than a sandy beach, black in color from the volcanic material eroded from the slopes of the mountains in the background. Just behind the shore a spectacular garden with an exciting variety of plants lay on the foot of the hills with its green luxuriant forests. And our guests didn’t have to wait too long for their first macaw sighting. Three brilliant red spots, well distinguishable from the different greens of the forest, were crossing over the “Casa de Orquideas”.

Our guests were heartily welcomed by the owner and four other guides and soon after we headed into the gardens, listening to the excellent interpretations from our local guides. Everywhere humming birds hovered around from flower to flower looking for their preferred food: nectar. Orchids, heliconids, palm, ferns, plants from the ginger and aroid family were all around us. One could find in this little paradise flowers with yellow, blue, white, red and pink colors and a variety of smells starting from a very famous perfume to the smell of rotten meat (this plant tries to attract flies). It is like a tropical rainforest in a nutshell, a small version of the forest, which was surrounding in all his grandeur the Casa de Orquideas.

Our walks lasted around two hours and the guests had plenty of time to listen and to take pictures of the fascinating nature in the garden. Soon a special birding group formed around my colleague JJ, watching for example, honeycreepers feeding on grapefruits, humming birds pollinating flowers and the common but beautiful banana quit looking between twigs and leaves for his food.

With the last Zodiac going back to the ship, the daily tropical downpour started. The warm rain showed us again that we are in the tropics, in the raining season and of course in a beautiful tropical rain forest.

The evening program on the Prince Albert II started with the Captain’s farewell cocktail party in The Theater and ended in an excellent dinner in The Restaurant.