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A barred forest falcon rocketed toward our windshield, its gray and white body darting up into the trees just before it touched our car.
“That’s a good omen,” our observant guide, Jose, said of the bird. “We’re going to have an exciting day.”
I was on a customized single-day tour of Costa Rica’s Monteverde region with Oropopo Experience, which offers a convenient way to learn about Costa Rican culture while exploring a magical area that houses nearly 3% of the world’s biodiversity. Unlike other tours that provide standard chauffeur-style transport, the small-group tour operator features drivers who have experience as a nature guide or a formally educated biologist. The tour also offers an early hotel pickup for guests staying in San Jose.
Nature lovers will find delight in the journey itself: Before reaching the first location of our tour, I had already lost count of the number of animals that Jose had kindly stopped the car to show us.
“Those are howler monkeys,” Jose said during such a stop, pointing at the troop of curious primates relaxing in the branches just a few feet above our heads.
The alpha of the group mirrored our inquisitive stares, while a mother and her adorable baby cuddled skeptically among the leaves.
A gentle rain set in as we continued to drive from the Gulf of Nicoya and into the mountains. Paved highways made way for dirt roads along the cliffs’ edges.
At last, we arrived at Selvatura Adventure Park. Clients should dress comfortably for their journey into this unspoiled preserve: Closed-toed shoes, a hat and a light jacket will keep the sun and rain at bay as they meander through the concrete trails beneath the canopy.
Here, we strolled at our leisure, spending hours trying to spot the various insects, arthropods, reptiles, mammals and big cats that call Monteverde home. Cameras and binoculars should be at the ready as these creatures can quickly appear before just as quickly disappearing into the lush forest.
Although the trails attract numerous visitors, their twists and turns offer countless moments of serenity in solitude. The views from the suspension bridges are stunning, too, allowing clients to breathe in the fresh rainforest air while surrounded by nearly half of all the flora and fauna found in Costa Rica.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Selvatura Park (@selvaturapark) on Nov 24, 2019 at 3:28pm PST
A post shared by Selvatura Park (@selvaturapark) on Nov 24, 2019 at 3:28pm PST
Other opportunities at Selvatura Adventure Park offering a closer look at native species include a butterfly garden, a hummingbird garden and a sloth sanctuary. Our group opted to visit the on-site terrarium, where a collection of snakes, lizards and frogs from across the country awaited. This is a must for any adventure traveler who plans on undertaking unguided hikes throughout the region; knowing how to spot poison dart frogs and deadly fer-de-lance snakes will come in handy.
A restaurant is also located on the park’s grounds, but I highly encourage that clients enjoy lunch at nearby Santuario Ecologico, which can be arranged in advance through Oropopo Experience.
This family-run farm prioritizes sustainable practices in every aspect of their lives. We were treated to a private lunch with matriarch Dona Mireya, followed by an in-depth plantation tour with her son, Chris. An award-winning coffee harvester and brewer, Chris showed us his collection of percolators and high-end brewing equipment. He also explained the farm’s eco-friendly initiatives: Everything eaten is grown on the farm, and all food scraps are then used as compost to grow new crops.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Santuario Ecológico Monteverde (@santuario_ecologico_monteverde) on Dec 18, 2019 at 2:22am PST
A post shared by Santuario Ecológico Monteverde (@santuario_ecologico_monteverde) on Dec 18, 2019 at 2:22am PST
While being mindful of time, clients may also choose to partake in a prescheduled cooking class with Dona Mireya, or to wander the farm’s many trails to spot ocelots (small wild cats), monkeys and the other furry neighbors of this small sanctuary.
Near the end of our daylong tour, we headed back to our hotels — chasing the sunset and waving goodbye to the white-faced capuchin monkeys, black guan birds and colorful aracari birds that line the long road back to San Jose.
The DetailsOropopo Experiencewww.oropopoexperience.com
Selvatura Adventure Parkwww.selvatura.com