Thursday, February 25, 2010

Costa Rica: Whales and Dolphins

Our inn, while nestled into a jungle hillside, was also at the mouth of a river which fed into Drake Bay. An archway at the dock features dolphin statues as a nod to the wonderful creatures living beyond the bay.



On our first full day at the inn we decided to go out and search for whales and dolphins. We hadn't been on the water for more than 20 minutes when we spotted spouts from humpback whales. The whales come here to have their babies and nurse their young in the warmer waters. While their babies gain up to 30 pounds a day, the mothers lose a significant percentage of their body fat during this period. They have no food source here. Only when the whales swim north again, to the cooler waters where krill live, will the mother start to eat once more.

These two whales were with a young one, but we rarely saw glimpses of it. And the grown-ups weren't too exciting; only once did they dive deep enough for us to spy a tail. I have a blurry picture of it that's not worth posting. But here are the two behemoths as they enjoyed the warm water. We watched them loll about for close to an hour, then moved on.



We traveled further and spotted something in the water: a yellow-bellied sea snake, a cousin of the cobra and one of the most poisonous water snakes. They grow to about 2 1/2 feet and this one was most definitely full grown. The end of the snake's tail is flat like an oar to propel it through the water. It eats by capturing unsuspecting fish that seek shelter beneath it. It was so weird seeing a snake in the water ... and what are the chances we come across one in the middle of the ocean!


A bit further on we came across a small pod of spotted dolphins. These dolphins are shyer than bottlenose dolphins, so we were very lucky to get such a good look at them. They were hunting together, darting all about. As the dolphins age, they get more spots -- rather the reverse of the cat world.


Later on, we also saw some bottlenose dolphins. It's just so exciting to see the control and speed they have in the water. They swim so close together! I think there are eight dolphins in tight formation here.


What an exciting day at sea!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Costa Rica: The Start of my Mini-Memoir

We were a bit delayed on Friday evening. First, our flight couldn't depart because we had to wait for all the food to arrive. (It wasn't worth the wait, I'm sorry to say.) Then, once we were at our cruising altitude, the captain announced that the flight would take just a bit longer because the headwinds off the nose were close to 200 knots! This made for a slightly bumpy trip and there were perhaps 30 minutes of the almost six hour flight during which the seat belt sign was off.

Everything turned around, however, the next morning. Our flight to Drake Bay was uneventful and the views were wonderful. I had forgotten from our last visit to Costa Rica, just how mountainous parts of the the country are.


We chose to visit the Osa Peninsula because it's supposed to be one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. With that in mind, it seemed only appropriate that we stay at an eco-lodge. Here's our children's room, nestled into the jungle hillside. Can't see it? Well, look for the teeny-tiny brown A-frame at the top of the hill. Yep, that's it. It was almost perfect .... it would have been perfect if I didn't have to climb 75 steps to get there. (Our room was just next door, but it's blocked here by foliage.)


Every morning, we had spectacular views of the bay and the surrounding jungle. You're up early here, usually by 5:30 because the birds -- particularly the parrots and the wrens -- start singing and squawking then. Doesn't it look like a movie set?


The inn didn't have air-conditioning (we knew that going in, but still a bit of a bummer with 95% humidity!) so, instead of windows, the front and sides of the room were framed with screens. The ceiling fan helped pull in whatever breezes there were. And, when it was just too much or when we were pooped out from our excursions, we opted for the siesta plan using hammocks on the porch.


Meals were served and prepared under the roof of an open -air pavilion. We reveled in the skill of the chef who fixed such amazing food despite white-faced monkeys who would sometimes try to steal from the larder. Breakfast offered a wide variety of choices including some local favorites, like brown pancakes topped with caramel, sour cream and nuts. For those at the inn during the day, lunch often featured produce from the owner's organic farm -- oh, the most delicious tomatoes EVER! Dinner was a family affair; all the guests joined together at the three tables and ate their meal starting at 7 pm. By then, the sun was down and the locusts were singing us a serenade. And no, the mosquitos weren't bad at all. I think a combination of the time of year and the resident bats kept the mosquitos in check. And, it was fun when the electricity went out at night and we ate by the light of the flashlights attached to our keys -- a necessity to see the stairs in the dark!


Yes, for those with an adventurous spirit, our location was fabulous. We were thrilled. Next up: some of our adventures.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Much Needed Vacation

I really needed a vacation after my youngest gave me her stomach flu bug and after my oldest then got it so badly that she spent three days at the hospital. Luckily, she was strong enough to leave with us as planned on our trip to Costa Rica this past week. We had a wonderful time enjoying the rainforest by Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. Now that I'm back, I'll share some of my experiences and pictures. I think I'll start by showing you the sight we saw as we stepped off the boat in the small community of Drake Bay: horses playing in the surf. This lovely sight bode well for the week to come.




On a separate note, I'd like to announce that my piece, Daisies, will be up for bid on Tuesday as part of Virginia Spiegel's Tote Tuesday fund raiser for the American Cancer Society. I hope you'll take the time to look at all the wonderful items available for bid (click here for details) and support the cause in whatever manner you can. Thanks!


Friday, February 12, 2010

Look What Came in the Mail

The other day I posted a comment on Norma Schlager's blog. She was celebrating her birthday by raffling off a postcard she had made. Well, Norma pulled my name out of the hat! Here's the lovely card I just received. Although Norma made the card so it could go through the mail, I think I prefer to keep it. Lucky me!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Re-Emerging

I've been away from my blog because of trouble with a herniated disc in my neck and a bout of stomach flu. YECH! I'd forgotten (and that's probably a good thing) how wretched the latter is. The silver lining: I lost 5 pounds -- maybe six, if I ease myself onto the scale. I'm slowly, slowly, slowly trying to get back into things, but I think it's going to take a while since I'm just wiped out. So, I'll just post a flower picture from last spring and crawl back into bed. Thanks for your patience! I hope to be back soon.