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Costa Rica: A Jungle Honeymoon Adventure

by Kathryn Lemmon, Wedding Zone Staff Writer

Once you hear a howler monkey, the peculiar noise isn't easily forgotten. They are mis-named, as it doesn't sound one bit like a howl, much more like a throaty roar. In fact, you'd suspect miniature lions were cavorting in the tree tops. But in Costa Rica , it's all part and parcel of the jungle experience. If you'd like to get away from the traditional honeymoon, think Central America.

Costa Rica has been called the "Switzerland of Central America." Not for the geography of course, but for its strong emphasis on peace and education. Unlike some of it's neighbors, Costa Rica has a stable democratic government, making it safe to visit. More than 25% of all land in this country is protected in national parks or reserves. This is an ideal honeymoon location for nature lovers and hikers.

Howler monkeys are just one variety of wildlife to be found there. You can also expect to see sloth, spider monkeys, and white-faced capuchin monkeys, among others. Like cartoon characters come to life, Jesus Christ lizards, (they walk on water--hence the nickname) do run upright on their hind legs. Managing a kind of hopping-motion from left foot to right foot, they're comical. For birders, the biggest attraction is the famous quetzal, but over 800 species of birds dwell in Costa Rica.

For your first jungle experience, one great option is Tortuga Lodge located in Tortuguero, on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. It's been called the quintessential eco-lodge. Life at Tortuga Lodge revolves around the slow-moving river. Tortuguero means "land of the turtle." In terms of true jungle isolation, this lodge wins hands down. The lodge manager met our boat upon arrival with refreshing tropical drinks, rather like the 70's TV show Fantasy Island.

Surrounded by lush tropical gardens, the lodge uses a solar energy system, which is just one of the reasons they have been recognized with ecotourism awards. A narrow strip of land and the river, separate the lodge from the ocean.

Talk about a laid back place, the front desk fellows go around barefooted and in shorts. The dining room serves family style meals and the food is plentiful. My room, on a corner, had great cross ventilation with screened windows on three sides. On several mornings, I could see and hear the howler monkeys from my room--an experience I won't soon forget.

The stretch of ocean beach is particularly significant if you're a green sea turtle. From July to October, the turtles come to lay their eggs on this now-protected 22 mile section of land. Night time turtle walks are an option if you're visiting during those months.

At the dock, you can rent canoes, kayaks, or hydro-bikes for use on the river. A short boat ride away is the CCC, or Caribbean Conservation Corporation, where you can learn more about the green sea turtle.

At Tortuguero, we did much of our wildlife viewing by boat. Having read up on blue morpho butterflies, I was thrilled to see a total of six during our first ride. Their bright blue color is actually just the effect of light passing through the prismatic scales on their wings. However Mother Nature made this possible, the shimmering blue butterfly is wonderful to see. Monkeys were leaping through the trees and we also saw cayman, a type of alligator, in the river.

From directly behind the lodge you can also hike the trails into the jungle to see more wildlife. When you're ready to relax, their free-form pool awaits.

We arrived at Tortugo Lodge by small boat and left by small plane, as no roads reach this spot. The airport doesn't exist, only a paved strip of runway within sight of the sea. It provided a nice change, not a Starbucks or row of plastic chairs to be seen, no seats at all for that matter. No waiting was the best part. We stepped off the boat and walked immediately to the plane. Within five minutes the river became a narrow, curving band below us.

Costa Rica Expeditions can arrange a stay at Tortuga Lodge, with a pick up and return to the capital of San Jose. If you'd prefer an organized tour of this country, they offer several options, including white water rafting. For more information contact www.costaricaexpeditions.com.


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