Seeking some adventure travel in the province of Puntarenas, you follow the coast south from Jaco Beach to an estuary by Damas Island. Set back from the Pacific shore, mangrove-lined waterways provide the perfect opportunity to complete your quest with a truly unique monkey tour. You board a tour boat where ocean waters meet freshwater canals that wind through a sprawling stretch of untouched rainforest. Soak in the serenity as you glide down greenery shrouded channels and venture deep into the lush tropical wetlands.
With green, red, black and white mangrove trees, the tangled landscape that slips past presents an ever-changing palette of colors. You take note that the wildlife surrounding you has made an equally dramatic shift. Majestic ospreys swoop overhead. Brightly colored kingfishers proudly display plumage of brilliant blue and vibrant orange. Red crabs scamper across the mud-packed banks of the delicately balanced ecosystem. You understand how the basilisk earned its nickname of the “Jesus Lizard” as one scuttles over the water’s surface with seemingly miraculous deftness. The hum of cicadas rises above the soundtrack of natural melodies that echo all around.
Be warned. You just might forget to cast your gaze downward as you navigate through terrain where verdant trees intertwine with fallen trunks to form dense woodlands. But you’d be remiss not to keep an eye out for the marine life that calls the habitat home. The murky waters teem with oysters, colorful sponges and spotted eagle rays. If lucky, you could catch a blacktip shark leaping from the water for a dramatic spinning strike on a school of fish.
The boat cruises past tiny islands and hidden channels that beckon for exploration. Shaded by the dense jungle canopy, you slip through tunnels that are formed by thick interlaced greenery. Migratory birds on the shores pay little notice to your passing. Snowy egrets forage along the river’s edge, while a flock of long-legged ibises wades into the warm shallows.
As you venture deeper into the extensive wetland sanctuary, a diverse variety of wildlife further reveals itself. A three-toed sloth lazes in the upper reaches of a gently swaying cecropia tree, while below a silky anteater scurries through the twisted underbrush. You instinctively ease away from the water’s surface as you spy a bask of crocodiles lurking among a shadowy tangle of mangrove roots. One of their equally deadly caiman cousins slides ominously into the brackish water as the boat eases past.
The boat drifts to a stop. Stillness is broken as your guide lets out a feral call. There’s a stirring, a mysterious rustling in the treetops. You spot a troop of white-faced capuchin monkeys nearing, swinging hand-over-hand through the upper branches as they make their playful approach. The mischievous creatures board the boat. One softly scales your arm and settles on your shoulders. The up-close interaction feels so surreal that you almost forget to snap a selfie. Luckily, only almost, and you make the return back through the mangrove forest with the moment from your nature trip perfectly captured.