Another year, another adventure cruise-tour aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion . This is my fifth consecutive season lecturing as a National Geographic Expert  on the 7-day “Costa Rica & Panama Canal”  itinerary.
It’s a highlight of my annual calendar… plus a chance to keep current for Moon Handbook Costa Rica  with destinations we visit each day.
The vessel’s itinerary focuses on the Pacific Southwest , with day-time excursions to otherwise hard-to-reach landlocked places such as Casa Orquideas  and the Río Esquinas mangrove estuary. Both are tucked into the upper reaches of Golfo Dulce —a rainforest clad, mountain-wrapped gulf near the Panamanian border.
The village of Agujitas, in Drake Bay, on the northwest shores of the Osa Peninsula, is connected to “civilization” by a rough—very rough!—dirt road that entails several river crossings. Passage is never guaranteed, and in past years I’ve had to turn back due to impassable rivers.
A narrow coast trail links Agujitas to Playa Caletas, about 4 km away. About half-a-dozen hotels line the route. Overnight guests typically arrive by boat. My only option for my biennial research is to hike the trail. Lecturing aboard the National Geographic Sea Lionprovides an opportunity to do just that. My duties as National Geographic Expert include accompanying trip participants on the daily activities, such as rainforest hikes at Playa Caletas. At the discretion of the Expedition Leader, I’m occasionally free to hike the trail, which limns coastal rainforest, to check out what’s new at the hotels.
Scarlet macaws squawk overhead. I sometimes spot brightly-colored poison-dart frogs hopping about underfoot. And monkeys are sure to be present. So too snakes, although seeing them is a matter of luck.
This year’s visit, we took advantage of a rare high tide to also explore the Agujitas River by Zodiac. Edging up the narrowing river canyon fabulous wildlife encounters, such as kingfishers, tiger herons, and chestnut-mandibled toucans.
Meanwhile, at Playa Caletas we were treated to close-up encounters with a troupe of white-faced monkeys as they spent half an hour feeding on the fruits of a palm, almost at eye to eye level. Casa Orquideas delivered its usual marvelous medley of wildlife, including the always-to-be-seen tent-making bats, which roost inside a “tent” of palm leaves that they chew until the leaves fold overhead.
And our half-day hikes from the San Pedrillo Ranger Station, in Corcovado National Park , immerse trip participants in the heart of the largest extant swath of tropical lowland rainforest in Pacific Central America. Last year we chanced upon fer-de-lance  snakes and hognose vipers. No snakes this year, just two days ago. But we did enjoy close-up encounters with howler monkeys, plus a sighting of spider monkeys, and even crocodiles! Amazing!
Once again I’m reminded of what I so love about Costa Rica… namely how it’s wildlife loves to put on a song and dance… And why I so love lecturing aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion.
Now that you’re ready to travel to Costa Rica, buy Moon Handbook Costa Rica .
If you're traveling only to San José and the Caribbean, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to the beaches of Nicoya, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to Arenal and/or Monteverde, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Arenal&Monteverde  pocket guide.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker .
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker