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If you find your way to Costa Rica, chances are, you’ll go wandering through a jungle or two.  And what better way to do so than on a canopy tour?  Sporting secluded paths, numerous suspension bridges, and abundant life, these certainly keep one entertained – all with a knowledgeable local to answer silly questions and point out the camouflaged animals (and make sure no one gets eaten by a puma).

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

It’s no surprise, then, that we took two such tours.

Our first was near the beginning of our trip, in a place called Rainmaker.  We got out early and had the guide and trail all to ourselves.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Several things surprised me on that tour.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

First, mosquitos came in swarms.  Fortunately, they seemed only to like our guide’s head, as he walked with a seemingly constant cloud.  However, none appeared to land.  He later plucked a berry off a nearby branch, broke it in half, and urged us to smell it.  Citronella.  Place a few in your pocket, and the bugs leave you alone.  Perhaps he had crushed a few of these into his shampoo that day.  Meanwhile, I had doused myself in bug spray, and it was fairly effective, though I did go home with a few bites.

Next, around every corner, he stopped to point out a new frog or lizard or bug.  Never once did I see it before he showed us where it was.  And some of these creatures were tiny!  It must take a lot of practice to spot them while cruising down the trail.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Finally, even along such a short walk, there were varying microclimates (nanoclimates?).  While our journey began right in the thick of the trees – hot and muggy – it cooled considerably as we descended toward the river.  The heat returned in full force as we climbed in altitude, and it dried somewhat as we poked above the canopy.  A slight breeze greeted us as we traversed the treetops along a series of suspension bridges (built to be gentle on the trees – just like in Vancouver, B.C.!), but the oppressive heat hit us once more as we circled back.  Down at the floor, the air was cool and refreshing, and we even dunked our feet into the water.  Finally, we returned to the humidity and it began to sprinkle just as we reached the trailhead.  Perfect timing!

It really was a wonderful hike, and we saw so much wildlife.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Our second tour was in Arenal, near the end of our trip, and following an exhilarating morning of ziplining.  This one proved to be somewhat less lively, though we did get down to a beautiful waterfall, and we had spectacular views of the enormous Arenal Lake.  We also got rained on in full force on this excursion, proving that even Portlanders don’t know true rain.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

We finished our trek much faster than anticipated, but our guide had only the two of us – seasoned hikers.  We certainly enjoyed it, though I was more impressed with Rainmaker.  It helped that the latter was our first of the tours, it helped that contrary to its name we actually stayed dry, and it helped that it was first thing in the morning – when it’s cooler and the wildlife is more active.  While I might have preferred to have hiked the Arenal tour in the morning, I wouldn’t have wanted to swap it with ziplining; though rain might have made us go faster, of the two, I’d choose a dry zipline.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Canopy tours are a great way to experience Costa Rica, and I highly recommend them.  Just remember your bug spray, wear long pants, and don’t forget your rain gear.  And above all else, be sure to bring a good camera with you; you’ll definitely want it.

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