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Vacation in Costa Rica

March 22, 2009

Caiman, drying its jaws

Caiman, drying its jaws

We just vacationed in Costa Rica. We had about 4 full days (outside of travel time) so we had to choose what we really wanted to do and frankly, it couldn’t have been better if we’d tried. Somethings were planned to the tee (my husband found an animal-friendly, veg resort in one of the areas we stayed!), on the other hand we left a night open with no hotel reservations trusting ourselves to find our way out.

I’d like this post to be a travelogue but as we went about our vacation from rainforest to wetland to rainforest, through mucky trails and hair in braids (mine, not his), we found ourselves talking time and again about whether the vacations we take are too “unconventional”. Costa Rica is known for beautiful beaches – a group of his friends were there at the same time as us but he joked about how there was no fear of running into them since they were going to be at a beach for 7 days straight. Beach, Party, Beach. Repeat. There are also adventure sports like white water rafting. Fine. All well and good and sort of things I’d heard people do when they visited CR.

Except we did none of that. Our vacations, consciously or not have revolved around hiking, wildlife safaris and bird-watching. While people can relate to a bit of this, they cannot understand entire vacations devoted to them – especially the last. For our honeymoon, we went to a tiger sanctuary in Uttaranchal (old UP). In Alaska we spent primarily all our time either in the Pacific scouting whales or in the mountains and rivers scouting the grizzly bear (saw both, thank you).Β  And in Costa Rica we saw about 60 species of land birds and 30 species of water birds. Our photo album is full of birds and animals, very few glamour shots of us posing dreamily on a beach pinacolada in hand. But this is what we love. I grew up with my father as an amateur ornithologist and with a passion for wildlife. In India, I’ve traveled mostly to tiger and wildlife sanctuaries from Kashmir, Rajasthan and UP to Periyar and Kabini down south. Besides, I worked with animal rights organizations and while I do very little right now, this is my way of keeping up to date on wildlife conservation and broadening my horizons. I live in the busiest, most commercial city in the world and while I love it, it’s too easy to lost sight of the raw and natural. My husband spent his years growing up camping – real camping, laying down tents and lighting firewood for food.Β  His parents took him birdwatching and have a built a naturally irrigated garden with tadpoles and fishes in an ecologically sound environment. This was the nature of our childhood. Of course we could’ve grown up and decided that that’s enough of this roughing-out torture and sought after the Ritz Carlton variety of vacation. But we didn’t. And fortunately for us – we married each other so we don’t need to inflict our idiosyncrasies on other unsuspecting adults.

The reason I bring this up is not because I look down on the beach vacation, or the ones that don’t include nature – but because too often we find ourselves having to explain our choices, half apologetically to everyone. And when you’re thirty, it’s a little tiresome to succumb to the peer pressure. I have had some beach vacations and loved them. I have had some urban vacations and loved them more. But our brand of vacation has helped us see parts of countries and states other vacations don’t always allow. As we stammered with Spanish-speaking locals, lived amongst villagers and interacted with nature guides, we quickly forgot we were tourists. No one tried to sell us anything. No souvenir shops in the rainforest. Not something I would’ve been able to experience in a beautiful albeit popular beach location. Besides, with our limited travel budget I try to see hopefully what’s unique about the place. I’ve seen beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico and I’m sure CR beaches are still worth a dekko, but I can’t give up seeing the Toucan which I won’t see elsewhere.

Does this happen to you? growing older and still trying to fit in? Or rather not trying (as in our case) but gingerly explaining your choices. When I say I went bird-watching, people look at me half amused, half worried like I have a rare disease. Bad that I have the disease but rare so it makes the evening news.

I leave you with a couple ofΒ  photos (WP is screwing up the resolution, any one know why?) – one of the Roseate Spoonbill which migrates from Canada to Costa Rica to breed this time of year. Our boatman Ernesto was very worried that I wouldn’t get off his boat until I saw one. When I said thank you to him, he looked straight at the spoonbills and said “thank YOU roseate spoonbill!” One of a frightful caiman (alligator, above) and another of a frightfully lazy Iguana sunning on his perch in the tree.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2009 8:40 pm

    When you’re 30, it’s not called ‘trying to fit in’ anymore. It’s ‘this is the way I am and I’m happy in my skin so bad you think otherwise’ time. πŸ™‚

    I’m more of the city type, not so much beaches, but yours sounds like a wonderful vacation! More pics please!

    Ahh but you lie…I spied some bird photos you took somewhere:) I love cities too – we do long weekend trips to cities. So it might be budget more than interest that decides our long-distance travel! We could afford South America right now, not Europe. But what I wouldn’t give to visit all the beautiful cities I’ve dreamed of and watched in the movies.

    I’m not only 30, I’m also becoming boring. I conveniently left that out from the post πŸ™‚

  2. March 25, 2009 6:21 am

    πŸ™‚ seems like I’d have to join in on one of those vacays with you.
    I can’t reteirate how crucial it is that both of you seek the same kind of holidays: Nino’s Dad is a complete party, party, party buff, so our holidays are usually spent bickering over all that I din’t get to see/hike/click.
    I am also clearly singled out in our group of friends: they all chose a holiday to bust stress: and that is pigging out and beer gluging and that’s about it. I’ve been hoping that getting Nino in the picture will change things: but we haven’t done a good holiday since he’s gotten here.
    πŸ™‚ this sounds like a rant comment (and maybe it is), but I’m glad you choose these ‘offbeat’ holidays unapologetically, without peer pressure weighing the ‘cool’ factor in. Thank you for the great pix. πŸ™‚ and oh, may the holiday highs last long!

  3. March 30, 2009 10:14 am

    Hey! Vacations are about getting away from the world to do what you want to do, not about meeting the world and fitting in. I just got back from Zambia, where for the first time I saw lions, leopards, zebras, giraffes and hippos in the wild, not to forget endless birds – I even have a list of what all I saw! And I love going to Corbett even though I still haven’t ever seen a tiger there! So while I may not want to camp in the forest, I definitely appreciate your definition of vacations! Keep them coming, and share the pictures with us πŸ™‚

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