The Exodus trip, "Discover Costa Rica", is a wonderful introduction to a wildlife paradise. The programme was jam-packed with unforgettable sights and experiences.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Such was the sheer variety of "moments" that it is well nigh impossible to isolate one of them as being the "most inspirational". To have beautiful hummingbirds in virtually every location tends to leave one feeling somewhat blase about these gorgeous creatures. Scarlet macaws flying and screeching over a boat during a trip to see crocodiles and river birds was wonderful. The night trip to see large numbers of frogs and snakes was stunning. Just living in a remote lodge in the midst of the rainforest, with all of the sounds of the creatures being a huge feature, especially at nights, was terrific. "Most inspirational"? I took over 2000 photographs, so it may take some time to work that one out.
- What did you think of your group leader?
Jose was absolutely great. His knowledge of the wildlife was encyclopedic, his ability to track it down was mesmerising to watch, and his tripod-mounted telescope was stunning. He clearly loved his country, and was determined to show every aspect of it that he could trace in as best a light as possible. "Super Mario", our driver, was always bang on time, and shuttled us around quickly and safely.
They were a great pairing. Another huge advantage was the rest of the party, including Exodus's own very genial and impressively laid back Karol. They were an absolutely lovely group of people to be travelling with, and this added immeasurably to the quality of the whole experience.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Don't overlook the advice about taking a waterproof jacket, walking boots, and fairly heavy duty sandals. One or two of the walks/climbs are a little bit demanding, so be prepared to be pushed, just a bit, on occasions. The insect problem is not as bad as some would have you believe, but insect protection is advised.
Costa Rica is not a country to visit for its towns, architecture, etc. For most travellers, it is a fabulous location for nature and wildlife, and travellers interested in nature and wildlife are those who would get most out of this trip.
Prices, generally, are consistent with what we pay in the UK, so don't think that eating out, buying drinks, paying for trips, etc, are cheap options.
The local currency can only be bought in Costa Rica. A large currency counter, with about eight tellers, is located at the baggage reclaim in San Jose. I brought low denomination American dollar bills, and they were universally accepted (indeed, at times, expected) everywhere I went. Change is usually given in local currency, although most prices (outside of supermarkets) were in round dollars. ATMs are becoming more widespread, but clearly are not an option in remote parts of the country.
A tax of 28 US dollars (not 26) is required when you leave the country. You can pay part of it with any local currency you have left over, and the rest in dollars.
Bring the best binoculars, camera and lens (400mm minimum) you can get hold of. You'll need them.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
I have been to South America, and Central America, in successive years, flying with Iberia via Madrid. On both occasions, I have missed the connecting flight from Madrid. The schedules were too tight, and delays resulted in there being no chance of making a connection at Madrid's other terminal, from where flights to the Americas depart. Madrid can be a confusing airport. Our San Jose flight was listed as leaving from Gate U61, but all of the signs pointed only to there being U gates up to U59.
As the connecting flights to the Americas usually leave around mid day, in future, I will arrange to stay overnight in Madrid, wake up at a decent time, prepare for a long flight, and board in Madrid, at leisure.
Apart from that... Costa Rica with Exodus? Just go.