One of the coolest parts for me in our Costa Rica adventures was the Gift of a Guide. I love exploring new places, but as a Dad, it can sometimes be stressful being in new places and being responsible for my family’s safety, as well as their fun. So to be able to have some additional funds (thanks Pacific Conference Sabbatical Grant) to do some guided tours made the experience more relaxing and enjoyable for me, and probably more enjoyable for my family too.
We were able to have some really cool experiences on guided trips; a river float in the Costa Rican jungle, the cooking class and indigenous tour I mentioned in my previous post (along with a swim at a local waterfall). We even had a Night Tour in the jungle with a “Guide” who couldn’t have been more than 16 years old, leading us through the jungle at night (that took some trust).
But by far our favorite guide was an Afro-Caribbean local in Cahuita named Ludrik. Ludrik had been recommended to us by some other travelers we ran into in La Fortuna the night before we drove to Cahuita. We were able to contact Ludrik on our way to Cahuita and let him know some of the things we wanted to do and see in Cahuita (my year of research on our trip paid off in that regard).
Ludrik was an awesome guide and by the end of our week in Cahuita, a friend. He was great with the kids, creating a contest by giving points to whoever could spot an animal first. Cahuita has an amazing national park that is right on the beach, where the beach and the jungle meet. It is filled with wildlife, but the wildlife is really good at blending in and hiding. When we had walked about 100 feet into the national park with Ludrik he stopped and said to us, “I see 10 animals…how many do you see?” I’ve always considered myself a pretty good ‘spotter’ out in nature, but I saw 0 animals and Kealy and the kids were also skunked. Ludrik then pointed out 2 lizards, 5 monkeys and 3 sloths and showed them to us on his spotting scope. His ability to spot animals was incredible, and reminded us of the gift of a guide. From fruit bats, to wasps and even another viper, Ludrik guided us throughout the park and gave us an incredible experience, teaching us along the way. It was great to have him walking ahead of us and guiding us along the path for safety as well, just in case something poisonous (which is most things in Costa Rica) were feeling grumpy.
One of our other fun moments with Ludrik that day was after a few hours snorkeling out on the reef in Cahuita. While the snorkeling wasn’t great and was the first time for the kids, which is always a weird experience since breathing underwater is not a normal experience, after snorkeling we stopped at a point on the beach and had some fruit for a snack. While we were eating our snack, Ludrik came over and said, "You guys have to come see this." We walked around the corner and at eye level was a two toed sloth looking right at us so close we could've walked up and touched it. Ludrik told us what a special experience this was, and we felt truly blessed to be so close to one of these awesome and unique creatures.
We saw lots of other sloths and animals during the trip, but this was the coolest encounter. What a gift from our guide!