Thomson Talks… Costa Rica (Part 1)
Close encounters with wildlife and zip-lining through jungles are just some of the memories that two members of Team Thomson will treasure following their visit to Costa Rica. In part one of two posts, here they share the details of their adventure…
Close encounters of the vulture kind
Jogging along a beach as the sun rose over volcanic peaks, Thomson Long Haul Product Manager, Rosie Sumner, paused for a moment. The gentle rhythm of the waves rolling over the sands was suddenly broken. What followed is a few seconds that will stay with her forever.
“The hotel we were staying at was right on the coast. The beach was completely deserted at that time in the morning,” she recalls. “I remember glancing into the forest that fringed the beach and seeing a family of monkeys staring inquisitively back at me. As I turned to leave them to their foraging, my breath was taken away. There, on a piece of driftwood was a single vulture with its wings outstretched, the light glinting off them. It was an incredible moment.”
It may only have been their first day in Costa Rica but Rosie and colleague Christian, Thomson’s Creative Manager, were already beginning to realise that this is a very special destination indeed. Beaches here are surrounded by lush, untamed forest where the biodiversity is simply astounding. Travel two hours and you could have passed through five ecosystems – from mangroves and coral reefs to rainforest.
Christian explained: “I’ve ticked off Mexico and Venezuela before but this slice of Latin America has always been somewhere I’ve wanted to visit. When I heard we were adding Costa Rica to our list of destinations, I literally jumped at the chance to go – they couldn’t stop me!
“Rosie had been before when she was a student and her enthusiasm really added to the sense of excitement and anticipation. I knew it would be unlike anywhere I’d visited before but the reality was phenomenal..”
Adios to the long way round
From November 2015, you’ll be able to fly direct to Costa Rica from London Gatwick in 11.5 hours courtesy of Thomson Airways. But for Rosie and Christian it was a slightly more drawn-out process.
Christian recalls: “One of the reasons I’m so keen to go back is because the journey will be a breeze when we’re flying there direct. Because Thomson hadn’t started flights when we visited, we had to fly into New York and then wait for five hours before connecting to the capital, San Jose.
“That said, I knew it was worth the effort as soon as we arrived. As we drove out of San Jose I was bowled over. Costa Rica is Mother Nature at her pure, unadulterated best. I still can’t get over how many shades of green there are. Because there’s so little development, the richness of the landscape really shines through. Epic is an overused word, but it really applies here.”
Art Deco meets Miami Vice interiors
Rosie and Christian began their tour at the RUI Palace Costa Rica, located on the country’s Pacific Coast in Guanacaste. Pure luxury is the order of the day here, with the faux-Spanish colonial exterior belying the contemporary styling within. Think Art Deco meets Miami Vice, reckons Christian, and you’re almost there. Suites boast whirlpool baths and help-yourself bars, while the Krystal fusion restaurant would be at home on New York’s gastro scene. The hotel is perched on the sands of Matapalo beach, where Rosie had her early-morning wildlife encounter.
Causing a bit of a stink
Speaking of wildlife, to really get a sense of the incredible bird and plant life here, the Thomson twosome headed to the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, home to an active volcano and much more besides.
“This was definitely the smelliest place we visited,” laughs Rosie. “We went up into the foothills and stopped off at a sulphur pool, which smelt dreadful! Luckily, the beautiful forest distracted us from the whiff. We saw trees with roots as big as double deckers and gigantic pink flowers that looked like they’d come from Day of the Triffids..”
Christian added: “It’s quite overwhelming at first because the forest is so unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It was full of plants, animals and colours that I didn’t even know existed. Our guide was brilliant and pointed out so many things we’d never have spotted, like fire ants and green parrots.
“Rincon de la Vieja was one of my highlights of the whole trip because I got to zipline through the forest canopy, abseil down into a natural canyon and then rock climb my way back out again. It was a definite bucket list experience.”