Osa Conservation – Costa Rica Part 1: My Journey to Piro Biological Station

I have been struggling to know where to start to document the brief, but life-changing experience I had in Costa Rica last week! I will be attempting to share this incredible trip with you over a series of blog posts, as one blog post would just be too huge!

My journey started at Birmingham airport, feeling excited and slight apprehensive about the epic journey ahead. My flights, due to the late nature of the booking, were not entirely ideal, with my first flight to Frankfurt, where I picked up a flight to Houston. From Houston, I flew to San Jose, in Costa Rica. With some delays in Houston, due to storms, I finally arrived at the airport in the evening, having left at 6.15am and with a 7 hr ‘add on’ in hours!  There are a few direct Heathrow to San Jose flights which would make the journey much quicker!

San Jose airport is large and modern and it was easy to locate the taxi service that would take me to my hotel for the night. The hotel was simple, but clean and I was glad to get into bed finally. Another early start for a 7am flight and I felt I was really beginning to get close!

My flight from San Jose, this time, was at a smaller airport terminal, next to the main airport. This was where I was going to get my flight down to La Golfito.

The terminal was tiny and I was weighed, along with my luggage, which was novel! This is because the plane I was getting on was much smaller than the epic 2 storey airbus I had travelled on the day before. This time it was a single propeller aircraft; the smallest plane I had ever travelled on! Waiting in the tiny waiting room, I could see the plane outside .. it carried just 12 people! The weather was simply beautiful and there were only 4 of us on this flight. One was an British girl, heading to do some conservation work and another, an American, heading to a yoga retreat. It was good to have some company and some people to talk to! We loaded onto the plane, excited about the trip ahead. The pilots got on board and introduced themselves, sitting just a few metres ahead of us. It was very novel to be able to see them and their cockpit controls! Travelling in a plane this size was amazing. I loved every minute of it. The views were incredible as we began our trip down to La Golfito. Being in such a small plane means that you do not go very high and, with beautiful clear conditions, we had unrivalled views over the beautiful landscape and coastline!

It was a relatively short flight and we were turning into La Golfito airport. A tiny airstrip, cut into the forest meant a steep banking turn. A straightforward landing and another section of my trip was complete. I couldn’t believe I had made it, nearly to my destination!

With a Spanish speaker amongst us, it was a simple taxi journey down to the port, where we would catch a ferry across to Puerto Jimenez. Normally, you can fly straight to Jimenez, but the airport was undergoing some refurbishment. A small, but friendly port met us and we purchased our tickets for the journey across the water in the Golfo Dulce. This bay is very special as its waters are full of life and they attract lots of whales and dophins, especially at certain times of the year. At this time of year, the Gulf gets even busier with visiting migrating Humpback Whales. The “inner sea” of Golfo Dulce, known as a tropical fjord, on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific Coast by the Osa Peninsula is a critical habitat for Humpback Whales and is key to the species’ survival, according to the Centre of Cetacean Investigation of Costa Rica (CEIC). Whales arrive to reproduce and give birth in the warm waters of Costa Rica’s South Pacific Coast, from the Ballena National Marine Park just south of Dominical down to the Golfo Dulce. I was just at the beginning of the season, but sadly, did not see any on my lovely trip across.

As we docked into Puerto Jimenez, it was great to see a familiar face… Andy was there to meet me and it was mighty good to see him! I had made it!!

I was introduced to Eleanor, who was to become a great friend over the coming week, and we got in the truck and headed to the Piro Biological Station. An hour drive along a rough road, with frequent stops when I spotted  all sorts of wonderful birds, and we pulled into the research station that was going to become my home for a week…