Despite its small size, Costa Rica contains 5% of the earth’s biodiversity and is home to more than 500,000 species- so, needless to say, visiting the Rainforest was one of the things I was most looking forward to during my visit.
While I did manage to see toucans, a sloth, and a few frogs, the wildlife wasn’t as apparent as I had hoped, mostly due to the raging rainstorm that lasted for a good part of the day. (Or it may have been my obnoxious red rain poncho that acted as a wildlife deterrent- I’m not quite sure.)
The tour started with a walk around some of the paths and suspension bridges throughout La Selva Reserve (in the Sarapiquì area). Our guide, Manuel, pointed out massive termite nests, various species of trees, and frighteningly large insects. I found the flora to be just as beautiful and equally as interesting as the fauna, so I was happy to learn about the plant life while the larger mammals and birds hid from the heavy downpour.
Manuel pointed out a tarantula burrow and regaled us with stories from his nighttime rainforest walks, where the more frightening creatures are often spotted. He had multiple photos on his phone from previous night tours; bats, large tarantulas, and neon-coloured snakes were a few pictures that he proudly displayed, and he had me wishing I was joining one of his night tours.
The rain continued to come down, but we were able to escape it for a short while during the chocolate demonstration and tasting. We learned about cacao harvesting and the fermentation process, and we were given an in-depth demonstration of the chocolate making process. We were able to taste the sweet cacao fruit, and we were given multiple samples of chocolate throughout the presentation.
First, the guide made a frothy hot chocolate style drink. As if it wasn’t already tasty enough on its own, we had the option to add a variety of spices and flavours (nutmeg, vanilla, and chili) to the drink. I added a few drops of vanilla and a hint of chili, which was a surprisingly delicious combination.
Next, the guide melted the cacao beans and added some cane sugar to slightly sweeten the mixture. When it had turned into a thick, creamy texture, he handed out samples by the spoonful- and my God was it good. It was velvety and rich, and not overly sweet. Needless to say, I went back for seconds and thirds. And fourths.
Finally, we sampled two handmade chocolate bar-style pieces- one dark and one milk- and both were incredibly delicious. They were creamy and smooth, and the high quality chocolate made it taste especially decadent.
This was easily some of the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted- if not the best, and the demonstration ended up being the highlight of the tour.
By late afternoon, the rain had finally subsided and we started to spot some of Costa Rica’s more notorious wildlife.
While walking along a suspension bridge, we saw a few small toucans resting near the top of a nearby tree, and Manuel managed to spot two poison dart frogs as we walked back along the path.
On our way out of the reserve, we spotted a lone sloth in the distance, and stood to watch as he slowly moved from one branch to another.
Even though the rain made wildlife spotting all the more difficult, I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the rainforest and learning about one of the most biologically rich countries in the world. And I’m still dreaming of that chocolate.