About one kilometer into our eight-kilometer trip down the Naranjo River, our guide thought it a good idea to prove to us a that a raft could slam into a rock head-on without anyone falling out.
Before pushing off, Turkish adventure addict Serkan Yalin had said during a safety talk given in a broken British accent that the danger of flipping doesn’t come from hitting a rock head on, but hitting it from the side.
As he gracefully weaved us through Class III rapids and slipped us between enigmatic rows of rocks jutting up out of the river, he decided it was time to put his words to the test.
He gave us no warning.
Our raft full of tourists rammed into a rock the size of a grizzly bear. Just as he had explained in his safety talk, we slid halfway up the rock and began slipping back down.
But instead of landing smoothly back on the water’s surface, as promised, the back of the raft, including our thrill-happy guide, disappeared into the cool water. His nappy dreadlocks submerged into the muddy water, almost the color of café con leche.
Screams and splashes erupted. Sunburned tourist bodies flailed around in a flurry of pink.
The raft folded in half, like a taco. The girl sitting across from me jumped across the raft and clung to me like a baby monkey to a protective mother.
When we unfolded, and the water had drained out of the holes in the self-bailing raft’s floor, our guide was still on board, grinning. But we had lost two passengers. I lunged across the raft and yanked my frantic girlfriend and her petrified face out of the water with a full body heave, while someone else saved the Californian man who had gone for his second swim of the day.
Our soaked, adrenaline-filled bodies squeaked to their positions back on the slippery raft as our laughs and yelps and screams drowned out the sounds of the river and rain forest.
Aware that we were alive, we headed downstream, farther into a tropical rain forest that sets its own rules.
We were on the lower half of the Naranjo, which, along with the Savegre, is one of two popular rafting rivers in the Central Pacific region.We weren’t even doing the real thing.
Upstream from us was a particularly saucy stretch of the Naranjo known as “El Chorro” or “the stream,”which rafting guides here say is the most intense stretch of rafting river in the country. It’s raftable only in the dry season, because it gets a little too wily in the rainy season, according to Yalin.
Our tour company, H2O Adventures (777-4092, h2ocr.com), does trips down the Chorro in Costa Rica’s summer, between December and April – yet another reason why summer can’t come soon enough.
Day Trips Galore
Rafting is one of an extensive array of day tours available throughout the Central Pacific region, according to Albán Salazar of Lynch Travel in Quepos (777-1170, www.lynchtravel.com).
If you can think of an eco-tour you’d like to do in the area, it probably exists. Lynch, one of many such companies in the region, offers something for everyone, from ATV tours to dolphin- and whale-watching excursions on a catamaran to guided hikes through Manuel Antonio National Park’s monkey-inhabited forests and pristine beaches.Horseback rides, canopy tours, surf lessons, kayak tours and snorkeling and fishing trips are some of the other more popular tours in the region.
Waterfalls Canopy, outside of Jacó (643-3322, email@example.com), offers an option for those who want to feel like the king of the jungle. The company gives you a bird’s-eye view of the rain-forest canopy, as, strapped into a harness, you glide around 120 feet above the ground on a zipline.
Then there’s Rainmaker (777-3565, www.rainmakercostarica.com), a 1,500-acre reserve of mostly primary forest that is part of the Quepos Corridor, where birds and other wildlife migrate throughout the year.Visitors can take a skywalk through this natural greenhouse on a system of suspension bridges and observation decks.
Whether you feel like getting wet, dancing through the top of the rain forest, or taking it all in on a forest hike, you will be able to find something here that fits your fancy. All you need is a day to do it.