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More Than Turtles in Tortuguero

My Scholarship entry - A local encounter that changed my life

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 23 April 2012 | Views [75] | Scholarship Entry

Enveloped by a world of green, the boat speeds through the Mora aquatic trail, diving through a patch of sunlight and then back into shadow. With the Cuatro Esquinas Center now far behind us, red iguanas dot the high treetops and the sweet fragrance of ilan ilan permeates the air. A pale blue heron sweeps past us as I strain to hear my guide’s voice over the engine. He points to the trees, where Geoffroy’s spider monkeys swing past a pair of mantled howlers, using their prehensile tails to drop down with grace. The howlers shout loudly over the drone of birds and insects. Our tico guide hands out glistening chunks of frozen pineapple from a cooler as the tropical heat overcomes us.
Stalling the engine near a side stream, we spy an ungainly sloth swimming to the other bank. Perhaps it thought less of taking a refreshing dip than of evading the spectacled caiman following it. Our boat’s arrival deters the pursuer and our friend hauls itself out of the water, green from its mossy fur and looking like a monster clawing its way from the deep.
We pull back on to the main canal and our guide of questionable humor horrifies us by heading straight for a twenty-foot American crocodile. It is an old one, with broken teeth and battle scars marring its black hide. I breathe a sigh of relief when we leave it, but I look back as we skim over the water. It is a reminder of our imminent closeness to the dangers of these remote tropics. The jungle teems with five percent of the world’s plant and animal species; mangroves and hanging vines overhang the riverbanks. We cut a V in the glassy waters of the Tortuguero canal, lone invaders into the heart of an endless alien jungle. Dwarfed by its thriving might, I face for the first time the thrill of true danger. Heading for the Caribbean to a place unreachable by road, the exalting spirit of adventure wins out. I smell the salty sea air, but the lure of the deep jungle remains—tempting me with its hidden secrets.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2012

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