Bruce in kayak.

"We specialize in small group travel, which minimizes environmental impact, increases safety standards and allows for personalized, enriching and authentic experiences."

— Bruce Smith, founder and owner, Seascape Kayak Tours Inc.

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Blissful end to yoga tripMarch 21st, 2009

Last night as I drove to Curú to meet Bruce and paddle into base camp at Playa Quesera, bringing the group some Dorado (Mahi Mahi) for their farewell dinner, a grey fox crossed my path, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with its grace and beauty. It seemed to be a herald of peace, and I knew the final night of El Espiritu del Mar was going to be a special time.

Lauri SandyLAURI NEMETZ AND SANDY TAYLOR PADDLE A DOUBLE KAYAK THROUGH AN ARCH NEAR THE TORTUGA ISLANDS. 

The group had a wonderful five-day trip and everyone was doing their sunset yoga practice in a state of blissful sadness when I disembarked. They were all elated by how much they had learned and accomplished, both in terms of paddling and yoga. But all seemed sad that the trip had reached its conclusion, and I felt privileged to be included in the sharing around the campfire. 

 

Shoulder stretchTHE GROUP PRACTICES YOGA ON ISLAS DE TORTUGAS UNDER THE DIRECTION OF LAURI NEMETZ

 

Greg Kofsky, 23, told us that he had found a greater sense of awareness of himself through the combination of yoga and paddling. Sandy Taylor, 53, expressed her awe at the power she had felt earlier through being a part of the swell, which continues to rise and fall, during a paddle around the Tortuga Islands. This helped her to come to a better understanding of life’s ups and downs. Wendy Crowley, 54, remarked at how the trip brought home to her “you get what you give.” I could tell every member of the group, including its leaders, had reaped the benefits of both yoga and kayaking because they were willing to try what was, for Seascape, an unprecedented but perfect combination of two very natural, even spiritual activities. Both Bruce and Lauri came away feeling that they both gave a lot of themselves to this experimental first yoga and kayaking trip, but were rewarded by receiving new energy in return. 

 

Capuchin estuaryA WHITE-FACED CAPUCHIN MONKEY WATCHES THE KAYAK GROUP PADDLING IN SILENCE THROUGH A MANGROVE FOREST ESTUARY.

 

This morning, Bruce asked the group to make its last voyage together in silence, taking time to reflect on the entire five-day journey. Launching back out into the charmed teal-colored waters around Playa Quesera, we all paddled back across the open ocean to Curú and up into a magical estuary that, at high tide, is filled with water birds and the occasional mammal. Several monkeys traveling through the mangrove swamp eyed the group curiously as we passed in silence. Finally, we landed on Curú Beach and had a traditional Costa Rican lunch together in the reserve. Tears were shed when Wendy and Greg had to depart for San José and Bruce and I headed back with Lauri and Sandy to Tambor Tropical, our home.

 

Pura vida,

 

Frances

 

 


Tambor Tropical WildlifeMarch 19th, 2009

Word from Bruce is that El Espiritu del Mar is going along swimmingly. The group set off Tuesday morning, and by now have experienced two of their four camping nights. I’ll paddle in and join them for their final night in their base camp on Playa Quesera. Meanwhile, I promised to share some exciting developments in the natural world from our base at the Hotel Tambor Tropical.

The mangos are ripe right now on the Nicoya Peninsula. This is a harbinger of much activity. Like, right now, in front of our apartment at the hotel, a local climber dude with a huge machete, no shoes on and no fear of heights is 40 feet up in the top of a tree and large fruits are falling all around on the ground. It also means that animals of all sorts are more active.

Every day in Costa Rica brings new and unexpected sightings of amphibians, reptiles, birds or mammals. Yesterday, for example, I led a couple from New York on a hike in Curú Wildlife Refuge, which is about 25 minutes from Tambor. In addition to seeing Howler, White-faced Capuchin and Spider monkeys all vying for the mangos in the reserve, we came upon two of my favorite mammals, the agouti (like a wild guinea pig or hamster) and the white-nosed coati (cousin to the raccoon, with longer snout); both of these are shown on our photo gallery in the Pacific Costa Rica Nature section. We also identified a total of 17 bird species just on one walk.  

What Bruce and I find just as exciting as going to Reserva Curú are the many opportunities to see wildlife right here on our doorstep at the Hotel Tambor Tropical, or on the nearby Rio Panica, which Bruce describes in detail in his blog entry of March 15. For example, when the members of El Espiritu del Mar, the yoga and kayaking trip, arrived at Tambor Tropical, it was an auspicious beginning. A large green iguana, a beautiful species rarely seen on the hotel property, chose the moment of the group’s arrival to show itself on the grounds, to the delight of photographers and newly converted lizard lovers alike. 

Green Iguana

Green iguanas can be as large as 6.5 feet long and make their homes in trees along rivers and streams. They are slow moving, are not poisonous and will not bite unless given no other choice. Although not considered endangered, they are hunted for their meat, and thus are becoming more and more scarce in populated areas. We learned from Juan Carlos, the manager here at Tambor Tropical, that this particular individual probably grew up in the hotel’s gardens, as he was seen quite a bit here when small. But becoming more self conscious as a teenager, he left the area, probably to spend more time right beside the river, and is only spotted on special occasions now that he is an adult.

One of the bird species most coveted by avian enthusiasts visiting Costa Rica is the trogon. While we don’t have the most famous member of the Trogonidae family, the Resplendent Quetzal, here on the Nicoya Peninsula, we do see the black-headed trogon, with its bright yellow belly, and beautiful long squared-off tail. It’s easiest to find this trogon by first tuning in to its distinctive call, described by Stiles and Skutch in A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica as "a rapid, rattling series of clear, barking notes that accelerates into a chuckling trill that falls in pitch." (That’s true, but I guess you sort of have to hear it for yourself before that description really makes sense.) A few days ago, while packing for the yoga/paddling trip, Bruce and I heard that unmistakable call just in front of our apartment, and ran out to see not one but two pairs of black-headed trogons flitting and perching in the mangos and palms for several spectacular minutes. We never figured out if they were protecting a juvenile or competing with resident flycatchers for food or territory. Whatever their objective, we were thrilled to see and hear them so close to home.

Black-headed trogon

I’ll close with a slightly more humorous animal story: Tambor Tropical’s hotel manager, Juan Carlos, and Bruce have discovered they have a lot in common. Two of the things that unite them are a love of wildlife and a passion for paddling. So it didn’t take long for the two to establish a tradition of having their weekly meetings on the water, planning around high tide in order to kayak up the Rio Panica. Last week’s meeting was going along rather smoothly when they came around a bend in the river and discovered a member of the wild kingdom that they would never have expected to find on a river in Costa Rica. 

Water Buffalo

A huge water buffalo, who’d possibly never seen a kayak, displayed all sorts of quizzical expressions for several minutes before making it clear he would not allow their passage up the river. When they came back to tell me they encountered this beast, not at all endemic, much less indigenous to this area, I thought they were pulling my leg. However, they explained that a nearby resort "imported" the big bovine some years ago to be part of a zoo that never materialized. The moral: when in Costa Rica, always expect the unexpected.

Pura vida,

frances

 
 

 


El Espiritu del MarMarch 17th, 2009

This morning saw the departure of our first combination yoga and paddling trip. Our yoga instructor, Lauri Nemetz, and three participants Wendy Crowley, Greg Kofsky and Sandy Taylor spent several days at Tambor Tropical before the launch acclimatizing. Yesterday Bruce met with the group to go over the planned five-day itinerary, orient participants to the region and discuss environmental safety. Bruce also took the group on an initial paddle here on the Rio Panica and there were several initial yoga sessions here at Tambor Tropical as well.

yoga

INSTRUCTOR LAURI NEMETZ LEADS THE GROUP IN GENTLE INTRODUCTORY YOGA PRACTICE IN A THATCHED RANCHO AT THE HOTEL TAMBOR TROPICAL. 

Wendy Crowley, 54, found out about the trip via the internet. "From the moment I googled this trip, I knew I had made the right decision," she said. "Engaging in my first yoga session, then hitting the water for a calm kayaking experience is indescribable. This trip will be a highlight of my life, I know."

Greg on river"PADDLING DOWN A TROPICAL ESTUARY IS ONE OF THE MOST RELAXING THINGS I CAN THINK OF DOING," SAID GREG KOFSKY, 23. "ONE OF THE FEW THINGS THAT BEATS IT IS YOGA." 

Yoga instructor Lauri Nemetz teases the group that she could join the circus and utilize her seemingly uncanny ability to name her students’ past injuries, vocations and recreational preferences. "You’re a runner, aren’t you?" She says to Wendy Crowley, while assisting her with a leg extension. Earlier she anticipated that Sandy Taylor would have a little trouble with a stretch for her wrists. And that was true because Sandy spends her work days doing surgery: she’s a veterinarian. 

How does Lauri know all these things about the body? In addition to holding certifications in teaching hatha yoga and yoga therapeutics, she has studied anatomy extensively. And this allows her to focus on each individual’s physical habits and preferences, allowing each member of the group to benefit personally from her attention to his or her specific needs. Lauri will often create modifications on a posture for each participant in the group, so that every person is taking a different pose that will allow their unique set of abilities and limitations to make the most of their yoga practice. 

Bruce teachingEL ESPIRITU DEL MAR GROUP PARTICIPANTS LISTEN AS BRUCE SMITH PROVIDES A GEOGRAPHICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ORIENTATION TO PADDLING IN COSTA RICA. 

The group will come off the water on Saturday, when I’ll update you about their experience. Meanwhile, stay tuned for some special wildlife blogs from Tambor Tropical.

Pura vida,

frances