I’m cynical as I bounce out of our rental car, in the direction of a tiny hut with a painted cardboard sign that reads, “CROCODILE TOURS”…
Sidenote: I love wildlife.
Every night, Jeff and I cuddle up to watch BBC America nature documentaries. David Attenborough is the man when it comes to story telling and random facts about the creatures we share this planet with.
Did you know crocodiles lay for hours with their mouths open as a way of cooling themselves?
So here we are. In 95 degree heat, sweat dripping in some rather un-ladylike places, outside of a shack, with a man speaking Spanish muy rapido and pointing to a very simple 8 person boat that is docked forty feet away on the mouth of the Tenorio river.
“This is how we die,” I mutter to Jeff who hands over his wallet and pays them.
Basically, the price was $30 each for an hour tour, but he dropped it to $25 for an hour and a half but we needed to leave right that moment. He points again at the tiny, cap-sizeable boat, where a portly man flashes a toothy grin and waves us over.
We don’t really know what we just bought. We don’t really know where we are. We don’t really speak the language. I’m pretty sure the boat my brother built for a Cubscout project in grade school was safer.
We climb in.
The motor purrs to life and we head up the river where our tour guide and new friend, Enrique breaks the ice by saying, “Crocodiles only eat tourists.”
Jeff and I get to know some of the other 6 people on the boat, as we ask them if they can tell us anything about what to expect. They don’t have a clue either.
As we laugh at how we may have just fallen for the Tamarindo version of Gilligan’s Island, Enrique slows the motor and sharp turns to the right approaching the mangroves that are exposed at low tide. “Si…crocodile!”
Enrique lost his mind. There’s no crocodile. None of us gringos can see it.
So he uses a tiny laser beam in the water for our eyes to follow and sure enough, a baby little crocodile is hidden near the shore. “WOW!” the lady behind me exclaims. I think to myself, “It’s actually kind of cute.”
The boat roars to life and he starts sharing with us, in perfect English, facts about the howler monkeys we will soon see.
And sure enough, high up in the canopy trees, a family of monkeys is jostling about and causing quite the scene. Enrique mimics the deep, bellowing, sound perfectly, to which they respond. I think for a second about just how many times he’s had conversations with these monkeys and how at peace he is, talking to them every day for what I later learned, is a 21 year career.
He then is on a roll, using his laser to show us the eyes of a crocodile hiding at the surface, and a blue heron that matches the mangroves so perfectly, I jokingly accuse the company of planting a plastic bird in the tree.
We press onward to a tiny island, where iguanas bigger than some small dogs, are sunbathing. Enrique grabs his knife, slays open a succulent pineapple, and tosses chunks of it on shore. The iguanas race towards us, eager to snack and it hits me (I’m starving & should make sure my diabetes is fine).
What’s interesting, is these iguanas are probably fed every day, multiple times a day, from tours. Yet, seeing the yellow pineapple, still causes a fleeting reaction of excitement and in one situation, a brawl.
Pineapples for these giants are in complete abundance.
They just don’t know it.
What do we in our own lives fail to see as abundant? What do we fight for unnecessarily because it’s habit instead of need?
Soon, we dock the boat using a rusty anchor on a tree that has collapsed and is now floating in the estuary. With no shoes, Enrique jumps off and motions for us to follow.
I am literally following a barefoot guy in a jungle. I was not expecting this random plot twist. I like spontaneity and all, but managing my health in a world of unknowns is a different It’s miserably hot. I’m nauseous from an empty stomach and my morning meds. My blood sugars are probably low, I don’t have back up food (the iguanas ate all the pineapple), I’m in flip flops.
I start to do the calculations and prepare a mental strategy for what happens if my health suddenly declines. Medico emergencia, azucar por favor is what I type into my phone. (It means something like, medical emergency, sugar please). I figure I can show it to the guide and he can find a coconut in this thick, lush forest and save my life before crocodiles eat my remains.
As I play out all the scenarios and take in the scenery, he stops.
Like Pavlovian dogs, we instinctively wait for the laser, excited to be fed another view of wildlife.
There it is. Forty feet above us, in the canopy trees, is a baby monkey.
He explains how some monkeys are omnivores, some are carnivores, some eat everything. It’s weird to me how animals really exist to feed other animals. I get so wrapped up in my purpose my legacy, my why, that I forget that this baby monkey exists because the carnivorous mom monkey killed enough animals to feed it. And if I die here from diabetes, the crocodiles will feast on my remains, to raise the baby crocodiles, who sunbathe by the iguanas, who eat the plants, that the other monkeys eat.
We are now walking single-file back to the boat. As we sit down, Enrique surprises us all with our own pineapples. Yum! I get why the iguanas were fighting over it now. I love Jeff and all, but I might not be opposed to a brawl if he steals some of my fruit.
The tour wraps on with our guide pointing out various other wildlife for a total of two hours. This is by far one of the best tours I have ever been on, in my entire life.
And I’m happy.
Sometimes, when we least expect it, when we are at our most cynical, life has a way of giving us everything we didn’t know we wanted.
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