After an interesting, yet surprisingly reinvigorating, night's sleep in the tent (see Arenal Backpackers Resort in the Accommodation section for more), the unsociable early morning was upon me (a common theme in Costa Rica). Gonzalos, our guide, introduced me to the rest of the group, which consisted of a honeymooning couple from California and a 7-heavy group from North Carolina.
The trail... we reached Mistico, one of the many 'private' reserves in Arenal and started the tour with the 'obligatory' team photos by the tribal statues. The trail is 3.5km long, and boasts a total of 16 bridges, 6 of which are hanging! (It should be pointed out that 2 of the non-hanging 'bridges' are metal sheets over a slightly awkward bit of ground). The trail is man-made, but has become enveloped by the forest, making it a manageable but authentic trek.
The animals... the first bit of excitement! We fall silent and listen, nearby we hear a, seemingly familiar, chattering. Gonzalos searched furiously, but to no avail, we move on... 20 yards around the U-bend and then he triumphantly pointed...a grey squirrel...
Not exactly what we had all been hoping for, however the squirrel had clearly awoken Gonzalos' inner eye as shortly after we ticked off some key animals; a tarantula (leg), a lizard, a mot mot (type of bird) and (heard) a white hawk...all before the first bridge!
The bridges (I'll describe all of them as one because other than the view, length and height, there is little to distinguish them) are pretty cool! They are suspension bridges spanning up to 45m and over some impressive drops, the floor is mesh metal, meaning you can see right through, should you so wish! The views are breathtaking, you can see for miles over the rain forest, right to the volcanoes in the distance. The bridges do wobble, which heightens the experience, making it much more interesting, especially if trying to take a photo!
The sloth(s)...finally! Annoyingly however, halfway along the 3rd bridge (see previous paragraph re. photos on bridges)! Way up in a distant canopy we managed to see our first sloth, apparently of the 3-toed variety (quite how Gonzalos knew this I'm not sure), luckily however this guy was having a good ole' scratch (the sloth not the guide) otherwise we would have had no chance of seeing him! The second sloth, was much closer, to the extent we were essentially under his tree, again on a bridge. He was a 2-toed creature (apparently), but he was having none of it, sleeping through the entire ordeal, even when the guide tried to imitate the eagle that preys on them. Not something I approved of, but the sloth probably realised that the eagles are few and far between in Costa Rica and unlikely to be diving down into the low canopy!
Conclusion: Sloth sightings...tick; 'Wildlife photographer of the year' winning photo...to be continued!
For photos of the animals, or dark shapes in the trees, check out our instagram!
The tour was organised by Ecoterra and can be booked and paid for online.