Swimming Lessons in Costa Rica


When I booked the 2-day river rafting trip with a nights stay at an eco lodge in Costa Rica it seemed tame enough for the whole family.  My husband and I are both fit and our girls are in their early 20’s so they are already in my opinion living on the edge.  I expected this trip to be a great family bonding experience.    My lasting image of my entire family falling on top of me in the middle of a class 4 rapid certainly accomplished this.


Let me back up, our first day of rafting was relatively mild with only my husband falling, actually it looked more like he rolled out of the boat.  He was quickly scooped up by the next raft and unceremoniously plunked back in our boat.   As we made our way we stopped to swim in a pool off a tributary and do some rock jumping into the river.  This was our first near mis-hap as daughter number 3 slipped off the rock and unceremoniously fell in the river.


We arrived at the Pacuare River Lodge in the middle of the jungle in time for lunch.  We enjoyed fish and beer on a magical terrace overlooking the rushing river.  On a whim, we asked our guide, Maurisio to take us to the local waterfalls.  After a 45 minute hike/run up the hillside we climbed up a rope to the top of a pristine waterfall.  Maurisio had a stash of onion sacks hidden behind a bush.  We all proceeded to risk life and limb on these onion sacks by hurling ourselves down 50 feet of jagged rock into a tiny pool below – it was a blast!

waterfall and raft


The Pacuare River Lodge has no electricity, the huts have no glass in the windows and the beds are enveloped in romantic white netting.  I took the best shower of my life surrounded by bird of paradise and other tropical plants, avoiding the peering eyes of the lizards.  At night the lodge is transformed into a magical candle light tree house that makes you feel you are a million miles from civilization.  Dinner was served with all the style and grace of a fine restaurant.


After waking to the sounds of the jungle we enjoyed another fantastic meal at the hands of our river guides and staff.  We eagerly got back into our rafts anticipating another half day of fun and excitement.  We quickly realized that our guide had been seduced into thinking we were experienced rafters and we had the ride of a lifetime.  I think he purposely sought out the bigger rapids, rougher eddies and spun us up and around at will.  At one point, it was a mother’s nightmare.  Daughter number 2 was trapped under the boat.  I was sitting opposite her and in a panic I was trying to remember if I should push her out or pull her in……..I must have decided to pull her in because I was holding on to her and telling our maniac guide to get us out of the eddy that I less than affectionately called the “washing machine”.  At another point I was air-borne and landed on the opposite side of the raft wedged in between daughter number 2 and my husband but on top of daughter number 1.   But, this wasn’t the worst.


We had stopped for a lovely riverside lunch and we were looking forward to our last class 4 rapid when the boat suddenly lurched on the opposite side of the raft and I knew I was falling off the backside of the boat.  When I hit the water I had thought the whole boat had capsized and I was worried my entire family was now in a very dangerous situation.  I hit the bottom of the river, and when I came up for air, I was relieved to see many people still in our boat!  Confused yet relieved I assumed that I was the only one in the drink.   The water was rough but I made a feeble attempt to get back to the raft.  My husband was yelling something to me and his eyes were enormous so I turned down river and realized I was going to take 100 feet of class 4 rapid outside of the boat.  I raised my arms, put my feet in front and said a quick prayer.  It was a ride I will never forget.  The sense of no control, being thrown with the direction of the water focusing on only keeping my head above water was exhilarating.  The next moment, the rescue kayak was beside me (the fact that they have a rescue kayak should have been a clue that I was way over my head) and I grabbed on to the rope and profusely thanked him for being so good at his job.


After I was pulled into the raft, I learned the fate of everyone else during the last rapid.  Apparently my whole side of the raft was dumped including daughter number 1.  She was grabbed by daughter number 2 and took the length of the rapid also outside the boat, but being battered against the rocks.  She was bruised from hip to heel but also has a tale to tell.    She doesn’t appear to have been scared by the episode since she is already planning her next trip to the Pacuare River with her daredevil boyfriend.  I on the other hand will take a break from the water and maybe find an eco lodge that is only accessible by foot.

Contact me at SaperenTravel@gmail.com if you are interested in the details of this trip.




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