After an amazing couple of days near the beach, I made the long journey into the jungle for my stay at Rafiki Safari Lodge. First off, I’m not kidding when I say the long journey, it took me FOREVER to get there. Even though it was never particularly steep (thank god) it was 16 km long of pure dirt road with a couple of larger potholes, but generally pretty flat, just rocky becauase you know it's a dirt road. It may surprise you that me, a person who grew up in cities, has never really driven on dirt roads (seriously ever).
Plus, to make it worse I didn’t rent a 4x4 and had no idea what my little car could handle. If you've read a couple of my Costa Rica guides, you know I say this pretty much everywhere and I am totally a broken record but I swear it is for good reason. PLEASE don’t be like me – rent a 4x4 and spare yourself the anxiety.
Anywayyyy, so at the beginning, I was driving really slow, seriously like maybeee topping off at 10km an hour and of course the drive was taking a very long. Thankfully I learned my lesson (or I guess, just how to drive on dirt roads) and ended up droving a little faster once I reached the halfway point. Either way, a 16 km road took me almost an hour and a half. So once I got to Rafiki to say I was excited to be done with that road is a massive understatement. But also, I was excited because Rafiki makes a great first impression...it looks SO COOL as you arrive. The lodge is the first thing you see when you enter and it sits up on a huge hill with the beginning of sunset sky peaking out and beginning to change colors. Seriously gorgeous.
I walked into Rafiki and was greeted immediately by Flash, the gorgeous and loving dog of the family who runs the lodge. Of course, I gave him so much love – he made me miss Zelda more than I already did. It really is sad how often I think about her when I am on these trips. I have a strange attachment to my dog, I just love her so much.
I checked in and explored my villa, which is half tent half hotel room, kind of hard to explain but you can read more about the crazy awesome set up here. After I settled in I immediately changed into a bathing suit because I wanted to test out their slide I had heard so much about. Yes, Rafiki has their own slide built into their main lodge. It is definitely made for kids though because it whips you down and around its bend FAST. Like really fast. You can see a hilarious video of my riding the slide below.
After I rode the slide a couple of times I hung out in their pool and that is where I met the Wolf family - Dani, Anthony and their three adorable girls. All I can say is thank god for them. I liked my stay at Rafiki for other reasons outside of the Wolf family but they had a huge part in what made me love it so much.
Before I expand on why let me explain a little bit about the lodge. Rafiki is a South African style safari lodge. If you have never been to an african lodge (which I haven't as well) it is a bit different than normal hotels. The lodge is set 16 km down a dirt road and your stay is pretty much all on the property. Your room rate including all meals. There are tons of things to do (trails, whitewater rafting, horseback riding) but there is also a lot of downtime. Then add in that dinner is served family style...the entire lodge eats at once.
Now, I LOVE traveling alone, I say it all the time and I do truly mean it. But deep down I am a very introverted person. I know shocking when I choose to be outgoing literally as my job. But all that outgoingness is a huge front. I am deeply uncomfortable initiating conversations with strangers. Once the conversation gets going I am completely fine. But the first word I say to people is usually rehearsed in my head a million times before I say it. I don't know why I get so scared and think talking is so hard. But it is what it is and unfortunately it gives me so much anxiety.
A lot of this anxiety is really easily pushed aside when I travel. I put myself in situations where I can be a loner (nice hotels) or stay at places where everyone is super friendly (hostels). Even then, I am rarely the one that has to initiate conversation. But then there are some places that make me feel really lonely. Unfortunately, Rafiki was one of those places. During my stay everyone gathered at the main lodge for sunset (around 5:45 pm) and hung out till dinner (7 pm). At the point, the guests at Rafiki were mostly big families. The Wolf family that I met in the pool, another group that consisted of 12 members spanning 3 generations on a huge family vacation and a couple other families who had kids of various ages. I was awkwardly very aware that I was alone, hanging out by myself, silently on my phone mostly editing photos while we all waited for dinner.
The lodge owners set me up for dinner on the bar top while they pushed tables together for the other large families. As the salad course was coming out and everyone was getting settled Dani, the mother of the Wolf family, asked if I wanted to join them for dinner. I have no idea if she knew how awkward I was feeling being alone or was just trying to be nice but I jumped at the chance to not eat at the bar top by myself. I ate dinner with them and got to know their 3 girls. I left that dinner with the complete opposite feeling I had been having 2 hours before. I remembered why I loved traveling alone and the constant kindness and connections you make along the way.
Anyway, over the next 2 days, I hiked the many trails Rafiki offered and rode horses while bird watching. The lodge was truly a 'glamping' experience like no other I had ever been on. I am not the best at dealing with bugs and I think I summed it up pretty well in my Instagram post.
Finally getting over my immense fear of bugs 😝✌🏼️🌳 wouldn't it be sad if you missed out an amazing experience because you were scared. 🙃 ••••••••••••••••••• You know what's crazy...jumping off of bridges and out of planes I'm completely fine with...but sleeping in a tent in the jungle was actually me facing a huge fear of mine. I don't know why (and I hate it about myself) but bugs give me crazy anxiety. 😳🕷🐜 I try to tell myself it's a stupid fear but when I see one I freak out and can't stop thinking about it. The first night in the jungle I saw a huge spider (like as big as my hand 👋🏼) in the bathroom and I was so scared. My grand solution was to close the door between my bathroom and my tent and push it out of my mind. And you know what...I survived!!! One step closer to getting over this stupid fear 🙌🏼🙌🏼
Instead of eating alone for every meal I sat with the Wolf family. I apologize to them if I totally crashed their family vacation but I loved it! Rafiki was amazing itself but I think getting to know them was my favorite part of the trip. (Plus it reinforced my love for traveling alone which is always a good thing)
After my wonderful stay at Rafiki, I headed out and into the mountains of Monteverde. This meant more dirt roads but after Rafiki, I felt like a pro and handled the 20 km dirt road (up a mountain!) a bit better. I arrived into Monteverde exhausted from a 6-hour drive and crashed hard in my hotel.
I'm glad I went to sleep early because the next morning was my only day (ok more like half day) in Monteverde. Every blog I had read told me spend a lot of time in Monteverde and I unfortunately couldn't fit more time there into my trip. Either way I knew I was going to make my 6 hours in Monterverde count.
I started by heading to the Selvatura Adventure park and walked the bridges in the early morning hours. It was extremely cool to be so high up above the canopy top in the middle of the forest. Although I didn’t see too much wildlife (because I didn’t hire a guide) I was loving the alone time that morning and walking through the forest felt a bit like meditation. There are some moments in life when you feel like you are doing the exact right thing and the exact right time. Ill tell you a little secret, most of the time I feel like I have absolutely no idea what I am doing when it comes to this “job” and passion of mine. But this morning, walking through the forest after an amazing stay in a jungle where I faced my bug fears and made new friends, everything felt so right.
After my morning hike, I explored the town portion of Monteverde. By explored I mean I let myself eat everything I could find in the small town of Monteverde. Beso Expresso and Sallys were my two favorite stops. Once I can get around to buying a coffee bean grinder I can’t wait to drink some of the coffee I brought home from Beso. Seriously, it's the best coffee I have ever had, don't miss it if you are in Monteverde.
After eating everything in sight I headed out of Monteverde and onto the Viento Fresco Waterfalls.
The waterfalls were FANTASTIC. Seriously some of the best ones I have ever seen. I have even said multiple times on other posts that they are the best waterfalls in Costa Rica. It may have something to do that there are four waterfalls on one property so it’s a great bang for your buck stop kind of stop but it also has to do with just how empty the property was. While other waterfalls in Costa Rica are great there is nothing like hiking to, and swimming in, a waterfall completely alone. You really begin to feel at one with nature.
After my waterfall visit, it was time for my last stop...Lake Arenal.