Costa Rica Adventures: Damas Island Kayaking – Kayak or Canoe through the mangrove ecosystem with Tucanes Tours, Manuel Antonio / Quepos / Jaco
For those who have an afternoon and enjoy paddling a kayak or canoe but are not looking for the whitewater adventure, the Damas Island Kayak tour is the perfect fit.
With 21+ tours offered by Tucanes Tours (TucanesTours.com) in the Manuel Antonio and Jaco areas its amazingly easy to find the adventure to suit yourself or groups interests.
I could go on for hours highlighting some of their offerings; because they’re all so great, but today I’m going to fill you in on the lovely kayaking trip that my beautiful girlfriend and I just had the pleasure of taking.
I’d like to reinforce the adverb pleasure as it was tranquil, informative, full of nature and not overly exhausting.
Our picture-perfect afternoon began with Raul picking us up from our resort in a new, clean, and best of all Air-conditioned bus till the time we were dropped back off curbside: service at its finest!
Within that window Tucanes Tours fed both Kate and I along with the other 5 guests who had chosen to see the mangroves that day.
Before beginning our tour of the mangrove ecosystem, we were all offered a choice of either a single or double kayak or a classic canoe.
Kate chose the double kayak to be our trusty steed on our aquatic adventure (I’m from Kentucky so horse references are a thing with me).
I’ll spare you the Insta photo of the lunch we were served but it was a fresh and tasty “casado”.
In Costa Rica, a “casado” is a generous serving of beans & rice, fresh green salad, sweet plantains with tea and water. (Take it easy on the refreshments though because bathroom breaks out in the water are not a thing). We opted for the vegetarian version but there was a delicious chicken option as well.
It was during lunch that our guides Johann and William introduced themselves. The conversation was easy going and informative as they shared with us their backstory and highlights from their lives as adventure guides. Their love of nature and knowledge about flora and fauna was apparent and honestly downright contagious. The excitement and passion these two have (and I’m sure the other guides within the Tucanes Tours’ organization was palpable). Once we were properly nourished and hydrated it was time for a quick “baño” break and back onto the bus…next stop, Damas Island Mangrove Ecosystem.
With kayaks in tow, we arrive at Damas boat launch, which is a brackish backwash inserting us directly into the middle of an estuary that is home to the Damas Mangrove Ecosystem. What makes these trees, this ecosystem, and this place so magical and incredibly special is the way that the 4 different types of mangroves have adapted to thrive an environment that is not solid ground nor is it open water but an area like a swamp minus the crocs, luckily. The water is brackish due to the changing of the ocean tides mixing with the fresh water traversing down from the mountains.
Flora and Fauna
There are many beautiful plants and animals that have made these estuaries their home but first I want to mention that mosquitoes didn’t seem to be one of them…THANK GOODNESS! My first thought as I’m sure many of yours would be was… “We’re gonna get eaten alive out there in them swamps!” Rest assured, it was again, a pleasant paddling adventure.
The most obvious residents were of course the mangroves. Our guides Johann and William seamlessly played off one another describing the 4 types (which there are 7 total in Costa Rica) of mangroves as we gracefully paddled alongside them. William, with his laser like vision and the help of his binoculars, was constantly surveying the horizon and root systems on the lookout for the tiniest of animals lurking in the canopy and along the waterline. Lizards, crabbies, and birds and bats… oh my!
This blog isn’t meant to be a masterclass on biology or zoology so I’ll just present a list of critters we encountered on this trip:
-Bats or as they’re called in Spanish – “Murciélagos” Yeah it’s a mouth full but it’s these little lovelies that handle the mosquito problem to which I say keep on keeping’ on lil buddy.
-Common Basilisk better known as the Jesus Christ lizard, not due to its religious affiliation but by the way in which it literally walks on water. It’s quite the sight to see!
-Crabbies in all colors shapes and sizes scuttling along the trunks and roots of the mangroves.
For you bird enthusiasts we spotted an Egret as it flew overhead, as majestic and white as they come as well as King Fisher birds flapping happily along.
Last but certainly not least…mangroves! The four we got to know thanks again to both William and Johann were the Black with its snorkel-esque root system protruding from the soil during low tide. The Red which grows more laterally like I imagine a bush, the White Mangrove with its sheer height that provides the canopy for the others, and finally the Piña with its trunk resembling the Eiffel Tower. Believe it or not, their names aren’t at all an accurate descriptor, but once our group was informed as to what defines each of these marvelous trees we could pick them out easily from one another. Each has its own unique way of thriving in these waters based on the way it aerates its root system and how it purges the salt which it takes in. They’ve all adapted a little differently for their own survival and symbiotically work together creating an entire ecosystem.
What looks like it should be a mosquito filled swamp filled with nefarious critters is a sanctuary that this world would not be the same without. The most important take away for myself was that mangroves produce more oxygen in a day (they respirate twice daily with the tides) than a ‘regular’ forest. As much as I love hugging trees, it takes 1 tree an entire year to produce enough O2 for a person to breathe.
If you are looking for an afternoon adventure that has all the makings: sun, fun, knowledge, wildlife and water, then Tucanes Tours is there to deliver. Hassle free, they’ve got it all covered. Shuttle pick up, lunch, launch, and then delivered back safely, albeit a little exhausted, from your own paddling adventure. Put Tucanes Tours on your radar and Pura Vida!
To Learn much more about Mangroves and how special this ecosystem is READ THIS: https://ecopreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2008/02/13/costa-rica-mysterious-mangroves-a-treasured-and-exotice-habitat/