Monday, May 25, 2020

Canyoning In Costa Rica With Desafio Adventure Company

Rappelling down a waterfall in Costa Rica

Canyoning combines rappelling, ziplining and splashing through scenic streams and gorges.

A New Adventure Sport

Ready for CanyoningDuring our recent trip to Costa Rica, which was BC (before coronavirus), we tried something completely new. While traveling we like adventure. Usually it is rafting, hiking, snorkeling or maybe ziplining. Costa Rica has a well-deserved reputation for adventure sports, so it was time for our initiation into canyoning.

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Canyoning, also known as canyoneering, is relatively new on the scene. It started as an exploration sport, like caving or mountaineering. It’s been around for 15 or 20 years.

Canyoning is the descent of a river system or gorge using various techniques including swimming, walking, rappelling, jumping and climbing. It’s the mashup of all those things that gives the sport its unique appeal.

Our adventure took place in the Arenal Volcano region of Costa Rica. The excursion organizer was Desafio Adventure Company, which we give high marks. From our lodgings at Hotel Campo Verde we were transported on a shuttle bus, then transferred to an open-air vehicle more suited to rough terrain.

Lost Canyon and its waterfalls were the setting for our first foray into canyoning. After getting outfitted with a harness with various dangling metal attachments, we got a safety briefing. After a short ramble through the woods, we reached the first rappelling station. This is only about 10 feet high, really a warm-up to make sure you feel comfortable on the larger waterfall rappels.

Canyoning in Costa RicaThey Want Us To Do What?

When we arrived at the next stop, my initial though was, “They want us to do what?” From the top of a 150-foot waterfall, a wooden platform looks out over a cascading waterfall and a flowing stream way down (to my eyes!) at the bottom.

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At this point I should mention that with our outfitter, safety is the top concern. You are securely hooked into a safety line and have a team of trained guides standing by. You can still expect a few butterflies as you stand on the top of the platform and the guide says, “Jump.”

Canyoning plungeYou control your descent by controlling the tension on the rappelling line as you descend. After clearing the rocks and splashing water at the top,  I was dangling in midair. At this point, I released the rappelling line and grabbed a black safety line. My rappel then turned into a zipline, as I whirred across the stream below and past the tropical rain forest foliage.

You can expect to get soaked during canyoning. We dressed in quick-dry clothes, a swimsuit and sport sandals. I lathered up with sunscreen, thinking I’d need to protect myself from the brilliant Costa Rican sun – but our activity was mainly in the shade of the rainforest.

Ready, Set, Plunge

We clamored over boulders and splashed along the rushing stream until the guide told us to halt. At this next point we would leap into a six-foot-deep pool of water. This isn’t something I would normally do with a hardhat and a heavy harness, but a helpful guide was there to lift me out after the immersion into the cool mountain water.

Although the waterfall rappels were certainly high points, just navigating through the stream in the midst of a lush rainforest was uber-cool. We were with a small group, so we had chances to talk about our thrills and spills of the day.

Human dam unleashedAs we balanced our way through the swiftly-flowing stream, I noticed one of the guides lying sideways in the stream. Odd, I thought, but the guide told us to keep hiking. His purpose became clear as we neared a narrow pathway cut through solid rock. The guide told us to sit and brace ourselves.

The chap we passed earlier was actually creating a human dam. On a signal, he moved out of position and released the torrent of water. We were battered with a rush of cold, frothing water that engulfed us. Quite a memory.

The highest waterfall is 200 feet and at this point we felt comfortable with the technique and could enjoy the ride so much more. I felt like a tropical bird soaring over the water and through the dense vegetation.

After the last waterfall, we were ready to ascend from the canyon and dry off. All that rappelling and zipping takes you down, down, down to the bottom of Lost Canyon. Back at base camp there was a chance to shower and dry off. We capped our experience with a delicious buffet meal at Desafio headquarters. Since the other members of our group were on a different tour, only three of us enjoyed the tropical feast. Almost a private gourmet meal!

We want to offer a tip of the cap to Green World Adventures which made the arrangements for transfers, lodging and excursions during our trip.

Canyoning is a great sport. Seek it out on your next travel adventure.

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