Anyone used Wild Planet Adventures for Costa Rica?
My wife and I were on the day "Ultimate Wildlife Ecotour" conducted by Wild Planet Adventures Feb 23 - Mar 7, with 3 other couples. OVERALL, the tour and guide were excellent, the accommodations were mostly substandard, time management was average, some marketing hype, and overall dollar value was poor to good. Specifics as follows:
TOUR - has an excellent itinerary over most of the tourist areas of the country. Did not emphasize San Jose (that's a good thing). Good variety of wildlife, national parks, and activities (canoeing, zip lines, canopy tours, rafting, white-water, kayaking, hot springs, beach). Really enjoyed the zip lines and white-water activities. If you don't speak Spanish, then it's a good way to get around because you probably couldn't do it on your own.
GUIDE (Koky) - outstanding bird "whisperer" who could mimic many of the bird calls. Good knowledge of other wildlife. Stuck to the prescribed itinerary. Helpful on a number of occasions with information, assistance, etc. Took us to good restaurants (no one got sick on the trip).
ACCOMMODATIONS - Night(s) #(pre-trip) @ Hotel Trapp Lodge in Alajuela: very good accommodations with excellent on-site restaurant and free shuttle to nearby airport. # @ Aviaros del Carribe, Cahuita: rustic but clean and compensated for by being on location with the sloths, canals, trails and wildlife. # @ La Quinta Country Inn, Sarapiqui: rustic but clean. #5 Villa Decary, Nuevo Arenal: excellent property, rooms, views and breakfast. # Finca Valverde, Monteverde: rustic but clean. # Villas Teca, Manuel Atonio, Quepos: a real dump, not even a 1-star, bathroom odors, didn't feel clean, flooring stained linens and feet red, charged $7 for basic toiletries - entire tour group was upset at being stuck there. #10 La Chosa del Manglar, Puerto Jiminez: very rustic, more red feet, substandard. # Luna Lodge, Carate: outstanding ecolodge with bungalows, beautiful setting, an adventure just to get to. #13 Villas Rio Mar, Dominical: average rustic accommodations with poor bedding, good grounds. #(post-trip) Hotel Posada Canal Grande: far away from the airport requiring a $20+ taxi ride, unsafe location (8 nearby gunshots at night, night clerk had firearms in the lobby), no nearby restaurants to eat at that we felt safe in going to.
TIME MANAGEMENT - Overall the time management was pretty good. Be prepared to spend hours a day with meals - B, L, and D. Also be prepared to spend some amount of time in the van traveling from place to place (a necessity with this kind of itinerary). There were some early mornings and late evenings but those were dictated by the itinerary. Time allotted for restroom stops, activities and attractions was mostly adequate with several shopping stops. One major deficiency was the night at Arenal - we spent a lot of time early in the day doing lunch, hot springs, and dinner only to be cut short on seeing the volcano.
MARKETING - Most of the tour description was correct including the sloth refuge, Cahuita NP, La Selva, Sarapique River, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio NP, and Corcovado NP. However, there were several areas where it was misleading. "Enjoy a nighttime view of the volcano spouting lava" - 9 out of 10 times you can't see the volcano because of the weather, our group was fortunate in that only the top of the mountain was cloud covered. However we did not go to the base of the volcano, we simply saw it from a dirt road off the highway for a few (about 10) minutes. Spectacular view of lava running down the side of the mountain but we were not taken close or allowed more than a few minutes of viewing. Day 8 - we went to a private wildlife area instead of the advertised Carara Biological Preserve hike assumed the guide knew best. "Snorkel at night to see the water come alive" - we did kayak in the gulf and saw the bioluminescence but there was no snorkeling.
VALUE - The list price for a couple was $ not including airfare, pre- and post-night hotels, taxis, tips, drinks, and tour "extras" like the zip lines. The basic price equates to about $ per day per couple. The average price for a hotel room was probably about $ per night our meal allotment was $5 B (but most were B&Bs), $7 L, and $16 D - so for a couple it would have been about $70 per day including tax and mandatory gratuities. We were cautioned several times by the guide that we were close to exceeding budget and we needed to cut back or pay extra. Budget was kept on the group as a whole - not by individuals - so you were part of the group budget. Entrance fees and attractions I estimate at $ per day per couple on average. Add on the van rental and gasoline $???. Overall, I think about % of our list price was spent on us. What's bothersome is the fact that we were put in mostly substandard lodging at cheaper hotels - review the trip advisor ratings for these places. Most places had air conditioned rooms available but we were booked in the cheaper rooms without A/C. On the first night the guide said we would sign a log each night of drinks consumed by person. Thereafter, the guide kept his record of drinks and then revealed amounts due on the last night - surprise! We were presented with an unexpected option of getting to the Osa peninsula - hours on gravel roads or paying extra for a boat ride. The boat ride should have been part of the standard itinerary and included in the basic cost.
OTHER Its easy to overpack for the trip because you dont know the range of weather (we went from cool to hot) and all the raingear. Try to use a lot of quickdry clothing. Also, a waterproof camera comes in handy for the water trips.
Wild Planet Adventures' "On The Jaguar's Trail" Named A National Geographic Traveler "Tour Of A Lifetime"
A national magazine known for seeking out the unusual and exceptional in travel announced on April 10 that the wildlife specialty tour operator, Wild Planet Adventures' has received its "Top Tours of a Lifetime" award. This is the fifth time in company history that Wild Planet has received this coveted award from the editors of National Geographic Traveler.
The award as part of the magazine's ninth annual "Worlds' 50 Best Trips" recognizes Wild Planet Adventure's "On the Jaguar's Trail; from the Pantanal to the Amazon" wildlife safari in Brazil. Wild Planet operates wildlife eco-tours and safaris in nine countries and has now won this top honor for an unprecedented five of its nine destinations.
"On the Jaguar Trail" is featured in the magazine's May issue and listed on a special Tours of a Lifetime page on National Geographic Traveler's website. The magazine's selection process looked for 's most authentic, most innovative, most immersive, best-guided and most sustainable tours offered worldwide.
"This year marks the 30th anniversary of National Geographic Traveler, which has always looked at the world through the lens of culture, nature, and history. The tours we selected go beyond destination to add meaning and context," said Norie Quintos, executive editor. "They open the mind to new possibilities, new connections, and new ways of thinking- all critically important given the world's complex issues."
Josh Cohen, founder/owner of Wild Planet Adventures, says that the way he designs trips, specific to wildlife lovers, sets his company's explorations apart. "The big cats, such as the jaguars in Brazil, are among the most elusive of animals, yet our guests see them time and again in their natural habitats," says Cohen.
"Our track record for seeing the world's rarest and most elusive animals may well be the most comprehensive of any wild animal specialists leading tours today," he adds. "We try to avoid unnecessary intrusion into an animal's personal space or habitat to get a great photo. Instead, we rely on the tracking skills and wildlife expertise of some of the industry's best guides and best practices. We take every precaution we know of to limit our impact so that when our guests witness, for example, a clouded leopard, the sighting is real and authentic."
In addition to sighting jaguars in Brazil, guests on Wild Planet's trips to India may observe tigers in the wild; in Zambia lions, leopards and cheetah are featured; jaguars of Peru are often sighted on tours into the Amazon region; elusive clouded leopards are on the list in Thailand and clouded leopards and marbled (small wildcats) cats award tour participants in Borneo.
Wild Planet Adventures is no stranger to awards. Fodor's named its Costa Rica trip one of the world's top 10 "must-do" trips, Smarter Travel singled out the company for the best new trips in India and Thailand, and National Geographic Adventure named the company "One of the World's Best Tour Operators".
About Wild Planet Adventures
The expert wildlife guides of Wild Planet Adventures go the extra mile to explore remote wildlife habitat and study wildlife patterns in destinations not often accessible to the general public. Thanks to the company's comprehensive itineraries that balance diverse and complex ecosystems and habitats, guests enjoy wildlife and game viewing that is carefully aligned with animals' seasonal, daily and nocturnal migrations.
Following a philosophy that interacting with nature has the power to transform lives, tours are conducted in Africa, Baja, Belize, Borneo, Brazil, Costa Rica, Galapagos, India, Laos, Nepal, Panama, Peru, Thailand and Zambia. Wild Planet Adventures is recognized by top publications in the travel industry for its itineraries that combine intimate encounters with wildlife and local culture.
For a more information and a complimentary catalog call toll-free , or e-mail: [email protected] To review current trips, schedules and itineraries log onto: http://www.wildplanetadventures.com/.
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About the company
In Wild Planet Adventures began as a small company, originally called InnerQuest Adventures, with a passion for nature travel and its power to transform lives. We never imagined our passion would be shared by so many! Today our wildlife eco-tours are widely recognized as the ultimate adventures for wildlife enthusiasts. Our blend of remote destinations, exclusive wildlife-viewing activities, and top naturalist guides offers the best possible chance to see rare animals in the wild. No other company's itineraries will expose you to so much wildlife!
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