The Bat Islands (Islas Murcielagos)
After five days in Playa del Coco,
we decided to do a little exploring of the region via boat. Of particular
interest were the Islas Murcielagos, or the Bat Islands, that we had
passed on our way in. So we pulled up our anchor at about 11:00 am
and, because there was a good wind blowing, we had a very nice sail back
across the Gulf of Papagayos to the islands, about 25 miles in 5 hours.
The Bat Islands are part of a huge 230,000 acre national park that covers
much of Northern Costa Rica. We were the only boat there as we
dropped the hook in the anchorage as shown in the
Rains' cruising guide. About 10 minutes later, two park rangers came
out in a dinghy to tell us that we had to pay $6/person/night to visit the
park. This seemed like a reasonable fee to us, so we followed them back to
shore so we could pay and get our receipts. The rangers that came by the
boat were Ronald and Ronald, and at the headquarters we also got to meet Luis.
They showed us around the headquarters, told us about the varieties of species
living on the islands, outlined their overall responsibility and the organization
of the national park, and in general seemed to want to spend as much time
with us as possible, probably because they don't get too many visitors here.
After accepting an invitation to breakfast the next morning, we made our way
back out to RHAPSODY for the sunset and dinner.
The next morning we dinghied into shore for the 8:00 am breakfast appointment,
but as it turned out, Ronald, Ronald, and Luis had to leave almost immediately
to take the park service boat around the island to chase off some fishermen.
There is no fishing in the national park, despite what might be said in the
cruising books. So we were left with the main Jefe, a ranger named Samba,
who had been there 14 years, and had built the ranger station himself, while
camping in a tent during his first year on the island.
As we ate our Tico breakfast of rice and black beans with a little yogurt, and some
freshly brewed coffee, Samba told us more about the islands and how he
had come to be there. After breakfast, we stepped outside where there were
dozens of Iguanas lounging around in the sun outside the station.
Finally we bid our adieus, anxious to do a little snorkeling in the
clear warm waters around these islands.
We stopped back at RHAPSODY, changed into swimsuits, got our snorkel gear
and landed at a nearby beach, from which it was an easy 20-30 yard swim to
a very nice extended reef. The water was very clear, visibility perhaps
35-50 feet. We could easily see RHAPSODY's anchor chain on the bottom in 25'
of water! And the snorkeling was excellent. No jellyfish to be seen, but
tons of different kinds of fish. We swam among large schools of mullets,
saw very large (14-16 inch) Angel Fish, and in general had a great time
snorkeling. We were humourously pestered by this one
Puffer Fish that followed us for about 100 yards. He would turn away
when I would swim towards him, but kept creeping closer and closer as
we swam away!
Later in the day, we made a chance call on the VHF and got ahold of
SOUTHERN BELLE, who was leaving Bahia St. Elena and planning on stopping
here in the Bat Islands later that day along with KETCHIN UP.
I was looking forward to seeing George, Melinda, and Joshua from SB
again, as well as Noel, Ashley, and the three boys on KU.
So when they pulled in, we went around in the dinghy to say hi to
them. Later that night, George came over to RHAPSODY for a beer
and a little jamming on the guitars.
We spent one more full day in the anchorage at the islands.
Tahsin and Rengin from DELFIN SOLO had given George this neat
snorkeling dive toy. You would tow it behind a dinghy at low
speed and hang on to it. By tilting it down, you would dive
under the water and tilting it up would return you to the
surface. We had great fun playing with that for a couple of hours,
and doing more snorkeling of the reefs.
After two nights in the anchorage, We decided to pull up
anchor and explore another bay close by: Bahia Huevos.