We had spotted leaflets for this tour at our hotel, and although it was not part of our escorted tour, we asked our tour guide if we could squeeze it in before dinner one night. Our guide made the arrangements for us to be collected from our hotel and left us to it.
We were split into small groups of 5-6, given a flashlight each and set off with the company's guide for an interesting and informative tour through the pitch-black forest valley. It was steep in places with sharp drops and we had to concentrate carefully to avoid tripping over roots and rocks.
Within a short space of time we had seen a tarantula, a katydid, sloth, opossum, and green vine snake. Further along the trails we saw leaf cutter ants, a kinkajou and several roosting birds. Our guide was extremely patient and knowledgeable, ensuring we all had a chance to see and take photographs of the various creatures.
There were other groups along the trials but he was able to keep us away from them, whilst keeping in touch with his fellow guides by walkie-talkie, updating each other on the various sightings. At one stage, as we reached a clearing, I looked up into the sky and thought we were beneath a tall tower lit up with bright white lights. I then realised they were stars! I could not believe how bright they were.
None of our group were insensitive enough to use flash photography on the creatures, many of whom were trying to sleep, and I was pleased with the results of the few photos I managed to take by keeping a steady hand. However, although I enjoyed the tour, I was concerned about the effects on the animals and birds of having flashlights aimed at them night after night, albeit for a relatively short period of time.
The Night Valley Tour bus returning us to our hotel, started spluttering as it struggled up a steep hill and finally conked out. We experienced several minutes of anxiety as our driver leapt out, leaving us fearing it might start rolling back. He then ordered us all off and leapt back in leaving us stranded in the middle of a busy junction as he rolled the minibus backwards trying to jump start it. He bumped, jerked and rattled down the hill and eventually disappeared from sight! Fortunately, we all reached the roadside safely where we pondered our predicament. Should we walk back down to find him? Call a taxi? Did we know where we were? Could we walk to the hotel? A couple of the group started striding down the hill to investigate but, as the dark enveloped them, we yelled at them to come back. As any Dr Who fan knows, you should always stick together! After more anxious minutes a different bus and driver pulled up and we trustingly clambered on board, happy to pay if it proved to be a taxi spotting an opportunity. We were returned to our hotel at no extra cost, where our guide rushed us straight into the restaurant. We were a strange looking group for this final dinner of the tour – those of our party who had not come on the tour had taken time to shower and dress up whilst the rest of us had to sit down to eat in muddy boots and trousers with fleecy hiking tops!