Las Escobas Springs

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We visited the reserve as part of a cruise excursion to explore the "pristine natural beauty" of the Cerro San Gil rainforest and the lifestyle of its local residents.

Leaving the pier & driving through the local town of Santo Tomas De Castilla made us glad we'd chosen an organised tour. The prominence of bars & barbed wire plus the two armed guys in fatigues outside a local supermarket made me thankful of our police escort that stayed with us all day.

Las Escobas is one of the two main rivers flowing from the Cerro San Gil, a 117,000-acre protected rainforest surrounded by mountains. The subject of intense study by renowned biologists, scientists, naturalists and ecologists, this thriving ecosystem is home to more than 400 bird species, as well as an abundance of reptiles, amphibious mammals and insects endemic to the region. Having said that, we didn't see a huge amount of wildlife here but did manage to see some birds.

Arriving at the Las Escobas Springs Reserve, we were welcomed by one of the reserve hostesses, then you participate in a special educational program funded by FUNDAECO, a nature-preservation NGO that teaches students basic English language skills and incoming tourism services. During the 90 min hike, several stops were made for more detailed explanations & optional bathing in one of the puddles (I didn't bother as I didn't want to be carrying wet clothes for the rest of the day).

As well as seeing some amazing tress, flowers, fungi, waterfalls in the most beautiful setting, the thing that strikes you is the sheer scale of the rainforest – quite amazing.

We finished off by seeing their new snake display of about 5 snakes. They were obviously very wild as one particularly aggressive one did its best to attack us (thank goodness the glass was thick). We all stepped back a few feet to calm it down (& OK yes, just in case the glass wasn't as tough as it looked!).

Following the hike, we visited the community of Las Escobas, (about 5 mins away). Here, we met with local people, talked about their daily lives and participated in a tortilla-making demonstration. This isn't particularly spectacular but it gave an insight into how the local communities are organised. As we left the village on the tour bus it was flagged down by a local boy who had captured & tamed a toucan & he bought it on the bus to show it off (& to collect tips despite being told that capturing & taming wild animals is forbidden).

This is a great trip I would thoroughly recommend but beware that although it is a leisurely walk of approximately 1 mile, it is over uneven ground with some quite steep slopes.

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