Best-selling novelist Rachael Lucas reviews Thomson Dream on a cruise from Jamaica to the jungles of South America and the Panama Canal
I’m peering up into the dripping canopy of trees, long, moss-covered cables hanging down, the air filled with birdsong and the rush of the waterfall, when I spot the group of Howler monkeys high in the branches above us.
We’re in the depths of the Veragua Rainforest in Costa Rica, and it’s raining hard. As shore excursions go, it’s a breathtaking start to our cruise, but this trip was always going to be unusual. The seven-night itinerary takes you from Montego Bay, Jamaica, to Colombia, Costa Rica, the tiny San Blas islands and the Panama Canal.
My first taste of the unexpected on this week-long cruise comes as we dock. Before breakfast I head to the top deck of the ship where I take in the view of South America. An inky blue sea surrounds us, and in the distance a mist rises from the lush green hills. I’m so excited that I do a little dance of happiness, and am caught out by a fellow passenger. When I tell him that I’m so excited I could skip a circuit of the deck, he bursts out laughing – he feels exactly the same.
The hour-long trip to the Veragua Rainforest takes us through the town of Puerto Limón, passing houses and shops made from brightly painted corrugated iron. Palm trees are everywhere, the ground underneath them carpeted with orange petals. We pass colourful houses on stilts, with long horned cattle grazing in fields dotted with orange trees, and climb into the rainforest. A little girl in a cerise pink skirt waves from a porch, her dog sitting on a rocking chair as she plays in the rain.
Suddenly we pull over onto the side of the road. The driver points upward and we all peer out. Amazingly, it’s a sloth, hanging in the tree.
“We cannot protect something we can’t understand,” Jonathan, our guide, explains. That’s the whole principle behind the National Institute of Biodiversity, which makes its home here. By the end of the Eco-Adventure experience we’ve seen hosts of exotic butterflies, red-eyed frogs and snakes. We take the aerial tram passing through the mist which rises through the canopy, down into the depths of the Victoria River Canyon, where walking trails snake upwards through the rainforest with tracks to suit every ability.