Kayaking on the Savegre with Rafiki Safari – Activity Guide

As we paddled along the channel that we were one, it got smaller and smaller, and as I was starting to feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland at this point, it got curiouser and curiouser.

Over the course of 9 months in 2017, my partner and I sold all of our possessions, including 2 vehicles, and a house full of stuff. In order to sell the house for its maximum value, we also completed 3 months of renovations that had been lingering for over 3 years. We wrapped up 2 businesses and left a town and tight knit community that we both cherished. We did all of this in order to seek out a life of freedom, away from the hustle and bustle of the 9-5 life, but most importantly, we did it so that we could travel. This is our story…….

Last week we had the good fortune to go kayaking with one of the local tour operators here in Matapalo, Rafiki Adventure Tours.

We started out early, leaving the beach in Matapalo at 7:30am by vehicle and arriving on the lower section of the Savegre River around 8:00.  We were told by our guides that the Savegre is one of the cleanest rivers in Costa Rica, and possibly all of Central America.  Apparently there is very little in the way of settlements along its banks, which gives it this distinction.


We got all loaded up and then pushed off into the river.  The river is very slow moving in this section, and it’s a great spot to just drift downstream while taking in all of the early morning bird life along the banks.

We saw many types of birds including the Great Blue Heron, Tiger Heron, Green Backed Heron, Black Necked Stilt, Cormorant plus the usual suspects, Vultures and Pelicans.  There were many other small ones tucked into the grasses along the shore lines, and quite often the guide would be telling us there was something there, but I coulnd’t see what it was no matter how hard I tried.

Sights such as this were common as we drifted by.  This is a Cormorant.
This is the beginning part, just after putting in.  It was the fastest moving section of water we were on, and really wasn’t too fast at all.


We eventually drifted down to the mouth of the river, but because of the way it turned before hitting the beach, we weren’t caught up in a rush of water that was pouring out into the ocean, like one would expect.  Instead, we lazily drifted over to a beach section that had a small shelter erected on it.  Apparenlty this is a good spot for a snack, and also, we were told, camping.  Many families come and camp in this spot, enjoying the river and the ocean, in close proximity.

As we came to this spot, we could see the waves breaking in the ocean, just over the crest of a sand bank that was blocking the water from coming into where we were.

A look at the waves hitting the protective sand bar.
The little shelter that has been erected for campers and kayakers to take a break.
If you look closely, you can see the waves breaking in the distance, but not coming into where we were drifting, plus the little shelter that we were heading to is on the left.

After asking the guide if there was a worry about Crocodiles in the area, I went for a quick swim in the fresh water.  It was much cooler than the ocean, and was very refreshing as it was already brutally hot out.  It wasn’t until after I got out that he told us that in the winter, the crocodiles are a common sighting on the surface, however, with it now being summer, and the river is busier with traffic, they usually hide down below the surface and aren’t seen as much.  So I guess I didn’t really hear his response when I went for the swim!  However, crocodiles aren’t usually interested in eating people, but I wouldn’t want to push my luck with that!  It was a quick swim either way!

After having a few snacks, we set out on a side tributary of the river that wound it’s way along the shoreline, but was encased in thick mangroves.  As we paddled along, the channel that we were on, got smaller and smaller, and as I was starting to feel like a bit like Alice in Wonderland at this point, it got curiouser and curiouser.

Still in a fairly wide section.
Starting to wonder where we were going.
Ended up in this tiny mangrove channel for about an hour!

As you can imagine, trying to paddle in the tight mangrove channel was quite interesting.  More than once I got my paddle caught on a root on one side, and then caught on the other at the same time, and my progress would come to a screeching halt as my chest hit my paddle and stopped me dead.  There was a lot of splashing and paddles clanking tree roots from the whole crew as we slowly snaked our way through this section.  At one point I decided that I was going to separate my paddle and only use one side, but trying to maneuver a kayak like that , with one paddle, turned out to be more difficult than getting my paddle caught on the roots.  I admitted defeat pretty quickly, and went back to clanking mangrove roots with my paddle instead.  The whole process was a bit of a test of patience, but at the same time, a really cool experience.

We saw monkeys jumping through the mangroves and once in a while one would come to the edge and poke it’s head out to see what we were up to.  I kept a careful look out for crocodiles, feeling like if I was a crocodile, I would definitely want to hang out there.  But thank fully we didn’t see any as it would have been quite close quarters!  We didn’t really see any other wildlife in this section, as the massive tangle of mangrove roots would make it quite hard for most animals to navigate I would think.

Eventually after much paddle clanking, we emerged from our tiny Chanel and found ourselves on a different river, the Portalon River.

Emerging on the Portalon River
This is a different type of Mangrove Tree, there were a few different types that we saw.
Our guide up ahead.
We had to navigate under a few trees, this one was a breeze but others were more of a limbo.
Like this one!  This photo was taken by another guest on the tour, Viola Kerner.

The end of our journey turned out to be the most entertaining part of all!  As we approached the pull out, there were two troops of monkeys that started having a bit of a yelling match at each other.  It turned out that we were right in the middle of them all, and as we stood there, the jungle erupted in screeches and yells, and monkeys baring their teeth at each other.  When it first began, I thought they were mad at us for being there!  Seeing the monkeys bare their teeth like that, suddenly felt very scary, and my immediate thought was that they were going to attack us!  But the guide said that they were fighting with each other, and as we stood there, it became apparent that they weren’t really paying attention to us at all, but were in fact screeching at each other.

Monkeys on one side of our pull out
Monkeys on the other side. You can see how close the one was to our kayak! They actually were running and jumping across it.
This is another image by Viola Kerner.  As you can see, the normally playful and curious monkeys were NOT happy!

After watching the monkeys for about 5 minutes, and finally hearing their screeches and yelling fade off into the jungle, we all laughed in disbelief.  Our guide told us that that was certainly NOT a normal occurrence, and even he was shaking his head with the hilariousness of it all.

There couldn’t be a more perfect vehicle to finish the day off with!

We loaded up the old rusty Rafiki Safari jungle mobile, and after jokes from our guide about possibly needing to push it to get started, it fired up without hesitation.  We headed off back to Matapalo bouncing along a tiny dirt road that indeed felt like it was straight out of an African safari, matching the feeling of the vehicle that we were riding in.  One almost expected to see giraffe heads poking up above the foliage, but the only animal we did see on the way back, was a tiny baby sloth, curled up in a ball high up in a tree.  With the amount of close encounters with sloths that we have had already this year, this was certainly not our highlight of the trip!

The bumpy road back to Matapalo.

All in all, it was a great day.  We arrived back to Matapalo by lunch time, and were able to enjoy the rest of the day.

I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who is visiting this part of Costa Rica.  Our guide was knowledgeable and friendly, and the trip was certainly a great experience!

Thank you Rafiki for such a great time!

To book this trip you can contact Rafiki in the following ways:

Website: www.rafikisafari.com

Email: rafikisafari@gmail.com

Phone: 506-2777-2250 or 506-8470-1642

PLEASE NOTE:  There is no kayaking experience needed for this trip!  However, it is a little bit of a workout towards the end as we paddled upstream in the slow moving Portalon River for about 10 minutes, so being in reasonable shape is a bonus!

Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

Current Location: We are managing a Cabina on the beach at Playa Matapalo, between Quepos and Dominical, in Costa Rica. If you are travelling in the area, please get in touch! We would love to connect with fellow travellers!

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