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Pura Vida Leader

Distinctive’s founder Steve Hyde is never one to sit still – even during a national lockdown! Instead he turned those lemons to lemonade and has just returned from a 10-day fact finding mission to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is our bestselling destination and its borders recently re-opened to UK tourists, so it was the obvious choice for Steve to experience travel’s “new normal” first-hand. The fact that it’s a warm, tropical country with a wealth of luxury lodges and fantastic beaches was just an added bonus!

A nation which prides itself on its commitment to health and education, the Costa Rican government has been praised for its handling of Covid-19. Confidence in its robust health protocols means that visitors are no longer required to take a PCR test prior to arrival. They just need to complete the online “Health Pass” form 24hrs prior to arrival and purchase specific insurance to cover any Covid-related medical or accommodation costs. Over 15,000 tourists (including Steve!) have entered the country since, without any cases being reported.

Steve praised the country’s efforts:
“I travelled extensively in Costa Rica and was extremely impressed by the various public health protocols in place, such as hand & luggage sanitising, temperature testing and mandatory masks for all hotel/shop staff, transfer drivers and tour guides. Local people are also very committed to the protocols and wear masks and observe social distancing throughout the country. Speaking to other visitors it was very clear that they too felt reassured and confident in the measures that had been put in place to protect both tourists and locals”.

Costa Rica is ideal for visitors who literally want to get away from it all post-Covid. It is very much an outdoor destination offering stunning scenery, incredible biodiversity and thrilling soft adventure activities . Many of its hotels and lodges are small locally run establishments in remote locations, and private tours and transfers are easy to arrange. So visitors can enjoy the country’s famous “Pura Vida” (Pure Life) in safety and comfort.

A message from the Distinctive team – 06 April 2020

We hope that all our clients, partners and suppliers past and present are safe and well.

After a frantic few weeks we’re delighted to say that all of our passengers are now safely back in the UK. So we can now move onto the next phase and co-ordinate re-booking passengers whose future holidays will be impacted by the FCO’s travel advice.

In line with government advice our office is closed but we will continue to work from home.

Our revised working hours until 31 December 2020 are as below.

Mon-Fri: 10am – 4pm
Sat & Sun: Closed

Stay safe & well
Team Distinctive

Giant Otters at Check-in

Napo wildlife centre

by Hilary

The sounds of the Ecuadorian Amazon and gentle rock of the canoe during the paddle upstream was lulling me to a dreamy sleep; so much so I grabbed a paddle to help Juan and Carlitos with what was actually quite a tiring task! The ‘wind storm’ approaching turned out to be Howler Monkeys (we were becoming accustomed to Juan’s sense of humour). And so engrossed we were watching them run through the treetops, we barely noticed the canoe glide out of the creek and on to the lake.

What a magical way to arrive at Napo Wildlife Centre. The three of us in the boat had of course all seen the pictures, but I don’t think any of us were prepared for such a tranquil and serene scene.

Juan’s radio suddenly came to life – his comrades at the lodge letting us know that Giant River Otters were there. We paddled as quickly as we could to try to catch a rare glimpse of this endangered species. We neared and slowed in time to hear the otters calling to each other as they disappeared and reappeared from the calm water. The munching noise was them gobbling their catch whole. Their teeth were indeed extremely large! It was amazing to see, and we couldn’t believe how lucky we had been to share the experience.

So, imagine my amazement when the family returned almost as soon as we got to our room. The most gorgeous sounds of splashing and playing. Becoming more vocal as they back-tracked in search of one of the three cubs who was hiding in the reeds. He bobbed out, and off they swam together, calling and diving and happy. This was proving to be a very special night in the jungle.

Arawi Hotel

Set in the Miraflores district, this luxury modern hotel puts you close to many of the city’s main attractions and minutes from the beach. Its 30 guestrooms boast modern Peruvian themed décor and air-conditioning. The restaurant serves Peruvian specialities as well as international fare, while the bar serves cocktails.

Michaela Walker

Qualified film-maker Michaela, is the newest member of the team and uses her creative eye when working on sales, marketing, operations and social media for Distinctive.

Anna Preece

Operations manager Anna’s hard working attitude and an eye for detail ensures our holidays operate seemlessly. She is always on hand to answers queries big or small.

Hacienda La Danesa

Midway between the Andes and the coast, just over an hour from Guayaquil. Accommodation at Hacienda La Danesa provides a unique experience; situated on a 500 hectare cacao farm, surrounded by fruit plantations, owed to its year-round tropical climate. This comfortable and sustainable 6 bed guesthouse offers guests an idealistic rural retreat. La Dansa has an onsite bar, lounge and restaurant serving high quality, locally sourced offerings.

Reserva do Ibitipoca

Just 3.5 hours from Rio de Janeiro, Ibitipoca Reserve is an inspiring, ambitious 4,000 hectare private conservation and sustainability initiative. The centrepiece is Fazenda do Engenho, one of Brazil’s finest small hotels. Dating from 1715, the traditional farmhouse was rebuilt in 2006 and has eight sumptuous guest rooms, restaurant, Spa, sauna and hydro-massage pool. The stable has Mangalarga and Anglo-Arabian horses and guests set off on horse, foot or 4 x 4 vehicle to explore the extraordinary natural surroundings.

Chayote Lodge

Located 5,000ft above sea level, and surrounded by coffee fields and with amazing views to four volcanoes, the entire Central Valley and part of the Gulf of Nicoya, Chayote Lodge is strategically located to discover a Costa Rica off the beaten track. Its 12 suites are designed after coffee receiving stations with a unique decoration to provide a sense of local exploration.

Big hats, jade pendants and archaeologists

Big hats, jade pendants and archaeologists

by Julia

Nim Li Punit is a small Maya ruin found in the jungle of the Toledo District. It is not as big as other sites found in Belize, however what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in beauty, artefacts found there, and shade!!

In the small museum you can find a range of pots, jewellery, and magnificent stones, or carved stelae illustrating the ancient city’s rulers. These rulers can be seen sporting rather fetching ‘big hats’ which gives the site its name – Nim Li Punit means Big Hat in Kekchi Maya.

The site has become famous due to one of its most stunning findings, a beautiful, and large, jade pendant found in 2015. Sadly the pendant can not be seen here, however we got the opportunity to speak to the team of archaeologists who were currently working on the site. Digging and sifting in the heat was no easy task, I think the archaeologist was quite grateful for the distraction our questions gave him. Being a smaller site, and a lesser known one, the archeology major from the US was able to enjoy the wonderful opportunity to dig here. He told of the secrets the site had already revealed, and the many secrets still to be solved. It is easy, in an area so rich in Maya history, to overlook these smaller lesser known sites. Especially with the likes of Xunantunich and Caracol in the Cayo District, however these smaller sites can afford quieter and more serene visits, and as we found, can sometimes offer fantastic opportunities.