Jumping off a thirty-five foot cliff into the rapids of a waterfall can make you feel like Tarzan. After an hour of watching the local teenage boys jump from various heights to the churning water below, I decided to take the plunge myself. A part of me wanted to do it because it looked like a thrilling experience (and it was), and a part of me wanted to simply show the boys that a girl could do it, too.
Of course, I took a bit longer than the local boys did. My friend, Randy, and I scaled the cliff and hovered fearfully at the edge for a good five minutes or so before taking that bold leap. The jump was exhilarating- I felt high for hours after- and it took longer than I expected to hit the water. My friends watching below told me that my legs did a little nervous kick about five feet before I touched water. Yup, that was about the point where I freaked out and thought “Why haven’t I landed yet?!!! What’s taking so long?!!!” Never in my life have I spent so much time in the air. I didn’t feel like a bird, though, more like a heavy rock- or Tarzan, without his slick jungle skills.
Bri Bri Falls is located in Costa Rica’s Southern Caribbean, along the highway that stretches from Hone Creek to Bri Bri. Lots of local tour companies offer a trip to the falls for $15-$25, but it is much cheaper (and just as easy) to take a taxi or a bus. Just let the driver know that you want to go to the cataracas- they’ll know where to stop.
Another reason to take a bus or taxi is because the tour companies do not often give any of the profit to the man who owns Bri Bri falls. And after meeting Santos, you can’t help but want to give the man some money for all the hard work and effort he makes to keep the falls clean, safe, and beautiful. He definitely lives up to his name, which means “saint”. There is a stairway that descends into the jungle and to the falls, which is always free of litter and well-kempt due to Santos’ weed whacking with the machete.
I first went to the falls by taxi. Santos was waiting at the entrance, and asked for a meagre donation of one dollar. After an exhilarating and refreshing experience of swimming under and around the two waterfalls, I was glad to contribute something to this kind-hearted man. Santos even came down to the falls that day to point out the big rocks that were hidden under the rapids; the current was strong that day, and he didn’t want my friend and I to be injured. He also provides bathrooms free of charge and sells a variety of refreshments from a small fridge. Santos dreams of one day opening a small café/bar at the entrance to the falls. For now, the “café” is a small structure with a table, a fridge, and bunches of bananas and plantains (for sale at a good price) hanging from the beams.
The rapids were too strong that first day to do much besides swim, but the water was calmer and an exquisite shade of blue the second time I visited. On that day, I decided to be brave and jumped off the top of the smaller waterfall. My boyfriend and our two friends, of course, followed suit. I also managed to swim behind and then under the larger waterfall, with the help of my boyfriend.
By the third time I visited, the rain falls had died down and the waterfalls were smaller, and the currents less forceful. Swimming behind and under the waterfall was much easier, and the whole place seemed less intimidating. Hence, my bold (and successful) attempt at cliff diving (or is it jumping, if you go feet first?).
However, Santos is the real Tarzan of Bri Bri Falls. After watching him walk barefoot through a highway of cutter ants, I asked him why he wasn’t afraid of being bitten. He thumped his chest and said in Spanish, “I am like Tarzan! I live with the ants!” It made me rethink my own Tarzan experience; sure, I’ll jump off a cliff into a waterfall, but there’s no way you’re going to catch this gringa walking barefoot through a bunch of biting ants.