5 things I learnt teaching tree climbing in Costa Rica

“What do you do all winter?”

After  “how do you get the ropes into the tree?”,  the second most popular question people ask me is: “What do you do all winter?” As the owner of recreational tree climbing business based in the UK, I prefer not to spend too much teaching tree climbing in the winter months.

As much as I’d like to spend the winter having lie ins, drinking cups of tea in front of the fire and practising my knot tying, the reality is different. It usually involves catching up on all the office work that didn’t get done over the tree climbing season, making plans for the following year, and, as the Dad of a 5 year old, lie ins are very thin on the ground.

Hotel in Costa Rica

Beachfront lodging in Costa Rica

However, time off over Winter does also give the opportunity for travel. On Boxing Day 2016, I found myself on the 7.45 am ferry to the mainland and on to Heathrow Airport to catch a flight to Costa Rica ready to start teaching tree climbing to a group of varying tree climbing abilities.

I’d been invited by Eric Folmer who runs regular trips to Costa Rica. to join him teaching tree climbing and to explore the amazing trees of Costa Rica – a dream for any recreational tree climber!

Although I was there to teach, the trip I learnt a few things myself:

The natural world is amazing

Obviously this isn’t entirely new to someone who spends their days encouraging people to appreciate their natural environment. In Costa Rica however, the diversity of plants, trees, animals and birds I saw blew me away.

photo of the Quetzel from Costa Rica

Resplendent Quetzal – a cloud forest resident.

Trogan bird in Costa Rica

The Trogan, a relative of the Quetzal

I saw the Quetzal and its cousin the Trogan birds I have never heard of, creatures I had heard of like Anteaters and Hummingbirds and the most enormous acorn I had ever seen – and that’s just a few.

big acorn cup from Costa Rica

An enormous acorn cup

It’s great to challenge yourself

Even though I’ve climbed some really tall trees in my career, including Kauri in my native New Zealand, there were plenty of tree climbing challenges for me on this trip, including this one:

A 45 metre Ceiba tree in a Watermelon field

Standing alone in the middle of a field of Watermelon, the Ceiba (Kapok) tree was about 45 metres tall. I managed a climb to 30 metres, but just couldn’t go beyond that.

It was a real challenge for me to climb that high. Putting myself in that situation really helped me understand and empathise with nervous tree climbers who want to push themselves, but are fearful of the height.

(To put things in perspective, our tree in Appley is 18 metres high and you can climb to about 15 metres.)

I like (ok love) warm weather!

Landscape view of Costa Rican hills

Amazing landscapes

I’m not known for my love of the English winter and I really enjoyed  my busman’s holiday to the sun. Costa Rica is beautiful and the sea is warm. What’s not to like!

We arrived at one lodging with a walk along the beach

I’m just a little bit of a control freak…

I’ve got certain ways I like to teach tree climbing – just ask the people who work with me!

Having taught recreational tree climbing for over 11 years and as a Lantra Instructor and Assessor I’m used to doing things my way. Once I relaxed, it was great to see other people teaching tree climbing differently and I’ve used this experience to enhance my own teaching practice.

People tree climbing in Costa Rica

Tree climbing


The importance of a warm welcome

man with coffee, costa rica

Learning about coffee production from a local producer

Everyone I met in Costa Rica was wonderfully friendly and welcoming.
When we were climbing the Ceiba tree (see earlier), some local people came to watch and gave us presents of pineapple and oranges after the climb; it really added to the experience to see friendly faces on the ground when we finished climbing.

We always strive to provide a warm welcome at Goodleaf and my trip made me even more determined to ensure an excellent experience for our tree climbers. And although we don’t have pineapple and oranges, we do always have flapjack

A tree climbing holiday

tree roots and people in Costa Rica

Tree climbers and amazing roots

Costa Rica was a fantastic trip and one that was definitely made better by being able to climb trees and share my love of tree climbing with others. Tree climbing holidays are something I’ve been thinking about for a while – watch this space for news of something new coming in 2018!

I’ve uploaded some more photos of my trip to Costa Rica on Facebook – pop over and take a look. My snaps don’t do it justice, it’s an amazing country.