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Costa Rica

Costa Rica

In January, 2015 we took a one-week trip to Costa Rica. The main goals were to visit a few of the national parks and see the amazing flora and fauna. We booked a couple of Airbnb places for the first half of the week and leaving the last few days flexible. We flew into San Jose arriving in the evening so we spent the first night in Cartago after renting a car. The next morning we drove down to Quepos with the aim of visiting the Manuel Antonio National Park. On the way to Quepos we made a stop at the Mirador de Quetzales off of highway 2. There we went on an informal tour where they took us to a spot where the fabulous resplendent quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) could be seen. Basically the bird feeds on wild avocados which are on some farmer’s land and the guides know which tree they are using that day.

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The elusive resplendent quetzal in the wild

The elusive resplendent quetzal in the wild

The elusive resplendent quetzal

The elusive resplendent quetzal

A resplendent quetzal in the wild

A resplendent quetzal in the wild

Resplendent quetzal

Resplendent quetzal

Quepos and Manuel Antonio NP

We drove to our Airbnb in Quepos for the second night so that we could get to the Manuel Antonio National Park in the morning. As you walk up to the park, there’s a horde of guides that approach to offer their services. While you can enter the park without a guide, we were advised to hire one, which turned out to be an excellent idea. The main benefit of having a guide is that they are extremely skillful at spotting wildlife in the rainforest. There were numerous examples where they pointed out animals that we had difficulty seeing even after they pointed out where the animal was. Sometimes I wondered if they had placed the animals there beforehand. Obviously they have a good understanding of the animal’s habitat and habits, but they must also have great vision.

Curious iguana

Curious iguana

Land crab in rainforest

Land crab in rainforest

Bat hiding under a leaf. I have no idea how the guide knew it was here.

Bat hiding under a leaf. I have no idea how the guide knew it was here.

Three-toed sloth high up in the tree

Three-toed sloth high up in the tree

Capuchin monkey

Capuchin monkey

Capuchin monkey video. While I was taking this video, unbeknownst to me, another pair of monkeys were being harrassed by some tourists. The awkward ending of the video is because one of those monkeys came dashing through the trees and pushed off my shoulder while running from the tourists. Needless to say, I was very surprised!

Capuchin monkey with young

Capuchin monkey with young

After two nights in Quepos, we then drove to Puerto Jimenez, which is close to the Corcovado National Park. On the way there we stopped at a couple of parks with rainforest walks. On one of them we saw a wonderful army of leaf cutter ants.

Leaf cutter ants

Leaf cutter ants

The leaf cutter ant highway can be seen running left/right across the picture.

The leaf cutter ant highway can be seen running left/right across the picture.

Leaf cutter ants. Taken in the rainforests of Costa Rica. Note that all the ants carrying a leaf are headed in one direction while those going to cut leaves are headed in the opposite direction

A squadron of pelicans. A Tico, as they refer to Costa Ricans, joked that they were the Costa Rican airforce.

A squadron of pelicans. A Tico, as they refer to Costa Ricans, joked that they were the Costa Rican airforce.

Barred Hawk at the Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge

Barred Hawk at the Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge

Puerto Jimenez and Corcovado National Park

The day that we arrived in the small village of Puerto Jimenez, we made arrangments to go to Corcovado NP. One has to have a guide to enter the park and from Puerto Jimenez the only way to get there is to fly in a small aircraft. So we made the arrangments to do this, but we could only get reservations for the day after next. Our Airbnb was located in the back room of a rather nice restaurant, the Il Giardino, which is located right on the beach.

Osa Wildlife Sanctuary

So we first spent a day going to the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary which is across the bay. The sanctuary was actually closed for vacation but could take a small number of visitors. To get there we hired a boat which would also take us to go see dolphins in the bay. Another couple was also on the boat.

The dolphin hunting was very successful as we attracted a number of dolphins who were curious and came up to the boat.At the sanctuary they had a number of animals that were been rehabilitated but the most interesting thing was a spider monkey that they named Sweetpea. Sweetpea was wild in the sense that it lived outside the sanctuary in the jungle, but it liked to be groomed by the tourists. Apparently in its troop it is the lowest ranking monkey so no other monkey would groom him. But he has discovered that tourists are delighted to groom him and he is very particular about how and where he likes to be groomed as can be seen from the photos and video.

Our Airbnb at Puerto Jimenez

Our Airbnb at Puerto Jimenez

Sunset dinner at Il Giardino, our Airbnb and restaurant

Sunset dinner at Il Giardino, our Airbnb and restaurant

Moonrise dessert

Moonrise dessert

Our boat to go dolphin hunting and to reach the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary

Our boat to go dolphin hunting and to reach the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary

The other couple on the boat

The other couple on the boat

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Bottlenose dolphin says “Hi”

Bottlenose dolphin says “Hi”

Two dolphins come to inspect the boat

Two dolphins come to inspect the boat

Pelican

Pelican

A large iguana

A large iguana

Sweetpea likes to be groomed

Sweetpea likes to be groomed

She is a 'wild' spider monkey who was rehabilitated at the sanctuary and has become almost tame. As the lowest ranking monkey in the troop, no one grooms her except the eager human visitors. m00003 00004

Corcovado National Park

The next day we drove our rental car along the beach to reach the ‘airport’ at Carate. It is the most unassuming airport in the world, with nothing more than a short runway. But the boarding area is a rainforest where we saw a number of colorful birds, a toucan and scarlett macaw. We then took a short flight into the national park.

Agouti

Agouti

Chestnut-mandibled toucan

Chestnut-mandibled toucan

Scarlett macaw

Scarlett macaw

Woodpecker

Woodpecker

Carate Airport

Carate Airport

Our plane to Corcovado

Our plane to Corcovado

View of beach from the plane

View of beach from the plane

View of the rainforest from the plane

View of the rainforest from the plane

Flying into Corcovado National Park from Carate

Sleeping tapir

Sleeping tapir

Boa constrictor in tree

Boa constrictor in tree

Young spider monkey

Young spider monkey

Spider monkey keeping watch

Spider monkey keeping watch

Young spider monkeys showing his aclimbing agility while keeping an eye on the tourists

Well-hidden crested owl

Well-hidden crested owl

Troop of spider monkeys

Troop of spider monkeys

Passion flower

Passion flower

Mangrove black hawk

Mangrove black hawk

Crocodile waiting for lunch

Crocodile waiting for lunch

The only howler monkey we saw though we heard many of them

The only howler monkey we saw though we heard many of them

Spider monkey drinking water from a hole in the tree

Spider monkey drinking water from a hole in the tree

Wide angle view of same monkey

Wide angle view of same monkey

The water is very clear

The water is very clear

This is the view out of our bathroom at Il Guardino Airbnb. Note there are no curtains and the mangrove swamp view.

This is the view out of our bathroom at Il Guardino Airbnb. Note there are no curtains and the mangrove swamp view.

Our guide spotted this tropical screech owl in a tree as we were driving down the road

Our guide spotted this tropical screech owl in a tree as we were driving down the road

Sarapiqui

Our next stop was an Airbnb at Heliconia Island in the Sarapiqui area back towards San Juan. In the drive up there we passed the famous bridge at Rio Tarcole where there was a swarm of crocodiles sunning themselves on the bank. We also visited the Tirimbina Reserve. The grounds of the Heliconia Island Airbnb were beautiful with well landscaped flowers. Surprisingly we had booked it just the night before because we changed our plans and left Puerto Jimenez a day early to visit the Sarapiqui River region.

Crocodiles galore

Crocodiles galore

Nice placefor a snooze

Nice placefor a snooze

Catching some rays at the Rio Tarcoles bridge

Catching some rays at the Rio Tarcoles bridge

Rafters on the Sarapiqui River

Rafters on the Sarapiqui River

The grounds of our Airbnb at the Heliconia Island

The grounds of our Airbnb at the Heliconia Island

On the grounds of Heliconia Island

On the grounds of Heliconia Island

Heliconia

Heliconia

Bamboo stand on Heliconia Island

Bamboo stand on Heliconia Island

Bird of paradise

Bird of paradise

Scarlet collared tanager

Scarlet collared tanager

Scarlet collared tanager

Scarlet collared tanager

Red cup mushroom

Red cup mushroom

Aracari, or toucan

Aracari, or toucan

Red legged honeycreeper

Red legged honeycreeper

Canopy bridge at the Tirimbina Reserve

Canopy bridge at the Tirimbina Reserve

Golden orb spider

Golden orb spider

Rainforest flowers

Rainforest flowers

Fireworks flower

Fireworks flower

To see the colorful rainforest frogs which come out at night, we went to a place called Frog Heaven where they basically have a rainforest that has lots of frogs. They accompany you with a flashlight and find the frogs in the wild. They found lots of colorful frogs including the iconic frog of Costa Rica, the red-eyed tree frog.

Red eyed tree frog lit by flashlight in the dark

Red eyed tree frog lit by flashlight in the dark

Blue jeans poison dart frog

Blue jeans poison dart frog

Black and green poison dart frog

Black and green poison dart frog

Bull frog at night

Bull frog at night

Tails up! A troop of coatimundi

Tails up! A troop of coatimundi

On the drive home

On the drive home

Down Under: Green Island and Daintree Rainforest

Down Under: Green Island and Daintree Rainforest

Backpacking in the Grand Tetons

Backpacking in the Grand Tetons