Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Central Pacific Coast, Costa Rica: December 18 - 22, 2021

After breakfast, our transfer ride picked us up for the five-hour drive to our hotel next to Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. The driver kindly stopped at a couple of places along the way. The first was a restaurant/plant nursery/butterfly garden. The garden was lush and bright and even had "Pura Vida" created with plants.

The butterflies proved to be allusive and mostly escaped our attempts to take their photograph.

Dan trying to photograph a Blue Morpho Butterfly
Another chance to stretch our legs was a little farther on at the "Crocodile" bridge. I counted at least a dozen crocodiles sunning or swimming below the bridge. 

The crocs stay because they are fed and the souvenir shops at the bridge survive because of the crocs. It is a croc-driven economy.

Just a little further up the river from the bridge are watermelon fields where the best melons in all of Costa Rica are found.

Finally, we arrived at Arenas Del Mar and our room. The hotel is the only property which has both beach and rainforest. 

The pool at reception and the ocean view beyond
The view from our balcony
We had ceviche on the beach and watched a sloth in the tree above us. The temperature was perfect.

Back at the reception lobby, we watched the "mafia" half-heartedly try to infiltrate the restaurant. Hotel staff refers to the capuchin monkeys as the mafia.

The next morning we went on a walking tour of Manuel Antonio National Park.

One of the first animals we saw was a White-Tailed Deer. Not exotic in any way, but her fawn was enthusiastically feeding while Mom was standing in a narrow strip of jungle between two walkways. As the crowd of people increased on both sides of her, she tried to move to a more private space, but the fawn was completely focused on its meal.

We saw a few howler monkeys but mostly just heard them. They are loud. I would hate to live close to where the howler troops live.

Howler Monkey
We saw both three-toed and two-toed sloths in the park. Mostly, just the back of each. They spend a lot of time just hanging when they aren't eating.

A Sloth
Tent-making Bat
Tent-making bats chew on the center leaf vein to cause the leaf to fold in half forming a tent that the bat can call home.

Common Spiny-Tailed Iguana
The beach at Manuel Antonio National Park

Back at our hotel, we planned to have lunch on the beach and swim, but first we stopped in at the hotel's front entrance to check on the sloth that has been hanging out in the trees. We got very lucky. She was there and so was her baby. They were both hanging out separately and then the baby got into her arms and they moved, slowly, slowly to a more distant tree. She was amazingly graceful and like a lithe gymnast as she transferred herself and baby from branch to branch. We watched her for about an hour until she moved beyond our vision. 

Finally, at lunch on the beach, an iguana tried to invite himself to our luncheon. He was very persistent but once the food was gone, he confirmed and left. 

After our swim, we went for a walk around the grounds on the hotel's short trail through the rainforest and down to the public beach. This is where the surfers hangout. The surfers pointed out two sloths but they were so deep into the trees that they were barely visible. 

On the way back we met up with some capuchin monkeys running amok through the rainforest. The capuchin mafia is the reason why all the cupboards on the room balconies have locks. They really like the sugar packets.

Capuchin Monkey
Agouti (2nd largest rodent in Costa Rica)

Walking back toward our room after walking the hotel's grounds, one of the service employees found us and pointed out a huge bird perched deep in the trees. It was identified as a Double-toothed Kite. 

The next day, Dan's birthday, we woke to rain--lots of it. There was so much rain that the tour operator that was supposed to take us snorkeling cancelled and rescheduled for the next day. So we had the entire day to ourselves but it was raining.

We got a ride to the nearby "big" town of Quepos. We strolled the walkway along the estuary, the marina, and the town while it wasn't raining too much, and took a taxi back to the hotel.

Estuary and Ocean beyond

Back at the hotel, the restaurant and lobby were being invaded by squirrel monkeys. They are small,  mighty, thoroughly brazen, and fun to watch.

At the sink in the bar
"Give Me Food"
After dinner the hotel restaurant brought Dan a chocolate cake and sang Feliz Cumpleaños to him. 
Despite the all day wet weather, the sunset was glorious, and we enjoyed just being in Costa Rica.

We did snorkel the next day. Our driver/guide picked us up at 7 am. Biesanz Beach was less than a half mile away. Once outfitted with our snorkeling stuff, we walked into the water and swam out to some rocks where the fish were. The visibility was terrible but we could see them. The sun as hidden by threatening clouds so we both were cold after about 1.5 hours in the ocean. 

Back at the hotel we finished packing and cleaned up. At noon our ride took us back to San Jose with a stop at a San Jose clinic for our pre-departue Covid test. We overnighted at the Grano Del Oro the same hotel we stayed at when we arrived. It is a beautiful Victorian built in the 1910s. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas.

The next morning, our last day, we walked to San Jose's Central Park to get a little exercise before sitting for hours on two planes.

We thoroughly enjoyed everything about this vacation. Having someone do all the planning relieved so much vacation stress. For the tours and when we were to move on to another location, our transfer ride was always there on time. Without the planning stress, I felt so relaxed.

Mandy at DPPTravel - Mandy was easy to work with and the agency has great contacts.

Local Tour Company:
We really enjoyed our tours with Rainforest Explorers in Fortuna. Both guides we had were extremely competent as guides and excellent naturalists. After spending the volcano walk with Minor at Rainforest Explorers, he was the person who suggested that we might like the Caño Negro boat tour even though it was not their tour. We contacted Costa Rican Trails (the local operator of our tour) and they made the Caño Negro boat tour happen for us.

Hotels: All the places we stayed were magnificent and beyond our expectations. They had a 100% vaccination rate. Pacuare Lodge accepted only vaccinated tourists. This month, businesses could begin requiring customers to show proof of vaccination status.

Costa Rica seems to be doing something right in preserving lands and protecting their top industry. In the 70s only about 12% of the country was protected lands. Now the figure is about 56%. The government pays landowners to not clear all their land. Tourism, including medical tourism, is the top industry followed by exports of fruits and flowers. Other significant industries are tech call centers and manufacturing of medical devices for export.

In 1948, Costa Rica abolished their military, and they spend more on education than the world average. Hunting is illegal and it is illegal to possess a wild creature-even a bird.

For Dan and me, this was our Disneyland. We love seeing and learning about all aspects of nature. 


Saturday, December 18, 2021

Caño Negro Boat Tour, Costa Rica: December 17, 2021

Howler Monkeys watching me

Today was our day for the Sky Tram/Zip Line Tour. Since it was raining, since seeing the Volcano was impossible, since we had already had a wet, but thrilling zip line Canopy Tour at Pacuare, we replaced it with a visit to Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. The boat trip begins at Los Chiles which is just five miles from the border with Nicaragua. We had rain at Caño Negro but the pontoon boat had a roof on it so the rain didn't slow us down.

The first animals we saw were Howler Monkeys. They are the second loudest mammal in the world behind the Blue Whale. We did not have the pleasure of hearing their howls on this day.

Howler Monkeys are normally black with some golden brown on their sides. Here at Caño Negro there are two Howler Monkeys, an adult male and a juvenile male, with minimal melanin so their coats are quite golden and almost orange. A third melanin deficient monkey, a female, lives with another troop. The condition is called Pheomelanism.

A line of evenly spaced Long-nosed bats
A Caiman in the swampy area around the river
Green Iguana-male
Green Iguana-male
We saw lots of Green Iguanas. In their breeding phase, males turn orange. We saw one macho Green Iguana with a harem of at least seven females sprawled over a tangle of branches. He looks very pleased with himself.

Male Green Iguana and his harem
Close up of Green Iguana and harem
Basilisks are called "Jesus Christ lizards" because when they jump from where they are resting, it looks like they are walking on water. 

Emerald Basilisk-male
Emerald Basilisk-female
Amazon Kingfisher-male
Amazon Kingfishers (left-female; right-male)

Anhinga also called Snake Bird because of the way it snakes it neck when it is swimming

Neotropic Cormorant with gorgeous Turquoise Eyes
Boat-Billed Heron
One of the Rain Intervals
Spider Monkey
White-Faced Capuchin Monkey

Most of the males we saw today were more colorful and attractive than the female of the species. As Dan says, it is only in the human animal world that the female of the species is required to look pretty. However, in some more advanced societies like the Maasai or in Niger's Wodaabe that is not so. The men dress and makeup to attract a mate.

We saw lots of birds for which I don't have a decent photo: Great Potoo, Green Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, and some common ones like Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons. 

We really enjoy seeing wildlife and this was the perfect day trip with Marcos from Caño Negro Tours.

Next stop: Tomorrow Arenas Del Mar on the Pacific Coast