Monday, July 18, 2011

Pura vida: Cabo Matapalo (part 4)

After almost two weeks in Costa Rica, exploring the Caribbean coast, searching for the elusive resplendent quetzal, and finding wildlife and thunderstorms in Drake Bay, Dan and I headed to Cabo Matapalo, where the Golfo Dulce meets the Pacific Ocean.

Golfo Dulce

We arrived in Puerto Jimenez, where there is a cemetery next to the airstrip...really! We were greeted by Graby, a driver from Bosque del Cabo, and it was time for another bumpy ride. Along the way, he stopped to show us a was so lazy, barely lifting its head when Graby tried to get its attention.


Then we arrived at Bosque del Cabo, where we were greeted by tropical fruit drinks and lunch on the patio...I could get used to this! The grounds are lovely, and we saw a scarlet macaw fly out of a tree in front of our cabina when we moved in after lunch. We checked out the suspension bridge to the tropical garden, where we heard lots of birds in the trees overhead, but the canopy is so high that it is hard to spot them. But we did see a white-faced capuchin monkey sitting on the bridge one morning.

Suspension bridge

At the pond in the tropical garden, we met a couple who had just spotted a chestnut-mandibled toucan, but it flew away just before we arrived. This became the theme of our stay at Bosque del seemed that everyone was seeing toucans everywhere, except me! I soon learned to recognize the chestnut mandibled toucan's call, thanks to Philip, one of the resident naturalists. But usually the call was high above us or in the distance...too far to spot the bird. But, I did finally spot a calling toucan in a tree near our cabina early on our next-to-last morning...success!

Also spotted orb spiders on the path to our cabina. The female is soo much bigger than the wee male, can you see him?

Orb spiders

After breakfast the next morning, we headed toward the Pacific trail...passing a troop of spider monkeys eating mangos on the way...they are very wasteful eaters. A few bites, then out! There were partially-eaten mangos scattered all over the ground.

Spider monkey in the mango trees

Luckily, other animals come by to clean up later. We saw a coati on the way back. Still, the smell of fermenting mangos lingered near the mango trees...yuck.


We saw poison dart frogs and a female currasow on the Pacific trail, and then...the beach!

Pacific beach

The surf is strong on the Pacific side, so swimming is not recommended, but there are tide pools to explore. We saw sea slugs and chitins, looked for shells, and I saw a white hawk in a tree on the beach. We hiked up a creek to a small waterfall...refreshing! On the way back we soaked in the big tide pools, like a natural jacuzzi...ahh!

The hike back up was exhausting, hundreds of steps! But we were invigorated by lunch on the patio, then we moved into Mariposa, the last cabina on the forest edge. Gecko, where we spent the first night, was very nice...but Mariposa is breathtaking. I spent a lot of time on the deck, relaxing and admiring the view. Also took a few soaks in the outdoor mosaic tub, listening to the sounds of the forest. Lovely.

Mariposa deck

Mariposa tub

In the afternoon, we hiked the Titi trail, which is known for wildlife sightings, and the Saino trail, which has many ups and downs, going through several valleys and crossing a few streams. The Titi trail is where most big cats (pumas, usually) are spotted. We went in search of peccaries, and to my surprise we actually saw them! I saw three crossing the trail a few meters ahead of us, then we saw another peccary in the trees to the left of the trail. Then this one crossing the trail ahead of us. So five peccaries in all. They are cute.

Peccary on the Titi trail

We didn't see as much wildlife on the Saino trail, but we saw many, many leaf-cutter ants...they make their own highways, but often use the trails too, and after awhile I got tired of seeing them and trying to avoid stepping on them...but they really are pretty amazing creatures.

Leafcutter ants

Can you hear the toucan call in this video of the ants?

We saw a couple of agouti on the way back, then did some relaxing and watching the monkeys on the deck. Since Mariposa is on the forest edge, it seemed the monkey highway was right next to us. Each afternoon we watched them swing through the trees and climb up and down a vine...even saw a mama monkey with baby on her back and small juvenile monkeys!

Swinging spider monkey

I saw a coati outside Mariposa the next morning, and this little guy on the patio.

Poison dart frog

After breakfast, we hiked the Golfo Dulce trail. I wanted to find the King Louis waterfall, but we were deterred by a huge fallen log and a snake by the creek. After crossing the creek, we ran into a group of people, including the family who runs Everyday Adventures...they lead rappelling tours down the waterfall...what luck! So we followed them up the creek, scrambling up the rocks, to this spectacular waterfall. We swam in the pool and went under the falls for what Dan calls a "hydromassage."

King Louis waterfall

Waterfall awe

After the falls, the trail meets the beach access road. The first beach is Matapalo beach, and we watched the surfers catching the long breaks. It actually made me consider a surf lesson! (I quickly came to my senses.)

Panoramic Matapalo beach

Matapalo beach

We passed beautifully landscaped private homes, rental houses, and lots of surf paraphernalia before arriving at the second beach, Backwash beach. We had lunch under the shade of a tent of bamboo poles and palm leaves, and then went swimming.

Backwash beach

Forest & Backwash beach

I got tossed about by a wave when I first went into the water! I guess I didn't see it coming...quite scary! But I was more careful afterwards, and got in and out closer to the edge of the waves. After the swim, we had planned to hike back up the Golfo Dulce trail, but as we were walking back up the road, I did not feel well. At first, I thought maybe I had a concussion from being tossed about by the surf earlier...which doesn't make much sense since I would have felt the effects right away. Luckily, there were many houses along the road, and a kind surfer told Dan that I had heat stroke and was very dehydrated. It made sense, since I hadn't had much water on the morning hike, as it was mostly downhill and very shaded, but I still sweated a ton since it's so hot and humid in the rainforest. I slowly drank some water, and Dan found someone with a cell phone and called Bosque del Cabo for a ride back. What an adventure! By the time we returned, I was feeling much better. We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the view from the deck and napping in the hammock. We also saw scarlet macaws fly by, their colors are so spectacular in flight.

Mariposa view

Hammock time

In the evening we saw a presentation from Yaguara, about efforts to protect wild cats in the area and preserve rainforest was very informative, and simultaneously encouraging and depressing. It was interesting to learn that scientists now believe that jaguars and other bigs cats have a much bigger range than previously thought...and it is nice to know that the area lodges are taking part in the effort, by acquiring more land to build a corridor between the national parks, and put camera traps on the trails to monitor big cat activity.

The next day we hiked the Zapatero trail, which also has many ups and downs. According to the trail description, it is 0.9 miles long, but it feels much further when hiking in the rainforest! I think it's the heat, humidity, mud, and ants. Still, it is quite beautiful.

Zapatero trail

Vines up a tree

Many trees in the rainforest have it's important to look before grabbing hold onto something for to have a walking stick.

Spiky trunk

Thorny trunks

Looking at monkeys, most likely.

Walking palm

Near the end of the trail, we saw a bird-eating snake. It must have been six feet long! I am glad the snake's head was facing away from the trail, since at the time, I didn't know it ate birds.

Bird-eating snake

We also saw a pair of great currasows, and several great tinamous. After the hike, Philip the naturalist showed us a hummingbird nest on the underside of a palm amazing! Since we had gone up to King Louis waterfall the previous day via the Golfo Dulce trail, we decided to try to find it on the Creek trail after lunch. We walked along (and in) the creek for almost an hour, and we were able to find it from this different approach! Our reward was swimming in the pool and going under the falls again.

Creek trail

Dan & King Louis

After dinner, we checked out the pond near the mango tree grove, where we saw lots of frogs and a cat eye snake! Smokey jungle frog, banana frogs, and a few other kinds too. But I also got a large cluster of mosquito bites, grr. Early the next morning I finally saw the toucan, and after early breakfast, it was a bumpy ride to Puerto Jimenez for a boat tour of the Rio Esquinas. The boat left from the dock at Puerto Jimenez, and thankfully the waters of the Golfo Dulce were very calm.

Golfo Dulce

The highlight for me was seeing a large pod of spotted dolphins, there must have been at least 100 dolphins swimming around the boat, some were even under the boat, and others surfing in the wake. Carlos said dolphins love to play with the boat...they like the vibrations...I wonder if it is like a massage? Later we also saw a small pod of bottlenose dolphins.

In the river we saw many birds, including a ringed kingfisher, little blue heron, and the boat-billed heron, which is one of my new favorite birds. Also saw a boa constrictor, crocodile, blue morpho butterflies, iguanas...thanks to our guide Carlos' eagle eyes. On the way back people took turns sitting in Carlos' spotting chair. We also went for a swim in the Golfo Dulce.

Panoramic Rio Esquinas

Captain Dan

And we saw squirrel monkeys in the trees on the drive back! After lunch, we walked over to Casa Miramar. We had met a group of guests staying there, and they encouraged us to check out the house. It is a very interesting structure, sort of like a series of connected open-air buildings. We saw monkeys in the trees on the way up, and a gladiator tree frog outside the house. The view from the deck is beautiful.

Gladiator tree frog

Panoramic Casa Miramar view

After an afternoon nap, we went on a birdwatching tour with Carlos. He drove us to a spot and pointed out so many birds, I couldn't even keep track of what we were seeing. Then it started to rain, so we headed back. There was a beautiful sunset on our last night.

Sunset color

Sunset at Mariposa

Shades of violet

There was a huge downpour later in the night, and I was afraid the weather would affect our flight. Luckily it stopped raining in the morning, and we hopped on another tiny plane for San Jose. There was not too much turbulence during the 45 minute flight. Phew!

Small plane #2

Golfo Dulce

We had an amazing time in Costa Rica, there is so much wildlife to see!


Dream of cakes said...

What an amazing post! Really beautiful photos!

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