Saturday, July 09, 2011

Pura vida: Carribean coast (part 1)

Dan and I are back from exploring Costa Rica, and we had an amazing time! I had wanted to visit Costa Rica for several years, so my expectations were high...happily, the trip did not disappoint. We spent nearly three weeks there, starting on the Caribbean coast, stopping in the mountains south of San Jose, and then went further south to the Osa Peninsula.

The trip started with a loooong day of travel: Red eye flight from San Francisco, with a stop in San Salvador, taxi from Juan Santamaria airport to San Jose, bus to Guapiles, local bus to Cariari, than another bus to Pavona for the boat to Tortuguero. Phew!

Dan on boat ride to Tortuguero

We met a bird researcher from Canada who pointed out many birds and wildlife on the boat ride, which was a great way to start the trip! I remember seeing a toucan fly by, a male great currasow bobbing its head, and green basilisk lizards sunning and scampering across the water.

Tortuguero canal

The next morning we went on a boat tour of the Tortuguero canals with Roberto from Casa Marbella, the B&B where we stayed. We saw (and heard) howler monkeys, also saw spider monkeys, a very-well camouflaged green basilisk lizard, a caiman, iguana, and river otters! Many parrots flew by, but they were too high overhead to see clearly. After breakfast on the deck, we explored the small village, went to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, and checked out the beach. In the afternoon we did a short hike in Tortuguero national park, but the only animals we saw were two dogs! They caused some Montezuma's oropendolas to fly out of a tree. We did see turtle tracks on the beach at the end of the trail.

Tortuguero beach

After dinner (yummy Caribbean food at Miss Junie's), we went on a night turtle walk. The official nesting season does not start until July, but other travelers staying at Casa Marbella had seen two green turtles nesting the previous night, so we were hopeful. About an hour into our walk on the beach, there was a green turtle digging a nest on the beach, but she ended up not laying any eggs, and we saw her return to the ocean. I wondered if the presence of people affected her decision to not lay eggs, but the guides said that was not the case. Not sure, but hopefully they are right.

Panoramic view from Cerro Tortuguero

The next day we took a walk on the beach, then hiked up Cerro Tortuguero, an extinct volcano north of the village, which lead to a lovely view of the canal and the beach. The walk through the rainforest was filled with mosquitos. And our guide was...interesting. But we did see bullet ants, red poison dart frogs, and a laughing falcon, and learned a lot about the plants of the rainforest.

Carol on the boat ride to Moin

The following morning we took the canoe out for a brief paddle and saw a rainbow! Then we headed further down the Carribean coast, starting with a three-hour boat ride from Tortuguero to Moin. Colorful butterflies flew by as we went through the canals...along the way, we saw another caiman, a crocodile, many herons, and roseate spoonbills! They are bright pink birds with a funny-looking bill.

Blurry spoonbill zoom

Upon arriving in Moin, we shared a taxi with two other travelers to Punta Uva. It was memorable trip. The driver veered onto the other side of the road often to avoid potholes and went very, very fast. At one point we passed a serious car accident where one car was completely off the road, and our driver inexplicably stopped. We were puzzled, and Dan asked, "Are you going to take a picture?" To which the driver replied, "Yes, I like it" and went out to take photos and assess the damage of the cars involved. I felt quite disturbed and hoped we would make it to our destination alive, and thankfully we did. Upon our arrival at Korrigan Lodge, Bassam the dog barked at the car, and the driver handed me the keys through the window to get the luggage out of the trunk because he was afraid of dogs! He takes photos of car accidents, but he is scared of dogs!

After Erwan showed us the bungalow, where we were greeted by a gecko in the shower, Bassam lead us to the beach! We went for a swim while he watched over our things. Afterwards, he lead us back to the lodge. Such a sweet pooch.

Bessam at the beach

The roars of howler monkeys woke us up at dawn the next morning...their howl is an incredible sound that reverberates long and far...there must be several troops in the area because it sounded like a chorus of howls. After falling back asleep for awhile, we enjoyed breakfast on the patio...fresh-squeezed fruit juice, an assortment of tropical fruits, granola and yogurt, fresh bread, eggs, sausage and bacon, and pan au chocolat...yum! Ingrid told us about activities in the area, then set us up on bikes and we rode to the Jaguar Rescue Center in Playa Chiquita, blue morpho butterflies fluttering past us on the way. The tour started in the monkey house, where rescued juvenile howler monkey babies play, eat and are socialized. Dan and I took turns going inside because cameras are not allowed. (The monkeys try to grab them.) A monkey jumped on my head as soon as we entered. Then some monkeys crawled on me. Not sure if they are playing with the people or treating us as climbing structures. The guide said probably both.

Holding a howler monkey

Monkeys on Dan

I was taking pictures of Dan in the monkey house when I turned around and saw a baby sloth! Have you seen anything so cute? I proceeded to take 6342835489 photos of the baby sloth and completely forgot about my tour group. (I eventually found them.) I also took some videos.

Baby sloth smiling

Baby sloth

Crawling baby sloth

Carol & baby sloth

Two baby sloths

We saw other animals after that, but I was obsessed with the baby sloths. (Can you tell?) After our visit, we biked around Puerto Viejo and got guanabana and pineapple popsicles from a blind woman who makes them in her home. We passed several creeks on the bike ride back, and I saw two toucans fly overhead.

Creek with golden flower petals

Back at Korrigan Lodge, Erwan and Ingrid showed us a hole in a tree where a toucan nests, and we saw the keel-billed toucan sitting on the branch! Toucans always seem cheerful to me, with their huge colorful bills. Then Bassam took us back to the beach in the afternoon, where we snorkeled off shore and went swimming. The visibility was not great, but we saw some interesting corals, different from what we've seen in the Yucatan and Hawaii.

Punta Uva beach

The howlers woke us up again the next morning, and after another delicious breakfast on the patio, we biked to Manzanillo, where Omar met us and lead us on a hike in the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, pointing out monkeys, birds, insects, snakes, spiders, millipedes, bats, sloths (!) and more...he also told us about the plants of the rainforest. We saw some interesting plants and very big trees. He also opened two kinds of coconuts for us to try. One was a green pipa that we drank the juice from, then a larger one that has a nut in it...first we drank the juice, then ate some of the white flesh of the nut. Yummy.

Walking palm

Vine-covered trunk

Outer shell removed

Lookout point

Near the end of our hike, Omar pointed out a first sloth sighting in the wild! This was an adult two-toed sloth, quite high up in the tree. Omar tried tapping the branches, but the sloth did not budge. Apparently they sleep 18 hours a day, or more. Then later on (after showing us some bats fly out of the curled leaves of a plant, so cool), we saw a juvenile three-toed sloth in a tree much closer to us. Omar made the mating call to get the sloth to look up from behind the leaves. It was the highlight of the day for me, since I had come to Costa Rica in hopes of seeing nesting turtles, toucans, sloths, and monkeys.


In the afternoon we snorkeled off shore at Manzanillo, where Dan saw a ray and apparently I had a close call with a passing boat...I didn't even realize it until Dan told me after we got out of the water. We biked back to Korrigan Lodge, and saw a troop of howler monkeys eating leaves in the trees and peering at the passersby on the road. I loved the Carribean coast, but it was time for our next destination. Next up, Los Santos....


jenny said...

beautiful photos carol! looks like you and dan had a great time! that sounds like one smart dog! :)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos - Quinn loved seeing the sloth video :)
It sounds like a great trip! I loved Costa Rica.