Tag Archives: holiday

Costa Rica: First day near Carbonera, day and night wildlife

8 May

Lovely morning. I was up early but not early enough to see the sun rise. Still, as the sun was rising to reach the layer of clouds that hung over us all day, the view at that time was really pretty:

Sunrise, Playa Carbonera

Sunrise, Playa Carbonera

This day was devoted to spotting wildlife, as was the early night since we had signed up for the lodge night walk with young naturalist Guillermo.

During breakfast one of the naturalists came in the main bungalow, holding a small coral snake on the back on his hand:

Young coral snake on the hand of the naturalist who found it

Young coral snake on the hand of the naturalist who found it

We thought this had to be the non-poisonous fake coral snake, which pattern of coloured rings differs from the venomous one. But it was the Costa Rica coral snake. It was just still too little to be able to bite. The naturalist let it go on the ground next to us, where it tried to hide under Vlad’s flip flop, and then under a rock. A bit later, it was about to slither away:

Young coral snake coiled on the ground

Young coral snake coiled on the ground

We decided to walk down to the beach. On our way we saw a young green iguana:

Young green iguana

Young green iguana

And we saw a couple of coati mundi in a mango tree, hunting for fruit. Here is one:

Coati mundi in a mango tree, at snack time

Coati mundi in a mango tree, at snack time

We ventured away from the country road into what we thought was a short cut to the beach but was in fact a private property, and back-tracked. But I stole (snapped) a few photos, including a pineapple, a bungalow, and a beautiful red hibiscus flower that looks like a Christmas tree bauble:

Pineapple growing

Pineapple growing


Bungalow

Bungalow


Red Japanese lantern, a species of hibiscus with chiseled petals.

Red Japanese lantern, a species of hibiscus with chiseled petals.

At the beach our attention was drawn to a tree that was squawking. Several scarlet macaw were perched and as we drew closer we saw them through the foliage. Here is one holding in its beak what it was going to tear to pieces and eat (almond), and the same bird flying away later in a blur of red and blue feathers:

Scarlet macaw

Scarlet macaw


Scarlet macaw flying away

Scarlet macaw flying away

We also saw a mangrove black hawk perched on a palm tree and surveying the beach:

Mangrove black hawk

Mangrove black hawk

Back up the hill to the main bungalow. After lunch we observed a couple of Swainson toucans who were pretty close to where we were on the deck:

Swainson toucan

Swainson toucan


Dandy Swainson toucan

Dandy Swainson toucan

The sun sets around half past five and it gets dark shortly after 6 p.m. We were at the naturalists’ station for a night walk around one of the trails in the reserve. There were two other people with us, and Guillermo, the guide. The walk lasted almost two hours and near the end, I was glad I was doing it, but *so* ready to be out of the woods, away from its insect diversity. Here is is impressive list of what the guide spotted to show us: giant brown grasshopper, gaudy leaf frogs, basilisks, Jesus Christ lizards, a weird-looking angular black insect from the same family of the scorpion, wolf spiders, jumping spiders, asleep blue-throated female trogon, baby scorpion, Fer-de-lance snake, and finally, a tarantula.

Night insect of the family of the scorpion

Night insect of the family of the scorpion


Gaudy leaf frogs at night

Gaudy leaf frogs at night


Tarantula just out of her nest

Tarantula just out of her nest

And since we’re at the chapter of the night residents, here is a large moth (its width was about the length of my hand) that I photographed the day before:

Huge moth, its width was the length of my hand.

Huge moth, its width was the length of my hand.

After the emotion, we were ready for civilization, dinner and we rewarded ourselves with red wine from Chile.

Costa Rica: Going south to Osa Peninsula

7 May

I used all the data of my Kolbi SIM card pretty quickly, hence the interruption in the flow. We’re back home since last night. I’m now catching up.

Monday 30 April 2012, we left Savegre Albergue de Montaña under the fog and drove to the city to return the rental car. The drive took almost three hours. After so many days away from cities, it was a bit of shock –all the animation and traffic. San José itself was crazy. Not only was there a lot of traffic at mid-day, but we drove past three accidents although people don’t speed that much (none of the accidents seemed serious, fortunately). At this intersection, for example, a truck had collided into a car (not visible in the photo), and while policemen were taking measurements, the traffic was taking place around them, both on the road and on the sidewalk visible at the right of the truck:

San José. An accident occured. Policemen are taking measurements. San José. An accident occured. Policemen are taking measurements.

San José. An accident occured. Policemen are taking measurements.

The car rental guy agreed to drive us to Tobias Bolaños international airport, a very small airport. So small that it didn’t have a bar or cafeteria, not even vending machines. We were starving. It occurred to me to try to catch one of the big birds or climb the giant mango tree and pick ripe fruit. But we just sat outside in the shade, enjoying the breeze, killing time. We were going to travel very soon in the blue plane:

Nature Air planes at the small Bolaños airport. We travelled in the blue one, a Twin Otter, to Puerto Jiménez.

Nature Air planes at the small Bolaños airport. We travelled in the blue one, a Twin Otter, to Puerto Jiménez.

The plane in question was a Twin Otter, and it wasn’t the smallest of the airline (since we flew in a smaller plane on the way back). About 15 passengers boarded around 3 p.m. and soon we took off. It was really impressive, more impressive than the usual big airliner. It wasn’t scary or anything (at least, not for me; I don’t want to tell on him, but this isn’t necessarily true for Vlad), the plane lift off quickly but not as high as big airliners do. So we had time to see the immense San José under us getting smaller and smaller, but it is such a large city that the entertainment lasted a while:

San José from a bird's-eye view

San José from a bird’s-eye view

Then the city went away and came the hills and their curvy ochre country roads, and meandering rivers between hills, and then clouds. We flew through clouds and above them. At some point during the 50-minute flight the pilots couldn’t avoid a series of air pockets. It lasted just long enough for my body to prepare to get sick (that is, five long minutes), and then to be glad it was over.

We landed in Puerto Jiménez, right behind the seafront and next to a cemetery very similar to those we saw in Guadeloupe last year, with white and black tiles decorating or protecting graves. We were going to be in the Osa Peninsula for 4 days, staying at the Lapa Rios Lodge, a luxurious ecolodge of 16 bungalows, for which we got a special offer. But first there was a short stay at the local office of the lodge, where we were greeted with a local drink –agua de pipa (coconut milk) and banana cake (very nice):

Agua de pipa & banana cake

Agua de pipa & banana cake

Then we set for a forty-minute ATV drive, as Lapa Rios is 18 km south of Puerto Jiménez. On the road, our driver showed us three big birds –crested caracaras, one young and two adults–, some monkeys in the trees, and a juvenile blue heron. When we reached the lodge there were two members of the lodge staff to greet us with wet hand towels and cocktails of fruit juice. How nice and unexpected.

We were then given a short tour and introduction, and were taken to our bungalow. It was dusk, there was still enough light to discover the view from the deck; long big waves in Cabo Matapalo, behind a thick forest:

Cabo Matapalo waves at dusk, view from Lapa Rios.

Cabo Matapalo waves at dusk, view from Lapa Rios.

Costa Rica: quetzal quest in the highlands

30 Apr

We’re near San Gerardo de Dota, in the mountains, and it’s quite cold except in the sun. We even lit the fire in the room at night.

The weather is splendid in the morning and we set on a walk yesterday, looking for quetzals. We were told about a couple nesting not far from the lodge, by the dirt track.

On the way, we saw tall trees covered in moss and epiphytes.

Epiphyte & moss

Epiphyte & moss

And some birds, too. Although we heard many more than we saw, a species of woodpecker was all over the place. Here’s one at the entrance of a hole in a tree.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker

We kept walking toward the small church and soon enough we spotted a group of people with a guide by the fence of the dirt track. A binocular was aimed at the top of a beheaded tree, some twenty meters away. Two long green and blue quetzal feathers emerged of a hole in the trunk –the nest, and were flying in the breeze.

Male quetzal feathers

Male quetzal feathers

The group had been here for a while already and they had been lucky to see the male quetzal outside of the nest, ruffling its feathers in the sun. The guide said the female would be back shortly, as she goes away between 45 and 60 minutes and then the male can leave.

Our wait was interrupted by the thunderous and surprising sound of horses galloping. Seven or eight horses were coming at us at high speed. My 100-300 lens was fitted on the camera and I could photograph but details of them as there was a curve near us and they soon disappeared.

Horses galloping

Horses galloping

The wait continued. After an hour, the group left. The female should have been back a half hour prior and the people had other things to do. We waited some more. A little wile afterwards, we saw the head of the male quetzal emerging from the nest, looking in every directions. I took a few photos and suddenly it plunged and flew away behind foliage. We never saw him again and thus, couldn’t get a picture of its full body.

Male quetzal head

Male quetzal head

The female had to be back sooner or later… A half hour later I spotted a bird landing in the distance, zoomed in and it was her. Green with a medium length tail that appeared spotted or striped. She ruffled her feather and I noticed some red below her chest, under her otherwise green feathers. She stayed on that high branch in the distance for 25 minutes before she flew to the nest at noon.

Female quetzal rejoins the nest

Female quetzal rejoins the nest

Soon after, she got into the hole, hidden from view. We didn’t see the young. Her head and upper body emerged 45 minutes afterwards, she looked left, right, top, tilted her head a few times, and went back in. We waited some more. By now the weather had worsened. It was raining slightly. Woodpeckers were still flying from one tree to another, entertaining us. Here are three aligned on a bare branch.

Three little birds

Three little birds

We decided to wait till 1.30 p.m. and leave, weather we see the male again or not. And we didn’t. Meh. The rain was coming down harder anyway.

The mountain had been pretty in the sun, but in the rain, with low hazy clouds visible, it was even prettier.

Meadow, trees, mountain, clouds

Meadow, trees, mountain, clouds


House and clouds not far above

House and clouds not far above

It was pouring rain by the time we reached the lodge. We rewarded ourselves with lunch; it was 2 p.m. Sheltered by the roof outside we looked at hummingbirds, mostly black ones with a straight long beak, but also green ones with a curvy beak.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

Costa Rica: Playa Dominical to Dota Valley, or altitude 0 to 3360 m. in one day

30 Apr
We left Manuel Antonio under a pale sun and after a breakfast of gallo pinto (white rice and black beans) with ham and eggs. Here is a photo of the ocean above a red corrugated iron house roof and a hedge of red hibiscus:
Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio

We were driving on the CN34 between Matapalo and Barú when a flock of big birds in a dirt field caught Vlad’s attention. We stopped on the side and saw dozens of black vultures. Some were perched on chopped wood, others on a fence, and the rest was in the field, packed. We approached slowly and they let us within five meters of them.

Black vulture

Black vulture

On the road again but not for long. Soon we reached Dominical. The view from the bridge that crosses the river Barú was astounding. We saw big water birds (a grey heron, an egret) and stopped, but soon we saw an aracari (a sort of toucan), and beyond the river there was the ocean and big waves.

Playa Dominical, wave

Playa Dominical, wave

We stayed two hours between the river and Playa Dominical, photographing leafcutter ants, cormorants, basilisks, a green heron, black vultures, crabs, brown pelicans. I leaned so close to the female basilisk that I can see the shape of my body reflected in her eye.

Leaf-cutter ants

Leaf-cutter ants


Cormorants taking off

Cormorants taking off


Male Jesus Christ lizard

Male Jesus Christ lizard


Female Jesus Christ lizard

Female Jesus Christ lizard

Then we drove on a track next to the river Barú, wondering if we’d see crocodiles, as there were signs warning against them. Also, openstreetmap didn’t have that track. It was about 3 km long and when it stopped, it did at the river, steeply. We parked. Soon after, a pick-up truck crossed the river. It was impressive. We walked a bit along the river. Vlad saw a little crocodile but it dived immediately and we never saw it again. I photographed a tiny brown frog, flowers, etc. and Vlad, crossing a ford in the 4WD, of course.

Tiny brown frog on dry leaf

Tiny brown frog on dry leaf


Vlad in the 4WD crossing a ford

Vlad in the 4WD crossing a ford

Back on the road, more curves, more bumpy tracks, more rivers crossed, including the Rio Savegre. I was in awe in front of a tree next to a house by a bridge crossing the Rio Savegre. A tall tree bare of leaves but full of pink blossom. Here, see:

Big tree with pink blossom by a river

Big tree with pink blossom by a river

Before and after the big city of San Isidro the road kept winding and climbing, except that after San Isidro, it was called a highway. That is, one lane each, limited speed of 50 Kph, with many big trucks that drove well above the limit, in both directions. We passed through small villages, watched the very green pastures, forests, in the sun and above clouds.

Mountain road side, mountains and clouds

Mountain road side, mountains and clouds

Then we were in the clouds. Around 6 p.m. the clouds around us had a pink or orange glow. It was eerie.

Purple haze

Purple haze

We climbed some more, and soon were at the highest point, 3360 meters, and we understood the glow ealier. On our left there was the most amazing sunset we had ever seen. High as we were, there were mountains underneath, each valley filled with thick white clouds, the summits emerging, and above us there were several layers of clouds that the sun was colouring in deep pink, bright orange and red. Here, see:

El Cerro de la Muerte, sunset

El Cerro de la Muerte, sunset

We were late, but nevermind, really. Soon after the pass, we drove downward, took a left and drove, in the dark, on a bumpy track during 9 kilometers (how long? Between thirty and forty minutes) and we reached Savegre Hotel de Montańa.

Costa Rica: Catarata de Cortés, Tarcoles crocodiles, Manuel Antonio National Park

28 Apr

We left the Arenal area and set to drive for a good while under the sun, for a change.

We stopped by the side of the road as Vlad spotted monkeys in a tree, spider monkeys.

Spider monkey

Spider monkey


Spider monkeys

Spider monkeys

We made quite a detour to see the Catarata de Cortés, the prettiest waterfall I ever saw.

Catarata de Cortés

Catarata de Cortés

In its vicinity there was a little pool of water where no tourist was, that was populated by lizards, one of which was really big, grey, and crested from head to tail, possibly a basilisk.

Basilisk

Basilisk

We didn’t stay long as there was driving to do, but Vlad took a dip. On the road again, we quickly saw the change of vegetation and scenery as we were driving south. Less forest, more plaines.

Sloth sign

Sloth sign


Guanacaste tree and horses

Guanacaste tree and horses

We were in Tarcoles, our next stop, around 4 p.m. This place is famous for its long bridge under which many crocodiles rest.

Crocodiles on the sand

Crocodiles on the sand


Crocodile

Crocodile


Crocodile immersed

Crocodile immersed

We even saw an iguana.

Iguana

Iguana

We had a little more than two hours of daylight and hit the road again to reach a place between Quepos and Manuel Antonio. We arrived a bit after dark which comes a half hour after sunset. And then there was thunder and rain.

Fast forward to next day, a rainy day, but the one day we could visit the Manuel Antonio National Park. In a tree right next to our room there was a howler monkey.

Howler monkey

Howler monkey

We were advised to take a guided tour as only a guide could show us animals on this rainy day, but we didn’t feel like being with a guide and preferred being on our own, taking our time. We didn’t regret that choice. We saw so many animals!

A deer, a toucan, woodpeckers, a bird big as a pigeon with a red chest and a striped tail, butterflies, dragonflies, an urubu (red-headed vulture), hermit crabs, crabs, spider monkeys, a bird of prey which was all black, a female capuchin carrying her baby and which let us follow her for a while in the forest –a most magical experience!– and finally, a female sloth.

A deer

A deer


Toucan

Toucan


Woodpecker silhouette

Woodpecker silhouette


Hermit crab on grey sand

Hermit crab on grey sand


Dragonfly

Dragonfly


Black vulture

Black vulture


Halloween crab

Halloween crab


Capuchin monkeys, mother & young

Capuchin monkeys, mother & young


Capuchin monkeys, mother & young

Capuchin monkeys, mother & young


Pale-billed woodpecker

Pale-billed woodpecker


Three-toed sloth

Three-toed sloth


Three-toed sloth

Three-toed sloth

The Park also had lovely beaches. Vlad went in the water (I forgot my gear). As I was on the sand, I saw two raccoons.

Heart-shaped rock on beach

Heart-shaped rock on beach


Manuel Antonio beach

Manuel Antonio beach


Espadilla beach, Manuel Antonio

Espadilla beach, Manuel Antonio


Espadilla beach, Manuel Antonio

Espadilla beach, Manuel Antonio


Racoons

Racoons

The park closed at 4 p.m. It was still raining. We rewarded ourselves with drinks and a late lunch of snacks. I chose a mango rita, the most delicious cocktail I ever tasted.

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